Lawrence Gowan Teaches “Come Sail Away” on Piano

Lawrence Gowan  /  Pop/Rock  /  Jun 17, 2023

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We’re SUPER excited about this piano tutorial on how to play STYX’s “Come Sail Away” with none other than Lawrence Gowan himself, the keyboardist for STYX!

You can download the complete transcription of this song in the Pianote Members Area. If you’re not a Member yet, get yourself a free trial to grab the sheet music for free.

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The iconic intro to “Come Sail Away” is almost classical-like. Lawrence likens it to the moment when we’re just about how to untie the boat (or spaceship!) from the dock.

It’s a charming little melody built on the following chord progression: C – Dm – Em – Dm – C – G – C. We target the ninth (D) and we finish off with a little flourishing trill. 

Next, we get a cool feature of rock that you’ll also see in the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”: the instrumental descends while the vocals ascend. The chord progression goes: C – Em/B – Am, then F – G.

Then, we oscillate between Am and G before going back to the opening figure at “oh Lord I try.”

Lawrence also shows us some of the counterpoint patterns he does over the chords, such as this neat Gsus4 run:

Another trill, and we’re on to Verse 2!

👨‍🎤 LAWRENCE’S TIP: “There are many ways people play the trills. Some people play with the second and third fingers. I’m not as good at that, so I use the thumb and third finger.”

Verse 2

In verse 2, Lawrence improvises over a similar chord progression: C – Em/B – Am – Fmaj7 – G. Notice how he uses larger chords (more octaves, more fifths) and plays more in the bass. This adds some extra depth.

By now, the whole band has joined you and it’s a grandiose moment!

💡 “Come Sail Away” was written by Dennis Deyoung. It is featured on the STYX album The Grand Illusion and peaked at #8 in the Billboard Hot 100.


The chorus is built on a pretty simple I-IV-V progression. That’s C – F – G, with C being a pedal point underneath it all.

Next, we get an epic key change. On the last “come sail away with me,” on “me,” we hit a flat VI chord: A♭. The flat VI is another quintessential rock feature. We also play a G♭ (equivalent to F#) chord over the A♭. “It’s a magical rock chord you’ll want to learn,” says Lawrence. Oscillating between these chords gives the impression of rocking waves.

After a few whimsical licks, we head over to the bridge…

👨‍🎤 LAWRENCE’S TIP: “As the title of the song kicks in (‘come sail away!’), this is where you really want to make it rousing and get everyone to sing along with you.”

Bridge Theme

Our left hand keeps playing the A♭ chord. On our right hand, we play a short theme based on these chords and built on the perfect fourth interval between E♭ and A♭:

After this, Lawrence improvises a little bit over the chords before he does a run all the way up to the highest C on the keyboard. Yup, you get to use the highest key on the piano in this song!

This run is technically an F Phrygian scale. Or you can think of it as a D-flat major scale starting on F. Lawrence uses a chromatic scale to come back down and “lets it fall into oblivion.”

Then we jump back into C major. Hold down the C in your left hand as a pedal point and play G and F chords as the guitars play power chords.

You can also play a bit of the guitar solo. The solo is essentially an arpeggiated C chord in 3rd inversion, an F chord in 1st inversion, a G chord in 1st inversion, and then back to F.

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial with Lawrence Gowan! If you don’t want to miss the next rock star tutorial, sign up for our mailing list.

Lawrence Gowan is best known for his work with the legendary rock band STYX, but his solo material is equally impressive, with 12 Juno nominations and a certified platinum single with "A Criminal Mind." In 2003 he received the prestigious “Classic Status” award for the song “Moonlight Desires.” This award is presented when a song gets played over 100,000 times on Canadian radio. With this, Gowan joins a small group of singer-songwriters from Canada such as Neil Young, Bryan Adams, and Joni Mitchell to be so honored.

Headshot of woman with short platinum hair against a studio background.

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