"Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature can not do without." ~Confucius

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Frere Jacques" - One song, many languages...

I love this book (below) from our dear family in Illingen, Germany as well as the other few German song books they have given to me during their precious visits to us (Does anyone else out there like Biene Maja?).

One song in this book is the ever-popular, "Are You Sleeping?" or "Frere Jacques" or however you know it...  It's such a great song for young voices and the simplicity of the melody allows for a little more expansion in some other areas... like languages!

If you don't know this melody or are having a temporary case of amnesia, here is a link to the melody to refresh you: Go Here and click "Listen to this Song"

The English words are:
Are you sleeping, are you sleeping 
Brother John, brother John? 
Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing, 
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong. 

You can teach the song in English first adding in some motions like laying head to the side for "sleeping"

and having "bells" of any type for the "Ding Dang Dong" section.

My boys sing more willingly if they have some animals to "sing" with them.... or act as an audience....

Anyway - After they have the idea of the song down, incorporate other languages as you'd like. Today we did German, but we have done the French and Spanish versions too.... and I found a Swahili one that looks fun! :-)

So, below are a few language options for your multi-lingual learning purposes. And, you'll probably be amazed at how well your kids can speak the various words.... They're amazing little creatures, really...

I started out writing the phonetic equivalents too, but alas, it was a bit difficult to communicate. You can always cut and paste into an online translator and hear the pronunciations for yourself if you need it.

Make sure you keep the same motions/instruments with the international versions so the kids connect that the different text still means (roughly) the same thing.

French: Frere Jacques
Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques,
Dormez-vous, Dormez-vou?
Sonnez les matines, Sonnez les matines,
Din, dan, don; Din, dan, don.

German: Bruder Jakob 
Bruder Jakob, Bruder Jakob
Schlafst du noch? Schalfst du noch?  
Horst du nicht die Glocken, Horst du night die Glocken 
Ding, dang, dong; Ding dang dong 

Spanish: Fray Felipe 
Fray Felipe, Fray Felipe,
Duermes tu, Duermes tu?
Suenan las campanas, Suenan las campanas,
Ding, dang, dong; Ding, dang dong.

Swahili: Eh Yakobo 
Eh Yakobo, Eh Yakobo,
Walala, Walala?
Amka twende shule, Anka twende shule,
Haya njoo, Haya njoo.

Pig latin: r-ay ou-yay leeping-say? 
Just kidding....

Have fun!

Disclaimer.... Please forgive the imperfections in correct punctuation and accent markings... this is not meant to be a textbook-perfect rendering of each language, but enough so you have the idea of the phonetics of the words. Thanks. :-)  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Horsey Bounces

I always wanted a horse when I was growing up... alas, Barbie horses were the closest I got...
But, horses are fun to sing about and there are oodles of bounces about riding! They work so well, of course because of the "bouncing" nature of riding a horse... You can have your child "ride" on your lap gently or robustly (is that a word?) depending on the nature of the rhyme.

Here are three excellent choices for your baby's bouncing fun:
(Again these are all for promoting your baby's innate rhythm and rhyming senses, so bounce baby or toddler appropriately to the rhythm of the text) 

Derry, Down Derry 
Derry, down derry and up in the air (bounce baby higher on the word "up") 
Baby* will ride with pony or mare,
Held in my arms
like a queen on a throne,
loveliest rider that ever was known**.

*Insert your child's name
**You can change the wording of course... insert "king" for a boy, and "handsomest" or something similar.

Three Little Horses
Three little horses riding in a row.
The first is no good for he's too slow, (slow down bounce, speak words slowly)
The second is quick, but not as fast  (faster bounce)
As the third who's first  (a little faster)
to make you* laugh.  (tickle baby)

*Again, you can insert baby's name or just leave it as "you".

So Fast My Horse Can Go
So fast, so fast my horse can go,    (fast bounce)
A-riggety, jiggety, jig you know.
We gallp over the countryside,
A-riggety jig, we ride!
(slight pause)
And when we want to take a rest  (slower bounce)
we find that trotting is the best
We head right for a grassy spot,
A trip, a trip a trot,
A trip, a trip, a trot,
A trip   (slower)

Whoa!!     ("drop" baby, or slide baby down knees, or lift baby higher.. however you think your munchkin would like to end the bounce.) 

This one is a song too, so here's me doing it with little J (who's not really so little, but he used to like this one especially when he was younger and still enjoys getting bounced around.). You can listen and get an idea of the melody for yourself.

Happy Horsey Bounces to you!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

'Pop' Lullabies

So, we just got back from a week-long trip to my husband's homeland - New Brunswick, Canada. Lots of great time with family... and lots of hours in the car.

Listening to random pop songs on the radio and singing along is still fun.... and I really do like good contemporary stuff. Not the cheap things that seem to be in unwanted excess... but unique, soul-touching music that gets into your bones and resonates with your heart. Even pop songs (gasp!).

That made me think of some lullabies I love from the pop-genre. So, I wanted to share three of those...

I loved these songs before I had kids and sang them while imagining myself singing them to my babies. But now, when I try to sing them to my baby(ies), I can not get through them without tearing up and getting super emotional. I never was one to cry easily, but I think  these songs get me right in my heart because of the emotions they invoke as I look at my children and the innate desire that I had for them before I was even married. What can I say... motherhood has made a sap of me.

So, take a listen and let me know if you sing any of these to your kiddos too or if you have similar ones.
(BTW... I'm not condoning everything these artists have put out, but these are worth sharing).

In the meantime, I'll go lay my 9-month-old down for a nap and try to get through one of these without losing it. :-)

Billy Joel: "Goodnight, My Angel" Go Here
(pardon the extra ad at the beginning)

From Dumbo, sung by Bette Midler: "Baby Mine" Go Here
(I also think Allison Kraus did a rendition of this song, which I haven't heard yet, but I'm sure is equally lovely.)

Dixie Chicks: "Godspeed" Go Here
This is not the most wonderful video I could find, but the video creator put the lyrics on, which was nice. This song is geared to a boy, but you could maybe adapt a word or two in the privacy of your baby's room if you have a sweet little girl. :-)

Keep on loving and singing to those precious babies. :-)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Getting the Voice Moving...

So, there are silly sounds out there that kids love and get them to giggle, but also get them thinking musically as well.... Enter, slide whistle!

Yes, Ladies and Gents, this handy-dandy little number will get you some smiles and giggles from your little tots like few other little instruments can.

Why I love slide whistles:

1. They're great for demonstrating low and high pitch.... and all the steps in between by "sliding" from high to low.
Some kids can be encouraged to sing if they get their vocal range going. Having your kids imitate the sliding sound of a slide whistle gets them experimenting with sliding their own voice up and down, thus introducing them to the wide range of pitch in their little voice!

2. They are kid- and wallet-friendly
I got each of these for about $2 from Music and Arts and I'm sure I will get my $2 worth on each. :-)
When I was teaching, all the kids wanted to try and play my slide whistle... of course this was a bad idea, so they couldn't... but the point being, most kids would love to get their hands on one and give it a try.

So, here's the activity we did today to help the boys explore their vocal range:

1. Collect children and introduce them to the new member of their musical family.

2. Play a low sound (slide held all the way out).
Say, "This is a low sound" and play it again.
Then say, "Can you point your hand down for the low sound?"
Kids point fingers down. You play sound again.

3. Play a high sound (slide pulled all the way up).
Say, "This is a high sound" and play it again.
Say, "Can you point your hand way up high for the high sound?"
Kids point way up high and you play sound again.

4. Now say, "I am going to slide from low to high, can you follow the sound with your finger?"
Start with slide out, slide it up slowly to get from low to high....

Now, put slide whistle down and try to do it with just the voice - all involved pointing low to high, then start from high to low and slide voice to follow your finger (You should all sound like fire engines right about now).

5. If kids are diggin' it, move on to making shapes to trace. (What in the world?? you're saying...).
Pick a shape. Draw dots on a piece of paper (on wall or table) for the kids to connect. The dots on the bottom are for low sounds, the upper for high sounds. Have your tot connect the dots and follow the direction with his/her voice.

 6. Now use your fingers and trace the shape together and have the voice go in the correct direction - sliding up, then down.

7. Have tot choose another shape. I was hoping for a circle, but K chose a rectangle... which works too (any shape works - yay!), so I drew four dots for him to connect. Then we traced the sound again.

8. Finally, both boys got to try their exciting slide whistles.
What was funny, but neat was that little J didn't quite get the whole blowing into the whistle-thing at first, but he was still sliding his voice to try and make it work... he was imitating really well! Then, he figured out how to play the silly thing, so that was good too... once we got him to turn it right side up.
They both walked out from this activity still saying "ooooo..OOOO...ooooo" and mimicking the slide whistle sound. Yippee!

So, go get a slide whistle and get your kiddo moving their voice around too!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Books about Instruments

So, K still loves drums. Although, truth be told... even though we had a lot of grand plans about doing Suzuki violin, we haven't gotten the ball rolling on that yet... Someday not too far away, I hope...
But, he is very interested in the various instruments, as are most kids. So, it's great to talk about the pitch and timbre qualities of each instrument, show them in pictures, and mention which one you are hearing as you listen to them played in various locations/recordings.

So, I thought I'd share some of our favorite instrument books:

"Our Marching Band" by Lloyd Moss
This one has been their favorite for a while... probably because included is a large drum, a soccer ball and net, and a parade. They love seeing all the instruments too and it is told in an attractive rhyming scheme as the students move from a not-so-lovely sound when they begin to being asked to play in the town's parade. My boys love pointing out each one and naming as many as they can. 

 "Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin" also by Lloyd Moss
This one is no obscure book; it's well known. We love it because it is so colorful, descriptive and energetic! The rhyming text is fun and informative while the pictures are a mix of silliness and loveliness. My only complaint.... the character he chose for the oboe. Come on. Maybe Mr. Moss doesn't like the oboe (or the bassoon for that matter...). Sigh.... I should be used to it by now.... the "pretty" instruments get all the attention. I digress.... But, all personal fetishes aside, we love this book!

"Meet the Orchestra" by Ann Hayes
This is a creatively done book with an animal character playing each instrument of the orchestra. Very descriptive illustrations and informative text. Great info. for some early instrument identification. 

Hope you can get some use out of these as we have! 
I'm always on the lookout for more music book gems, of course, so hopefully we'll have more book suggestions as we go! 

And... here is K showing baby M his favorite instrument.... Yep, the drum. :-) 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rock A Bye Baby

I used to think that everyone sang to their babies/toddlers, etc. I thought lullabies were just a normal part of life with little kids. But, it sometimes seems that singing lullabies to babies is becoming an endangered activity.

 It is a wonderful and.... HARD thing to do sometimes...  Bedtime around here can often be stressful, rushed, weepy or just completely helter-skelter. Should I really take the time and sing to my kids, especially if those kid have been somewhat trying all day and mommy and daddy, actually, can't WAIT to put the little blessings to sleep?! Plus, with toddlers - there's all the bathing, teeth-brushing, water-drinking, 'please mommy, just one more snack' -ing, "stop running around the house" -ing...

So, is there time to sing a lullaby?

Yes! Every night? Maybe not (or maybe! depends on you & your kiddo...). But, do we have energy and time for a few lullabies a week? Sure!

Lullabies have been around for thousands of years - it is such a natural impulse to relax baby by singing. The warm, comforting sound of a parent's voice while baby is held in a loving embrace... it's just priceless! This bonding time is so important for the baby to feel that mom or dad really love them enough to take a few minutes to calm them into sleepiness through song.

This practice is best started when your child is a baby. This is because they naturally are drawn to the sound of your voice and love to hear your voice in singing or chanting. Once they get used to this unique pleasure, they will still enjoy lullabies as toddlers because of the wonderful, comforting memory that was built into them throughout their baby-hood.

Can you still "start" with a toddler? Sure! They may not sit still in your arms for a while... it might be a little difficult at first for you both, perhaps. Or, they may love it right away. But, it is worth a try. My 4 year old still asks for a lullaby once in a while... And I sometimes I have to force myself to say yes because I know how much it means to him... even if mommy can't wait to close his door and go relax!

Here are a few well-known lullabies for you to consider, or go buy a lullaby CD... it's OK to just play that for your child, but it's so much BETTER if they can hear YOU singing it to them. :-)
You can collect a few of your favorites on itunes and listen to them a few times until you've got it by memory!

Brahms Lullaby  for melody (sung by Chloe Agnew, with slightly different words) go here
(this one is originally in German, but this is an English version. If you'd like, look up the German one too - singing to baby is a great way to practice your multi-lingual singing! Baby doesn't care so much about your less-than-perfect pronunciations.) 
Lullaby and goodnight
with roses bedight,
with lilies o'er spread
is baby's wee bed. 
Lay thee down now and rest, 
May thy slumber be blest. 
Lay thee down now and rest, 
May thy slumber be blest. 

Lullaby and good night, 
They mother's delight, 
Bri-ght angels be-side 
My darling abide. 
They will guard thee at rest,
thou shalt wake on my breast. 
They will guard thee at rest, 
thou shalt wake on my breast. 

All The Pretty Little Horses for melody (from the album entitled "Baby Mine" go  here

Hush-you-bye, don't you cry, 
Go to sleepy little baby.
When you wake, you shall have
all the pretty little horses. 
Blacks and Bays, Dapples and Greys,
Coach and six-a-little horses. 
Blacks and Bays, Dapples and Greys,
Coach and six-a-little horses. 

All Through The Night  for melody (sung by Amy Robbins-Wilson) go here

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loved ones' watch am keeping,
All through the night

Angels watching, e'er around thee,
All through the night
Midnight slumber close surround thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loved ones' watch am keeping,
All through the night. 

So, set aside a few minutes and sing to your little precious kiddo tonight. :-) 

What are your favorite lullabies that were sung to you or that you sing to your little ones? 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Grizzly Bear Song

This song is great for working on loud and soft singing! Kids usually love it because you get to be really loud at the end, and the part where you sing quiet rings true for when mom or dad say, "Be quiet! Your baby brother is sleeping!!" (or at least that's what happens around here...).

Here's me demonstrating the melody with the boys (who were a little camera-focused, and they were a bit worn out from their busy morning, hence the lack of motions and excessive silliness.)

You'll want to have a "bear" for this song. We happen to have a very large bear that works well. They wanted to bring their own too. So, use a large-ish stuffed bear, or mommy can throw a blanket over herself and be the bear. Or.... bonus points if you get Daddy to be the bear!

Here are the words:

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly bear, a grizzly bear
is sleeping in a cave.
Grizzly bear, a grizzly bear
is sleeping in a cave.

Please be very quiet, 
very, very quiet. 
If you wake him, if you shake him, 
he gets very MAD! 

My boys probably get the message of this song very well, since that about describes what happens if they wake Mommy-bear up from a deep sleep. heehee.... :-) 

Here are the words again with a few sound/motions instructions: 

Sung in normal voice: 
Grizzly bear, a grizzly bear 
is sleeping in a cave.   (rest head on hands to show "sleeping")

Grizzly bear, a grizzly bear 
is sleeping in a cave. (same as above)

Sung in whisper voice: 
please be very quiet,  (Hold one finger up to lips to show "quiet")
very, very quiet. 

Getting Louder: 
If you wake him, if you shake him,  (shake the bear)
he gets very (bear is rising up) 


Have fun!!