There is something magical about taking the time to create a song with your kids. A homemade tune can be about almost anything you or your child can imagine. Recently, I was playing some blues progressions on the guitar and my youngest son (7) and daughter (5) started to make up their own lyrics and melody. My son sung about Viking warriors and my daughter found unicorn cats to be a more appropriate topic. They both had unique words and their own memorable melodies.
Now that you’re like; “yes, I want to do that,” here is a 5-step guide to get you started.
1. Choose a form and progression: If you have no musical background, then try one of the tracks below. Just listen to the groove and progression you like. These are all common simple forms that repeat. If you play a little piano, guitar, or another instrument you can start with a simple two-chord progression, like C to E or G to D. Or, if you play non-chord instrument, like trumpet or violin, just play the roots.
· John Mayer Style (2 Chords): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UE4yHuJpEA8
· 12 Bar Blues (3 Chords): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebmETP_MkE8
· Acoustic Rock Progression (4 chords): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyhUrgIRn7g
2. Sing a melody: With your child, just try to improvise some melodies until something works. If you’re having trouble, remember to keep it simple. Repeating the same idea can work well. Just think about any pop song ever written. They just repeat stuff over and over, such as Call Me Maybe, I’m All About That Bass, Girlfriend, and other tunes. Yes, I know those are obnoxiously annoying examples, but you get my point.
3. Write down some lyrics: With little kids you’ll need to do the writing, but the trick is making them fit the melody. To do this, just think like it’s poetry. Now, it doesn’t have to rhyme, but it can. Also, one word can be held out or repeated to fill any space. Or, if you run out words, just make something up like Blue by Eifel 65 or I am the Walrus by the Beatles.
4. Sing the Melody with Words: Now that you have lyrics, a melody, and form, try and sing it a few times with your child. If the melody is catchy, it should come together easily and if it doesn’t, it’s okay to change the tune or words at any time.
5. Record it: This is so important. If you want to remember it, record it. It’s even okay to have a few versions and choose your favorite. The easiest way to record it is by using an app on your phone, such as the Voice Memo Recorder, Garage Band, or WavePad. When I’m making up songs with my kids, I just use the Voice Memo recorder because it’s simple.
Of course, this order is not the only way to make a song with your kid. You may have lyrics or a melody to start with. It really doesn’t matter; just have fun making songs. Also, the more you do it, the better you and your child will get at making up tunes. As a side note, if you do start with the melody and are a musical novice, just sing it with out the chords, as it may not fit into a common progression.
Taking the time to make songs with your kids is always a rewarding experience. Once you create a song, it is important to sing regularly if you want to remember it. I know in my family, we make up songs all the time and some of them we still sing over and over. Those are the melodies that will last forever.
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John Owens, Ph.D. is the author of Music at Home: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Musically Insightful Kids. Check out his upcoming books, articles, and courses at johnowensmusic.com.