It’s no secret that most of the songs I use in music therapy sessions, groups and classes are originals that I’ve written myself. I’m a firm believer in tailoring materials to my individual clients and groups of students, which is much more easily done when I’m composing the lyrics and melodies.
But there is certainly a place for familiar songs in those settings, especially where young children and their families are concerned. When I’m creating curricula for my early childhood classes, I always make sure to intersperse a few songs most people will know and be able to sing along with right away.
Familiar music creates a feeling of belonging and encourages stronger participation. If children see their parents or caregivers singing along, they are much more likely to try and do the same. I have an arsenal of favorites, and Apples and Bananas is most definitely one of them. Here’s the version that I recorded for a recent class.
You probably learned this song before you hit kindergarten; in fact, my two-year-old son came home singing it a few weeks ago. “Apples and Bananas” is silly and a bit nonsensical, but it’s also great for working on the concept of vowels and the sounds that they make.
In addition to the original songs that I share here, I’ll also be posting more of my favorite “classics” from time to time. What are some of yours? The beginning of the school year is always a repertoire-building frenzy for me!
I sat down a few months ago to write a song targeting the goal of appropriate voice volume for one of my music therapy clients. As I brainstormed, the song “Say Something” by a Great Big World immediately came to mind (quite possibly because 3 of my voice students were working on this at the time).
My client was working on controlling the level of her voice in certain situations, including using a loud voice when giving commands to her companion dog and talking quietly in places like church.
I pepped up the tempo, changed the words, and grabbed my ukulele to record this little ditty in one take…here’s the result.
When I use this song in music therapy sessions, I have my client fill in “loudly” and “quietly” at the appropriate spots in the lyrics. We also practice speaking in both a loud and soft voice, usually just counting to 10.
There are lots of other ways to target this goal, but it’s always fun to insert some pop culture when possible.
P.S. Did you know that you can gain instant access to a vast collection of over 200 songs (mp3, lead sheet, and instrumental track), videos, tutorials, and visual aides, plus ALL new releases from Listen & Learn Music?
The inspiration for the song “Halloween Stew” goes back over twenty years to my elementary school days. My music teacher introduced us to “Witches’ Brew” by Hap Palmer, and it has stuck in my head ever since. I first adapted his original song a few years ago, here’s a video I made of my version.
Recently I decided to revamp it again, but this time around I opted for an alphabet theme. It’s a great opportunity to help my students practice identifying letters of the alphabet and naming objects that start with those letters. Of course, I had to create a visual to go with the song; the illustration gives you an idea of what it looks like.
I recorded this year’s version on the fly and included only the letters A through D, while the visual aide goes up to the letter H. It’s intended to be more of a starter resource for you to take and adapt on your own or with your students. The mp3, lead sheet and visual aide is available to members of Listen & Learn Plus! for download.
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During a recent music therapy session, a student’s mom mentioned that her daughter does well with “echo” songs (she used the “Mahna Mahna” song as an example, and even played a video of my student singing it with her sister).
I did some googling to find a few echo songs we could use in our sessions, and came across “The Other Day I Met a Bear” — that old camp song just about everyone knows. But after taking a look at the lyrics, I wasn’t crazy about them and decided to use the song as a basis for my own echo song.
Since Halloween is just around the corner, I traded a bear for a black cat and went from there. It’s a short, simple song with basic lyrics and an easy-to-sing melody: perfect for addressing the objectives of repeating after me and singing with me.
“Down By the Bay” was one of the first songs I was required to memorize during my internship, and I used it ALL THE TIME in sessions to work on all kinds of goals: rhyming, fill-in songwriting, echoing, and other language skills. It’s a go-to song because it’s versatile, fun to sing, and can be adapted for a variety of age groups.
So as I was putting together a beach-themed music therapy session recently, this song came to mind as an excellent piggybacking opportunity.
I’m always a little nervous that my students will only sing the original lyrics, but luckily that hasn’t been the case with this one! We’ve been having fun singing about all things beachy in the middle of fall :)
Welcome! I’m Rachel Rambach, board-certified music therapist and creator of Listen & Learn Music — educational songs and musical materials for children. I love sharing my work with you, along with my behind-the-scenes creative process, adventures in business ownership, and life as a mom of two little ones.
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Next month’s music therapy sessions, early childhood groups, or classroom music…planned for you in advance.
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