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songs for my baby
August 1, 2007 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Help me pick out songs to sing and play on the guitar for my soon-to-be-born son.

My first son will be born in 2 months. I have played guitar for over 20 years, but don't know or play a lot of songs. I want to learn some songs that would be:
  1. Fun, stimulating for a baby.
  2. Easy for me to sing. I have a fairly limited vocal range, close to the 2 octaves between the low and high E strings on a standard tuned guitar.
  3. In simple English, as I will be in charge of teaching him that half of his expected bilingualism, this should be a part of it
  4. Memorable, a sort of keepsake if you will.
My tastes are fairly wide, from rock to country to folk to trip hop. Available guitars are nylon and steel acoustics and an electric.
posted by signal to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
The first thing that comes to mind is Cat Stevens' Moonshadow. It has a lullaby quality to it.
posted by The Deej at 1:52 PM on August 1, 2007


My favorite to play to my little ones is Lullaby To An Anxious Child by Sting. But all they ever want to hear is Immigrant Song and Iron Man.
posted by The World Famous at 1:58 PM on August 1, 2007


Billy Breathes, by Phish. A Phish song you don’t need to be a dirty hippie to enjoy. Very accessible, beautiful lullaby he wrote for his first son. Easy to strum on an acoustic guitar, easy to sing.
posted by bondcliff at 2:00 PM on August 1, 2007


Puff the Magic Dragon
posted by OneOliveShort at 2:01 PM on August 1, 2007


'Day is Done' by Peter Paul and Mary
'Morning is Broken' by Cat Stevens
posted by gnutron at 2:07 PM on August 1, 2007


I don't know about any of the musical requirements, but my daughter loves 'all right for now' by Tom Petty. It's extremely calming.

She also likes Johnny Mercer and Iron Maiden, though, so her tastes are sort of varied.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2007


Check out Chordie's public songbooks under the category Easy Songs. Pick your favourites.
My suggestion would be Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game".
posted by rocket88 at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2007


Babies love the Beatles.

The first song I sung along to as a baby was "I Fall to Pieces" by Patsy Cline. Probably not all that great for your vocal range, though. Maybe "Foolin' 'Round" or "Back in Baby's Arms" would be fun instead.

"Cecilia" and "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon and Garfunkel.

(Look, babies don't know what these songs are really about. Ha. Seriously, though, they are fun and stimulating, and they became keepsakes to me, in the end).
posted by lampoil at 2:17 PM on August 1, 2007


"All Together Now" by the Beatles
"I Love" by Tom T Hall
"Your Name is Tattooed on My Heart" by Screeching Weasel
posted by 23skidoo at 2:20 PM on August 1, 2007


Just play him Beatles songs. "I Will" comes to mind as a simple, pretty, easy-to-sing, lullaby-ish song. And your vocal range isn't really limited if you've got those 2 octaves, you're just a bass. You can always transpose songs down.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:35 PM on August 1, 2007


Rainbow Connection, by Jim Henson (Kermit). Beautiful lyrics, easy chord progression (or finger pick the repeated riff). It was my choice when my kids were born.
posted by monkeymadness at 2:51 PM on August 1, 2007


My daughter was fond of a slowed down version of "Me and Bobbie McGee" at bedtime, and my son loved every Beatles song he ever heard.
posted by lilywing13 at 2:57 PM on August 1, 2007


"I'm a Little Dinosaur" by Jonathan Richman. In fact, many songs by Jonathan Richman would be just the ticket - simple, absurd, gentle music. Try listening to some of this this album for examples.
posted by Wavelet at 3:16 PM on August 1, 2007


Oh, and Whirlpool by the Meat Puppets is a great one for kids. See also They Might Be Giants' version.
posted by The World Famous at 3:24 PM on August 1, 2007


"Blackbird" by The Beatles.
posted by lilnemo at 3:34 PM on August 1, 2007


I made up songs for my daughter when she was little. A song to her name. A song to spell her name. A song for her name and address. A phone number song. I'm not particularly musical, but a lot of them sounded like the Empire Carpet jingle or ad music from the '50s in general.

She remembers those more than the other songs I sang her and unfortunately, still remembers the address of the house we lived at when she was two, but haven't lived there since.
posted by Gucky at 3:44 PM on August 1, 2007


One of my little cousins really liked AC/DC. "You Shook Me All Night Long" actually stretches out into a sorta soothing lullaby if you slow it down. Plus, you get to do that Donald-Duck gargly thing with your voice, which is always a plus.

I second the Meat Puppets, and point to "The Whistling Song" and "Look At The Rain"as a couple of theirs that babies might like. The first is sorta sleepy, and the second is bouncy.

Also, any old blues licks are good, and it's fun to just sit down and make the words up as you go along.

I don't know how well it would transpose to guitar (or how repeated listenings would affect your child's sanity), but The Resident's "Commerical Album" consists of really simplistic one-minute-long songs that sound like they were composed by babies. Not for babies, BY babies.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:46 PM on August 1, 2007


Lots of great answers, thanks everybody!
posted by signal at 4:11 PM on August 1, 2007


My dad would play "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music as a lullaby, and it works perfectly - slow and gentle, and pretty easy to play.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 4:14 PM on August 1, 2007


"When You Dream" by Barenaked Ladies is a nice lullaby, and pretty easy to play, to boot.
posted by Brak at 4:51 PM on August 1, 2007


If you're a fan of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow / What a Wonderful World", you can play it using the top four strings and a capo at the 5th fret fairly easily. I just learned this one myself because there's something special about two generations worth of optimism wrapped up in a catchy little tune, crappy vocal range be damned.
posted by waxboy at 5:07 PM on August 1, 2007


59th street bridge song by Simon and Garfunkle
posted by phrontist at 5:09 PM on August 1, 2007


Write your own. Seriously. I don't care who you are or what your talents are musically; if you sing it and clap it out, and it's *about* your kids (ideally made up on the spot), it'll go down a lot better than something somebody else wrote. I say this from personal experience -- and there's something about the songs you write yourself, kids seem to dig 'em more. My kids enjoy the stuff I don't write myself, but the stuff I wrote they ASK for, and they're not even two yet.

Also, having your kid walk up to you and ask for a song you wrote is like your kid walking up to you and giving your talent and ego a big bear hug.

Having said that, for development purposes I recommend odd rhythms and key changes, and make sure he gets a healthy dose of classical and other complex music (as opposed to a steady diet of rock and/or roll.)
posted by davejay at 5:23 PM on August 1, 2007


Speaking of Simon and Garfunkel: The Boxer. The li-la-lis are always fun.
posted by The Deej at 5:42 PM on August 1, 2007


My little newborn guy loved Wildwood Flower. Instantly calmed him down if he was cranky. Youtube guitar lesson here.
posted by Otis at 5:56 PM on August 1, 2007


It's time to buy a copy of the Rise up Singing songbook. Everyone with a folk guitar should own a copy.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:08 PM on August 1, 2007


Oh, and 2nd on the phone number song. As soon as he knows what a phone is and how to use it, teach him this song so that if he gets lost a stranger can help him.

Over 20 years later, I still remember that the phone number for my old house was 948 6901.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:14 PM on August 1, 2007


I totally agree with Rise Up Singing (this links to the publishers site). They have many of the songs listed above in simplified chords. The tablature websites are good too, but this book makes it incredibly, incredibly simple. Have fun!
posted by commissioner12 at 7:30 PM on August 1, 2007


Sweet Baby James by James Taylor. A simple tune I remmeber my parents singing me.

Goodnight you moonlight ladies
Rockabye sweet baby James
Deep Greens and Blues
Are the Colors I choose
Won't you let me go down in my dreams...
And Rockabye sweet baby James

Theres a song that they sing when they take to the highway
A song that they sing when they take to the sea
A song that they sing of their home in the sky
Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep
But singing works just fine for me

posted by conch soup at 8:05 PM on August 1, 2007


When I have a kid I fully intend to sing it Kooks by David Bowie cos it's very sweet
posted by merocet at 8:22 PM on August 1, 2007


Bonzo Dog Band : Mr. Slater's Parrot
posted by Dr.Pill at 4:14 AM on August 2, 2007


Mrs. Plinth got me guitar lessons because little kids tend to like little kid music and not Van Halen, and while it's all music, I had pretty much honed my playing towards metal. My goal was to be able to play Polly Wolly Doodle and not have it sound Polly Wolly Crappy. Mission accomplished.

In these parts, here are the kiddie songs that go over well:
Rubber Duckie
Farmer in the Dell
Itsy Bitsy Spider
Down By the Station
I've Been Working on the Railroad
Old Macdonald
Bingo
DO-RE-MI
Polly Wolly Doodle (I am so sick of this song now)
London Bridge
C is for Cookie

My infant son likes to listen to music and seems to like Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring. When my daughter was an infant, she liked Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral. So ultimately, you will find something that works and is personal for your child.

Right now, my 4 year old applauds when I finish a song and yells "yay, daddy, yay!" and there are few better ways to finish up playing music. If this eventually happens to you, cherish it.

Random things: most kiddie music is really basic. You might note that Itsy Bitsy Spider and Down By the Station are, in fact, the same song. Try swapping lines between them.

My daughter has come to love insisting that everyone in Farmer in the Dell takes the cheese. Why? Because it's funnier that way. This is a reminder that your audience need not and should not be passive. Making them part of the music will lead them towards making music their own.
posted by plinth at 7:08 AM on August 2, 2007


You can play "Somewhere Over The Rainbow / What a Wonderful World" without the capo too, of course--it sounds fine played as a regular old guitar song. I've done it both ways, and on an actual ukulele, and I like it without the capo on all six strings the best. Other current faves are "Peaceful, Easy Fellin'," "He Went to Paris," and "Country Roads," all easy, fairly calm, quiet songs.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:42 AM on August 2, 2007


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