Give me some easy songs for kids with no music training
February 18, 2014 8:22 PM   Subscribe

I am part of a group of university-age music students who are volunteering at our local Boys and Girls Club to run a music playing-and-teaching program. I'm looking for easy pop songs that kids ages 9-15 would enjoy singing or playing along to on drums or guitar.

The kids we work with are very energetic and have very short attention spans. They like banging on drums, tamborines, cowbell etc. to pop tunes, sometimes learning a few piano or guitar chords. However, if they don't know the songs or get bored, they tend to duck out of the class. I'm trying to think of songs that are pretty easy to pick up on (tune and rhythm-wise), are complete PG rated (twist!), and that the kids would know and enjoy jamming with.

Songs we have tried with the kids so far include Justin Bieber "Baby," Jackson 5 "I Want You Back," and "We Will Rock You." We are definitely open to both old and new stuff, so long as it's likely something a kid would recognize.

Thanks, everyone.
posted by daisystomper to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
I always thought Richard Thompson's version of Oops!... I Did It Again (backup link) from his "1000 Years of Popular Music" might be useful for something like this.
posted by XMLicious at 9:36 PM on February 18, 2014

I think you can't go wrong with old Motown and 60s jams as one place to start.

For example, if they can master C Am F G, then you 're good for Stand By Me, as well as lots of other 50s/60 songs. C G Dm F G will get you I Can't Help Myself.

Lean On Me (Bill Withers) is a song many kids love to sing along to, and it has a similar simple progression.

If you have electric guitars, the Ramones are another great place to start. Really easy power chord progressions, straightforward drums, the real trick is the speed. Blitzkrieg Bop for example is just a C F G progression. But if kids just play hard and messy it is a blast.

But I think my best suggestion would be The Sonics, which are a really fun band to turn kids onto. They were the start of garage rock and the forerunner to so much of the music of the 90s, and even today- the first band to take ice picks to their amps to get fuzzy, messy distortion. Psycho is a fun song to teach to drummers, bass players, and guitarists. The chord progression is just a basic 1950s style C F G F C over and over again... even the chorus. The drum part is easy for a beginner to learn, and really fun too... especially the chorus. The song's energy is all about playing loud, fuzzy, messy, screaming, and just having a blast.
posted by Old Man McKay at 11:03 PM on February 18, 2014

Just a couple more Sonics links for you. Here's their cover of Louie Louie. The opening riff was almost entirely responsible for making me want to buy my first electric guitar.

Here's a group of kids the age of your group, playing another song, Shot Down.

Your kids surely won't know these songs, but there's a great chance they will be blown away by the sheer fun and energy. And incredibly these songs are over 50 years old now.
posted by Old Man McKay at 11:28 PM on February 18, 2014

Try "Particle Man" by They might be Giants .
posted by boilermonster at 12:35 AM on February 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you listened to The Langley Schools Music Project? Sounds like you're heading in the same sort of direction.
posted by ZipRibbons at 1:20 AM on February 19, 2014

Do Wah Diddy

I mean, I know it's dated, but it is catchy and easy and PG enough for kids in that age range.
posted by zizzle at 4:56 AM on February 19, 2014

If I Had A Hammer
Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog
Franklin's Tower
Speed Racer Theme
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:24 AM on February 19, 2014

People seem to be missing that the kids should know these songs. Which counts out 90% of music from before 2009.

Bruno Mars has a lot of songs that sound classic and use real instruments. Adele's songwriting style lends to being covered by a full band as well. And they should know at least this one Gotye song.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:10 AM on February 19, 2014

More semi-indie pop hits: Edward Sharpe - Home
Hey Ho - Lumineers
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:16 AM on February 19, 2014

Check out the PS22 Chorus repertoire for inspiration.

You could always grab a bunch of red Solo cups and teach them the harmonies for "Cups."
posted by evoque at 9:14 AM on February 19, 2014

Try PaPa Power this was done as a project a few years ago with the Silverlake Childrens Choir. The song is slow enough in tempo that it should not be too hard to play.
posted by boilermonster at 9:17 AM on February 19, 2014

Yes, they should be songs the kids know, which sadly rules out a number of things. We also did "Royals" with them and it worked really well. Keep the ideas coming! Thanks everyone!
posted by daisystomper at 8:14 PM on February 19, 2014

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