Songs for Children
December 28, 2005 3:43 PM   Subscribe

I recently had a baby boy and I have some music-related questions.

I'm going to kind of cheat and bundle a few questions together.

First and foremost, I'd like to play baby music (lullabies, nursery rhymes, etc) for the baby as the years go by, and I'd like a good source of music for children. Really all I'm looking for is chords most likely, maybe with some melody and lyrics also. There are lots of sources of music on the internet but I've not had much luck finding music for children. Resources like OLGA are more for finding music by particular artists. Online sources are fine, as are specific books that might be good.

Secondly, I have played electric guitar exclusively for about a decade and don't own an acoustic guitar. I'd like to get one for the purpose of playing to my son, and I have only a few criteria, which, unfortunately, I think will limit me substantially. First, I play left-handed. In the past I lived in Houston, home to South Paw guitars, which exclusively sells lefties. I was surprised to find that there's nothing like it in Dallas. Second, I'm looking for something in the sub-$300 range and third, I'd like it to be solid wood. Something decent, does not need to be loud, a smallish body would be preferable to a big dreadnought sized guitar. Since I most likely won't be able to find one in a local store, internet sources would be great. A friend of mine recommended a Larrivee guitar and I'm looking into that. I could spend a little more if I need to.
posted by RustyBrooks to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Elderly Instruments is one of the best places for mail order instruments. Give them a call and ask both of your questions directly.
posted by plinth at 4:02 PM on December 28, 2005

Best answer: If you're looking for something small, I recommend the Taylor Baby. It's 3/4 scale but it's got good tone and volume. I have one that I like a lot.

They are available left-handed and you can order them from Musician's Friend for $249.
posted by camcgee at 4:10 PM on December 28, 2005

Response by poster: I checked out Larrivee -- too expensive (cheapest model in the $700-800 range). That taylor looks interesting. I had forgotten about Elderly... I play a variety of stringed instruments (banjo, mandolin, bouzouki) so I've bought from them in the past. I've actually been thinking about getting a Cuatro (sp?) also. It's sort of between a mandolin and a guitar size/pitch wise, and it's double-strung like a 12 string. They look interesting. Actually a 12-string would be great but a left handed 12 string under $300 seems a bit much to ask.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:23 PM on December 28, 2005

Response by poster: Ouch, Elderly has that Taylor Baby LH for $350.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:26 PM on December 28, 2005

For ready-made music, Electronic Music For Babies by Raymond Scott is really good.

For the less credulous among us, there is always the Mozart Effect. I am sure you can find some simple Mozart pieces for guitar.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:45 PM on December 28, 2005

I just got this book (Rise Up Singing) for Christmas and it is fantastic and is probably just what you're looking for.

I wish I could show you the contents page, it has every song you would ever want to sing for/with children of all ages. And, yes, each song (about 1000 of them) has the chords. Give it a look and Congrats to you!
posted by snsranch at 4:50 PM on December 28, 2005

Music for kids: I teach early childhood music classes for families, and I can say that anything musical you do with your child is great. Kids don't learn so much from music playing in the background, but they get a lot from their parents' disposition toward music, so if you just play whatever makes you the happiest, that's what they'll respond to. If you're playing music that you think is supposed to be "good for them," while secretly wincing inside (think Barneyâ„¢) then you're giving them the message that music makes you wince inside.

You can't fool 'em.

Have fun!
posted by al_fresco at 6:10 PM on December 28, 2005

You may want to reconsider the idea of "children's songs" and instead concentrate on good songs and good music that your children will absorb through regular exposure.

When my kids were small, I would sing them such things as:

Paul Simon's Was a Sunny Day
Jefferson Starship's The Baby Tree
Tom T. Hall's Ravishing Ruby and Sneaky Snake

These were much more interesting to them than "children's songs".

They did like the videos by Wee Sing, though.
posted by megatherium at 6:15 PM on December 28, 2005

On reread, I forgot to mention that the Music Togetherâ„¢ Song Collcections are awesome, for both parents and kids. They have all of the chords, and there are something over 300 songs in the 9 collections. Lots of good stuff.

Sorry for the shameless plug, but I'm a big fan!
posted by al_fresco at 6:17 PM on December 28, 2005

I agree with megatherium - just sing/play music that you like, doesn't have to be "for children". When I was a baby, my dad sang Mack the Knife to me.
posted by emmling at 6:20 PM on December 28, 2005

Response by poster: You do have a good point that I don't have to just play "childrens songs" to them, but much of what I know well are jazz standards. Maybe they'd like these, and maybe they wouldn't, I don't know. I do know that I can't sing most of them (even the ones I know the words to). Some jazz standards would be great for kids, like maybe "Girl From Ipanema". It's soft and swaying and I think the drama of it is kind of nice.

Maybe I should have phrased it as "songs to play for kids" rather than "songs made for kids". For example, Eva Cassidy's "Somewhere over the rainbow is amazing but hardly kids music. Also I already sing stuff to him like "Asleep and Dreaming" by the Magnetic Fields, etc.

Whoops, someone at the door, more later.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:38 PM on December 28, 2005

I'm sure your kids won't care if you can sing well or not. And if you don't know the words, make them up - the sillier the better! And I think jazz standards would make wonderful lullabies.

Have you checked the Guitar Centers in the Dallas area?

Another musician who makes great music for kids that isn't insultingly insipid (for the kids or their parents) is a long-time Chicago musician named Ralph Covert. I'm not sure if he has sheet music available for his work, but he is a very friendly and personable guy, and would probably help you out with the chords if you bought some of his stuff.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:49 PM on December 28, 2005

One of the albums that has given me the most pleasure is Kenny Loggins' "Return to Pooh Corner" -- and not just as a kid. It's definitely a lullaby album, but it's gorgeous, and it's got a lot of really great acoustic guitar work. I'm embarrassingly older now, but I still listen to the album sometimes at night. The sequel, "More Songs from Pooh Corner," never did much for me.

When I was a kid, my family also swore by the kids' music of Tom Chapin (yes, a brother of Harry Chapin). The lyrics are cute, the music is decent, but although I liked a few songs (I loved about one per album), I was never a huge fan. I don't think it's awful -- the lyrics may make you smile, and you can generally bear listening to the music for the ninetieth time. YMMV, though; my dad, at 50, feels the way I do about that Loggins album -- Dad still listens to his Tom Chapin tapes in the car. Again, Tom Chapin is an acoustic-guitar player, IIRC.

Although Loggins in particular can get technically beautiful, I think it'd be really easy to simplify. The singing, on both accounts, is more amusing than it is difficult -- you're a dad, and if you can half-sing, half-talk it to your kid, you'll be more than fine for almost all of Tom Chapin's songs and most of Loggins'.
posted by booksandlibretti at 7:48 PM on December 28, 2005

Seconding the Raymond Scott recommendation. I've given those three CDs to many friends for their new babies, and they have a very high approval rate, from both kids and parents. As a bonus, it's really interesting music.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:58 PM on December 28, 2005

Response by poster: Went to two guitar centers today and a brook mays or something. 3 lefties between them and they were all ovations, not a big fan of those (and they don't sound right unamplified to me anyway).

I'll check out the song recs and I think I'll probably end up choosing something like the Taylor Baby so I might as well order one and see how it works up. If I remember I'll do a follow up.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:57 PM on December 28, 2005

Response by poster: (for now I'd call that and Elderly Instruments the best answers, guitar wise. I'll have to check out the music later)
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:57 PM on December 28, 2005

Response by poster: My friend got back to me and told me to look for older Larrivee Parlour guitars, the ones with a satin finish. Apparently they can be had for $400-450 and sound pretty nice. I'm going to keep an eye out for an LH version of one of those also.
posted by RustyBrooks at 11:44 PM on December 28, 2005

I don't know about making music, but my nieces seem to really like the Beethoven's wig CDs and the They might be giants' children CDs that I gave them. Also, I'm assuming that since you have a child, you know about baby einstein?
posted by echo0720 at 8:16 AM on December 29, 2005

Just got some classic folk for our little guy:
Woody Guthrie & Pete Seeger. The Met also puts out a nice compilation of fun standards called Baby Loves Jazz.

I also second al_fresco's rec. of the For the Kids series.

Finally, if he's newborn, he might like reggae (the swaying beat is very soothing).
posted by Saccade at 9:24 PM on December 29, 2005

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