5 Tips to Finding the Best Songs for Children To Sing

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If you've taken on the task of running a school choir, or teaching songs to any group of children, you might be wondering where to start.

Finding the right songs will play a big part in your success. This guide will help you know what to look for when choosing songs.

1. LYRICS

Is the subject matter suitable for the age group?
  • check for inappropriate language
  • will the children understand and connect with the song?

Is the language too simple or too difficult?
  • too simple and the children will be bored or even rebel!
  • too difficult and they won't be engaged

Are the lyrics interesting and/or fun
  • does the song tell a story?
  • does it contain clever rhymes, alliteration or word play?
  • is it a subject that children will relate to?

Are there learning opportunities - or is it just for fun?
  • do the lyrics inform or entertain?
  • are they appropriate for your purpose? (see item 5 below)

Is it suitable for girls, boys or both?
  • depending on the age, certain language and subject matter may be unsuitable or at least 'uncool' for either boys or girls.
2. RANGE

Always check the vocal range of the song.

Children aged 5-12 years can safely sing from middle C (C3) to the octave above. The older children in this age group can sing to E4 or even F4. However avoid sustained singing in the higher range to begin with.
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Be aware that children's voices change at certain ages, especially boys.
"On average, the voice-changing process in boys takes from one-and-a-half to three years and occurs between the ages of 12 and 15. However...youngster's voices can begin transforming as early as nine." Read the complete article from Chorus America.
3. MELODY

Is it a 'singable' song?
  • many modern pop songs don't translate well to group singing
  • suitable songs have strong, well-defined melodies and consistent rhythms
  • look for songs with musical phrases that allow space to breath

Check for:
  • difficult intervals between notes
  • too much awkward movement in the melody - look for a combination of step-wise movement and some larger intervals
  • too much repetition - repetition is good but not if it's overdone
  • too much sustained singing in the high and low registers
  • complex rhythms
4. PARTS

1. Start your group with unison songs, that is, all voices singing the same part together.
2. Once established, try rounds and partner (echo) songs.
3. Then introduce simple 2-part harmony singing.

Choose the more confident singers to sing the part that is not the melody.

You may find scores marked as either soprano/soprano (SS) or soprano/alto (SA) for this age group. Children that struggle in the higher register should be given the alto part where possible.
5. PURPOSE

Finally, choose a song that suits your purpose.

1. A performance
  • school concert or assembly, public performance
  • consider the audience, the venue and the size of your group
  • what mood or message do you want to portray?

2. A competition
  • check the requirements and criteria of the competition carefully
  • choose songs the children really enjoy and are confident with
  • try something a bit unusual that will stand out from the other competitors

3. Curriculum-based
  • songs can add interest and depth to any learning experience
  • they're a great aid to memorising information
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I'm a composer of music and songs mostly for children. Over a period of sixteen years I've been directly involved with two major children's music festivals in Adelaide and Perth, Australia. While not a teacher myself, I've observed many skilled singing teachers working with children. This has informed my work and lead me to the conclusions mentioned in the article. I realise now that I use the same process myself as I write a song.

All of these factors combine to help make a song a success - whether you're a teacher or a songwriter.

You can find my songs for children in the
SongLibrary.

Glyn Lehmann
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A complete song pack.

Rainbows and Canyons
(The Water Song)

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