A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Songs With Your Kids
By Will Stroet, Host of Will's Jams
Sep 30, 2015
While I’m preparing to record my next album in Nashville this fall, I've been writing songs and thinking a lot about the process of song writing.
I grew up in a home where everything was turned into a song. We’d sing while doing mundane tasks like washing the dishes and for big events like birthdays and family road trips. We constantly made up songs and it was so much fun.
The inspiration for making up songs with kids is all around you.
This creative and communal activity had a major impact on my life and my career as a children’s musician. Not only do I get to write, record and perform songs for kids, but I also get to write songs with kids—with students, through artist-in-residencies in schools, and with my own daughters.
Wondering how you can share this incredibly rewarding creative process your kids? It’s pretty simple—even if you don’t have formal musical training.
You just need five easy ingredients and you and your kids will be whipping up songs before you know it!
You Will Need:
- a topic
- a melody
- a chorus
- some verses
- a purpose
1. A Topic
What is your song going to be about? Where can you and your kids find inspiration? Everywhere!
What are your kids' interests? Dinosaurs, dolls, colouring…
What time of year is it? Halloween, spring break, Christmas...
What are they learning about in school or preschool? Outer space, colours, parts of the body, photo day…
What tasks are you trying to inspire them to do on their own? Getting dressed, making their bed, brushing their teeth….
The inspiration for making up songs with kids is all around you—just take your pick and you’re ready for the next step.
2. A Melody
When writing with young kids, I recommend using melodies of songs you already know. Some classics like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, When the Saints Go Marching In, Oh Susanna and Jingle Bells are great easy melodies.
It can even be a melody from a current pop song or your favourite Will's Jams song! Basically, you can use whatever you and your kids are listening to. All you need to do is use the melody as a guide and replace the lyrics to suit your song topic.
Before I get into the next two steps, please note that a chorus and verses are not entirely necessary—with kids, this can be considered a more advanced step. If you are using a melody like Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, you won’t have to worry about the distinction between chorus and verses.
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3. A Chorus
This is the part of the songs that you keep coming back to.
When I’m writing, I like to think of the chorus as the part that speaks to the heart of the song. When you come up with the chorus with your kids, make sure you write about the theme of your song.
The other very important and fun part is the rhyming scheme. Writing songs is a great way for kids to learn rhymes and this is where they can really contribute to the song.
4. Some Verses
The verses are where you can elaborate on the topic of the song or start to tell the story. You can write as many of these as you want.
If you are on a long road trip with the family (possibly the best place to make up songs with kids), I recommend making up as many verses as you can before kids lose interest.
When Jimi Hendrix wrote Purple Haze, he had 10 pages of lyrics even though only three verses made it on the record!
You can do what you like with the verses—just make sure you are sticking to your melody and be sure to maintain a rhyming scheme. The more verses you come up with, the more your kids will get the idea and run with it.
5. A Purpose
What are you writing this song for? You may simply be writing for fun, or to learn something new, share your knowledge or make mundane tasks more interesting.
My favourite reason to write songs with kids is for a special occasion. My family has a long history of writing songs for big events like birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and holidays. Nothing makes a special event even more special than a song!
Nothing makes a special event even more special than a song!
If there is a purpose for the song, kids will be more motivated to write it and sing along.
One final thing to consider when writing songs with kids is what you’d like to do with the song when you’re done.
Of course, the process of writing a song is fun and worthwhile, but it's now so easy to record kids singing their compositions that you may want to save your songs to listen to later. Personally, I use the voice memo recorder right on my phone or Garage Band.
It doesn’t matter whether the song is a masterpiece or just a fun little ditty—I guarantee both you and your kids will get a kick out of listening to it again and again.
I’ll finish with a short anecdote. Recently, I’ve been recording my daughter, Ella, and me singing little songs we’ve written. The first time I did this, Ella was surprised by how high her voice sounded. After hearing her voice, she looked at me and, drawing on some vocabulary she recently learned at her piano class, she commented in her high little voice, “Daddy, my voice is pretty treble cleffy isn’t it?”
Will Stroet is preparing to record his next kids’ music album, called WoRdPlAy, this fall in Nashville, Tennessee. To learn more and how you can get involved with this project, visit willmusic.ca.
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