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Choosing Repertoire: Is There a ‘Perfect Song’?

When I first set out to create the Singing Kids’ Songbook, I had a vision in mind. I wanted to create something that not only had age- and stage-appropriate repertoire, but a series of songs that could be used in order to introduce a progressive level of musical and technical concepts for young singers.

For kids new to voice lessons and/or learning about the technical aspects of singing and music, I wanted to introduce concepts in a way that combined exploration, familiarity, imagination, engagement, and fun into their study. An overly-disciplined approach is typically not a recipe for desire to continue for most young kids, and a “fun only” approach is typically not something parents will invest in over time. A balance of progress and fun is key to keeping both young singers and parents interested in this valuable work.

Each of the songs in the Singing Kids’ Songbook was carefully chosen and placed in a specific order, building upon the skills learned in the previous song. There are many ways to utilize these songs, and while they can certainly be used out of order, my hope is that you will explore how they work together to help your young singers build confidence in their skillset.

Unlike other instruments, every voice is different. There is no one-size-fits all when it comes to voice, and there are many factors that go into selecting repertoire and deciding on a course of action. It is my belief we should allow children an opportunity to have agency in the song literature they work on, but they first must establish a routine and system for learning. Getting to know your students and goal setting are great places to start. Once the student has an idea of flow and objectives in their singing, they can make better informed choices of song literature for themselves. And as time progresses in the learning process, they will gain that perspective and the teacher can be their guide in that journey.

That being said, when I came across ‘I Am a Robot,” by Kymberly Stewart, I felt like I had found the ‘perfect song’ to begin Level 1 of the Singing Kids’ Songbook!

I wanted the starting place to be something…

  • fresh and not something that felt specific to a certain age or gender

  • from where an early beginning singer could grow but didn't sound basic or overly simplistic

  • unique to a child’s musical and aural perception yet easy enough to grasp

What could be better than a fun and clever song written just for kids about a robot?

One of the special things I love about this song is that it was created by a contemporary singer-songwriter, who also happens to be a Grammy-nominated composer. Kymberly Stewart knows how to compose songs with cool rhythms and beats that appeal to young kids without sounding babyish. Oftentimes, kids like to feel older than they are…

I also appreciated the aspects incorporated from this song being in a minor key. Singing in a minor key and of itself is unique for beginning singers, and the emphasis on the minor seconds (challenging for beginning singers) and the descending minor thirds (more natural for beginning singers) create a nice balance of skill building for the ear. Not only are these intervals emphasized, but the repetition and echoing factor help establish and create more ease in learning for the singer. Another unique factor is the combination of a minor key and a playful, upbeat mood which creates a fun factor.

The melodic content of the intervals is easy to teach in small fragments and builds memory and recall skills. If a singer is not ready to sing alone, it can easily be used as an echo song– one of my favorite places to start with early and beginning singers. Echo songs are great teaching tools for teachers to assess where a singer is in their skill acquisition, and it serves as a great place for timid and shy singers to find support and build confidence.

As the melody evolves, it adds incremental changes by adding just the right amount of difficulty while still being grounded in the melodic foundation. This serves as a ‘safety net’ for singers who are developing musical and vocal ability. If at any point the singer is uncertain, going back to fragments that are easy to sing back is an easy pivot.

The theme naturally invites exploration into imagination, fantasy, and creativity. As the student develops and builds on their performance and singing skills, both singers and teachers can have fun creating movements and exploring somatic awareness while being playful, moving like a robot and adding expressive motions.

A little surprise at the end is the dramatic tempo change that is strategically placed and directly tied to the robot’s storyline. Here, active listening and skill-building strategies can be introduced. Teaching children how to actively listen to music with a discerning ear is a very important component in the cultivation of singing and musical techniques.

It also goes without saying that when introducing early singers to song literature, the quantity and quality of the text is very important for many reasons. With so many other skills and factors we hope to formulate for young beginning singers, the last thing we want to do is frustrate a student with too many words to memorize or words to which they cannot relate. In addition, it is important that we encourage children to explore themes that are straightforward and simple, yet optimistic and expressive.

The words in this song are also a great starting place for those young readers who are in the early stages of language development and decoding skills. And for those singers who are already advanced in this stage of development, it still provides a place where the word recognition is not overwhelming.

Last but not least, the song gives us a catchy tune that both students and teachers will enjoy! So - while finding the “perfect song” for beginning singers is subjective and individual of course, Kymberly Stewart’s ‘I Am a Robot’ was certainly the perfect start for the Singing Kids’ Songbook, and I hope you will all explore this wonderful song with your beginning students!

Learn More About the Singing Kids' Songbook here


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