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Why Using Folk Songs to Teach Singing Skills to Kids Is a Winner

When searching for repertoire for young singers, teachers can find themselves straddling the line between practicality and entertainment. They want to find songs that suit the student’s age and stage, and there is often the desire to avoid anything that would feel “boring” and be rejected by the singer. This can send teachers into long searches for songs, asking colleagues for suggestions, guessing what might please the student…

While finding new music is wonderful, and we certainly want kids to feel excited about what they are singing, we can also conserve a lot of time and energy by using songs kids already know to help them learn.

I love teaching young singers through folk traditions. It is easy to introduce new skills while exploring fun and interesting themes through recognizable tunes. There is so much to be learned and gained from traditional and familiar folk songs, and this is why I included some of these in my new songbook, along with activity pages that give teachers and singers engaging ways to use the songs for learning. “Bingo” is a staple in the canon of children’s folk song literature, and I chose it to be the second song in the Singing Kids’ Songbook.

Note: As early singers work their way through the songbook, it is helpful to notice how each song is a building block for progress. When children and their parents can witness the improvement, there is a sense of pride and enjoyment. This can lead to matriculation, with students developing a long-term interest for artistic growth and improvement.

While these songs are formulated with a general overview of an age and stage of development, it is up to the voice teacher to evaluate the ways in which a singer needs to improve. It is therefore up to the teacher to use their own discernment as to how to maximize this song. As singers work through the songbook in order and build their singing skills, it is perfectly fine for them to pursue and study other vocal literature from a variety of genres, as long as they remain within their current level and ability. The overall goal we want for our singers is to learn and improve while finding efficiency and fun in the process.

Why the song Bingo?

Bingo can easily progress into a refined performance song that is often heard around campfires, in classrooms, and in community settings. Because it is so well-known, it makes a wonderful showpiece as a recital solo song, group song, or audience sing-along led by one or more of your young singers!

This folk song is rooted in rhythmic concepts that are creative and playful, encouraging beat motion and physical connection through body percussion. For music skill building, this can naturally lead into the basics of form and sequential patterns. The progression follows a logical order that is attainable for most young and early singers. The repetition of text continues to build a foundation in memory and recall skills which are necessary tools for singing and language development.

Animals are one of my favorite themes to work on with children, and this song evokes a setting of farm animals (even better!) in a folk tradition. While the text in this song is typically well-known and recognizable, it can also become a great lesson for creativity. It can easily be altered to allow for creative thinking while learning the basics of songwriting and musical notation. This is also great for singers who are ready for more, using changes in animals and names to create a challenge for language and memory or to evoke a personal connection.

As a follow up to the previous song, I Am a Robot, the continuation of syllabic text moves mostly in stepwise motion and adds simple intervallic skips of 3rds and 4ths. Bingo is in a major key and the melody opens with the P4 interval, one that can present challenges in songs that are less familiar. But as the young singer adds these intervals to their aural perception from songs they already know, the recognition becomes easier for them to grasp.

The vocal range is also quite accessible, staying in one register. This is ideal for early singers just learning to navigate register shifts and various tone colors and sounds. The lack of register navigation also makes this a great choice for working on other musical elements, as young singers will not have their focus distracted by what they feel is or isn’t possible for them vocally. Rhythm, solfege skills, musical notation, and other skills can easily be built.

But - to me, the best part of this song for learning fun is to explore storytelling skills and character development. Kids are wonderful creators, and by making this song their own, they can start to learn how to convey a song’s story with their own personality. It’s so much fun to watch them develop their own ideas and abilities!

Farm animals, music notation, creativity, and body percussion…what’s not to love about that? Have fun exploring what you can do with this song and other familiar folk songs!


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