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September 2006 | Vol. V - No. 9




Tools:

Showcase the Music

Making Kids' Songs Work


What goes into creating a kid song that works? TDmonthly Magazine talked with the creators and distributors of children's CDs and found that hitting the right “note” often starts with the kids themselves.

Listen to the Kids
Kathy Byers, singer-songwriter for KT Music Productions Inc. (ToyDirectory), recently came up with a song while surrounded by kindergarteners. “I was in a class where there was a large book on crabs. … I got the chalkboard going, and asked the kids how crabs act, what they look like. I put it all on the board, then asked for rhyming words. We wrote the Mr. Crab song and the kids performed it at a concert at school.”

“I’m always bouncing material off kids,” said Katherine Dines, Grammy-nominated songwriter and creator of Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Music (ToyDirectory). “A lot is just hanging out and talking with them.”

Barbara Gilmour, CEO and creative director for Etiquette Etc. LLC T/A Tanner's Manners (ToyDirectory) quantifies that approach. “We did pilot studies and found that the music really helped the kids grasp our Cool Kind Kids concept, and made it fun, too.”

Kirsti Manna (aka “Tina Tickle-ini”), author/songwriter/performer of Giggles and Goosebumples (ToyShow), created the song “Nashville Guitar Player” while playing with her niece. “I was strumming her stomach, and thought I should do a song about it. That’s basically it: trying to create something that seems fun by playing at being a 5-year-old yourself.”

Cull the Classics
Others pull from the classics: “The reason we started the company 30 years ago was to keep tradition alive,” related Pam Bealle, co-author and partner of Wee Sing (ToyDirectory). A parent couldn’t go out and buy a full and affordable collection of their favorite childhood songs like ‘Farmer in the Dell’ or ‘Old McDonald.’”

Mary Beth Garcia, founder and CEO of Cantarima, explained that its Canciones Tradicionales is “a celebration of traditional Spanish children’s songs. The songs are beloved by generations, so it really captures the hearts of Hispanics.”

Teach It
Some wrap their songs around education. Elly Tucker, vice president of Rivanna Music, pointed out how Cathy Bollinger’s Alphabet Jam songs “artfully teach your child letter sounds through repetition and sing-alongs.”

Ricki Glinert, A&R manager for Casablanca Kids (ToyDirectory), related how their latest release, Kindergarten Prep’s “24 songs all introduce simple skills and knowledge that preschool children need, such as letters, numbers and tying shoes.”

Sometimes the songs actually teach … music: “Tonal patterns, the critical building blocks of the music language, will nurture a child's ability to think musically, providing a ‘balanced musical diet’ to grow on,” elucidated Carolyn Joy Zorn, founder and director of Wiggles N’ Tunes (ToyDirectory).

Elizabeth Waldman Frazier, public relations, told about Gotta Play Publishing’s latest release, Snowdance: “The guitar chords are easy for beginning students, and they are all in keys that are suitable for developing voices.”

Find the Right Sound
Although song styles and tempos can be as varied for kids as adults, there were a few common “tricks” that seemed to resonate. Manna pointed out that “with kids, it has to be repetitive. And have giggles.”

Bealle thought it was important to have the rhymes “spoken first by a child, then sung.”

Gary Brody, president of Lovely Baby CD (ToyDirectory), said, “Using the right rhythms, harmonies and instrumentations are the main points. Many instruments are not suitable for young babies. Violins and brass are not good.”

As far as coming trends, live performances seem to be on the rise. According to James K, founder of Rivertown Records: “Live is good. Parents love to have some place to take their kids.”

A final ingredient for children's music can best be summed up by Lanny Sherwin, president of Sandman Records (ToyDirectory). The company's motto: "Don't Drive Parents Crazy!" The kids may be all right, but the parents still have to listen to it.





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“Time for Manners” is the first in a new DVD series that teaches children about manners and social behavior — and makes learning fun! Everyday good behavior is actually demonstrated to children. They meet the puppet characters Tara and Tyler and their friend Wesley. These three are joined by Merlin Manners, a comical character who hosts the show. “Time for Manners” presents basic concepts, like saying “please” and “thank you," “you’re welcome” and “excuse me.”
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This CD contains contagiously catchy tunes that are impossible not to hum.  "Red Light, Green Light" is a particular standout, kind of a cross between Joe Egan and The Police and Bob Geldof's early solo albums.  Each song is about totally kid-relatable subjects such as family, crossing the street, the ABCs and, of course, five monkeys.  A good time is had by all.
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Children everywhere will clap, hop and sing along to the exhilarating 58 minutes of song and dance numbers of "The Wee Sing Train." They can imagine playing with a toy train, and then suddenly becoming a passenger ... which can only happen with a spark of Wee Sing magic. Packed with 20 songs, colorful characters and a special lesson about thinking before you eat, "The Wee Sing Train" is a charming way to put kids on the right track. This DVD was first launched in 2004.
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Kids will love this award-winning collection of more than 30 high-energy tunes and beautiful lullabies such as "Shady Grove" and "Hush Little Baby " performed by Miss Wiggles and The Wiggle Ensemble. This is a refreshing and unique brand of music entertainment that´s both fun and educational. There´s plenty of wigglin´ ... singin´ ... playin´ ... n´ ... music fun. Tonal and rhythm patterns, the critical building blocks of the music language will nurture a child´s ability to think musically and provide a "balanced musical diet" to grow on. It's teacher-tested, parent-approved and kid proven. The CD includes a 20-page lyric and activity songbook. The Singin' Collection is part of the Trio of WiggleSongs Collections, which also includes The Wigglin' and Playin' Collections. In 2004, the albums received the Creative Child Magazine Seal of Excellence Award and Children's Music Web Best Children's Music CD Awards.
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Lovely Baby Magic CDs continue the early music integration process with your baby.  The compositions are a bit more complex than earlier releases, and the harmonies are a bit more stimulating and demanding, asking more of a baby's mind to process.
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“Turn Up the Music!” is a delightful musical treat for children ages 4 to 9 featuring 12 original songs by singer-songwriter Lanny Sherwin, a Nashville songwriter for 11 years. “Turn Up the Music!” encompasses a full musical spectrum, from Motown and Latin to doo-wop and country rock. Designed for toe-tapping fun, “Turn Up the Music!” also delivers many positive messages for children. The CD has received eight awards, including an iParenting Media Award, a Dr. Toy Award and a Teachers' Choice Award for the Family from Learning Magazine.
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This CD helps children to learn Spanish through music. With playful, melodious songs, such as "Cuando Tengas Muchas Ganas" and "La Feria de San Juan," children will come to sing along and understand the lyrics as they go. Parents will want to join in as well.
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Wonderfully energetic and full of fun, "Alphabet Jam" will have young ones involved and wanting to join in. The creative songs have varied rhythms and use a number of different instruments that will make children want to get up and move, especially as children are naturally drawn to other children's voices. There are 36 lively tracks that teach the letters of the alphabet — from "Abby Alligator" to "Zany Zebra Zack" — as well as a special "Vowel Family" song and a unique "When Y Is at the End" song that teach children letter sounds through repetition and sing-alongs. The lively album is fun for the whole family.
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This recording of all-original songs comes at you with a folksy flavor, then branches out. James K does much of the singing with helpful accompaniment. The common themes lead the listener on a journey through various cycles of life and time. Witty, picturesque lyrics present us with a world full of wonder and joy. This is fun music for children and adults. It received a 2002 Parents' Choice Recommended Award and a 2004 iParenting Media Award.
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"Snowdance" is Erin Lee & Marci's second children's CD, following their award-winning debut album, "Someone's Gotta Wanna Play." "Snowdance" takes children through seasons of the year, with a song for each month. Some songs are about the seasons, others serve as a backdrop for everyday events that take place during a specific time of year — like jumping in mud puddles in the spring or playing baseball in the summer. Even prior to its September 5th release, the lyrics to "Snowdance" have won an ASCAP Award.
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Bop and bounce to the infectious rhythms and classic tunes of the Motown sound! Authentically re-created with great vocals sung by kids. ďThe music sounds just like the originals and the kids are great!Ē says Temptations guitarist Bill Neale. 15 Songs, including: Ainít No Mountain, My Girl, Dancing In the Street, Whatís Going On, You Canít Hurry Love and more!
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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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