Song Surfing

As a songwriter, I have a vested interest in the different parts that make up a song. While there are always exceptions to the rule, a typical song consists of 3 parts: verse, chorus and bridge. While melodies, rhythms, chord changes and variations in lengths of each part are what create the originality of a song, most songs we hear on the radio are comprised of these 3 segments. As young children are observing and experiencing the world around them, I find it most beneficial to expose them to all sorts of new things and then point out patterns and contrasting elements. Dissecting a song is a great way to demonstrate these patterns and contrasts and there is, of course, a wealth of examples available to us.

As we learn about "song form" I use metaphors and visual aids to help them understand the different roles that the parts of the song are playing. One of the metaphors I like to use is surfing. Of course, children from Tennessee may not have the same understanding of the sport  as I do, since I grew up on the beaches of Southern California, but, it was the first thing that came to my mind, and it actually works quite well! I describe the verse of the song as paddling out to the waves. I have an image that I show the children of a child on his knees on a surfboard in the ocean as he paddles out. I describe that the verse typically starts the song and begins the "story". The chorus is when we actually get to surf the wave. I describe this as the fun part that everyone usually knows and sings along to! We use the next verse to paddle back out to catch another wave while we hear a little more of the "story". We surf another wave and then it's time for the bridge. The bridge doesn't sound like any of the other parts. It's completely different and I just use an image of a bridge to help them remember. We typically will just march "across"  the bridge. Once the general concept is there. I don't have to use the images anymore and the children begin to listen to, sense, and identify the changes in the music as they come. We dance with scarves, choose different activities for each part and get our heart rates up song after song!  One fun way we practice is by dividing into teams. One team is "team chorus" and gets to stand up and dance only during choruses while "team verse" dances only during verses. I of course provide massive amounts of entertainment as I show off my dance skills during the bridge. It's fun to watch as the children are sitting in anxious anticipation of their turn to dance. They are listening intently to the music to hear the change in feel that signifies it's their turn to dance! Your child may listen to songs completely differently after learning these general concepts. I once even had a 3 yr old class help me write a song based on what we knew about the different parts! You should give it a try too!