Lady Lullaby Links

Lady Lullaby Blog

Lullabies for babies, grown-ups and everyone in between!

Friday, April 29, 2011

When Words Fail

If you want to sing a lullaby to your baby but forget the words---keep singing anyway!

Words tell a story, convey emotions, and make the meaning of a musical expression clear. The combination of words and music is a powerful human medium because it transmits the story of our lives to the next generations.

But we also know that we could sing the same words to various kinds of music and it can have an entirely different feel---play “Twinkle Twinkle” with a hip-hop beat and your baby will be wiggling instead of dozing.

With lullabies the most important aspect is the feeling that you’re trying to convey. That is the same feeling that parents two million years ago were conveying when they hummed to their babies, even before speech was developed. It’s the feeling of love. It’s the feeling of devotion and nurturing, of giving comfort and protection.

That feeling can be conveyed just as strongly through a melody with no words, and sometimes even more strongly, because the emotion comes through without the intellect being involved. Musician and research scientist Daniel Levitin says, “Neurobiology show that music--but not speech--activates areas of the human brain that are very ancient, structures that we have in common with all mammals . . .”

Nonsense words are rampant in lullabies—that’s where the word “lullaby” comes from! “La la la” and “loo loo loo,” “tula tula” and similar meaningless sounds are used in lullabies all over the world.

My friend Donovan Leitch suggested that I use his lullaby “La Moora” for my “Midnight Lullaby” album. When I asked him what the words “La la moora” mean, he laughed at me. “They don’t mean anything,” he said, “It’s what lullabies are made of.”

I was inspired to write about this when I recently heard a beautiful lullaby without words that expresses this feeling perfectly. It’s recorded by Al Pettaway, one of the best fingerstyle guitarists in the world, and Amy White, who has a truly celestial voice ( Here is their “Lullaby.”

So hum, croon, sing “lullaby” over and over, or anything that comes into your mind. Know that your baby will understand everything.

Sweet dreams,
Friday, April 22, 2011

One And One Are Two

Although I love lullabies and relaxing music, I admit that there are actually times when you don’t want your baby (or you) to go to sleep, and at those times soothing music may not be the best choice.

What music is good for waking times, music that entertains, enlivens, and will keep those brain cells connecting and growing?

There are lots of great programs for babies and young children that you could explore and enjoy together. Today, and in future posts, I’ll tell you about some that I know are excellent. And let us know what you have found: please make a comment to tell everyone about your favorite lively childrens’ music.

Last month I took my two-year-old granddaughter Annalise to a Kindermusik class for toddlers. We went back the next week, and the next week, and I delayed my flight home so I could take her one more time. It was that good.

Miss Yvette led the class through some simple songs and movements, all perfectly planned and timed for toddlers. I asked her to meet me for tea so I could learn more about how she thinks music affects very young children.

I knew that music is important for brain development, but she made the point that music actually creates the pathways in the brain that allow a child to understand mathematics in later years. For example, they learn to measure intervals, the distance between notes, just by singing them over and over, and so automatically learn how to measure.

So if, at a very young age, the basic elements of measurements have been learned through musical concepts---if a child’s neuropathways have already been created and strengthened---then those neuropathways become super highways, and the child finds that learning anything is easier.

Visit Yvette’s website for more info on this and other musical topics. Also check out Kindermusik for classes in your area—babies as young as six months through preschool years (and their parents!) can benefit from these wonderful musical activities.

So let’s get to counting: Inchworm was one of my favorite songs as a child (Danny Kaye’s version) and Anne Murray sang this beautiful song to my kids at bedtime.

Listen to "Inchworm":
Friday, April 15, 2011

How's By You?

While most of my blogs will be fact-based stories and advice about lullabies and music for babies, once in a while---like today---I’m going to share life stories with you, and will try to make a connection to the lullaby theme. This one is easy.

This week I would have celebrated my 40th wedding anniversary with my husband Barry. We were married on April 18, 1971, in a full-blown hippie wedding, with hand-made dress and matching embroidered shirt, cowboy boots and hundreds of daisies. We worked and traveled the world for five years, and then settled down to raise a family.

He knew only one lullaby to sing to our children, but did it with great patience and enthusiasm, and I highly recommend this one to all of you—an original and extremely free-form version of “Frere Jacque” that listed all the names of everyone the child knew:

“Jesse Pitt, Jesse Pitt, how’s by you? How’s by you?
How’s your mother Janie? How’s your father Barry? How’s by you? How’s by you?
Joanna Pitt, Joanna Pitt, how’s by you? How’s by you?
How’s your cousin Jeffrey? How’s your Auntie Ruthie? How’s by you? How’s by you?”

And on and on and on, sometimes for ten minutes, depending on how many people they could collectively think of, or how long it took any one of them to fall asleep.

Barry lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last May, and while I miss pretty much everything about our life together, probably the toughest part is realizing how much the grandchildren will miss out. And that silly song is part of it. I may try to make it through it sometime soon, because it’s such a perfect lullaby.

So on this particular day, if you have a person that you share your parenting or grand-parenting responsibilities and joys with, please give him/her a hug and say thanks. Teach him/her the “How’s By You?” song and cuddle up together with your baby and take your family history into the future.

Because I don’t have a recording of “How’s By You?” (I don’t know that the true spirit of it could be captured in a recording) I’ll share a beautiful song-made-into-lullaby by Linda Ronstadt—from her lullaby CD called “Dedicated To The One I Love” that is also appropriate right now.

Thank you for sharing this special day with me.

Listen to "Dedicated To The One I Love":
Friday, April 8, 2011

The Rhythm of Life

We tap our toes, we sway, and if we can let go of being self-conscious, we all do really want to dance when music comes on. Think of going to hear your favorite band---could you sit still in your seat even if you tried?

Watch a toddler when the music goes on---no one has to teach him to move in time, it’s completely natural. Watch your newborn baby carefully and you’ll actually see her responding to a beat.

It’s been found that a newborn is most easily quieted when rocked up and down at the same rate that the mother walks, the rhythm learned while still in the womb. When you were pregnant did you ever feel like your baby seemed to be kicking in time to the music that you were listening to? (Did it ever get too lively for you and you turned off the music?)

One researcher recently found that babies seem to be born with a predisposition to move rhythmically in response to music. And the babies definitely knew that something good was happening: “We also found that the better the children were able to synchronize their movements with the music, the more they smiled,” said Dr. Marcel Zentner from the University of York.

We were born to move, to sway, to dance. Besides singing or playing lullabies, pick your baby up and dance together. Try all different kinds of music---fast, slow, loud, soft. One of the most natural dance rhythms is a waltz: Grab your favorite partner and listen to my song “Dance Like The Wind.” Go ahead and sway together in the breeze and watch for the smiles!

Listen to "Dance Like The Wind":
Monday, April 4, 2011

It’s everything that lullabies should be...

I was really happy to find out that Melissa, a very popular mom-blogger (, has this to say about Midnight Lullaby: "I was given this CD, Midnight Lullaby, and I have listened to it in its entirety. Several times. And it's everything that lullabies should be: lovely, sweet, soothing, and effective. Ms. Roman Pitt's voice is warm and clear, and the top-notch production company that she worked with blended her vocals so well with just the right amount of instrumentation. The CD is also a pleasant combination of lullabies I knew, a few I'd never heard before, including some Ms. Roman Pitt originals... I've been listening to this dreamy music on my iPod nightly. And for someone like me, who so desperately needs her sleep? What a gift!" Melissa is giving away a free copy of Midnight Lullaby... enter by March 31 to win!
Friday, April 1, 2011

Part Two of the Twinkle Story

So now we know that the words to "Twinkle" were a poem written in 1806 by Jane Taylor. Yes, the words are beautiful, but where did this most famous of melodies---this favorite of lullabies for babies everywhere and the headache of any parent who has taken their child for Suzuki violin lessons---where did it come from?

Many people think that Mozart composed the music to "Twinkle Twinkle" because, when he was 17 he wrote a series of variations on the melody that became very popular. And yes, those variations are played by those same violin students.

But the melody is actually a popular French folksong from the 18th century called, "Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman," which has nothing at all to do with stars twinkling. It's about a child asking Mother for candy even though Father said no---a topic that kids of any generation could relate to:

Ah! Let me tell you, Mother,
What's the cause of my torment?
Papa wants me to reason like a grown-up.
Me, I say that candy has
Greater value than reason.

Of course thinking that candy (OK, maybe hazelnut truffles) has greater value than reason---that's something that not only kids can relate to! Quick, let’s turn on some Mozart to organize and calm those brainwaves . . .