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Lady Lullaby Blog

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

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nora and the Minor Third

There is a really cute three year old sitting in the row in back of me on the plane. She is singing enthusiastically. Surprisingly (since I was up way too late) I’m not minding at all, in fact I’m enjoying it, and I can’t help but notice that a lot of her spontaneous song uses a very special set of notes: the minor third.

The interval of a minor third is made up of two notes that are three half-steps apart (if you’re looking at a piano). We all know and have sung those notes---they are notes of the universal “Na, na, na, na, na” taunt. And “Starlight, Starbright,” “Brahm’s Lullaby,” and millions of songs in every culture. It’s even the opening of “Hey Jude.”

Zoltan Kodaly was a composer and important music educator, and he started teaching music to young children with the notes of the minor third.

Why do we love these particular notes? Researchers have found that babies can hear sound from inside the mother’s womb, and that they actually prefer certain intervals, including the minor third. I just sang this interval to my 14 week-old grandson and I swear he sang it back to me. OK, now I’m curious.

But after searching in vain for a real scientific explanation—even Wikipedia let me down—for now, I have come to my own unscientific conclusion that these notes somehow resonate with our own human frequency. Physics tells us that everything is made of vibration and frequency, and these set of notes must be “tuned” to our own nervous systems and have a good soothing effect.

I’ll keep trying to find a better answer for why we love these notes so much, but whatever the reason, if the minor third is good enough for unborn babies, for children’s songs from all over the world, for the Beatles, and for Nora, it’s good enough for me.

Listen to these opening notes, and see what other songs you can think of that start like this:

Sweet dreams,
Friday, September 9, 2011

Review of "Midnight Lullaby" and interview from Grandbabies 101

Here is a nice new review of "Midnight Lullaby" and interview from Grandbabies 101:

"A lullaby is a soothing song, usually sung to young children before they go to sleep, with the intention of speeding that process," so states Wikipedia! The Oxford Dictionary also says, "a quiet, gentle song sung to send a child to sleep."

"Origin: mid 16th century from: LULL + bye-bye"

After listening to Jane Roman Pitt perform eleven masterpieces from her Midnight Lullaby album, I am now ready with pen in hand to add my very own "lullaby" dictionary entry, "see Jane."

Excited to have been asked to review this album for all of you, I tried it out on my two-year old grandson. It was all I could do to keep from drifting off before Jude. Fortunately, Jane has a way with words and song and LULLing one to sleep, and it worked, shall I say, "like a dream!" With Grammy Award winner Mac Gayden and many of Nashville's finest musicians, Ms. Pitt produced and performed two of her original songs and nine others written by such greats as Bob Dylan, Sade, Dixie Chicks, Lennon-McCartney, Josh Ritter, Wilco, Hugh Prestwood and Donovan. Needing more time spent with this CD, I borrowed it back at night for myself, and I'm loving it! (Guess I'll be buying another... and yet another for my newest granddaughter, Katie!) Jude and I are especially hooked on Ms. Pitt's original song, Welcome Home To Love. Click on video link below to enjoy it, too!

In addition to receiving a free CD for review, I was kindly sent an album to give away to one of you. So, please post a comment (and contact info) in the box at the bottom of this page to enter the "Midnight Lullaby" GIVEAWAY CONTEST! That's all it takes! You know me...Just trying to keep life simple! (Complete set of Giveaway rules can be found at the bottom of the page.)
Contest ends October 5th, 2011/11:59 p.m. (PST)

Sleep tight,
Bubbie and Jude

A Special Interview with Jane Roman Pitt:

1. As a grandmother of two, what tips can you share with us to make the most out of time spent with our grandchildren?
The first tip that comes to mind is to get rid of the parents! Although it’s wonderful for the family to be all together, the real fun of being a grandparent is getting them all to yourself. It also gives your kids a welcome break!

2. Can you explain how music benefits a baby's development?
Music is good for babies in pretty much every way: from just providing a feeling of comfort to growing the pathways in the brain. Studies have shown that socially, psychologically, and physically music is an important part of normal development. Lullabies have been a part of our human culture since we could speak, or even longer, so there must be great value to them. I have more details about specific studies that show the importance of music for children in some of my blogs at

3. Do you have any other albums in the works? Goals for future projects?
I’m having fun gathering lists of songs for future albums—lullabies from other countries, more contemporary lullabies, and even a jazz lullaby album!

4. Who or what inspired you to become a singer/songwriter/producer?
It goes back to earliest childhood, and the music that was always being sung or played around my house. Singing along seemed like the natural thing to do, and with my parents’ encouragement I just kept singing. Songwriting and producing grew to be constructive ways of expressing my urge to control things—“Hey, I could say that just as well,” and “Hmm, I hear this instrument right here . . .”

5. Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The thrill of hearing a choir sing my songs back to me in a concert. One college concert stands out, when a student came up and thanked me for writing the piece. Wow.

6. Give us one piece of advice you would share with an aspiring singer/songwriter/producer?
Listen to everything you can, all kinds of music, then write and write without editing too much. That leads to finding your own voice---and finding your own voice is a life-long process because we’re always growing!

7. When not working on a project, what do you most enjoy doing?
Being with my kids and grandchildren, meditating, riding my bike at dawn.

8. What is your favorite quote?
I’d have to go with a couple lines from Bob Dylan---does that count as a quote?—“ May you always know the truth and see the light surrounding you.”

9. Do you have anything specific you’d like to share with your audience?
Music is a part of us, we’re literally made of musical vibrations, and when someone says “I can’t sing” it makes me feel sad. We’re all born to sing and dance and express our thoughts, emotions, joys and sorrows through the arts—it’s the way we’re wired as human beings. No right or wrong, no good or bad. If our babies know that singing is natural and important, they’ll grow up to be singers! It’s that simple.

10. Any recent or upcoming appearances that you would like to tell us about?
Now that summer is over, I’ll be doing some “Lady Lullaby Pajama Party” concerts in libraries and bookstores in the coming months. I’ll let you know when the schedule is set!

11. Did you come across anything interesting while working on this project?
This project made me aware of just how important lullabies are. Throughout every culture from ancient history to the current songwriting parents, people want to comfort and express love to their babies.

12.Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I guess the most important facts of my life are that I was married for forty years to a wonderful man, have two great children and two adorable grandchildren. I love music, and being outside, and learning almost anything.

I now live in a small town in Iowa, where I teach music at a university. We moved here a couple of years ago after my husband was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, because our daughter was living here and I have many long-time friends here. I knew it would be a good safe place to start this new chapter of my life.

13.Do you have a favorite song on your album? If so, what and why?
Choosing a favorite song would be like choosing a favorite child! I love them all for different reasons---those that were given to me by the writer to record, like the ones by Donovan and Hugh Prestwood; those that I wrote for my kids and grandkids; and the ones that musically were just plain fun to do!

14.How did you come up with your album's title?
I wanted to have the word “lullaby” in the title so it would be clear what the album was about, and Tom Wait’s song “Midnight Lullaby” is just so cool that I thought it was a good representation of what I hoped the album would convey.

15.Was there anything particularly challenging when working on your album?
I was awed by the talent of the Nashville musicians, and had the fulfillment of my late husband being with me every day in the studio. It was our last adventure together, and that makes the album even more important to me.

16. Did you write "Welcome Home To Love" and "Whisper Warm" especially for this Midnight Lullaby?
I first wrote “Whisper Warm” way back in 1973, when the son of a good friend was born. I rewrote it when my own son was born, so now I think of it as his song.
“Welcome Home to Love” was written for my granddaughter Annalise, and was the inspiration for this whole album. I wrote it by remembering the feelings of seeing my daughter for the first time and feeling like I had known her forever.
Friday, September 2, 2011

The Best Possible Music Teacher

There’s a lot of research showing that when an older sibling teaches a younger sibling something, the learning is more effective than when taught by someone else. The older child also gains from teaching and learns more than he would have without doing this.

This makes perfect sense. First, we always learn more ourselves by teaching — breaking it down into steps, going slowly and thinking deeply about the subject, finding a way to explain it so that someone else with less experience will understand it.

And from the younger child’s side, another child is the best possible teacher (for better and sometimes worse — think of peer pressure in high school) because children are of the same species. Grown-ups are necessary but are just so... big.

This is true even for a new baby. Older siblings often get the first smiles from a baby brother or sister who must be thinking, “Ah, here is someone who’s more like me, but she can walk and talk so she must be really special.” And if the older sibling can cool it on the deliberately too-hard hugs, the life-long adoration to the point of idol-worship is assured.

Encourage your older child to show off his/her musical talents to baby brother or sister. Have them share their latest preschool songs often and with enthusiasm. Get the rhythm instruments out (or the pots and wooden spoons) and have a command performance in front of the front row bouncy seat. Put on music and have a toddler dance session to show that bouncy seat occupant what the potential is for expressing love of life.

This alone can be a huge boost in developing the younger child’s love of music and movement — anything that this all-powerful older sibling does is inevitably imitated, so why not have it be music?

Sweet dreams,

This is a great example of Sibling Singing: improvising the words (the best message possible: "I love her!") and tune, communicating perfectly with the baby. Notice how the baby is trying so hard to sing along!