Since my kids were born, my major musical activity has been singing them to sleep at night. Sometimes it takes a long time for them to drift off, and I spent the first year combing through my memory for songs I knew the words to that had a lullaby vibe. I immediately discovered that some traditional lullabies are much too creepy to actually sing to my kids. Have you ever thought about the words to “Rock-a-bye Baby”? They are seriously messed up. Meanwhile, a lot of the music that I like is no good for solo singing: instrumental jazz, hip-hop, ambient electronica. And then there are songs I love that I just don’t have a big enough range or strong enough pitch for. So it’s taken me some time to assemble a good catalog of workable tunes.

This playlist represents my favorite songs for bedtime singing. Along the way, I’ve made some interesting discoveries. Singing a song over and over, night after night, is a great way to stress test a song’s quality. Weak or mediocre songs get boring and annoying quickly. On the other hand, the best songs reveal new pleasures and depths no matter how many times you sing them. A great set of lyrics doesn’t even have to make sense, as long as it feels good in your mouth. Also, you’ll see a number of songs here that might immediately seem too uptempo, too sad, or just plain too weird to be lullabies. I can assure you that if you sing them slowly and softly, they all work great. 

This playlist isn’t just for parents of young kids. Consider it a collection of songs from an eclectic array of genres and eras with one thing in common: you can sing them, to yourself or someone else, and they will make you feel better. Happy listening, and happy singing!

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About The Curator - Ethan Hein

Ethan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in Music Education at New York University. He teaches music technology, production and education at NYU and Montclair State University. With the NYU Music Experience Design Lab (https://www.musedlab.org), Ethan has taken a leadership role in the creation of new technologies for learning and expression, most notably the Groove Pizza (https://musedlab.org/groovepizza). In collaboration with Soundfly, he has developed a series of online music theory courses (https://soundfly.com/courses/unlocking-the-emotional-power-of-chords). He maintains a widely-followed and influential blog (http://www.ethanhein.com), and has written for various publications, including Slate, Quartz, and NewMusicBox.

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