Under the Hat: Song Writing with the Seasons

Rhyming with the Squirrels

This month we’re going to talk about a song called, “Squirrels” from the Pizza for Breakfast album.  I love to write songs about all sorts of things, but perhaps my favorite subject of all is animals. My new album is actually called Los Animales, and it’s a collection of bilingual, original songs all about animals.

Song ideas can come from unexpected places. I find that children ask the best questions, and sure enough, one autumn day a child asked me, “How many squirrels are in the world?” While I didn’t know the answer to the question, I knew instantly that I had to write a song with that question as the chorus.

Why? Several reasons. First of all, it’s an excellent question, but it’s also funny as the answer is unknowable and always changing. From a musical standpoint, there’s a wonderful rhythm in the line and also the rhythm an internal rhyme with the words “squirrels” and “world.” Songwriters are always on the lookout for rhyming words because they help establish rhythm and create expectation for the listener. To take an example from the song, after “how many squirrels are in the world” the line is:

I ask my Mom, I ask my Dad

Nobody knows, it makes my mad

Imagine if instead of using the word “mad” I’d chosen “angry” or “frustrated.” While the meaning would have been more or less the same, the rhyme would have disappeared and the rhythm would have been lost. As you watch the video above and listen to the lyrics, listen for the rhymes. Try substituting other words in place of the rhyming words—is the song still funny or catchy?

As summer turns to fall, you can write your own songs about the animals you observe in nature. Remember to use rhymes and your sense of humor. And don’t forget my one important songwriting rule: have fun!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

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