The Bear Missed the Train

The parody song "The Bear Missed the Train" is based on a famous Yiddish tune "Bei Mir Bistu Shein." There are two distinct sections in this song that repeat creating a form we call AABA. This means the "A" section repeats followed by a different "B" section and finally the "A" returns. This form is hugely popular in musical styles from classical to pop. Differentiating sections in music contributes to discrimination or knowing same and different. There are a few ways to hear this for yourself and help your child hear different sections. First listen without looking at the answer key below and see if you can hear the two different sections.

How'd you do? :-)

The "A" section includes:


The Bear Missed the Train


The Bear Missed the Train


The Bear Missed the Train


And now he’s walking

While the "B" section includes:


And now he’s walking near


And now he’s walking far


And he’s whispering in your ear


And he’s driving in a car

Help your child to hear the different sections by dancing with your two favorite dance moves. Only do one of your awesome moves during the "A" section and your other fantastic move during the "B" section. Another idea—dance in one section and freeze in the other. Or lie down during one section and jump in the other section.

Popular musical misconceptions busted!

From earlier this year….

 "Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music was on our winter playlist because it's in minor mode. Most of the repertoire we know and sing is in major mode. Modes can be defined as a collection of hierarchical notes—more on that in another post. Unfortunately, when introducing minor mode an emotion is usually attached. Minor is often described as sad and major as happy. Well, we love busting misconceptions and this is a perfect example! Who hears "My Favorite Things" as a sad song? I'm sure there are people (you may be one of them) and that's not to knock how they hear the tune but it's one of my favorite minor tunes because it makes me so happy. "My Favorite Things" is also in triple meter (rhythm can be grouped in three), which makes me feel like dancing—another enjoyable association. There are many musical reasons that contribute to the emotion association of a tune including the instrumentation (what instruments are used), volume (loud or soft), tempo (fast or slow) etc. The context that you're listening is also important (music at a wedding or a baseball game will illicit different emotions than a memorial service).


Listen and sing the tunes on our Spotify playlist or Youtube with your child and ask them what emotion describes the song. You can use an emotions chart or make your own together. Follow your child's lead! If they associate fast as happy, go with it and have a dance party. If they associate soft with sad, mope around and exaggerate the emotion. If you have a baby or young toddler it's never too early to make all sorts of goofy expressions that emulate a variety of emotions. :-)

Valentine's Day Playlist

A little belated but here are some of our favorite 10 songs for children about love (Click song titles to watch and listen):

1. All You Need is Love by the Beatles

2. The More We Get Together by Raffi

3. Heart Song by the Kiboomers

4. A Bushel and a Peck from "Guys and Dolls"

5. On a Bicycle Built for Two by Nat King Cole

6. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

7. Overjoyed by Stevie Wonder

8. The Mother by Brandi Carlile

9. Lullaby by Billy Joel

10. There's a Little Wheel Turning in my Heart by Laurie Berkner

Let's Go Fly a Kite

Throughout the summer we enjoyed using scarves to fly kites in our workshops. Scarves are amazing for weight, space, time, and flow in music. Find lightweight scarves like those from class and play while listening to "Let's Go Fly A Kite" from Mary Poppins. (We also have scarves in our starter kits, which have about 10 instruments!)

"Let's Go Fly A Kite" is an example of a tune in triple meter, meaning the rhythms can be grouped in three. While listening to the tune show the triple feel in your hands by clapping all of the beats (beat 1, beat 2, and beat 3) emphasizing beat 1. Now try stomping your feet on beat 1 while clapping. You can also try flying your kite in circles on beat 1 and throwing your scarf into the air on beat 1. See if your child can feel triple meter by watching how they march, move, sing, kite-fly, and dance in the song. Ask you child how else they can move on beat 1. If your child is pre-verbal dance while you are carrying them emphasizing beat 1.

There are endless ways to play with scarves and feel triple time. Please share any fun ideas you or your children come up with!

Is my child learning in music class?

A Dad asked me last week about what to do to encourage his child to stay in the room at Noise Lab during our workshops and I didn't have a great answer in the moment. I've further reflected on the idea of how a child should "look" involved to be involved in music.

A child engaged in music may look like.....

Music is an aural and oral language. It is internalized and learned by listening and doing. Depending on their age, day, time, week, learning style, level of interest, and many many factors, a child may be fully engaged while standing outside of the room at Noise Lab or not engaged at all inside the room. Children are born learning. They wake up every day learning. All of their senses are being called upon to process the many new things life sends their way each and every waking minute. And it's hard! If a child leaves the workshop they may be feeling overwhelmed or they made need to process something from before and we've moved on too quickly. Or maybe they're hungry and need a break. They also might need to move! Or maybe they just don't like the song we're singing! :-) What I love about Noise Lab workshops is that despite all of the ins and outs, in the end I'm learning about my child (and all of yours) and bonding with them while we make meaningful music together. 

Think big picture

My children are certainly not model students at Noise Lab. They sometimes need attention that I can't provide and are often not doing what everyone else is doing. I believe that my participation and enjoyment transfers and allows for them to stay engaged because I'm engaged. I know this to be true because my children sing the Noise Lab songs when no one is watching and often request to listen to them at home. Despite their behavior in class, they are still learning. Is it always fun having them? Not always! The environment that we're creating for our children establishes their first connections with music. You are creating a powerful bond with your child and for your child with music that will last a lifetime.


Is it reasonable to expect a 18 month old to sit for 45 minutes? Absolutely not! Is it reasonable for a 4 year old? Absolutely not, although some can. While our workshops incorporate movement and we often change things up to account for the need to wiggle it is not realistic to expect any child that attends our class to sit still. In fact, if they all did it'd be so boring! I'm inspired by my colleagues at Bing Nursery School that have created a thoughtful schedule for their classrooms. What do they expect? After 3 hours of free play children ages 3-5 are asked to sit at story time for 15 minutes! That's it! 


  • Movement in and out of the classroom is okay (though play equipment should be off limits during the class) and may be what your child needs to learn.
  • The week to week may not look pretty but will accumulate in a lifelong meaningful experience and bond with music that you are gifting your child.
  • Expectations for what your child should be able to do and what they can actually do may not be the same (a lesson I learn constantly).
add "and hear" after "see."

add "and hear" after "see."

Meaningful Music Making With Your Children In the Car

Some of the most meaningful music I hear from my children comes while we're driving around town. I often leave the radio off to allow for these spontaneous musical interactions. My 3-year-old often sings about what he sees, either using pre-existing melodies or making up new melodies. Sometimes the music isn't very meaningful, and that's okay too! I resolve to listen either way and record as I did earlier this month. 

I feel that providing him space to create music is giving him a gift of spontaneity, uninterrupted time, and space to be bored. It's also amazing to witness how my 10 month old responds. She usually chimes in singing related pitches.

Of course we put on recorded music too, or the radio, or sing together. I recently found a video of a family singing a John Coltrane solo on a tune called 26-2. All choruses. WOW!

Most of us would probably shy away from introducing our children to Coltrane, thinking it's too hard or wouldn't mean much to them. The above family demonstrates how false that belief can be. I also love James Corden's Carpool Karaoke with Stevie Wonder. Even Stevie makes music in the car!

So whatever the music may be, if you love it, share with your children. And allow them space to create their own too!

When is my child ready to play an instrument?


The most common question we hear is, "when is my child ready to play an instrument?" We usually reply, "how many songs does your child know?" Musical development unfolds differently for everyone depending on many factors including desire, ability, and exposure. Playing an instrument not only requires physical skills but it's also important to remember that an instrument is a tool used to communicate. When a child knows many melodies, can sing the resting tone of songs they know, and has the physical skills required to hold an instrument, a child is ready to play! 

To prepare a child for an instrument parents should create a music rich environment that includes:

1. Singing with your child constantly (in child friendly keys like Eb)

2. Listening to quality live music as often as possible

3. Moving and dancing to live music

Once you think your child is ready for an instrument there's no need to rush out and buy an common instrument such as violin or find a private lessons teacher. Let your child play with an instrument such as a kazoo or glockenspiel. Play and sing through the songs your child knows. There is plenty of time in a child's life for formal learning. Think about when your child first began speaking. Did you rush out and find a language tutor and begin learning sentence construction? Too often, this happens in music, which creates a gap between skill and understanding. For every time we've been asked "when is my child ready to play an instrument" we've been told stories of parents/children that used to play an instrument but quit because they had a negative experience. Keep it fun and keep it engaging by focusing on the music environment you are providing your child.

Below is a TEDx talk by Dr. Christopher Azzara discussing how we learn music.