I'm a big fan of the saying "Work smarter, not harder." A lot of people have negative connotations with that saying, and I'm not sure why. In my eyes, nothing about it says you shouldn't work hard. On the contrary! Hard, efficient work is far better than hard, wasteful work!
But I digress. This Friday, we're talking about piggyback songs! What's a piggyback song? It's when you re-write the words to familiar songs in order to serve a new purpose. Ever notice that "The Alphabet Song" and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" have the same tune? Did I just blow your mind?
Piggyback songs are fantastic, and I'm about to give you three big reasons why.
No matter your audience, using a song with a familiar tune helps everyone learn the important part of the song: your lyrics! Piggyback songs can be used to convey information such as instructions for transitions or teaching important academic concepts. When your audience already has the melody in their head, they can focus in on the information being conveyed.
During my graduate studies at Florida State, I taught a song-writing course at the College of Music. One of the early lessons I taught my students was to embrace repetition. Humans LOVE repetition. We thrive on routine, we crave patterns and order, and the same is true in music. There's a reason pop music and 3-chord rock songs are so popular, because they've mastered the art of repetition! Who doesn't love a good, predictable pattern that our brains can lock into.
Piggyback songs play into this as well. Frequently, these songs are built off of simple tunes ("Twinkle, Twinkle," "Farmer in the Dell," "Frère Jacques") which feature lots of repetition. This, again, helps with memorization of lyrical content.
3. Ease of Creation
Time to bring it all back: Work smarter, not harder! Don't reinvent the wheel! Any other cliche sayings I can throw in here?
Piggyback tunes can be created by teachers, nurses, caretakers, anybody! No need to have any musical training. For those with musical training, piggyback songs save you time! I know it's tempting to want to write a song that would make Raffi weep, but trust me, your audience/clients like the familiar tunes just as much (if not more...).