By Lauren Groff
People have been singing lullabies for centuries, and for a good reason, the act has proven to be one of the effective ways of putting babies to sleep. We know this to be true because lullabies, in one form or another, have been practiced throughout every known culture for as long as history has been recorded.
However, most people have not given a great deal of thought about what makes a good lullaby and how to best sing one. If this sounds like you, then read on, as we will tackle these two questions throughout the remainder of this article.
What Makes A Good Lullaby
Lullabies are soothing, calming, and peaceful, and when combined with a rocking motion, it can be a very effective method to put children to sleep. Luckily, child researchers agree that the effectiveness of a lullaby does not owe itself to the parents singing ability. Instead, what seems to make a quality lullaby is a hypnotic and rhythmic structure. “If this seems unclear, take a quick moment to imagine the popular lullaby ‘rock a bye baby” and pay attention to the up and down nature of the tune. It’s not anything fancy, and it has a nice, easy to follow, rhythmic structure that babies enjoy,” writes Gene Wiles, a writer at OX Essays.
Further to this point, the rise of brain imaging technology has allowed researchers to take an in-depth look into how music interacts with the brain. In most cases, they found that people tend to enjoy music more when their brains can predict what comes next. It’s why complicated jazz or neoclassical pieces don’t often put babies asleep. Aside from lacking a hypnotic rhythm, they are also not very predictable. As a result, lullabies should be simple and easy to follow.
How To Sing A Lullaby Well
Step 1 - Find A Quiet And Calm Space: In the vast majority of circumstances, the primary purpose of singing a lullaby is to put a baby or infant to sleep. As a result, finding a calm, quiet, and dimly lit space is often the best way to start.
Step 2 - Choose A Lullaby: There are thousands of lullabies one can choose, and it doesn’t matter a lot which one is chosen. That being said, researchers have demonstrated that the most popular lullabies carry a ¾ or 6/8 rhythmic structure. For those who are not aware, these two fractions refer to musical time signatures. In the case of 3/4, it refers to four bars of three beats. The most commonly known type of song to follow a 3/4 time signature is a waltz, which as anyone who is familiar with the type of music knows, produces a very hypnotic up and down sounding song, which is perfect for a lullaby.
Similarly, 6/8 is another popular time signature that works quite well when it comes to lullabies. One of the most common questions people have is ‘isn’t 6/8 just two repeats of 3/4?’. “Although this may make sense mathematically, they are quite different musically. In 3/4 time, the accented beat comes once every three beats. When it comes to 6/8, the accented beat is once every six beats. Although this may not seem like a big deal, as far as the cadence or flow of a song or lullaby is concerned, it has a major impact.” writes Henry Forster, a health expert at Essayroo.
Step 3 - Rock To The Rhythm: It is no secret that a rocking motion plays a significant role in putting babies to sleep, and this effect can be compounded if done while singing a lullaby. This is another reason why 3/4 time works so well; it is very easy to rock to the pace of one-two-three one-two-three. Aside from a rocking chair, a rocking crib and cradle can also be used to achieve this result. Using a crib actually makes it easier for the singer, as they won’t need to lay the baby down once they are asleep and risk waking them.
Step 4 - Maintain The Same Pace: When switching from one lullaby to the next, it’s crucial to keep the same tempo or pace the entire time. Speeding and slowing down will be very noticeable, even to a baby, and will take them out of their calm, nearly hypnotic state.
Also see: 8 Lullabies to Put Your Baby to Sleep
Lauren Groff is a music writer at UK Writings and Academized who has taken a particular interest in writing about lullabies. Aside from this, Lauren is also an avid singer, a topic she writes about at State Of Writing.