The Lollipop Music Theory
By Bobby Susser
We have all heard songs that grabbed our attention and wanted
to hear them again and again. It could have been a catchy repetitive lyrical
phrase, musical line, unusual rhythm, or perhaps an entire section of the
song like the chorus.
As adults, we often refer to songs that hook us this way as hits.
Good songs for young children are not so different, though they should
be structured to suit their lollipop listeners. While I am an advocate
of exposing children to all styles of music such as jazz, classical,
unusual melodies, sophisticated lyrics, intricate rhythms, great vocal
intonations and ranges, popular show songs, and operas we need to consider
the age appropriateness of the music for the child. The lyrics should
be interesting and fun, but simple for children to understand, pronounce,
and learn. The melodies should also be very simple so all children can
sing along, including non-singers, because melodies that encourage children
to sing along build self confidence and create interaction while they
are having fun and learning. The tempo does not necessarily need to
be fast, but the song should feel friendly and have some catchy phrase,
section, or part that repeats itself, because very young listeners love
that. The song Happy Birthday is a real good example of
all these points. When appropriate, the simple lyrics and melodies should
be enhanced with orchestrations and sounds that peak childrens
A great way to test songs in order to know if they are striking the right
chords for children is to play them for the kids. I personally visit early
childhood classrooms and play songs that I have written for young children
before recording them, and again, after the final mix of the studio recording.
Actually, I never know if a song is a final recording until I play it for
children and see and hear their responses.
After getting very little reaction to a completed song I had recorded and
played for a first grade class some years ago, upon the suggestion of one
of the six-year-old students, I went back into the recording studio and
made some changes. He told me The other kids didnt like it because
that boom, boom, boom is too low.
The what? I asked.
The boom, boom, boom, he repeated. I told him that I wasnt
sure what he meant, and so I played it again and asked him where he heard
that. As I played it over and over trying to figure out what he was referring
to, he shouted enthusiastically There it is, there it is!
Finally I got it. It was a repetitive, simple, and catchy bass line. I thanked
the young boy, and went back to the recording studio to re-mix the recorded
song so that the repetitiveness of that boom, boom, boom bass
line and its volume level would appeal to my six-year-old advisor and his
The engineer, one of the best in the music industry, thought it made no
sense, because the mix sounded very right to him. And from his technical
viewpoint, as well as a listener, it didnt make sense. But, he was
forty years old, and the song was not written and recorded for him. It was
written for a much younger audience such as the first grade class I had
visited. Within a few days I revisited the class and played the new version.
This time the kids were singing, clapping, and dancing to the same song
they showed no interest in before I raised the volume level so they could
hear the repetitive boom, boom, boom. When I left the class
that day, I received the most grand award for my work. As I said goodbye
and waved, my six-year-old production advisor smiled at me and then gave
me a thumbs up. He not only made me feel ten feet tall, but
he confirmed my Lollipop Music Theory. That is, like adults,
young children are hooked by a catchy lyrical line, melodic line, or rhythm.
They just want to hear them more often.
Lollipops are like desserts. They can be colorful, sweet, tasty, and are
treats as well as rewards. Adults like all that, but in most instances can
wait until they finish their meals. Children usually want their lollipops
now. There are various theories as to why, but all agree thats
the way it is. And if a song for young children doesnt feed that need,
one should question why that was written for young children, and why was
it chosen by an adult for children to listen to when they wanted to frequently
hear something like boom, boom, boom.
© Copyright 2003 Bobby Susser