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The Top 5 Lullabies for Baby

Updated on January 9, 2013

What Makes a Good Lullaby?


Parents have been using soporific music to lull their baby to sleep for generations. There has been a good deal of scientific research into the key properties of music that enable it to induce sleep. The key principles are similar in adults as they are in babies except that infants have much more sensitive hearing than adults and so factors such as pitch and rhythm play an even more fundamental part.


Sleep therapists have isolated the following constituents of an effective sleep-inducing piece of music:


  • Pitch: The frequency (pitch) of the sounds is an essential factor in making an effective lullaby. Generally lower frequencies are better. High frequencies should be avoided. Unfortunately there are a number of recordings of lullabies I have heard that use very high, piercing instruments. These are not recommended for the delicate ears of newborn babies. You should ensure you look for a lullaby CD that is intelligently designed.


  • Tempo and Rhythm. The speed of the music is another key ingredient. Generally, slower music is much better than fast music at inducing sleep. The best range of tempos is from 50 bpm - 80 bpm (beats per minute). Too slow however and you risk counter-acting the positive masking effect that music has on background noise. Rhythms should be lulling and repetitive.


  • Melody and Harmonies. In adult music there is strong case for the use of tones as apposed to melodies because the adult brain anticipating the motions of the melody which will be distracting and it's important the conscious brain 'switches off'. This is how pop songwriters write 'catchy' melodies as they are designed to be predictable and repetitive in order to stick in your head. How many times has an annoying tune been playing in your head when you've been trying to go to sleep!? Fortunately this isn't a problem in infants as they haven't had the years of auditory conditioning needed for the brain to predict and anticipate these patterns. Gentle, repetitive melodies that have a low dynamic range (difference between the lowest and highest notes) make the best lullabies. Harmonies can also have a lulling effect (just listen to the opening few bars of Castle of Dromore below for an example).


  • Vocal/Instrumental. In adults, instrumental music wins hands down as the voice of a singer and the meaning of the lyrics will be a great distraction. For babies however, vocals have been shown to be comforting and obviously the content of the lyrics doesn't have the same distracting effect on the listener! However, it is essential that the singer is specifically trained in recording lullabies. There are factors that make a commercially strong vocalist (such as having a large dynamic range and being able to sing strong and powerful diagrammatic notes) that are terrible qualities for a vocalist who records lullabies. The vocalist should sing softly, have a breathy quality to their voice and a warm and gentle tone. Lullaby Babies offers personalised lullaby CDs that actually have the baby's name recorded in them! They make great gifts for babies and young chldren. The lyrics to the lullabies featured below have been included to encourage parents to sing along as I'm a strong advocate of parents having as much interaction with their babies as possible.


  • EQ (Equalisation). Treble sounds (harsh, high range sounds) should be avoided and more bassy (lower), resonant sounds should be encouraged. Less is more however, and finding the right balance is key.


The Top 5 Lullabies


Given the above considerations, here are the top 5 lullabies for inducing sleep. They are taken from the album 'Acoustic Lullabies to Soothe the Soul.' The phonographic rights to these recordings are owned by Lullaby Babies.


**TIP: Click on any song title to download a sample**


5. Lavender's Blue. **Click title to hear**


An English folk song dating back to the 17th Century. Burl Ives recorded a version of this song that was nominated for an Academy Award. The lyrics have been changed many times and numerous versions exist. Here is a common version of the lyrics:

"Lavender’s blue dilly dilly lavender’s green,
When I am King dilly dilly you shall be Queen,
Call up your friends dilly dilly set them to work,
Some to the plough dilly dilly some to the fork

Some to the hay dilly dilly some to thresh corn,
Whilst you and I dilly dilly keep ourselves warm,
Lavender’s blue dilly dilly lavender’s green,
When I am King dilly dilly you shall be Queen"


4. Hush Little Baby (Mockingbird) **Click title to hear**


The author and date of this composition are unknown but it is thought to have originated from the USA because Mockingbirds are native to the country. It has been sung to babies at bedtime for centuries.


Here are the lyrics:


Hush little baby don’t say a word, Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird,
And if that mockingbird won’t sing, Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring,
And if that diamond ring turns brass, Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass,
And if that looking glass gets broke, Papa’s gonna buy you a billy goat,
And if that billy goat won’t pull, Papa’s gonna buy you a cart and bull,
And if that cart and bull turn over, Papa’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover,
And if that dog named Rover won’t bark, Papa’s gonna buy you a horse and cart,
And if that horse and cart fall down, You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.


3. The Castle for Dromore (Cáislean Droma Mhor) **Click title to hear**


A traditional and beautiful Irish lullaby by Sir Harold Boulton used for putting a child to sleep with a prayer for protection against the wild weather! It's also known as October Winds. Undoubtedly it's the least well-known lullaby on the list but it's a corker!


Lyrics:


The October winds lament
Around the castle of Dromore
Yet peace is in her lofty halls
A pháiste gheal a stóir. *
Though autumn vines may droop and die
A bud of spring are you.

Sing hushabye low, lah, loo, lo lan
Sing hushabye low, lah loo


2. Brahm's lullaby (Lullaby and Goodnight) **Click title to hear**


Probably the most famous melody of all the lullabies. It was written by Johannes Brahms's and first sung by Bertha Faber as the song was written to celebrate the birth of her son. Ferber was a friend of Brahms and it's said that Brahms was in love in his youth.


Lyrics:


Lullaby and goodnight, Close your eyes and sleep tight,
Over us the stars shine, For I’m yours and you’re mine,
Lay you down now and rest, May your slumber be blessed,
Lay you down now and rest, May your slumber be blessed,


Lullaby and goodnight, May your dreams bring delight,
What you need I will provide, I’m never far from your side,
Soft and warm is your bed, Close your eyes rest your head,
Soft and warm is your bed, Close your eyes rest your head.


1. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star **Click title to hear**


A common misconception is that this lullaby was written by Mozart when he was a boy. The melody actually comes from a French tune (Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman) published in 1761 that Mozart later arranged in a famous set of variations at the age of 25. The lyrics are taken from the poem 'Star' written by Jane Taylor in the early 19th century.


Lyrics:


Twinkle twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are,
Up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky,
Twinkle twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are.

When the blazing sun is gone, When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light, Twinkle twinkle through the night,
Twinkle twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are.

Then the traveller in the dark, Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He couldn’t see which way to go, If you didn’t twinkle so,
Twinkle twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are.



That concludes the list of the top 5 lullabies for baby. Apologies to those lullabies that didn't make the list, including Rockabye baby that wasn't included because of its awful lyrics (babies falling out of trees isn't the nicest lyrical sentiment I've come across!)


Lullaby Poll

Which is your favourite from the list

See results

Comments

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    • carlajbehr profile image

      Carla J Swick 

      5 years ago from NW PA

      My mother sang to her 10 children as far back as I can remember. She sang, "Hush Little Baby" to my younger brothers and her voice was beautiful. What a neat hub - brings back memories. Cheers!

    • thelullabyguy profile imageAUTHOR

      RJ 

      5 years ago from York, UK

      Thanks a lot guys- I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on my first hub. Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to be getting more involved in Hub Pages and I'll be spending more time on each of your hubs to pick up some writing tips. I can't believe how nice everyone is on here!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Voted Up, Useful and Interesting! Will forward to my daughter in law who is expecting my first grandchild. Thank You! BTW, I voted for Brahm's Lullaby. That is my Number One.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      Fantastic post for parents and grandparents to read as they raise children. Love your list. Brahms's is my favorite, but you have listed some new ones that I also think are really good choices. Introducing music to a baby develops a love that will enrich their life forever.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      5 years ago from New Jersey

      Excellent first hub. Welcome and looking forward to more of your writings.

    • Made profile image

      Madeleine Salin 

      5 years ago from Finland

      Wow, what a great hub! I learned so much I didn't know and never thought about. I'm looking forward to your next hub.

      Madeleine

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