I recently discovered that an old acquaintance of mine is a fellow musicianship teacher and has been writing and recording diabolically clever songs that illustrate musical ear training concepts in a refreshing and fun way.

David Newman is an accomplished baritone soloist and teacher of voice and musicianship at James Madison University, who apparently knows a thing or two about songwriting as well.  His songs are on YouTube and they speak for themselves. If you are at all concerned with getting students to hear harmonic progressions and intervals, you will be thoroughly entertained by these.

This one is particularly ingenious. Only a solfège nerd would notice this, but most of the syllables in this song correspond to solfège syllables, and they indeed fall where they should melodically.

Sophie lay on my sofa
eating raw dough and drinking tea

…can be heard as

So Fi Le on my So Fa
eating Ra Do and drinking Ti.

(Of course, being Hungarian-trained, I would prefer “LO” instead of “LE” for the lowered “LA”, but that’s neither here nor there.) Go ahead. Listen again, and you’ll see that every syllable lands where it should in the scale.

Here are a few more of these. Again, you’ll notice that anytime there’s a reference in the lyrics to a chord, syllable or interval, it is reflected accurately in the music. Click the links to invoke the video in a popup.

Now, are these just fun and super clever, or do you think they can really help reinforce a student’s absorption of these concepts?  I’m really asking. Please comment!

More of these can be heard on David’s YouTube channel.