Song Maker Project: Frere Jacques

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Intro

This resource is focussed around how the song ‘Frere Jacques’ can be used in teaching and learning music. There are several uses of technology to assist, especially Chrome Music Lab. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or spot any improvements, please leave a comment below or reach out to me on social. Thanks.


What is ‘Frere Jacques’?

Frere Jacques is a traditional French nursery Rhyme. Its first publication was around 1780, but its origin is much older and therefore there are many translations, interpretations and versions. In English the title is commonly considered to be ‘Brother John’ and the song tells the story of a frier who should have woken sooner to ring the bell for the early morning prayers, known as the ‘matins’ bell, to wake the other monks for prayer.

Some researchers make links to various real 17th century friers who may be the ‘Brother John’ being sung about or to (depending on the version). Jacques would normally translate to James or Jacob, but James has become the considered translation in this nursery rhyme.

Some sources consider the song may have been used to mock certain more comfortable friar orders, or as a racist taunt to some religions.

You can use the infographics on the history of music page to demonstrate how this piece fits into the evolution of music.


About the Music

Lyrics

Traditional lyrics:

Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques

Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?

Sonnez les matines, Sonnez les matines,

Ding, ding, dong, Ding, ding, dong

Optional Translated Lyrics:

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?

Brother John, Brother John,

Morning bells are ringing! Morning bells are ringing!

Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang. dong.

Structure

The structure of the song is based on four repeating phrases, as below.

A – A –

Frère Jacques,

Frère Jacques,

B – B –

Dormez-vous?

Dormez-vous?

C – C –

Sonnez les matines,

Sonnez les matines

D – D –

Ding, ding, dong,

Ding, ding, dong.

Rhythm and Notation

The song mainly uses quarter notes (crotchets) and eighth notes (quavers). In this way it is a great choice for introducing rhythm notation to younger learners, or for quick revision with slightly older learners. There are also several half notes, so also a good way to introduce these to learners too. There are no rests in the notation, which can be represented well in the piano roll view of BandLab (below) but are harder to represent in Song Maker, and so are worth discussing this limitation with learners.

You can download a free set of notation images to use in class. Go to the notation page to access this resource.


Resources

The following digital resources are provided to support the suggested learning activities below them. I hope will be useful to use with learners.

Song Resources

Lyrics with Pitch Colours

Here are the lyrics of the song with colour coding to match the boom whacker (etc) colours used in Song Writer. The bar lines and time signature are added to allow learners to see how the beats are organised in bar the bar structure.

Right click and chose copy or save to keep it for yourself.

Right click and chose save or copy to use this image.

Notation Resources

Melody – Full Notation

Here is the melody notation. Right click and chose copy or save to keep it for yourself.

Right click and chose save or copy to use this image.

Boom Whacker / Handbell / Xylophone Resources

Melody – Full

Here is the melody of the song only set out as in Song Writer but also with the note names and colours to match the widely used boom whacker colour scheme.

The bar lines and time signature are added to allow learners to see how the beats are organised in bar the bar structure.

Right click and chose save or copy to use this image.

Chrome Music Lab Resources

Melody and Harmony

Melody – Full

Here is the melody of the song only in Song Writer. You can use the link to access the file, and it is a great start point as no clutter around the tune.


Go to this piece in Song Maker

Melody – First 4 bars

Here is the beginning of the melody of the song written in Song Writer. You can use the link to access the file.


Go to this piece in Song Maker

Melody and Harmony – First 4 bars

Here is the opening bars of the melody and harmony of the song in Song Writer. You can use the link to access the file.


Go to this piece in Song Maker

Melody and Harmony – First 4 bars with 2 parts echo

Here is the beginning of melody and two round parts of the song. You can use the link to access the file.


Go to this piece in Song Maker

Melody and Harmony – First 4 bars with 4 parts

Here is the beginning of melody of all four round parts of the song. You can use the link to access the file.


Go to this piece in Song Maker

Ostinato

Ostinato 1

Here is a simple ostinato (repeating phrase) based on the first phrase ‘Frere Jacques’.


Go to this piece in Song Maker

Ostinato 2

Here is a simple ostinato (repeating phrase) based on the last phrase ‘Ding ding dong’.


Go to this piece in Song Maker

Bass

Bass 1

Here is a simple bass to play under the melody or chords.


Go to this piece in Song Maker

Chords

Chords (only) – Full

Here is a simple chord pattern on C and B to fit with the melody.


Go to this piece in Song Maker

Chords and Melody – Full

Here is a simple chord pattern on C and B with the whole melody above.


Go to this piece in Song Maker

Chords (Full) and Melody (2 bars)

Here is a simple chord pattern on C and B with the beginning of the melody above.


Go to this piece in Song Maker

All Parts

Start of Melody with Chords and Bass

Here is a simple beginning using all of the above parts to complete


Go to this piece in Song Maker

Melody, Chords, Bass – Full

Here is a simple beginning using all of the above parts to complete


Go to this piece in Song Maker

BandLab Resources

Melody – Full

Here is the full melody line in BandLab.com created with the piano roll. You can use the link to access the file.

Choose ‘Fork’ and then save to your projects.

From there you will be able to add it to assignments in edu.bandlab.com.


Go to this piece in BandLab

Right click and chose save or copy to use this image.

Melody – 4 Parts Starter

Here is the full melody line in BandLab.com created with the piano roll. You can use the link to access the file.

Choose ‘Fork’ and then save to your projects.

From there you will be able to add it to assignments in edu.bandlab.com.


Go to this piece in BandLab

Right click and chose save or copy to use this image.


Suggested Activities

Familiarisation

Sing Along and Round Singing

Sing along to the melody in Song Maker. Use this as the basis for singing the round as a group, using this to anchor the key throughout. When confident sing without the melody playing.

Play the Melody with Boom Whackers / Bells / Xylophone

Use the melody colour charts above to learn and perform/record the song on instruments. Use either the lyrics colour chart or the Song Maker colour chart to lead playing. Move to the notation version when ready.

Pedal

Explore if any parts of the melody can be used as a pedal to repeat throughout the round.

Listening

Complete the Melody

Use the part written melody to complete the melody, listening to the extract given and singing the tune inside/outside head to help complete.

Complete the Melody and Round

Building on task two, use your knowledge of the melody to help complete the melody extract and also the round parts as well.

Sing Along / Round

Sing along to the melody in Song Maker. Use this as the basis for singing the round as a group, using this to anchor the key throughout. When confident sing without the melody playing.

Composing

Compose a new final phrase ( or phrases)

Use the opening phrase of this piece and compose a call and answer piece, using this as the call and write your own complementary answer phrase.

Compose using the Structure Example

Use the song structure (AA BB CC DD) as the basis for a composition of your own, where each phrase repeats straight away until all four lines have repeated. If more structure is required to scaffold learners, use the pattern of the rhythm as well.

Reset the lyrics to a new melody

Using the existing rhythm and structure, reset the existing lyrics to a new melody. If more structure is required to support, define the notes or range to be used.

Write new lyrics on a chosen theme

Using the existing melody, write a new. set of lyrics. Give or choose themes and topics based on other work happening in the class.