A simple, happy song that’s fun to share with others and fun to accompany is one of my favorite things about music. This is that kind of song. Please give “Old Farmer John” a sing-along listen, and come back for a sales pitch on YOU learning to sing and share songs you care about — and accompany them yourself, too.
Arrive prepared to give
My uncle has a wonderful habit of always arriving prepared with a couple of new jokes that he can share with folks. Corny, clever … but so useful to break whatever ice might need breaking. Our song “Old Farmer John” can serve like that. It is warm, harmless and conveys a disarming tone of humor. You songsters … here’s a little treasure for your repertoire. For you non-songsters, let me try to talk you into stepping up to the plate.
DO try this at home
It is a lovely summer day. Old Farmer John is taking a break, pausing to smell the flowers, sitting in the shade of a beautiful maple tree in the sanctuary of his own farm land. He does something new — new, at least to the cows’ eyes and ears.
He attempts to sing. No big stage. No lights. No smoke. No amplifiers. No scales or arpeggios. No microphones. Only cows for an audience. And Old Farmer John attempts to sing. What a beautiful thing that is.
The cows come running and form a ring around him — simply fascinated at this new thing their farm human is doing. No cheering, but no jeering, either.
The oldest and wisest cow takes it a step further, and tries to sing along herself. Old Farmer John might not sing like Pavarotti, but he is able to carry a tune well enough to make the old cow try her hoof at it, too. She sang loud, strong and off pitch. (Hey, two out of three’s not bad.)
Here’s the really good part — the farmer sang himself a tune. And the old cow liked it well enough to join in, participating in the fun as well as she could. Not for an audience. Not to move any agenda. Not polished or practiced. They didn’t watch someone else do it. They made it happen — they sang and had the fun.
When it comes to music, we are treated to so many perfect recordings and expert live performances that we can easily be intimidated into not trying it for ourselves. We handicap ourselves by thinking we would NEVER sound THAT good. Indeed, maybe we never will sound that good. But that is beside the point. Please don’t miss out on the joy of making your own music! If nothing else, think of this song and KNOW that however you sound, you will sound better than at least one old cow in the herd.
Make a joyful noise.
Side note — one of the neat things about singing “folk” songs is you don’t have so much pressure to “sound like the recording”. Just sound like that old cow. Or, better yet, sound the way you imagine Old Farmer John sounds. Sing it. You’ll be just fine.
Whatever you do, do NOT leave all your music up to the “professionals”. The truth is, they cannot sing your song for you.
Benefits of learning to play and sing
We make a big mistake when we limit ourselves by being consumers of “OPM” — other people’s music only — and not making our own.
Let me rattle off some ways people have found learning to play and sing for yourself can benefit you.
- It has been discovered learning and playing music can improve physical and mental health — even if you begin learning at an older age. Coordination, memory and speaking are among things that can be improved. Got stress? This can relieve it.
- Add to social life — bring songs with you to social events and help people bond.
- Build confidence — afraid to speak in public? Knowing and playing songs can open doors to overcoming fear.
- Learning songs and learning to accompany will help you build patience and discipline, and will provide a variety of avenues to be creative.
- Music is a universal language — it can open doors to connect with others.
Playing and singing music is fun. If you learned the lesson that music is drudgery, boring or hard, you were given the wrong thread to tug on. It is amazing to see how kids who hate to read change into avid readers when they get to read something they are interested in. Works the same way with music. No, you do NOT have to play or sing things you are not interested in. You can learn through playing and singing music you like.
Get an instrument and a beginner instruction book and — if at all possible — find a friend who can help you learn songs you like. (Lots of free instruction available on the internet, too, of course.) I recommend starting on a guitar, ukulele or keyboard. I started on a soprano ukulele back in grade school days. My neighbor was just learning too, so I had a teacher and playing friend next door. Looking back, that neighbor was a huge help to me. You can buy playable ukes under $50 any day of the week. Rather just start with guitar? It’s easy to purchase one for under $100. (TIP – Whatever you spend on a guitar, it is worth the extra $30-40 to get the guitar “set up” by a music shop, making it as easy to play as possible. Want something in between a uke and guitar? Check out Yamaha’s “Guitalele” – six strings, small body, neck works for kids and adults, tuned similar to guitar. New, about $120. I’ve recorded mine on this site … see “I Loves You More Than Froglegs“.) Rather do keyboard? (Keyboard is king, I’m told.) Decent keyboards to learn on are all over the internet starting below $50.
Of course you can spend more. But the biggest variable will be YOU, not the cost of the instrument. Begin. You might be surprised how quickly you can be playing real music that sounds nice. If you do it right, your music adventure won’t be just a lot of dull practice. It will be a lot of play — a lot of playing. You get better at things. There will always be people who do it better. So what? You still get the benefits of playing songs you like.
Learning music is a great big grand building, easy to enter and with lots of rooms to explore. Get started — and you can be accompanying yourself on uke, guitar, or keyboard in a few short weeks. Until you get your instrument, the good news is you can sing right now – sing along with your new friend, Old Farmer John.
God bless you lots!
LYRICS: Old Farmer John
Old Farmer John from his work came home
One summer afternoon,
And sat him down in a maple grove
And sang himself a tune.
He sang as the cows came running by
And round him formed a ring,
For they never heard old Farmer John
Before attempt to sing.
The oldest cow in the farmer’s herd
Tried hard to join the song,
But she could not strike the melody
Though her voice was loud and strong.
Let’s stay in touch
Each time I post a new song and lesson here I send a brief, cheerful note to friends of this song site. The note gives a quick description of the song and lesson along with a link to the new song’s page. It is super-easy for you to get a note from me, too. Just click the green “Song of the Week” button below and you are almost there.
To sweeten the deal, you will also get instant access to the “Music Box” where I put all the free resources and downloads that go along with these song pages. Check it out now! Good stuff.
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