Call and response is a musical form based on dialogue—someone sings or plays a phrase of music and someone else (or a group of people) respond in the subsequent phrase. Call and response stems from a variety of musical traditions, including African, Cuban, folk, and even church music (think cantor and congregation). (source)
Call and response can be a useful teaching tool, as it gives young children an opportunity to listen, imitate, explore the voice, and gain confidence in their singing.
Use a short call and response song at the beginning of your rehearsal (a “hello” or other greeting song), in the middle as a change-of-pace activity or game (see singing game ideas below), or at the end of your rehearsal (a “goodbye” song).
If you’ve never taught a call and response song to children before, here are a few pointers:
- Have everyone sit or stand in a circle and keep a steady beat as you go. Begin by singing a simple phrase and having the children echo you as a group.
- Once the children seem comfortable singing together, give them opportunities to sing their name or favorite color or name of a toy they’re holding as a solo.
- Consider passing a bean bag, ball, or microphone (prop—not to amplify their sound) around the circle so that children know when it’s their turn. Move around the circle in time—avoid stopping in between each child.
Looking for repertoire ideas? Here are 40 call and response songs (and musical games!) to use in your children’s choir rehearsals:
40 Call and Response Songs
All Night, All Day
Barreling on Down the Highway
Heaven Bell a-Ring
Michael Row the Boat Ashore
Oh, Won’t You Sit Down?
Standing in the Need of Prayer
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Who Built the Ark?
Chicken on the Fence Post
Down By the Bay
Green Grass Grows All Around
Ham and Eggs
Miss Mary Mack
My Aunt Came Back
Oh, In the Woods
Oh, My! No More Pie!
Sally on the Seesaw
The Other Day, I Met a Bear
There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea
How do you use call and response songs with your children’s choir? Which ones are your favorite?