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An alphabet song is any of various songs used to teach children the alphabet. Alphabet songs typically recite the names of all letters of the alphabet of a given language in order.
The A.B.C. (Verse 1)
The song was first copyrighted in 1835 by the Boston-based music publisher Charles Bradlee, and given the title "The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano forte". The musical arrangement was attributed to Louis Le Maire (sometimes Lemaire), an 18th-century composer. This was "Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1835, by C. Bradlee, in the clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts", according to the Newberry Library, which also says, "The theme is that used by Mozart for his piano variations, Ah, vous dirai-je, maman." This tune is the same as the tune for "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep".
Lyrics: (each line represents two measures, or eight beats)
- A, B, C, D, E, F, G... (/ /)
- H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P... (/ /; "L, M, N, O" spoken twice as quickly as rest of rhyme)
- Q, R, S.../ T, U, V... (/ /; pause between S and T, though in some variants, "and" is inserted)
- W... X.../ Y and Z. (/ /; pause between X and Y, and W and X last for two beats)
- Now, I know my ABCs. (/ /)
- Next time, won't you sing with me? (/ /).
This is a version that goes Z to A instead of A to Z.
- z-y-x, w
- v-u-t, s-r-q
- Now you know your ZYXs
- I bet that's not what you expected!
The e-d-c-b part is as fast as the l-m-n-o part in the normal alphabet song.
Zed for Zee
In the United States, Z is pronounced zee; in most other English-speaking countries (such as the UK, Canada and Australia) it is pronounced zed. Generally, the absent zee-rhyme is not missed, although some children use a zee pronunciation in the rhyme which they would not use elsewhere. Variants of the song exist to accommodate the zed pronunciation. One variation shortens the second line and lengthens the last, to form a near-rhyme between N and zed:
Another alternative zed version:
- a-b-c, d-e-f
- n-o-p, q-r-s
French Canadian version
A French-language version of the song is also taught in Canada, with generally no alterations to the melody except in the final line that requires adjustment to accommodate the two-syllable pronunciation of the French y.
Because the English language has 40 sounds and only 26 letters, children and beginning readers also need to learn the different sounds (phonemes) associated with each letter. Many songs have been written to teach phonemic awareness and they are usually referred to as alphabet songs.
There are also songs that go through the alphabet, making some of the letters stand for something in the process. An example, A, You're Adorable (also known as "The Alphabet Love Song"), was recorded in 1948, by Buddy Kaye, Fred Wise, Sidney Lippman, and later Perry Como.
Backwards song (Verse 2)
Comedian Soupy Sales released a song in 1966 called "Backwards Alphabet" which contained the reverse alphabet in lyrical style. The original version of the song was performed by actress Judi Rolin with the Smothers Brothers in the 1966 teleplay adaptation of Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Related English language songs
- "ABC–DEF–GHI", an alphabet song sung by Big Bird of Sesame Street
- "ABC Kids", an alternate song sung by The Wiggles who promoted ABC for Kids (2006)
- "Al'z A-B-Cee'z", an alphabet song by hip hop group 3rd Bass, on their album Derelicts of Dialect (1991)
- "Crazy ABCs", an alphabet rap song that combines pronunciation and phonetics for each letter by Every Child Wins
- "Crazy ABC's", an acrostic song listing words beginning with each letter used as a silent letter, by the Barenaked Ladies on their album Snacktime! (2008)
- "Do-Re-Mi", a show tune from The Sound of Music (1959), used to teach the order of the notes in the Solfege scale
- "Swinging the Alphabet", a phonetically based novelty song, popularized by The Three Stooges in the film Violent Is the Word for Curly (1938)
- "ZYX", a backwards alphabet song by They Might Be Giants, on their second children's album Here Come the ABCs (2005)
- "The Elements", a mnemonic song of the periodic table by Tom Lehrer (1959)
- "A.B.C. Rock", written by members of Bill Haley and His Comets and recorded by children's entertainer Sally Starr for her 1958 album Our Gal Sal. Aimed at young listeners, the song incorporates a recitation of the alphabet. Haley and the Comets recorded their own version for Decca Records in 1959.
Traditional alphabet songs in other languages
- "Ahaka mana" recites the syllabary of the Māori language to the tune of Stupid Cupid
- "Alef-Bet" by Debbie Friedman, a song commonly used in American Hebrew school classrooms to teach the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet
- "Iroha", a recital of the Japanese syllabary
- "Shiva Sutra", Sanskrit
- "Thousand Character Classic", Chinese and Korean
- "Zengő ABC" by Ferenc Móra, Hungarian
- "Алфавит мы уже знаем", Russian
- "Newberry's Library Catalog". illinois.edu. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
- The alphabet song is sometimes said to come from another of Bradlee's publications, "The Schoolmaster", but the first line of that song is given as "Come, come my children, I must see", in Yale University's library catalog. It is described as "a favorite glee for three voices, as sung at the Salem glee club."
- "Listen to the song sung". Archived from the original (RealPlayer) on 28 September 2007.
- Schiller, Pamela Byrne; Willis, Clarissa (2006). School Days: 28 Songs and Over 300 Activities for Young Children. Gryphon House. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-87659-019-5. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
- "Matilda London Cast – School Song Lyrics | MetroLyrics". www.metrolyrics.com. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
- Wee Sing (7 July 2015), Wee Sing | The Alphabet Song, retrieved 11 July 2019
- FilmRise (31 January 2014), The Big Comfy Couch – Season 4 Ep 1 – "Backwards", retrieved 18 January 2017
- "Soupy Sales – The Backwards Alphabet – Listen, watch, download and discover music for free at Last.fm". Last.fm.
- storyjan (13 July 2007). "Alice through the Looking Glass: "Backwards Alphabet"" – via YouTube.
- "Listen (Educational & Funny) Kids Songs for Ages 0–5". 18 March 2017.