Lullabies to Sing

Bach to Babies - Lullabies to Sing

If you're having trouble getting baby to bed, our selection of soothing lullabies might help. We’ve chosen songs especially suited to ease both babies and kids off to sleep in no time.

From traditional folk songs to Brahm’s beautiful Wiegenlied, the gentle sounds of a lullaby can help lull its listener to sleep; and maybe even its singer too!

So share a cuddle and a song with your little one, and hopefully soon you’ll both be rocking to sleep together.

Our favourite lullabies to sing to your baby:

1. Rock-a-bye Baby

One of the most famous English lullabies, Rock-a-bye Baby, is a beautiful melody with an interesting origin.

A local Derbyshire legend says the lyrics were inspired by Betty Kenny, whose family lived in a giant yew tree in the Derwent Valley. With so little space, they used instead a hollowed out branch, or bough, for the baby's cradle!

Unlike Betty, we recommend singing this a few feet closer to earth…

Rock-a-bye, baby, in the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all

Baby is drowsing, cozy and fair
Mother sits near in her rocking chair
Forward and back, the cradle, she swings
And though baby sleeps, he hears what she sings

2. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

From lyrics by poet Jane Taylor, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is a testament to the wide-eyed wonder of kids and grown-ups alike for the night sky.

Mozart famously wrote a set of piano variations to the same tune, though he knew it to the lyrics of 'Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman’, which translates as: Oh! Shall I tell you, Mummy, what is tormenting me? Daddy wants me to reason like a grown-up. Me, I say that sweets are worth more than reason.

When you sing it to your little one, you can change the lyrics depending on your mood: curious or hungry.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

Then the traveller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

3. Frere Jacques

What better way to practise French (or what we still remember from school) than with the help of Brother John!

Like Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Frére Jacques is often sung as a round. Older children can start the song, and then you join in when they reach 'Dormez-vous’. However be careful, once you start a round it’s difficult to stop; soon you might all be drifting off to sleep...

Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines
Ding dang dong, ding dang dong.

Are you sleeping, are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing
Ding dang dong, ding dang dong.

4. You Are My Sunshine

If you want a backing track while singing this famous country melody, you’re spoilt for choice: Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, The Beach Boys, Carly Simon, and Johnny Cash are but a few of the artists to have recorded the song.

We’d recommend singing just the verse below, as the other stanzas get less cheery. Nonetheless, just as smiling makes us happy, so singing about sunshine can help brighten up our days and ease our little ones to sleep.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You'll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

5. Danny Boy

This hauntingly beautiful tune is strongly connected to Ireland’s history. However it’s unknown whether the lyrics are about a son going off to war, the Irish diaspora, or if it’s simply a pastoral love song.

Either way, the melody’s enduring appeal is evident by inspiring countless cover versions as well as new songs: have you ever noticed how similar the tune is to You Raise Me Up? If your little one is taking their time to nod off, try singing the songs one after another; just hope they don’t notice the plagiarism!

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.
The summer's gone, and all the roses falling,
It's you, it's you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,
It's I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh, Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so!

6. Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Undoubtedly The Wizard of Oz’s musical highlight, Somewhere Over the Rainbow has one of cinema’s most recognisable tunes. The soaring vocal begins by leaping 'way up high’ and gradually falling back to where it started; perhaps the melody is following the arc of a rainbow?

If you want your accompaniment from somewhere more tropical, try this version by renowned Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. Then in the future, Honolulu will be the place your little one will have heard of 'once in a lullaby.’

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

7. My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean

This traditional Scottish song is said to be written about Bonnie Prince Charles’ defeat and exile in the 18th century. His supporters could sing it secretly, by pretending that it was a love song about a woman called Bonnie; who knew music could be used for espionage!

There are many verses and countless variations, but we’ve popped the most popular below:

My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
My Bonnie lies over the sea,
My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
O bring back my Bonnie to me.

Bring back, bring back, O bring back my Bonnie to me, to me:
Bring back, bring back, O bring back my Bonnie to me.

O blow ye winds over the ocean,
O blow ye winds over the sea.
O blow ye winds over the ocean,
And bring back my Bonnie to me.

8. Hush Little Baby

The exact author of American lullaby Hush, Little Baby is unknown, but it must have been written by a parent we can relate to: in the lyrics the singer tries gifts and expensive bribes to quieten their sweet baby. We may not have as deep pockets, but we do know this song can help put little ones to sleep.

And if your child is not sleeping by the end of the verses below, you can add your own rhyming couplets till baby is asleep, or your wallet is empty!

Hush, little Baby, don't say a word,
Mama's gonna buy you a Mockingbird.

And if that mockingbird don't sing,
Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring.

And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Mama's gonna buy you a looking glass.

And if that looking glass gets broke,
Mama's gonna buy you a billy goat

And if that billy goat won't pull,
Mama's gonna buy you a cart and bull

And if that cart and bull fall down,
You'll still be the sweetest little baby in town

9. Sleep Baby Sleep

So many of our favourite lullabies started as European folk tunes, and Sleep, Baby, Sleep is no exception. In Germany the song began as Schlaf, Kindlein, schlaf, and was so popular that Johannes Brahms used the lyrics for his own music.

Unlike Brahms, we think the original tune is wonderful without alteration (although we sing it with some accidental melodic variations…) and its gentle falling melody is well-suited to help your child drift down to dreamland.

Sleep, baby, sleep
Your father tends the sheep
Your mother shakes the dreamland tree
And from it fall sweet dreams for thee
Sleep, baby, sleep
Sleep, baby, sleep

Sleep, baby, sleep
Our cottage vale is deep
The little lamb is on the green
With snowy fleece so soft and clean
Sleep, baby, sleep
Sleep, baby, sleep

10. Brahms' Lullaby

Speaking of Brahms, we’d be remiss to exclude one of his most famous compositions, Wiegenlied, or Cradle Song. Brahms dedicated the piece to his old friend Bertha’s second child, but there’s more to the story than that!

In his youth, the young Johannes had been in love with Bertha, and when composing the tune to Wiegenlied he hid another melody, reminiscent of a song she used to sing him: it’s not for nothing that we call Brahms a 'Romantic' composer!

Good evening, good night,
With roses covered,
With cloves adorned,
Slip under the covers.
Tomorrow morning, if God wills, you will wake once again.

Good evening, good night.
By angels watched,
Who show you in your dream the Christ-child's tree.
Sleep now blissfully and sweetly, see the paradise in your dream.

11. When You Wish Upon a Star

When You Wish Upon a Star is the beautiful Oscar-winning song that bookends Pinocchio. Sung in the film by Jiminy Cricket, the opening seven notes of the melody have become so iconic that since the 1980s Disney have used them whenever we see their classic logo; their cruise line ships even honk the tune!

With a similar subject to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, we hope this song will act as a Disney-fied companion when you need more than one astronomy-themed bedtime ballad!

When a star is born
They possess a gift or two
One of them is this
They have the power to make a wish come true

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing
Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

12. Amazing Grace

Sung in churches, on high streets, and in films, there is no hymn more ubiquitous than Amazing Grace. Could its 18th century author John Newton have predicted it would be performed an estimated 10 million times annually? Or that it would be sung by presidents, space captains, and even name comic book villains (Superman’s 'Amazing Grace’)!

Despite hearing it so often, the melody can still stir emotion, ease us when we’re feeling troubled, and ease your little one when they’re ready for bed.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home

13. Dear Theodosia

And lastly, a modern classic from the hit-musical Hamilton which follows the life of one of America’s founding fathers: Alexander Hamilton. In Dear Theodosia two new fathers sing to their children, promising to leave them a world they’ll be safe to live in. Their touching tributes remind us of all the fears and joys of being a new parent.

Though this song is certainly a little longer -and tougher- to sing than the rest, the beautiful message and fascinating story make it worthwhile; and if your little one still won’t nod off, perhaps a trip to the theatre is in order?

Dear Theodosia, what to say to you?
You have my eyes
You have your mother's name
When you came into the world, you cried and it broke my heart

I'm dedicating every day to you
Domestic life was never quite my style
When you smile, you knock me out, I fall apart
And I thought I was so smart

You will come of age with our young nation
We'll bleed and fight for you, we'll make it right for you
If we lay a strong enough foundation
We'll pass it on to you, we'll give the world to you
And you'll blow us all away
Someday, someday
Yeah, you'll blow us all away
Someday, someday

Listen to our Spotify playlist:
Sleep... at Bach to Baby