Frère Jacques is a very well known kid's French nursery rhyme, it was originally written by Rameau. The English lyrics translate to: Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Brother John, brother john. The morning bells are ringing. The morning bells are ringing. Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.
First sung in the late 17th century, there have been many versions of the song throughout history. The first printed version of the melody actually dates back to 1780 and therefore the exact original lyrics aren’t actually known.
However, we do know that the song was extremely popular and has been translated around the world from Afrikaans to Xhosa through Japanese. Although never being a ‘chart song’ it was recorded by The Beatles and has remained an important part of British culture, being sung in primary schools throughout the country.
It’s a fantastic song to start off with for several reasons. Firstly, it’s relatively easy to play. Once you understand the melody, you’ll gain a strong grasp of the song and soon learn the lyrics that accompany the music. It can be taught at all ages and therefore is a great song to teach your children from a very early age. Being extremely versatile, they can also play it on different instruments should they pick up others in the future!
For reference, here is a video of me playing the song on a coconut thumb piano so that you can hear what the track sounds like. When your confident, play along with me!
NOTES & LYRICS:
C D E C C D E C E F G E F G
Fre-re Jac-ques, Fre-re Jac-ques. Dor-mez vous, dor-mez vous.
G A G F E C G A G F E C
Son-nez les ma-ti-nes, Son-nez les ma-ti-nes
C G C C G C
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong