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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

German Rain Song: Es Regnet, Wenn Es Regnen Will (It Rains When It Wants to Rain)

I've been having so much fun finding children's songs about rain from around the world, and this one from Germany is a great addition to the list because it can be sung in a round! This is a good one for the middle elementary grades when they are working on canon singing, but it's also an easy one to add orff ostinati to as well.

This song is called "Es Regnet, Ween Es Regnen Will", which means "It Rains When It Wants To Rain". The German lyrics to the song are:

Es regnet, wenn es regnen will
Und regnet seinen Lauf
Und wenn's genug geregnet hat
So hört es wieder auf.

Which translates roughly in English to:

It rains when it wants to rain
And it rains its fill
And when it has rained enough
Then it stops again.

Here's a recording (the first time with one person, then in 3-part canon):

I love comparing the attitude towards rain that is communicated in each of these rain songs around the world, and this one, both in the lyrics and the melody, seem to communicate a contented, happy acceptance of the rain. The first thing I do when I teach the song is to have them listen to me sing it (or a recording) and try to guess how the singer feels about the rain based on the music. I ask them to try to pinpoint what musical elements gave them that impression, which leads to a great discussion of how music communicates meaning, and is a great way to review music vocabulary (whether they're right or wrong about the meaning)! Then I teach them the lyrics and the translation and we discuss how they think the music fits or doesn't fit with the words.

Any time I'm teaching students a song in a language with which they are not familiar, I try to find ways for them to hear and try singing it over and over while doing something else. Sometimes that's movement, a clapping pattern, a dance, or a game. In this case because the whole song alternates between a tonic and dominant chord harmony, I like to teach students some simple ostinati on different instruments and have them play while I sing. 

Depending on how much time we have to spend on the song, I will use a combination of unpitched percussion, barred instruments, and maybe boomwhackers to get some rhythmic and harmonic ostinati going. I use mostly metal instruments like triangles, finger cymbals, wind chimes, and glockenspiels, along with boomwhackers, egg shakers, and ocean drums, to mimic the sound of the rain. Sometimes I ask students to think about which instrument timbres will fit well with a song about rain, and sometimes after they have put the instrumental arrangement together I ask them if they can guess why I chose the instruments I did. 

The instrumental ostinati are also a great place to throw in some rhythm notation review. I usually do canon singing in 3rd grade, which is also when I introduce whole notes, so I'll usually have the ocean drums play whole notes (I pretend, for the sake of the lesson, that the song is in 4/4 although sometimes I see it notated in 2/4). I also add in parts with whole and half rests, which are the other new rhythms for this grade. 

As I add each ostinato, I have students copy me with body percussion to learn it, then have them all pretend to play (while some play on the real instruments) while I sing. Then we do the same thing again, adding a new ostinato each time, until they can layer all the parts in one at a time and keep it going while I sing. This gives them plenty of time to hear the song (and a lot of them will naturally start singing along if they're comfortable with their instrumental part), and then I go back and review the singing and challenge them to sing while playing. It's so magical when it all comes together!

Of course the final piece of this is to sing it in canon! I don't try to have them sing in canon while playing instruments, but once they've put the whole instrumental arrangement together they've usually had enough time to get used to the song to be ready to try it in canon. I use the same exact process every time I teach students a song in canon- you can read about how I teach canon singing in this post. One of the key steps in teaching canon singing is incorporating motions, and in this case I use motions that help communicate the meaning of the words ("rain" fingers for the first line, etc).

That's everything I did for this song- I'd love to hear other ideas you might have for incorporating this song in elementary music lessons! I've also been sharing my favorite lesson ideas using rain songs from around the world in my previous posts: you can see my lessons for a song from Japan here, Ukraine here, and Morocco here. I highly recommend those! If you've ever used this German song and have more lesson ideas, or if you have other rain songs that I should add to my unit, please share in the comments!

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