What if Sting Sang “Happy Puppy” Sometime?

23 Feb

“Happy Puppy, Silly Cat” is a fantastic song — older children love to tackle all those words and the younger ones love all those “meows” and “arfs” — and yet grown-ups tend to have a hard time with the rhythm. Why? Because it’s not symmetrical — you can’t just tap your knee mindlessly in and up-down / up-down way, and you can’t just sway back and forth in a la-la-la / la-la-la way. It’s more like “la-la-la” on one side and “up-down” on the other. What kind of groove is that? Well, for those of us born and raised in the U.S., it’s a weird groove, that’s what. But for people from other parts of the world (think Greece, or Bulgaria) it’s totally normal. And for jazz musicians, too, playing rhythms that are not symmetrical is just another day at the office. So, unless you’re a Bulgarian jazz drummer sitting in on a Music Together class, “Happy Puppy” can be a bit challenging. The great news is that it won’t be nearly so challenging for your kids as they grow up. I can testify to that: My 10-year-old and 8-year-old children sing and tap along to “Happy Puppy” (and the other asymmetrical Music Together songs they’ve grown up with) as easily as they do to “Twinkle, Twinkle.”

As for Sting, here’s a clip of his song, “Seven Days,” which also sports an asymmetrical meter (notice how, like “Happy Puppy,” the song defies your attempts to just easily sway back and forth or tap a simple up and down rhythm along with it?). Think one day he’ll lay down a recording of “Happy Puppy?” It’d be fun to hear him do all those “arf”s…

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