The Alphabet Song Explained!

An alphabet song could refer to any of the various songs that are used to teach children the basic alphabets of a language. However, one particular alphabet song will always remain an evergreen melody. This song lays the foundation for the process of learning the English language. It is taught to children in kindergartens, pre-schools, schools, and homes. This song is also popularly referred to as the ABC song, especially in the United States.

Origin of the Alphabet Song

In the year 1835, Charles Bradlee, a Boston-based music publisher copyrighted the alphabet song. It was given the title ‘The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano forte’. The tune for the alphabet song is the same as that used for the two popular rhymes, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’. If you had not realized that they are the same tune, try singing these rhymes and the alphabet song and you will know that it is indeed the same tune! Interestingly, this simple but unforgettable tune was a piano composition of the inimitable Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart titled, ‘Twelve Variations on’Ah vous dirai-je, Maman’. Mozart is said to have composed this piece when he was around 25 years old. It consists of 12 possible variations of a popular French folk melody.

Lyrics of the Alphabet Song

The lyrics of the alphabet song are known to one and all and children recite it with great enthusiasm and gusto. The lyrics include the twenty-six alphabets of the English language. One of the most common and popular versions of the song is sung as follows:

a-b-c-d-e-f-g

h-i-j-k-lmnop

lmnop-q-r-s-t (lmnop is repeated twice)

u-v-w-x-y-z

Zee or Zed

In the United States of America the alphabet ‘z’ is pronounced as ‘zee’ while in most other countries where English is taught and used, it is pronounced as ‘zed’. In the United States the rhyme would be sung like this:

a-b-c-d-e-f-g

h-i-j-k-lmnop

q-r-s

t-u-v

w-x

y and z (pronounced as ‘zee’)

Now  I know my ‘ABCs’

Next time won’t you sing with me.

If you are in UK, you would hear the children sing:

a-b-c-d-e-f-g

h-i-j-k-lmnop

lmnop-q-r-s-t

u-v-w-x-y-z (pronounced as ‘zed’)

Now  I know my ‘ABCs’

Next time won’t you sing with me.

Variations of the Alphabet Song

Let us look at some of the interesting variations of the alphabet song. These changes were probably incorporated to add words that rhyme with ‘zed’.

One of them goes like this:

a-b-c-d-e-f-g

h-i-j-k-lmnop

lmnop-q-r-s-t

u-v-w-x-y-z (pronounced as ‘zed’)

x-y-z (‘zed’)

Sugar on the bread,

Eat it all up,

Before you go to bed.

Another interesting addition to the song is sung as follows:

a-b-c-d-e-f-g

h-i-j-k-lmnop

lmnop-q-r-s-t

u-v-w-x-y-z (zed)

x-y-z (zed)

Sugar on your bread,

If you don’t like it,

Better go to bed,

Next day morning, come to me,

I will teach you ABC!

Sometimes, the alphabet song is taught, using the phonic sounds. Another version has each of the alphabets stand for something. Did you know that there is even a ‘backward’ version of the alphabet song? As the name suggests, in this version, the alphabets are sung backwards from ‘Z’ to ‘A’. This song is called the ZYX song.

Sheet Music for the Alphabet Song

There are many websites offering sheet music for piano and guitar for the alphabet song. Some of these websites provide free or downloadable versions of the sheet music for the alphabet song.  This will make learning the alphabet song fun and easy for your children. Here is an excellent website containing alphabet song sheet music and similar kindergarten rhymes.

Alphabet Song Recordings

Here is a website with a good alphabet song recording. This is another website that offers free download of alphabet song recordings.

Just as Maria Von Trapp taught the children notes of the major musical scale using the now famous song, ‘Do-Re-Mi’, so also, the alphabet song is now used all over the world to teach children the basic alphabets of the English language. The much loved show, Sesame Street has also used the alphabet song countless times to teach children the alphabets. It will continue to remain one of the key building blocks in the learning of the English language.

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