Repetitive songs contain a large proportion of repeated words or phrases. Simple repetitive songs are common in many cultures as widely spread as the Caribbean,[1] Southern India[2] and Finland.[3] The best-known examples are probably children's songs. Other repetitive songs are found, for instance, in African-American culture from the days of slavery.[4]


Self referential songs quote their own lyrics; one example is "The Song That Never Ends". Cumulative songs build from one verse to another, like bricks on a pile, as in "Old McDonald Had a Farm". 'Counting songs' may count up or down, as with "99 Bottles of Beer".

Another type of song describes a circular phenomenon (see Recursion). In "There's a Hole in My Bucket", the singer-narrator attempts to fix a leaky bucket, only to find out that ultimately one needs to have a functional bucket in order to effect the repair. In "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", flowers were offered to soldiers, who fell in a war, new flowers grew on their graves, those flowers were given to soldiers and so on.

Children's songs

In children's songs, repetition serves various educational purposes: repetition aids memory,[5] can aid in learning punctuation and reading skills,[6] and is very valuable in learning (foreign) languages.[7]

Work songs

Repetitive songs are also found in traditional work songs. Examples abound in African-American culture,[8] in political groups,[9] and among traveler, marchers, and walkers.[10] see Slave Songs of the United States.

Examples in English

See also


  1. ^ Abrahams, R.D. (1985). "A Note on Neck-Riddles in the West Indies as They Comment on Emergent Genre Theory". Journal of American Folklore. 98 (387): 85–94. doi:10.2307/540878. JSTOR 540878. p. 88.
  2. ^ Jackson, William (1992). "Features of the Kriti: A Song Form Developed by Tyāgarāja". Asian Music: 19–66. doi:10.2307/834449. JSTOR 834449. esp. p. 20-21.
  3. ^ Rank, Inkeri (1981). "The Foreigner and the Finnish Maiden: A Theme in the Finnish Medieval Ballad". Western Folklore. Western States Folklore Society. 40 (4): 299–314. doi:10.2307/1499712. JSTOR 1499712.
  4. ^ Floyd, Samuel A. (1996). The Power of Black Music: Interpreting its History from Africa to the United States. Oxford UP. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-19-510975-7. repetitive songs.
  5. ^ Agin, Marilyn C.; Lisa F. Geng; Malcolm J. Nicholl (2004). The Late Talker: What to Do If Your Child Isn't Talking Yet. Macmillan. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-312-30924-4.
  6. ^ John A. Smith, "Singing and Songwriting Support Early Literacy Instruction", in National Reading Panel (2002). Evidence-based reading instruction: putting the National Reading Panel report into practice. International Reading Association. ISBN 978-0-87207-460-6. p. 189
  7. ^ "The use of song is an excellent way to practice Spanish phonetics, and songs can be found using the most troublesome sounds. Repetitive songs using all vowels are good for beginners." Garcia-Saez, Santiago (March 1984). "The Use of Song in Class as an Important Stimulus in the Learning of a Language". Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southwest Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Colorado Springs. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
  8. ^ Epstein, Dena J. (2003). Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War. U of Illinois P. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-252-07150-8.
  9. ^ Lieberman, Robbie (2003). My Song Is My Weapon: People's Songs, American Communism, and the Politics of Culture, 1930-50. U of Illinois P. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-252-06525-5.
  10. ^ Podruchny, Carolyn (2006). Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade. U of Nebraska P. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-8032-8790-7.