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We have no musical instruments in our house due to money issues, but we love to play piano, sax, etc. When we can. Our son has a little fisher-price Alligator Xylophone: http://www.amazon.com/Fisher-Price-Alligator-Xylophone-Toy/dp/B001C9RKQU

I started playing him music on it. At first I thought I cued only play things like Mary Had a Little Lamb, since it only goes from C to A without any 'black keys', but surprisingly, there are quite a few songs we've been able to play, including Be Still My Soul, most of Sweet Child Of Mine, Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing, Justin Timberlake's Mirrors, etc.

Some songs, though, I have to cheat on, stopping on the C when I should dip down or looping back around when I reach the top.

Is there a systematic way to find or adapt songs to play on the alligator xylophone?

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2 Answers 2

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A lot of times these commercial instruments for children will be constructed with very little emphasis on pitch accuracy. Walking through toy stores, I've found some that play some pretty other-worldly scale patterns. Bearing that in mind...

Assuming this thing starts on a tonic and goes in a conventional diatonic pattern upward to the sixth, then as American Luke mentioned, you'd be stuck with playing music that:

  • Does not span an interval greater than a major 6th, AND

  • Does not use any tones outside of the diatonic major scale between the tonic and 6th.

Let's say the bottom note is a concert "C" pitch. In the perfect world, your alligator xylophone would consist of these pitches:

C, D, E, F, G, A

A lot of children's songs fall within the above guidelines. Off of the top of my head I can think of these:

  • Mary Had A Little Lamb

  • Itsy Bitsy Spider (Starting on the high "G" rather than the nonexistent low "G")

  • Row Row Row Your Boat (Omitting the high "C"s on the first occurrence of the 'Merrily' lyric)

  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / ABC Song

  • Farmer In The Dell (Again, exchanging the high "G" for the first note)

  • Frere Jacques (Once again, exchanging the high "G" on the last phrase 'Ding-Dang-Dong')

  • Rain Rain Go Away

  • Camptown Races

  • Humpty Dumpty

  • London Bridge Is Falling Down

  • Pop Goes The Weasel (High "G" for the first note)

  • Oh Susannah

  • This Old Man

By no means is this a complete list, but at least it will give you a decent starting point. A rule of thumb you can set for yourself is:

  • Try playing the song on the xylophone.

  • If the melody has notes that don't exist on the xylophone, throw it out.

  • If the melody has notes that DO exist but have to be played down/up an octave, adjust the melody to play within the notes on your xylophone.

If you follow these simple rules, you and your family can assuredly have a fun and memorable alligator xylophone experience for years to come! Good luck!

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I'm supposing this xylophone is a diatonic instrument in C.

With that assumption, just find the sheet music for songs with a range of a sixth or less that don't deviate from the key (i.e., no accidentals). Even if they're not in C, you can transpose them to C and they will work just fine.

If you have questions about transposition, check out some of our existing questions about transposition or ask a new question.

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