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Years ago I was setting out chairs during a pre-show rehearsal and since it was before everyone was due (rehearsal was scheduled to start in about five to ten minutes), folks were just playing around and the band leader sat down in front of the piano and asked, "Does everyone know Amazing Grace?" and when everyone said they did he started playing the theme song for Gilligan's Island and singing Amazing Grace. Of course everyone broke up laughing.

What is it called when this is done (singing a song to a different melody?)

Do you know where I can find a recording to show my friends that it works?

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    Belongs on th Music Fans site? – user1044 May 22 '15 at 5:26
  • I don't think this is offtopic - I have edited the title to make it more obvious the OP is asking about the technique, not a particular song. – Doktor Mayhem May 22 '15 at 10:34
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    I don't believe there is a name for this, but I have found a fantastic list of examples from the BBC panel game I'm Sorry I Havent a Clue (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Song_to_the_Tune_of_Another) – AJFaraday May 22 '15 at 10:44
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    When done intentionally, this is a parody, and is a very well-established practice. A lot of J.S. Bach's church cantatas are parodies of secular works or vice versa. Sometimes he would even order a new different text specifically so that it could be exchanged for that of a successful work whose music he wanted to re-use. – Kilian Foth May 22 '15 at 12:10
  • @KilianFoth -- yes the musicological definition of parody en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parody#Music would seem to be the answer for "what is the name of this" – Dave May 22 '15 at 12:12
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As pointed out by Killian Forth, "parody", in the original musicological sense, should cover this -- initially musical parody was merely the resuse of musical content in another work, and didn't have the comical connotations that it does today.

The reason why the lyrics can be exchanged is because the two songs have the same (poetic) metre. There are many songs that have this, aptly named, common metre, and you are able to exchange the lyrics amongst them. There are some youtube videos that illustrate this, such as this, you should be able to find more by searching on "common metre".

This is the metre analogue of the "4 chord song".

  • When my band plays as it's acoustic alter ego, we usually finish doing this, getting half the audience to sing one of our songs, and the other half singing another song (well, the choruses, anyway) at the same time - and as both of them are in the same key and metre, it works rather well - good fun for all involved. – Doktor Mayhem May 22 '15 at 10:32
  • What @DrMayhem is describing is probably known as a 'medley' or 'musical montage' – AJFaraday May 22 '15 at 10:45
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    As I understand it a medley has parts of songs consecutively. I am talking about simultaneously – Doktor Mayhem May 22 '15 at 10:47

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