10 German Lullabies for Children

Repertoire for German Choirs, Young Singers, and Parents

German lullabies not only give you a glimpse into German speaking people’s culture, but they are also well suited for beginning singers since they are easy to sing and learn. Though the internet is a wealth of information, sometimes lists of ‘traditional’ songs may or may not actually be sung in homes by families and children. Along with my top four traditional German lullabies, these ten are also beloved. Young students, German choirs, and parents will enjoy singing them.

Kids Songs With the Minor 3rd
"Aiken Drum" is about a man who lived in the moon. Image courtesy of aesop via flickr cc license

Guter Mond du gehst so stille was made popular in the early 19th century when it was a popular hurdy-gurdy tune. It sounds distinctly German with its 2/4 meter and distinctive placement of sixteenth notes on the penultimate beat. You may also find the song written in 4/4 time, but it should be sung in half time. Most are familiar with the first verse of the most popular version describing the moon, but the entire song tells a story of unrequited love. More »

Kids Songs With the Minor 3rd
Lester Reiff, Tod Sloan and Morny Cannon at 1900 Produce Stakes. Image courtesy of Froggerlaura via Wikimedia commons

A Russian melody popular in some German homes thanks to a translation of the lyrics by Johannes von Günther. The words mention a strange or foreign rider and how one day the child might also be a rider in foreign lands. More »

An Ewe with her Lambs. Image courtesy of JavierMC via Wikimedia commons

Several German lullabies mention sheep and their shepherds. This one has five verses and invites people to treat each other like brothers and sisters, like sheep do with one another. More »

This evening song by composer Johann Crüger and later arranged by J.S. Bach is also sung as a lullaby. The lyrics make an analogy to restful slumber and death, which most children would not understand. A singable, though not literal, translation by Catherine Winkworth is set to a slightly different tune. More »

Der Sandmann
The Sandman. Image courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

A pretty tune with lyrical themes typical of German poetry. The first two verses talk about the flowers and birds going to bed, and then the sandman peeked or ‘guckt’ in at a sleeping child in the third and fourth verses. The United States might popularize “Enter Sandman” by Metallica and “Mr. Sandman” by the 50’s group The Chordettes, but traditional German poetry mentions the sandman much more frequently. More »

Nun wollen wir singen has a short, simple melody that could be played on the piano by someone just learning. It is one even the youngest singers can find success memorizing and singing and short enough to keep their attention span, even if they sang all three verses. More »

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Image courtesy of PriceGrabber

This particular selection sounds like a traditional folk tune, but is from one of my all-time favorite operas, Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck. Though in the opera Hansel and Gretel sing it in two-part harmony when they are lost in the woods, the melody sung alone is also beautiful. The English translation is easily found using a quick google search, but my version reads: “Evenings, when I go to sleep, fourteen angels watch over me, two at my head, two at my feet, two on my right hand side, two at my left hand side, two to cover me, two to wake me, two to help me into heaven’s paradise!” More »

Church Bell
"The 9th bell of Loughborough Parish Church. Cast by the Taylors of that town.". Image courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

One of my favorites as a child, because it is also round. I could imagine an American German choir walking into a traditional church holding candles while singing this short song as they file onto the stage. I also have fond memories myself of singing, “Frere Jacques,” in several languages in Elementary school, which was my first introduction to harmony. This simple tune could be used in the same way. More »

Drawing of a Nightingale by Franz Xaver. Image courtesy of Nicke L via Wikimedia commons

Another simple round with words that might become a child’s favorite as well as a nighttime tradition. The words are simple: “Overall is evening stillness, only the nightingale on the stream sings in her way, mournfully and quiet, through the vale. Sing, sing, sing Mrs. Nightingale.” Both German and English poetry mention nightingales often. More »

A Nightingale. Image courtesy of Monedula via Wikimedia commons

I have personal memories of my favorite aunt teaching me the words and melody and singing it as a family. The first section of the round is a slower harmonic background to the two second sections that sing mostly in thirds together. Like “Abendstille überall,” the lyrics describe the silence of night interrupted by a nightingale. More »