Thank You for the Music!
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Have you ever noticed that when ABBA sings they don’t sound Swedish? Country singer Mel Tillis, a chronic stutterer, lost his speech impediment when performing. There has to be something that happens to your voice when you sing. That’s why I often use music in the classroom.


In June, we were working on noun/verb contractions. One student said he had difficulty with “that’ll.” I had everyone sing “That’ll Be the Day”, and as quick as you can say: “Buddy Holly ”, his problem was solved!

I have also had some success with other consonant sounds that can often be difficult for non-English speakers. For example, Arabic speakers have trouble with Ps and Bs, so while I was in Saudi Arabia, I decided to see if I could find songs that would be helpful in learning how to pronounce them. A bit of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” really worked well.


Music is not only useful for teaching pronunciation, but also for teaching English rhythm, expressions, and culture. I try to use songs that have the lyrics to assist with listening skills.
Lyrics Training is a fun web site that uses music to help with listening. Students can create their own playlist, print the
lyrics, and even buy the music! They can choose from beginner, intermediate, advanced or expert levels, as well as perform karaoke.  A music video is presented as a game, where students input the missing words and their performance is rated by hits, fails, or gaps.


Since I had such success with music for teaching, I decided to collect all the songs I’ve used to share with you. The videos for these songs can be found on YouTube or you can download them on iTunes.


B (b) Barbara Ann, Baby The Beach Boys, Justin Bieber
C (k) Call Me Blondie
C+K (k) Back in the USSR The Beatles
C (s) Cinnamon Girl Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Ch (tʃ) Chattanooga Choo Choo The Andrews Sisters
D (d)
De Do Dah Dah,
Devil You
The Police, The Stampeders
F (f) For Free Joni Mitchell
G (g) Good Golly Miss Molly Little Richard
G (dʒ)
Georgia on My Mind Billy Holiday
H (h) Hello Lionel Richie
ING (ŋ) Ring, Ring ABBA
J (dʒ)
Jump For My Love
Van Halen, The Pointer Sisters
K (k)
This Kiss,
Karma Chameleon
Faith Hill, Culture Club
K + S (ks) Kicks Paul Revere & The Raiders
L (l)
The Kinks, Chordettes
M (m)
My Sharona,
Mama Mia
The Knack, ABBA
N (n) Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye Steam
P (p) Pretty Woman Roy Orbison
Q (kw)
Question; Quando,Quando,  Quando
Moody Blues, Engelbert Humperdinck
R (r)
Run Rabbit Run,
Flanagan and Allen, Del Shannnon
S (s) Slip Sliding Away Paul Simon
Sh (ʃ)
Sh-Boom Crew Cuts
S + (ʒ)
Vision of Love Mariah Carey
T (t) Tomorrow Alicia Morton
Th (θ)
Thank You,
Thank You for Being a Friend
Alanis Morissette, Andrew Gold
Th (ð)
There’s a Kind of Hush,
This Year’s Love
Herman’s Hermits, David Grey
V (v) Blue Velvet Lana Del Rey
W (w)
What a Wonderful World,
Walk Like A Man
Louis Armstrong, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
X (z) Xanadu Electric Light Orchestra & Olivia Newton-John
X (ks) Do You Think I’m Sexy Rod Stewart
Y (j) Yesterday The Beatles
Z (z) Zip A Dee Do Dah James Baskett
“There may be trouble ahead
But while there’s music and moonlight and love and romance
Let’s face the music and dance” ∼ unknown
Have fun and enjoy the music!


How or why do you use music to teach English? Feel free to add some of your own links or songs to the list.

Good ESL sites for listening practice:

Hi, I’m John Stevens. After adventures working in radio and television, teaching computer courses in Canada and internationally, managing the Canadian Association of Journalists, and acting as the technical director of Softball Canada, I have settled into teaching ESL. As well as experiences teaching in Ottawa and London, I have had stints in Harbin, Jeddah and Istanbul. Since I am currently trying to find a full-time teaching position in Ontario, I help my wife with our bed and breakfast business in St. Marys, Ontario.


11 thoughts on “Thank You for the Music!”

  1. John,
    Thanks so much for the helpful advice on how to teach pronunciation with music. I’ve used music in the classroom to teach grammar points, initiate conversation, introduce a topic for discussion, and just to have some fun, but never solely for pronunciation. I will definitely use your suggestions. Thanks for the suggested sites!

    Susan Stitt
    ESL Instructor

    1. Same here, Susan. I use music for grammar, too. For example, The Beatles have two songs where the first two words are “there is” or “there are.”
      In the song, In My Life, it starts “There are places I remember.” Places is plural so it doesn’t take an article and the verb is “are” for the same reason. However “There is a place where I can go.” Place is singular, so it needs an article and uses the third person singular verb “is.” I trust that these help make the point stick. If it doesn’t, it certainly makes the learning more entertaining.

  2. Thanks john, like Susan I use a lot of music in my class room for the various reasons she stated, but I never thought about music for consonant pronunciation – great idea- as I also teach a pronunciation class. Could you tell us a bit about your methodology with the song-??how many times do you play it,??close exercise?? How do you encourage singing?? Thanks again, Donna, linc/Esl instructor in Ottawa

    1. I must admit that my approach is rather informal. If I hear a student struggling with a sound, I play the song and we sing along and I listen. Nope, I don’t do a close exercise. How do I encourage singing? I sometimes play the song by the Carpenters, “Sing a Song.” I also explain to them why I want them to sing, telling the story of ABBA and Mel Tillis. When they see a method to my madness, they tend to sing. Often we chant the song, rather than sing it. It helps reinforce short and long sounds. One of my favourite songs for long and short sounds is Things We Said Today. It also helps that I can play some of the songs on guitar. When they see what I am willing to go through and how I am not the perfect singer or performer, they tend to go along with it. I know I’m rambling a bit, but the answer is that I just go with the flow. If you have suggestions of how you’d do it, put them down.

  3. Pingback: Singing and pronunciation - Learn why they go together!

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