This Song Was Especially Designed to Make Babies Happy


For years, famous music producers, musicians and songwriters have pontificated about the key elements and specific creative energy that it takes to make and create a hit song.  And now a set of researchers have applied that same philosophy to the ever elusive and more mysterious infant set. They have concocted a wonderfully catchy song specifically designed to make your baby happy.

The Happy Song is the end result of extensive research in the musical tastes of infants. It was born when UK baby food manufacturer Cow & Gate asked baby and music experts to decode existing science on what infants liked in order to create a baby-friendly pop hit.

Child Development expert Caspar Addyman, musical psychologist Lauren Stewart and Grammy award winning composer and vocalist Imogen Heap, formerly of the synth pop group Frou Frou, got to work and crafted a song that infants would love.

At its inception, both Addyman and Stewart agreed that this hit baby tune had to meet certain criteria. Before Heap composed the song, the pair gave her a list of areas that she had to meet. Previous research has shown that babies respond best to upbeat songs in a major key. So this song would have to be uptempo, just like a baby’s heartbeat, which is faster than an adult’s.

Musician Imogen Heap curated the song with two other music professionals. Credit: PopTech/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Heap, also the mother of an 18-month old baby girl, then crafted lyrics that told a happy tale of how parents love their little babies wherever they are in the world — from the sky to the ocean, on a bike or on a rocket. And because studies found that babies prefer the female voice and are more drawn to it when it possess that motherese pitch (high energy, sing-songy tone), it was decided the vocalist would sing it in this style. Heap was then advised by Addyman and Stewart to arrange a simple and repetitive ditty that featured drum rolls, key changes and rising pitch glides that added elements of anticipation and surprise to the song.

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Next, based on data from 2,500 parents who voted on the silliest sounds that made their babies happy, Heap incorporated the most baby-favorite sounds to keep the little ones interested and tuned in. These elements included the words “boo,” “beep beep!” “whee!” animal noises, sneezing and laughter. Baby-favorite plosive sounds that have a pop-like, “pa” and “ba” were also worked into the track.


When 20 babies listened to the finished tune, which came in at 163 beats per minute, they were completely enamored by The Happy Song. “The secret was to make it silly and make it social and they were entranced,” wrote Addyman. “This wasn’t the most scientific as tests go,” Addyman said, but he could “definitely, confidently say from a scientific point of view something’s happened here.”

Now Addyman and his one-year-old hit wonder team are now ready to explore new avenues for parents to incorporate music into their children’s lives and then analyze how babies respond to it.

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“Now that we have a song that is both new and highly baby friendly,” Addyman wrote, “we are planning to use the song in a range of experiments looking at how parents introduce their babies to music and hope to look more in depth at babies’ physiological responses to happy music.”

Check out this behind the scenes look at how this music team came together to make The Happy Song:

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