"When in doubt, go back to the music.”
This affirmation is something that has been held near and dear to my heart as a music therapy student and intern; and now, as a board-certified music therapist.
Music therapists are typically trained to utilize music, which can be a nonverbal language, as a means of expression and communication. This skill can come in handy, especially when working with individuals who do not speak the same language that we do. However, it could be in the best interest of the client to learn a few basic phrases (and SONGS) in their native language. If you are working with Spanish-speaking individuals and wondering what songs to use in sessions - read on!
Here are the top ten songs I use during sessions with Spanish-Speaking individuals...
1. De colores
De colores is a traditional Mexican folk song. Most people will recognize the first verse right away, but there are two provided in the chord chart that I made! This is a great song to song to use with all ages!
2. Cielito lindo
Cielito lindo is another song originating from Mexico by composer Quirino Mendoza y Cortés. This is one that is very familiar to the ear and is even sung at Mexico soccer games!
3. Las mañanitas
Las mañanitas was popularized by Manuel M. Ponce and is a popular Mexican birthday song that is typically sung to wake up, or greet, the birthday person.
4. Ahora seremos felices
A lively song by Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernandez. I typically use this one in sessions with older adults.
5. Allá en el rancho grande
Allá en el rancho grande is a gem that I had never heard until it was requested by a resident at a skilled nursing facility. I later realized just how popular this song was. It was written in the 1920s and was even covered by Dean Martin and Elvis Presley!
6. La bamba
La bamba is another Mexican folk song that was popularized when Ritchie Valens recorded and released it in 1958!
7. Ave María
You might find that some Spanish speaking clients are religious. In my experience, I have been asked to play the Spanish translation of this song in sessions.
8. Bésame mucho
Bésame mucho is a bolero song that was written by Consuelo Velasquez. Another great one to use with adults or older adults!
9. Yo conosco una gallina
You might know this song originally as “I Know A Chicken” by Laurie Berkner. I love using it with school-aged children so much that I decided to translate it to use with Spanish-speaking children as well!
10. El semaforo
El semaforo is another great song to use in school settings. I learned this one from Mabel Ortiz Guzman, MM, MSW, MT-BC! Click the link here to the resources that she put together!
*I am providing this list from the perspective of a first-generation, Mexican American, woman. Most of these songs were learned throughout my childhood or are popular in Mexican culture. It is also important to note that only the first letter of the first word is capitalized with songs in Spanish.
I hope that these songs can be of use to you in your future sessions! Have fun on your journey of exploring songs in Spanish!