Author Archives: junglegymjamsite

Kids’ Music that Transports You Somewhere

Many kids’ musicians create albums and songs as postcards of their favorite places

There’s a cool thing that’s been happening in children’s music over the past few years – artists like Lucky Diaz & the Family Jam Band and Joanie Leeds & the Nightlights are making full albums to tell you all about their hometowns. Just this week Lucky dropped a new album Made in L.A. telling us all about their experience living and working in the City of Angels. For Joanie, Brooklyn Baby gives us an authentic slice of New York City life for a family sharing the wonders of the big city with a toddler.

Similarly, Okee Dokee Brothers love to take trips and write complete albums while in these special places. Through the Woods chronicles their long hike down the Appalachian Mountains, while Saddle Up! celebrates their one horse power-driven ride west of the U.S. Continental Divide.

L.A. based Jazzy Ash dedicated her debut album Home to her childhood home of New Orleans, Louisiana. The original songs on that album paint a vivid picture of growing up in the Big Easy, with “Throw Me Something Mista” giving a kid’s perspective on the raucus Mardi Gras celebration. Just this week she returned to her roots in a different way, with an album of traditional African-American favorites, titled Swing Set, played in her signature New Orleans jazz style.

Lollipop Motel album cover - Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym JamMy own album Lollipop Motel is a love letter to the Jersey Shore, which, while not right around the corner, is in my home state; it’s a special place for our family to visit a few times each summer. Much of the lyrical content was conjured up on these magical summer nights by the poolside of that very hotel. Sometimes ideas sprang to life and were discussed on the car rides up and down the Garden State Parkway.

California has had more of its share of kindie love, from Lucky Diaz to Frances England singing extensively about her hometown of San Francisco on her Explorer of the World disc, which makes a child a world explorer by virtue of their exploration of his/her own neighborhood.

Plenty of single songs express the joy of a certain place, like “L.A. Christmas” by Andrew & Polly, featuring Mista Cookie Jar. Sometimes it appears in the video while the lyrics can apply to anywhere, like in Mista Cookie Jar’s “My Happy Place” video. The Hipwaders, on their album The Golden State, beckon with that album’s title track and the catchy “Come to California.”

Justin Roberts sets his song “Otis” in his hometown of Chicago where an elevator ride becomes the gateway to an exciting day in the midwestern city. Dan Zanes takes us on an iconic ferris wheel ride with his ode to Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel. Coney Island is an Atlantic Ocean beach in Brooklyn, NY with a famous and lively amusement boardwalk.

The Not-Its! turn a trip to the U.S. capitol into a clarion call to kids to get involved in civic life, training them to demand their representatives pay attention to their constituents in the song “Washington, D.C.”

Of course, we can’t forget Sandra Boynton’s whimsical “Philadelphia Chickens,” sung by the Bacon Brothers, their wacky tribute to the “City of Chickenly Love!” Nearby, Jersey Shore native Yosi, makes the beach experience universal in his B-E-A-C-H song.

One anthem makes it a point to take you to several places to excite a child’s love for travel. Twinkle Time’s Made in the U.S.A. track does just that, in the form of a feel-good country pop crossover anthem.

While there are plenty of real, physical places in the world to explore and to take a musical journey to, an artist will occasionally imagine a fictitious place worth visiting. Kindie artist Miss Nina points out that Joanie Leeds achieved that feat with “Kids’ Place” where she dreams up a realm more accommodating to kids’ desires than our everyday one – a world where all the candy is placed low enough where they can reach it!

Of course, Miss Nina manages to universally capture everyone’s love for their home base wherever it is with “Let’s Go Home” on her latest album Every Day’s Your Birthday.”

Do you know of more albums or songs for kids that transport you to a specific place, real or imagined? Comment below to keep the conversation going.

“Pandagarten” Official Video

Here it is, our new official music video for #Pandagarten

Lots of people to thank here!

Big thanks to Pandas International who provided us with amazing video footage captured by several of their donors! Andrea was extremely responsive and helpful in providing us what we needed to help tell this story.

Thanks to the energetic, spirited, funny kids who worked their magic on a blazing hot summer day to bring lots of life to this video. I’m talking about Holly, Natalie, Maya and Elisa! And then we’ve got “Amazing Amelia” rockin’ the bass. At age 14 she’s already musically accomplished beyond her years and her “chill” stage presence is perfection.

Many thanks to my parents, Bob & Linda Didner, and the families of our cast – my wife Amy (of course also a cast member, rockin’ them bongos, Nicole Gray & Allen Chan and Danielle Dorter, who were super supportive and actively involved in coaching the kids through those hand motions in the chorus.

My dad, Bob, worked the handheld camera to capture footage of the band and the kids.

Thanks to Kathy at The Pathological Dyer online store on Etsy. She custom-made all these tie-dye shirts to meet our vision for this video.

Gotta thank John Cullimore of Chibi KodamaRon Albanese (“Polka Dot!”) and Dad for taking the time to critique the video while  it was in post-production, helping us enhance the final product you see here. Amy also showed a great eye in post-production for which shots to use, when.

You can’t make a music video without the music! Thanks again to John for inspiring me to start producing records at home and then meticulously critiquing areas where we could give the audio track the extra sparkle that today’s music listener expects. Thanks also to Scott Hawksworth at AudioSkills.com for the great home recording/mixing tutorials that helped me develop production techniques that will keep the music flowing.

Thank you Mike Mason at Good Stuff Kids Podcast for serving up a very successful world premiere of this video, along with an enjoyable interview (always good to talk with you!)

Thanks to our Patreon subscribers for your commitment to helping us keep developing and sharing new material on a regular basis. It feels great to create when I know it means so much to you and your families!

And thank you for taking the time to watch the video, read this page and share the video with anyone in your life who loves pandas (I mean, come on…who doesn’t?!?)

So, You Want to Produce Your Own Records?

Here’s a podcast interview where I share how and why I record at home!

Jungle Gym Jam recording the kids' vocal parts for the song Pandagarten. One really cool thing about making music for families is that every now and then we come across young musicians learning their instrument and full of passion for the sounds they are starting to create. Often, they’re big siblings of our most frequent audience of preschool-aged kids. We also cross paths with lots of great kids-and-family musicians who are on a similar journey to Amy’s and mine.

We’re all experiencing rapid, sweeping changes to the way recorded music is shared with the world. Kids learning to make music are growing up never having needed a physical CD, possibly having operated a turntable simply for the richness of the experience, not for the necessity of that being the only way to hear recorded music. Most of us walk around with access to a library of millions of songs in our pockets.

Those of us who have been making records for a while have noticed that the public can enjoy our music in complete album form without having to own a physical product or even a download. While there’s a contingent who will buy our CD’s as souvenirs of a show they loved, they can listen to our recorded music at will without doing so.

Jason from the Jungle Gym Jam mixing a finished recording in his home studioMy desire to continue making and sharing fully-realized recordings of our songs has not been diminished by the changes to the recorded music market. But I can’t continue to hire producers and rent studios for $10K+ knowing that I won’t make back even 10% of that. So what does an indie artist do?

I turned to the example set by my friend John Cullimore from the excellent kindie band Chibi Kodama for my answer. John is a highly prolific self-producer, often cranking out multiple albums in a single calendar year. All his music is a heartfelt expression from his whole family and a true representation of the sounds he hears in his head, fully realized for the world to enjoy. And he does it all at home and on the road!

When I started to seek out how I could create high quality self-produced music with the experience I gained working with producers and John’s moral support, I stumbled upon AudioSkills.com, a home self-production resource founded and run by Scott Hawksworth. I started by reading his articles, which had given me some common-sense advice that I found earth shattering in its simplicity and ability to immediately improve what I was doing with my home recording gear.

I had recorded tracks for the single “Pandagarten” and really wanted to do a great job mixing these tracks into a radio-ready finished product. So I ordered Scott’s AudioSkills crash course DVDs. I watched the entire 2-disc set before embarking on the mix. Everything I learned helped me translate the music I imagined into something families could listen to.

To help tell my story of how I keep the music flowing in a changing market for recorded music, I recently appeared on Scott’s AudioSkills Podcast for an interview. I hope it inspires you or an emerging musician in your life.

Here’s our first self-produced single (as a picture video) called “Pandagarten” to give you an example of the results I achieved with Scott’s course.

In this new market for recorded music, we’ve drastically cut our costs to bring this music to you by recording at home. We’re also able to steadily release music – a single each month, leading to the release of an album next year. We’d like to sustain the pattern of a single each month. If our recordings enrich your family life, we’d love your support on our Patreon page, where you can subscribe and be the first to receive our new monthly singles – before the public gets them.

How are you or your family members engaging the do-it-yourself spirit to bring your creativity to life? Use the comments below to get the conversation going.

Printable Sheet Music Paper for Kids

Now that I’m teaching Holly to play the piano, I realized we needed sheet music paper – so I created some in Word! Now I’d like to share it with you and your family!

Download this printable sheet music paper (3 large staffs, landscape layout) and you can sketch out easy-to-read melodies for your kiddos and get them started on playing or singing.

Kids' sheet music paper created by Jason Didner from the Jungle Gym Jam

Or you can grab this printable sheet music paper (6 medium staffs, portrait layout) for two-handed piano parts or small scores.

Printable 6 Staff Paper by Jungle Gym Jam

If you upload the music you create with your kids, make sure you tweet to @JungleGymJam or post it to Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam on Facebook so I can hear what your family’s doing musically.

Rock on!

Jason