by: Angela Santomero | Filed under Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Kids
Composer, Brian, and his son (aka Daniel Tiger’s first fan)

Can’t get the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood songs out of your head??

 

Meet the rock stars that you can thank!

 

The crew at Voodoo Highway Music & Post are among my favorite people. They “get me” when I say I want a song to sound “pop-ish”, and I want parents to love it as much as kids, & then I give them a “research approved” strategy to work with..Of course, they have been ultra creative & have pushed the boundaries of traditional preschool music to create award winning songs (if I do say so myself) that are hip enough to make it onto my iPod…

 

This week, we’re giving you a behind the scenes peek at the way the music comes together for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood which was created to be a new type of “preschool musical”.  Meet the composers at Voodoo Highway Music, James Chapple, Graeme Cornies, Dave Kelly & Brian Pickett who brought the music and tone to life.   We’re so happy that James answered some questions about the musical process.

So how do you do it? Explain a bit about your process of composing & sound editing?

There are 2 components to writing music for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: 1) the featured songs in each episode (an Imagination Song & a Strategy Song), & 2) the underscore (background music that plays throughout the episode). Before we even write a single note for 1 of the songs, we read over the script for that episode. This helps us understand exactly what the songs should be about, the style in which they should be written, and of course the message that the episode is trying to convey.

Once we have a firm understanding of what the core message of the episode should be, we write a “demo” for each song & revise based on feedback from the producers. We then record all of the talented cast singing. It is a unique process for us because, on most other shows, the music is composed after the animation is completed.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

For Daniel, we write the songs before the animation has even begun, which allows the animators to make the visuals match up with our music. This helps the songs look & sound  fantastic in the final episode! The underscore portion of the show is completed in a more traditional method. We get a copy of the episode once the animation is nearly complete. While we watch through, we make notes about how the music should reflect the action on screen. This process is called “spotting”. Once we spot the episode, we get to the fun part: composing the music! We work hard to help accentuate the emotions of the characters on screen, & ultimately it’s quite rewarding when we watch through the final episode & see how much our music helps tell the story!

 

Of all the (many!) songs you’ve composed for the series, can you pick 1 favorite?

Every song is unique & memorable, but my personal favorite would be the updated version of Fred’s song “It’s You I Like”. On that particular song, it was my job to learn the piano parts so Graeme would be able to add other instruments & vocals over top. It was a real challenge to figure out, as I didn’t have any sheet music & had to learn it all by ear from a recording of Fred singing. It was a moment where I felt very connected to Mister Rogers.

Voodoo Highway Music and Post

What was the most emotional moment for you while working on the show?

For me personally it was when we received the wonderful fan mail from parents across the country. We compose all the music in our studio, sometimes late at night, & it’s easy to become disconnected from the show’s audience. Seeing how our music has affected so many different people, in so many positive ways, was a really meaningful moment for me as a composer. When I started out to write music for a living, I had the hopes of being able to change lives the way music changed my own. To hear all of the wonderful things people have said about our music on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, well, it is simply the reason I got into this career in the first place.

Also, I should note, the moment my mother called me up in tears after watching the first episode was a beautiful moment as well. It really meant a lot to hear how proud she was of our work!

One of my favorites is the potty song – it still cracks me up & I can’t wait to hear my nephews sing it! 

 

What was the funniest moment for you while working on the show?

I often find myself chuckling when we have to record funny characters that appear in the imagination songs. Recording the talented (& hilarious) voice actors pretending to be fish, knives, forks, superheroes, stuffed animals, flowers, or any other of the myriad of interesting characters always leaves me laughing.

The music just keeps getting better and better!  Can you give us a sneak-peek about the music in upcoming episodes?

Well, the music for episode 31 (“Neighbor Day”), is simply going to be out of this world. It’s a very music-heavy episode & we’ve written a lot of cool songs that incorporate many different characters singing. I think we are all very proud of that episode, as we went above & beyond what we normally compose.

 

& let us know what songs are most memorable to YOU & why..

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Comments

  1. avatar tania says:

    REALLY love the show and the focus on life lessons. Just love that you are proudly carrying on Mr. Rogers’ legacy. 🙂 We recently got both CDs and I mentioned to my mother-in-law how much I love the songs for a growing little person. She plays piano and said to see if I can get the sheet music, another great way to reinforce the songs with our little one. Is is available anywhere? Thx!

  2. avatar Grandma Rose says:

    We love the “clean up, pick up, put away” song
    because it works (!) with my grandson and “use your words” is brilliant, really. Kids need to
    learn the words for emotions and practice
    expressing feelings in words. You guys nailed
    it !

  3. avatar Grandma Rose says:

    We love the clean up, pick up, put away song
    because it works with my grandson and use your
    words is brilliant, really. We love them all.

  4. avatar Lafrieda says:

    Does Micheal Franks sing a few of the songs

  5. avatar Lafrieda says:

    I thought I heard Michael Frank’s voice singing it’s such a good feeling. Love the song

  6. avatar David Kutchara says:

    Hello,
    My daughter loves the show!
    Being a lifelong musician and currently stay at home dad/mixer for hire I have to ask:
    Why so heavy handed with the pitch correction on certain characters singing?
    Thanks!

    • Happy to hear she’s a fan!
      I. Perhaps, it’s the compression out to you & II. We like to direct the attention, at times, to certain characters to follow along the storyline.
      Thank YOU!

  7. avatar Tiffany says:

    Hi! I need to know! Who sings “its such a good feeling”? His voice is amazing!

  8. avatar Emma says:

    Hi, is it just me or is the music in the second season becoming more evolved? It seems like there is more music overall and more harmonies and complex melodies. Am I imagining things or has something changed? Have you added more talent to your musician/writing roster or is the team just gelling more? Regardless, thanks for all the great work!
    Thanks
    Emma

  9. avatar Jaime says:

    I really enjoyed reading this! I was wondering about the classical music in the potty episode too- it’s wonderful, and I would happily buy a symphony-long version of it. You are all so talented. As Daniel would say, ‘thank you, for everything you do’!

  10. avatar Steve says:

    Turned the tv on this morning to pbs and Daniel was on while they sang the song about Enjoy the Nightime. what a catchy and beautiful song. Rewound some 8 times. Great chord progressions and harmonies. I’m a musician by profession and just want to say, what a great job in bringing beautiful complex, but approachable music to our children and the next generation of music lovers. Bravo!

  11. avatar Bobby says:

    In the potty episode there is a piece of classical music played by strings. My wife insists it’s a synthesizer but I’m not sure. Can you tell us?

  12. avatar Zeena Zabala says:

    I just want to say thank you Angela and the composers who put this wonderful show together! I love the theme song and I find myself singing it all the time even when the show is not on! Lol! My nephew loves it! Educational show as well as great music.

  13. avatar kim says:

    really love this show…when we first started watching it, my daughter 18 mos picked up the song really quick…..after watchin 2-3 episodes she can hum and speak 3-4 words when daniel rides the train…so cutee…songs are really catchy and melodic…we love it…thank you!!

    • I’m so happy you (& your daughter) love Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Kim! I LOVE getting messages like yours as well..it fuels the creative machine 🙂

      Give your cutie a hug from me & all Daniel’s friends in the Neighborhood of Make Believe please!

  14. avatar Kris says:

    Love this show!!! Really noticed the catchy songs right away, and as a musician I noticed the slick ukulele playing that is generally underneath a large majority of the music. I think this helps make everything sound outstandingly positive and uplifting. I’m trying to figure out the chords to the intro and ending songs. Is there anywhere to get a list of those chords or something?

    Thanks,

    Kris K

    • Hey Kris. We LOVE our creatively talented music team. I posted about Voodoo Highway not too long ago. Here it is if you missed it:
      angelasclues.com/music-daniel-tigers-neighborhood/

      Try giving them a shout & perhaps they can assist. Thanks for reaching out & commenting!

  15. avatar sandy rawlings says:

    I love your songs!!can I purchase a recording for my grand children???

  16. avatar Liana says:

    Hi Angela,
    Thank you for writing about the process of creating the Daniel Tiger music! My son loves the show and the songs work on him like magic. Soon after he started watching it, I was trying to convince him to take a bite of something and he just wasn’t having it. I tried singing “You’ve got to try new foods ’cause they might taste good!” and his eyes lit up and he opened his mouth. The next day I bought one of the music collections, and we listen to it all the time. “It’s almost time to stop, so choose one more thing to do” has helped ward off tantrums when we’re leaving places that he likes, “Grownups come back” reassures him when his dad has to go somewhere for work and we must have listened to “Goodnight Daniel” several thousand times to help him fall asleep. Most recently, he saw some Christmas presents when he was overtired and wouldn’t stop crying for them; the only thing that cut through his heightened emotional state was the phrase “Friends, not presents.” That immediately calmed him down and refocused his attention. (Then I started singing “Let Your Light Twinkle” but I was getting the words wrong and he corrected me.) It’s almost like the music provides an intermediate language that we’re both good at speaking.

    I was wondering if there are any plans to release more of the music? I’ve bought all of the collections on Amazon, but I’d love to be able to play more of the songs. I think the dance music would be especially nice as a compilation, but he likes all of the songs, everything from “Sing a sad song” to “zipper music.” We often listen to the music in the car or as a compromise when I don’t want to have the TV on, and the more variety, the better.

    I was also wondering if there is sheet music available of any of the songs? My son likes to play around with the piano, but I think it would blow his mind if Mama could play some of the songs or if he could play them when he starts to learn at some point.

    Finally, I’d love some Daniel Tiger lullabies!

    Thank you!

  17. avatar Melinda says:

    Is there anywhere to purchase and download the background music that plays during the episodes? I particularly love the background music in some of the newest episodes with Baby Margaret.

  18. avatar nancy says:

    Is there a cd you can buy of the songs, that are sung on the shows

  19. avatar Michelle says:

    Who sings the song “when you feel jealous”?

  20. avatar Keely says:

    Making Something Is One Way to Say ‘I Love You” is our favorite song. Beautiful melody, lovely piano and soft percussion. We love all the singing voices on DTN but this voice makes us want to dance and hug. My 16 mo old daughter is in love with this show. It is all she watches. We sing Daniel Tiger songs in public whenever we need a positive distraction and recently sang while boarding the airplane– well, mommy sang and baby smiled!

    • “Making Something Is One Way to Say ‘I Love You” is one of my favorite songs too! I’m thrilled with the results of the long collaboration with the uber talented folks at Voodoo Highway! Thanks for your message & keep on singing!!

  21. avatar D says:

    I love that song about how “You’ve Got to Try New Foods ‘Cause They Might Taste Good”. I think it’s mostly because of how cute the actors’ voices sound in the falsetto part. But I also like to tease my husband with it, because he’s still a picky eater!

    My favorites are definitely “It’s You I Like” and “You are Special”. Those Fred Rogers songs just touch my heart, and the updated versions are perfect–lilting and sweet, but also simple and not overproduced.

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