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The Happy Song by Imogen Heap: A Joyful Baby Song Based on Science

Imogen Heap worked with scientists to create “The Happy Song,” a song that sparks joy in babies and toddlers. Learn all about the song on

The Happy Song by Imogen Heap: A Joyful Baby Song Based on Science

If you want to share the pleasure of music with your young one, turn on the Happy Song by Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Imogen Heap. This playful tune clocks in at just around two-and-a-half minutes, but when you see your baby or toddler’s smile light up, it could very well go on repeat in your house.

The song uses onomatopoeia to describe various sounds you’ll find in the world, like the “ring ring” on a bicycle, the “choo choo” of a train, and the meows of cats and roars of lions. Interspersed between the lyrics are the sounds of baby cooing and laughing. It’s a baby sound paradise, with so many new noises to discover.

The song features an ideal combination of sound effects and melodies, as it was edited during trials using real babies to see what arrangement resonated the most with young ones. Learn more about this science-based song, why it’s so effective, and how you can enjoy it with your young loved one to brighten up their day.

How Happy Song by Imogen Heap originated

In 2016, baby product company Cow & Gate commissioned Heap to write a song that, according to her website, would boost the moods of babies and make them happier. The commission was ideal timing for Heap, who had her own 1-year-old daughter, Scout, to test out melodies with.

Cow & Gate worked with ad agency BETC London on the project. BETC surveyed British parents to learn which types of sounds most successfully made babies laugh. The results? Other babies’ laughter, sneezing, airplane flying sounds, and animal noises.

Another key element for the song was repetition, since babies are able to identify musical structure and rhythm. When a song has a pattern, babies are able to anticipate what comes next and positively react to it. For example, if the sound of the baby laughing in the first verse comes back for each subsequent verse, the positive reaction to the song by baby listeners can also grow.

Since babies also tend to focus their attention on sing-song-y voices, often those of their mothers or caregivers, the soothing vocals and creative songwriting skills of Heap made perfect sense for the project.

Her daughter Scout became a bona fide collaborator on the song, since her singing helped inspire the early music that became the Happy Song by Imogen Heap. In addition to the noises, it features baby-friendly musical instruments like mbira, synths, and clarinet, along with various other percussion instruments.

Scout provided giggles, “wow”s, and roars and even played some musical instruments. She also inspired the lyrics, since during the time of the song’s creation, she was fascinated with transportation devices that play a role in the song.

How science shaped the Happy Song

Once Heap composed several early versions of the song, they were tested by developmental and music psychologists from the University of London’s Goldsmiths college. The goal was to edit the song into the best version that had the most happiness-producing effects on babies.

Heap created four short tracks of two slower versions and two faster versions that differed in performance cues and the musical devices that were used. In the Goldsmiths’ “infant laboratory,” researchers played the songs and tested 26 babies to monitor their facial expressions, heart rates, and movements to see what type of music was most impactful.

The resulting recommendations for Heap's final product were to:

  • Choose a popular tempo that’s easy to dance to – the finished song has a 4/4 tempo
  • Use simple melodies and pacing that mirrors a baby’s heartbeat to keep attention
  • Make the song easy to sing along to and remember for anywhere-singalong time
  • Inject moments of surprise

Since Scout’s singing that inspired the song was in E flat, the finished product remained in that key. The final track was tested by 56 infants and includes silly sounds and lyrics that babies and caregivers can make sounds or sing along to.

More ways to enjoy the Happy Song by Imogen Heap

Since the song was released to the Cow & Gate community and the general public in 2016, it’s become a musical favorite in households around the world. Some of the parents involved in the research even contributed to the song, as well, providing sounds like a hair dryer, hiccups, and sneezes for the track.

The music video for the Happy Song Imogen Heap has amassed more than 10 million views since 2019. The stop motion-style clip features animal characters Cat, Rabbit, and Badger, who have been transformed into soft plush toys babies can cuddle while watching the video or singing along to the song.

In addition to listening to the song on YouTube, you can find it on streaming services like Spotify and purchase it on the iTunes Store. There’s also a version that’s completely instrumental.

If you want to have a playful time with your little one, put on the Happy Song by Imogen Heap to see how your child reacts to all the sounds and the engaging, bouncy melody.

Lots of cool ideas for babies and toddlers

Playing the Happy Song by Imogen Heap is just one way to enjoy time with your baby or toddler at home. At Save, we’re always looking for amusing activities to share – and we want to help you save money in the process.

Check out 30 easy DIY sensory bin fillers for babies that help your baby explore the world through stimulation. We’ve also curated DIY sensory play ideas for toddlers that create hours of entertainment.

Speaking of toddlers, we've got help to keep your little ones safe. Learn how to toddler proof your home.

Check out your Save mailer for savings on DIY sensory bin filler ingredients, diapers, baby products, toys, and more.