Lesson 1: Learning “Waiting for a Train”

Aim: How can we distinguish chest voice and head voice in yodeling as an important element of country music?

Summary: Students sing “Waiting for a Train” and explore vocal registers (chest voice/head voice). Students identify and create their own rhyming lyrics.

Materials: Musical Explorers CD or online audio

Standards: GA: ESGMK-2.CR.2; ESGMK-1.CR3; ESGMK-2.PR.1, ESGMK-2.RE.1; ESGMK-2.CN.1
SC: MGK-2.1, MGK-2.2, MGK-2.4, MGK-2.5, MGK-2.6

Vocabulary: chest voice, head voice, lyrics, yodel


Find Chest Voice and Head Voice

  • Using the “Hoot Owl” warm-up, help students find their head voice and chest voice.
    • We use our head voice when we sing high. It feels light and airy, like an owl hooting.
  • Have students place their hands on the middle of their chest (between their sternum and collarbone) and say “huh” in a deep voice.
    • When we feel the vibrations in our chest, that is our chest voice
  • Listen to Anders sing “Waiting for a Train,” Track 6.  Listen for when Anders uses his chest voice and head voice.

Explore Yodeling in “Waiting for a Train”

  • Explain to the students that a yodel is when a singer quickly switches between his or her chest and head voice. Listen to “Waiting for a Train” again and ask students to raise their hands when they hear Anders yodel. Please note that students should not attempt to sing the yodel with Anders as this low range can potentially damage young voices.
  • Listen to another yodel, Track 7,  and then have students echo the singer. This yodel is in the students’ natural voice range.
  • Listen to “Waiting for a Train” again. Ask students to sing with Anders using their natural head voices.

Explore Rhyming Lyrics in “Waiting for a Train”

  • Discuss the lyrics of “Waiting for a Train” with your students. Lyrics are the words to a song.
    • This song is about a traveling worker who is trying to get back home to the south (Dixie Land) from California (Frisco). He doesn’t have the money to pay for a train ride back, so he gets stuck in Texas and sings this sad song.
  • This song contains many rhyming words. Each verse contains three couplets. Read the lyrics to your students and encourage them to listen for the rhyming pairs.
  • Ask the students to identify the rhyming pairs.
  • Using SG16, have students create their own rhyming pairs.
  • Sing the new lyrics with Anders and his band, Track 8.  This can be done as a class or individually.


All around the water tank waiting for a train

A thousand miles away from home sleeping in the rain

I walked up to a brakeman just to give him a line of talk

He said if you’ve got money boy I’ll see that you don’t walk

My pockets, they are empty; not a penny can I show

He said get off you railroad bum and he slammed the boxcar door


He put me off in Texas a place I dearly love

The wide open spaces all around me the moon and stars up above

Nobody seems to want me or lend me a helping hand

I’m on my way from Frisco going back to Dixie Land

My pocketbook is empty and my heart is filled with pain

I’m a thousand miles away from home just a waiting for a train



Jimmie Rodgers: The Father of Country Music

“Waiting for a Train” is a song originally written by early country singer Jimmie Rodgers (1897–1933), who is sometimes known as “The Father of Country Music.” Before he started recording and performing his own music, he was a brakeman (a railroad worker who assists with braking the trains) on the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad. When he contracted tuberculosis and became too sick to work, he started his career as an entertainer, singing songs about traveling and life on the railroad. As a singer, he was known for his lonesome lyrics and his high yodel.

Creative Extension: Mime Rhyme!

Tell your students that you are thinking of a word that rhymes with another word (e.g. “I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with ‘at’”). Students will guess the word by silently acting it out.

Musical Word Wall

Add the words chest voice, head voice, lyrics, and yodel to the Musical Word Wall.


PDF Downloads

SG16 ↓ Download File


Musical Explorers Audio Tracks


Go to Lesson 2: Exploring “Five Feet High and Rising”