Frère Jacques - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

Often sung by children, sometimes in a round, Frère Jacques is an eighteenth century French song.  'Frère Jacques' - in English, 'brother John' - refers to a monk (a friar).  Matins are the early morning prayers, ending at dawn, that are undertaken by members of religious orders.  I believe the literal translation of 'Sonnz les Matines' is 'ring the Matins bells', although the alternative translation, 'Matins bells are ringing', fits much more neatly with the song's meter.

You can play Frère Jacques quite comfortably on a single major chord (pick one that suits your voice).  I'm using a C chord because I like its sound, with a capo at the fourth fret, which raises the chord by two tones, so that it becomes an 'E'.  I use my thumb to pick out the notes C, G and C respectively as I sing 'ding, dang, dong', which echoes the song's melody.

Chords

Capo at 4th Fret

C
Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,

C
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?

C
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!

C
Ding, daing, dong. Ding, daing, dong.





C
Are you sleeping, are you sleeping,

C
Brother John? Brother John?

C
Matins bells are ringing! Matins bells are ringing!

C
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

Lyrics

The French lyrics are:

Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Ding, daing, dong. Ding, daing, dong.

 

And an approximate English translation of these is:

Are you sleeping, are you sleeping,
Brother John? Brother John?
Matins bells are ringing! Matins bells are ringing!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

Other French Folk Songs
Other Traditional Folk Songs