Are you learning German? Take a break from your textbooks with our beginner German playlist! Not only do we provide some great music to listen to, but also we explain some important grammar and vocabulary for each song. You’ll also get pronunciation tips and a bunch of challenges to test your German. Put your headphones on and press play.
Beginner German Playlist, Explained
Kaltes klares Wasser — Malaria!
The West German post-punk group Malaria! was part of the music genre Neue Deutsche Welle in the ’80s.
Vocabulary: Body parts: Hände (hands), Schultern (shoulders), Schenkel (thighs), Gesicht (face), Brust (breast), Beine (legs), Augen (eyes)
Grammar: The title Kaltes klares Wasser, which is a phrase sung over 20 times throughout the song, shows that German adjectives agree with the noun in the indefinite form. It’s das Wasser, which means it’s kaltes klares Wasser.
Pronunciation Tip: Listen closely to Wasser. Can you hear that the last syllable er sounds more like ah? Sing along a couple of times!
Challenge: Can you extend the title by coming up with more adjectives to describe “water”? How many can you think of? Remember that they should all end in -s.
Nur geträumt — Nena
Nena is mostly famous for 99 Luftballons, which was also a worldwide hit in its English version “99 Red Balloons.” Nur geträumt was the first single from the same album, and it also has an English version. But it didn’t quite make it in the English-speaking world.
Vocabulary: Words to express feelings: verwirrt (confused), verrückt (crazy), allein (alone), ärgern mich (are annoying me), geträumt (dreamt)
Grammar: The present perfect tense: Ich hab’ heute nichts versäumt, denn ich hab’ nur von dir geträumt. This tense is the most common to talk about the past in German. Can you hear any more examples in the song?
Pronunciation Tip: It’s common to shorten verbs in the first person like habe so that it becomes hab’, as we can hear in this song. Werde turns into werd’ and sage into sag‘.This also applies other words: heute to heut’ and es to ‘s (ich werd‘ verrückt wenn’s heut’ passiert).
Challenge: Wovon hast du heute geträumt?
Rock me Amadeus — Falco
No German playlist is complete without this classic Austrian ’80s hit, which reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was the first German-language song to do so.
Vocabulary: Here you’ll get all the words you need to describe an artist of your choice: Superstar, populär, Virtuose, Rockidol, Punker
Grammar: The preterite (simple past) is less common in German than the perfect tense, but this song shows us how it’s used when talking about things that happened long ago. For example, when you’re describing the whereabouts of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Er lebte in der großen Stadt, er hatte Schulden, ihn liebten alle Frauen, etc. We get to hear a bunch of useful irregular verbs in the preterite too: war (was), trank (drank), tat (did), rief (shouted), kamen (came).
Challenge: Which words can you hear that are actually in English, or that are almost the same in English?
Ich bin wieder hier — Blümchen
This is a 1998 cover of Rozalla’s “Everybody’s Free.” This version is performed by Blümchen, the queen of German Eurodance.
Vocabulary: Words and expressions to describe love and feelings: frei wie ein Vogel (free as a bird), Sehnsucht (longing), neugierig (curious), die Sprache des Herzens (the language of the heart)
Grammar: Sorry for bringing up cases, but since you’re learning German, you probably know by now that there’s no escaping that. The sentence Ich bin wieder hier bei dir tells us that bei (by/with) requires the dative case: dir, not dich.
Pronunciation Tip: The ch sound in ich can be tricky to master. You need to close the back of your mouth with your tongue and let air flow through in a soft sh-sound. Start by saying shh, then open your teeth. Try it a couple of times!
Challenge: Blümchen sings Je weiter ich fort von dir flog, umso mehr hat mein Herz protestiert. You use je … umso to express a relationship between two things, as in je günstiger, umso besser (“the cheaper, the better”). Try formulating some relationships you believe in, using je … umso.
So weit wie noch nie — Jürgen Paape
Germany — especially Berlin — is known for its electronic music scene. There is not an awful lot of dance music with German lyrics, but this song from 2010 is a good example of this combination.
Vocabulary: Many useful verbs: hören (hear), fliegen (fly), jagen (hunt), machen (make). And can you guess what Monotonie means? Lots of English words ending in -ny (telephony, symphony, harmony…) are the same in German, but with the ending -nie (Telefonie, Symphonie, Harmonie)
Pronunciation Tip: Listen to the phrase Singen im Raum. Can you hear the s sounding more like an English z? This happens when s comes before a vowel in German. Also, the R in Raum is guttural, which can be tricky to pronounce. Try mimicking the sound of gargling water.
Challenge: The verbs mentioned above are conjugated to go with wir (we). Can you change the lyrics to be in the second person (du)?
Die immer lacht — Stereoact & Kerstin Ott
Vocabulary: Some words for actions and feelings: lacht (laughs), weint (cries), alleine (alone), nicht wie es scheint (not as it seems)
Grammar: Relative pronouns in German are adapted to gender. Where we in English say “who,” you’d have to say der, die, or das in German. Sie ist die Eine, die immer lacht means “She is the one who is always laughing.” If the song was about a man, it would go Er ist der Eine, der immer lacht.
Pronunciation Tip: The word lacht has the typical hard ach sound that is produced in the throat. Try straining the muscles as if you would clear your throat, but then let air flow out instead.
Challenge: The song is describing a woman. Is she happy or sad? What in the lyrics points toward one or the other?
Nein Mann — Laserkraft 3D
Finally time for some contemporary German you can hear in the night clubs of Berlin! This song is about not wanting to leave the club and is in the form of a dialogue between different people and the song’s protagonist.
Vocabulary: Words for talking about going out: Feierabend (when you leave work or a place closes), Bock haben (to feel like something), Barkeeper (bartender), tanzen (dance). Mann and Alter literally mean “man” and “old (man),” which is something you’d call your friend (or enemy, or stranger). They’re also used as general exclamations. Versatile words to say the least, and they need to be learned in context. Like in this song!
Grammar: The song is full of useful little adverbs and fillers like schon, noch, doch, so, mal and wohl. You can hear them in the phrases komm schon (come on), noch ein bisschen (a little bit more), nicht mal was von David Guetta (not even anything by David Guetta) and so on. Their translations vary a lot depending on the context, but you’ll hear them everywhere in modern German. Doch is used to emphasize that you’re the one with the right information: ist doch noch nicht so spät (it’s not that late yet, actually!).
Challenge: Who do you think are the different people trying to convince the guy to leave?
Eisbär — Grauzone
Grauzone was another Neue Deutsche Welle band, but this time from Switzerland. Eisbär was released in 1981.
Vocabulary: The main word in this song is, as you can hear, Eisbär and related words like kalt, Eis and Polar. There are also verbs like schreien and weinen.
Grammar: In German, you use the past subjunctive to express wishes and what it would be like if those wishes came true. …dann müsste ich nicht mehr schreien, alles wäre so klar. In English, this is expressed using “would.”
Pronunciation Tip: English and German have a lot in common phonologically, but sometimes we’re so distracted by the different spellings that we fail to see that. “Ice bear” and Eisbär are pretty much the same words, with the same pronunciation. Have you come across other German words where you’ve recognized the English counterpart?
Challenge: Why does the ich in the song want to be a polar bear?
Du hast — Rammstein
It’s about time for the perhaps most famous German song in the bunch: Rammstein’s 1997 hit Du hast. Also, who doesn’t love a good grammar play on words? Du hasst mich means “you hate me”, but the song goes on to proclaim du hast mich gefragt, which means “you‘ve asked me.”
Vocabulary: The lyrics are sparse, but your takeaway is the perfect participles of fragen (ask) and sagen (say): gefragt and gesagt.
Grammar: This song can help you to remember that fragen takes the accusative case. Don’t be scared now, that just means that you say du hast mich gefragt and not “mir gefragt.” It’s very useful to refer to this song whenever in doubt!
Challenge: Listen closely and look up the lyrics if needed. The answer to a question at 1:40 is nein — but what exactly is the question?
Moskau — Dschinghis Khan
Dschinghis Khan (yes, that’s how you spell Genghis Khan in German) was a disco group created to perform in the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest with a song also titled Dschinghis Khan. This particular song is about Moskau, or Moscow.
Vocabulary: Since the song is describing Moscow, we can hear a lot of adjectives: fremd (strange, foreign), geheimnisvoll (secretive, mysterious), heiß (hot), schön (beautiful). We also encounter nouns like Türme (towers), Seele (soul), Spiegel (mirror), Blut (blood), Gläser (glasses)
Grammar: Türme and Gläser are examples of plural forms with an umlaut. The singular is der Turm and das Glas, respectively. Adding an -e, like in der Turm – die Türme, is the most common way to form plural for masculine nouns, and many of them also take an umlaut. Adding -er is the most common way to form plural for one-syllable neuter nouns, like das Glas — die Gläser. They almost always get an umlaut as well.
Challenge: What does love taste like, according to the song? Listen for the words Liebe and schmeckt.
We hope you learned something and that you’ll go on exploring the vast world of German-language music! We have a longer playlist here, where you can find something you like. After all, we learn better with songs that we would be enjoying even if we weren’t learning a language.