Category Archives: Music Reviews

Higgledy Piggledy Jazz and My Piano Trip to London: Reviews

Art Used With Permission of Elena Cobb

Art Used With Permission of Elena Cobb

Sometimes I see music that looks so appealing I just have to review it. This is the case with Higgledy Piggledy Jazz and the beginner book My Piano Trip to London, both by Elena Cobb.

Who is Elena v. Cobb? She is a classically trained and highly experienced pianist, educator, composer and publisher from England.
Elena believes that if a child doesn’t enjoy the music assigned by the teacher, the child is an unhappy student. So she decided to compose jazzy, child-orientated tunes for her piano students to motivate them and inspire them to practice  – and they loved them!
Higgledy Piggledy Jazz for piano is at the late elementary to intermediate level. Besides the adorable title and cover of the book, the pieces have cute names such as Super Duck and I Ate All the Chocolate. If you want background tracks for the music, it’s there on her web store, recorded by a live jazz band. These background tracks make the music come alive for students, and helps them learn to play with a steady beat and not stop and start. The tracks are recorded at different tempos, to assist with learning to play along.  Also on her website you will notice different versions of the book, including versions for alto sax, clarinet ensemble, guitar, and ukulele. 
Art Used by Permission of Elena Cobb

Art Used by Permission of Elena Cobb

 I also want to mention the book My Piano Trip to London. This is a method book for average age beginners that starts with learning the keyboard and progresses to hands together. There are teacher duets for the music and cute illustrations that are not babyish for the older elementary child. As the child progresses through the book, different sites and attractions in London are explored, with music for each one. Is that a cute idea, or what! I especially think this is a good book for teachers in England and the UK. This is an interesting book for teachers in any country who are looking for something different.
Some interesting things about this book is that there are no finger numbers so that the teacher can use whatever works best for the student. Positions vary, so this is not a middle C position book. I’ve noticed in my own compositions that I sometimes have to mark out the fingering that I originally added in the music and change it for a particular student. Maybe I should start leaving off fingering. Teachers are smart enough to add their own!
Two other things I would like to mention about this book is that it uses both UK and North American terms for rhythm, so students will see both quarter note and crochet, for example. For counting, there are both Kodaly syllables and alternate words, and of course, teachers can always use numbers.
The bottom line is that you have probably never seen a book like this! It can be used as a method book as well as a supplemental book to any method. I have a lot of followers in England, and I want to encourage you to check this out for your students!

Elena’s books are available as a traditional music book from Amazon and SheetMusicPlus.  They are also available as digital downloads from her website www.elenacobb.com.  If you buy the digital books, there is an unlimited digital download license available, which means you can print out just what you wish to use. 

Every Friday, Elena offers free resources to the members of her Facebook group ElenaCobb.com Publishing Discussion Group. It includes original scores and exercises published by her company.

Disclosure: This review was my idea and not solicited by the author. I received digital copies of the books for review. Regardless, I only review music and books I believe will be of interest to my readers. The opinions are my own. 

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The Berry Basket: The Story of a Rescued Piano Book

BerryBasket

One of the perks of having my own blog is that I can sit at my computer and ramble on about anything. Today, I’m going to tell you about a little out-of-print piano book I found on the internet.

I’m not sure what sent me to a site on Etsy that sold vintage ephemera, which is a fancy word for old printed collectables.  Somehow I found myself looking through a selection of used vintage piano books the shop was selling to cut up and use for crafts. How sad, I thought, that these old books, once lovingly handed to young children and toted back and forth to piano lessons with the hope that the children would fall in love with piano, are now reduced to being cut up for who knows what.

As I was looking and reminiscing, I came upon a 1953 piano book that looked so charming I had to take a close up look. It was named The Berry Basket, and it had the cutest vintage art on the cover. The seller had some pictures of the inside art (with no mention of the music), and I knew I had to get it.  The price was only $3.00 so I clicked the buy button. In a few days, there it was in the mail, saved from destruction and in the hands of someone who could appreciate it!

The book is written for beginners, and the first pieces are only 8 measures long, with sweet, vintage drawings on every page. Each little piece has simple, child-like lyrics.

I was happy to discover the music is in different 5-finger positions and keys. There are no C position pieces in the entire book!  The lyrics are very simple and childlike, back when young children were more innocent and didn’t know the questionable lyrics of today’s popular music.

Since this is a previously used book, there are markings from the teacher.

“Work out notes H.S. Don’t Guess.”  

“Count.”  

“Slow.” 

Some things never change in piano!

According to the preface, the music and words were written by the Sisters of the Holy Cross attending a music workshop in Salt Lake City, conducted by Bernice Frost, a well-known composer of piano teaching music last century.

I wonder what Bernice Frost said in her workshop that inspired the Sisters of the Holy Cross to compose this music? The preface says the book offers, “… development in the basic requirements of elementary musical training. Foremost among these are ear-training, singing, keyboard range and feel, essential points of technic, and pianistic style.”  Maybe Bernice Frost gave them ideas of all the many things that can be done at a piano lesson besides just playing the music. I like to think so.

Maybe the child who used this book is now a piano teacher in his or her golden years, with hundreds of former students who love piano music! I like to think that, too!

The Berry Basket Published by J. Fischer Bros

The Berry Basket
Published by J. Fischer Bros

 

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Giveaway: ‘Just Because It’s Halloween’ by Susan Paradis

Just-Because-Its-Halloween

You’re probably wondering why I’m posting about a Halloween piece in June. Well, I just got a package in my mail box and it is my new piece, published by Alfred Publishing! This was the first time I had seen the cover,  so you can imagine how exciting it was to open the package! Thank you, Alfred, for the cute cover! I can’t wait to show it to my students!

When I wrote this piece I was thinking about the first Halloween I can remember. I  was three years old,  just about a month before my 4th birthday. It was the first time I had a costume and was going “trick or treating.” My older cousin came walking in the room with his mask on, and it scared me to death! Then my very sweet aunt told me not to be scared, he had on the mask because it’s Halloween! So thankfully, I was not scarred for life and went on to have many fun Halloween nights. These days I get to re-live my childhood when I write Halloween music!

My favorite costume back then was my cowgirl costume, which probably really dates me! Anyone else remember Annie Oakley?

Just Because It’s Halloween is an elementary piece that is very easy to learn if students have some experience with skipping notes. Both hands are in the D minor 5-finger scale position and there are just enough finger numbers to help out if they are not used to that position.  This is a great piece to help a student who is having trouble playing out of middle C position. It a good piece to give a transfer student who needs something fun to work on while you get to know their skills.  There are words for singing along and a teacher duet that is easy enough for an intermediate sibling.

The first and last section feature staccato notes while the middle section is legato. There are plenty of opportunities for your students to add expression and imagination by using forte and piano and “stretching” the beat at the end of the B section.

This is hot off the press, so it’s not widely available yet. If you’re in the Dallas area, Nadine’s Music Manor is stocking it. In Houston, you can get it at Valentine’s House of Music and they also take online orders. I like to support local music stores if you are lucky enough to have one nearby. On the Alfred site, you can see a preview of the music and here is where it is listed on Amazon. Just Because It’s Halloween

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below by Monday, July 7, 2014, at midnight CST telling me your favorite music store to buy Halloween music, either local or online! I’d love to hear from you!

The winner must have a U. S. address and will be randomly selected and announced  after the deadline.  The lucky winner will receive a copy of the sheet music in the mail!

(Comments are moderated, so your comment might not show up immediately.)

[The contest is over and the winner is Patricia in Tucson! Thank you to everyone who entered. I enjoyed reading about where everyone lives and where you buy your music. Thanks for all the congratulations, as I really appreciate all your kind words. This is the first give-away I’ve had on my site and it’s been a lot of fun for me!]

 

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Tasty Tunes by Wendy Stevens

 

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Wendy Stevens has a new book published by Willis Music Company and she shared a copy with me.  Tasty Tunes is an early to mid-elementary book with 10 original pieces all about food.  I know from personal experience that food is definitely one of the top topics for elementary age children. They love to talk about food and make jokes about different food combinations. So why not a music book all about food?

The idea is cute and  the cover is a beautiful color picture of French fries, but what about the music? Well, the music is very nice. There are appealing lyrics to most of the pieces. Children are going to enjoy reading the lyrics and talking about them. Lyrics are a great starting point for playing with style and artistry.  Also, at this level lyrics are used as a tool to learn the rhythm of a piece.

Some of the titles are Macaroni Pizza, Rock ‘n’Roll Rotini, A Pickle Sandwich, French Fries, Ice Cream, and 6 more. Wendy has several children, so I know she was was writing to appeal to them!

Each piece has a different musical style, from folk, to tango, and a rock/boogie sound. Many of the pieces have clever rhythmic ideas that make the melodies fun to play. As the book progresses, the music increases in difficulty, making the book work right along with a method book. I like the fact that several hand positions are included. Use this book with a student in the 2nd book (elementary, often called Book 1) of most method books, after the primer level. The music contains accidentals, all the notes on the grand staff, and no eighth notes.

Wendy has made a clever video to showcase the book. It’s here: http://youtu.be/pzvChm3hYSU

The thing about Wendy’s music is that it is always imaginative. It is hard to compose music appealing to students within the bounds their abilities, yet musically interesting. Wendy was able to accomplish this in Tasty Tunes. I think your elementary students will enjoy this book!

Tasty Tunes (6.99) is published by Willis Music and is available from your favorite music store.

You can visit Tasty Tunes on Wendy’s site to read more and see other places to buy this book.

[Disclosure: Wendy sent me a copy to preview. I am never compensated for my reviews, and the opinions are my own. I only review material I use with my own students.]

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