Sharing the UK Blues

November 16th, 2012 by

One of the unique features of is how it continues to build a growing community of musicians and teachers around the globe. Recently, Elena Cobb--from the UK–contacted me–from the US–via to check out her books. Besides finding a new Facebook friend and fellow teacher across the pond, I’ve enjoyed playing some new music.

Elena is clearly a fan of jazz and the 12-bar blues (yes, this American form made its way overseas) and sees the importance of introducing this standard pattern to early level pianists. Higgledy Piggledy Jazz is packed full of pieces targeted for “inexperienced” pianists while the second book she shared, entitled Blue River, features more intermediate to late intermediate selections. This collection ranges in style from ballad to blues to Latin. Both books include clever, original compositions that fall into the standard blues form. They could serve as supplementary repertoire or provide great material for a studio jazz–themed unit.


The Higgledy Piggledy Jazz book features…

1) Ten pieces with a CD of live jazz band recordings.

2) Four tracks of varying tempos of witty arrangements for play-along enjoyment. The CD is great training for building solid rhythmic skills and confidence for future gigs with a “real” band.

3) Color coding (in some pieces) of chord changes to enhance reading security.

4) Colorful, full-page illustrations.

5) A considerable amount of extra staff instructions including fingering, counting numbers, phrase markings and chord symbols.

6) Amusing lyrics to enhance rhythmic mastery.

7) Some helpful and pedagogically sound teaching tips.

8) A generous donation to Theo Lifeline Trust with the purchase of each book.


The Blue River book features

1) Six eclectic piano solos within standard forms with a touch of flair and personality.

2) Challenging later intermediate to early advanced supplementary repertoire.

3) My favorites: Start Dust and Cloud Seven, Latin… click here to listen to samples.


A few things to consider…

1) The Higgledy Piggledy Jazz Book Grades 1-3 includes pieces in a wide range of levels that appear beyond the reach of those who are “inexperienced” as the cover suggests.

2) Most early readers are accustomed to reading from larger notation. The formatting–size of notes, grand staff, extra symbols and teaching hints–varies from piece to piece. Many selections seem “squished” onto a single page which results in a cluttered appearance. This may intimidate early readers.

3) The kid-friendly illustrations and cover description make the Higgledy Piggledy Jazz Book appear suitable for early-level pianists. However, it seems most pieces would be more appropriate for those at an intermediate or at least a more experienced reading level.

4) Tricky rhythms and quick shifts in hand positions may prove to be discouraging to those with limited reading and playing abilities but fun for pianists who need to stretch their rhythmic skills.

5) Although the blues and jazzy edge pervades both books, there seems to be little encouragement for pianists to go beyond the page (a standard jazz characteristic) and improvise original riffs, or patterns over the blues progression.

Elena Cobb has a lovely website showcasing pics of happy students, a thriving studio and books for purchase. It is obvious that her music infused with a fun, jazzy style motivates her pianists. Her books may do the same for your students who need a change from the standard repertoire. I particularly admire the fact that she provides live-band gigs for her budding pianists at what appears to be very hip locations.  I plan to make that a priority for my students in 2013.

A big thank you to Elena for sharing teaching tips, wisdom, inspiration, creativity and your “blues” from the UK!

Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music News, Practicing, Product Reviews, Teaching Tips, Using Music Teacher's Helper

About the Author

Leila Viss
Hi, I'm Leila Viss, pianist, organist, teacher, author of The iPad Piano Studio and blogger at
I enjoy teaching piano to around 45 students ranging in age from 6 to 91. I am drawn to discovering innovative teaching methods and successful practice strategies to encourage the average player stick to the bench for life. Customizing lessons for each student is a priority and therefore... [Read more]

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