A couple of months ago I reviewed books by Elena Cobb at MusicTeachersHelper.com. It was a pleasure connecting with her and sifting through her colorful books. Since then Elena asked me to spread the news that one of her books, Higgledy Piggledy Jazz, recently underwent some major renovations.
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Review of Original Edition
To fill you in: here are observations I made about her book in my past blog:
“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. [The book] includes 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.
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.”
Click here to view my first, complete review.
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Review of the New Edition
To catch you up: here’s a list of some changes in the latest Higgledy Piggledy Jazz. Congratulations to Elena for producing this revised edition in such a short time!
1) The table of contents is re-formatted for easier reference.
2) Most teaching tips can now be found online instead of at the front of the book.
3) Eliminating colorful illustrations provides more space for larger, more easy-to-read staff notation. This omission results in a much less cluttered appearance and keeps the book appropriate for any age.
4) Formatting the same piece over two pages with fewer finger and counting cues provides a cleaner look.
5) Improvising within the blues framework is a standard tradition. In this new edition room to create within scale patterns is included in one of the selections. As Elena states, “spontaneity is in the heart of Jazz, is it not?”
6) Less staff instructions–counting numbers and fingering–make staves cleaner and easier to read. I liked the color-coding of dominant chords but this does not appear consistently throughout the book.
7) The level-range indicated on the front cover has increased from levels 1-3 to levels 1-4. Leveling a book is subjective and completely up to the composer/publisher. I would hold off using this book with students until they are well-equipped with reading rhythms including 8th notes and strong hand independence. Teaching some selections by rote may be a possibility since a CD is available.
In case you need a visual/audio sample, here’s a delightful rendition of a Higgledy Piggledy Jazz selection. Enjoy.
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Elena has offered two books to give away. In order to qualify for the drawing, leave a comment below about how you use jazz-inspired music with your students or how you are interested in doing so in the future.
In case you don’t win and want to purchase one, you can find Elena’s music books at Sheet Music Plus.
Winners will be announced one week from today, so hurry and enter soon!