Is There Such a Thing as a Hip Theory Book?

Nothing captures my attention more than creativity. Ok, nothing captures my attention more than clever creativity. Well, how ’bout, nothing captures my attention more than consistently clever creativity. Bonus? Consistently clever, creative and hip too!

That’s what TCW or “Three Cranky Women” (yes that’s what they call themselves) have done with theory/piano teaching materials since 1993. I was attracted to their unique games years ago and continually add more to my ever-growing collection. Like I said–I am an easy target for consistently clever creativity, especially when it is hip AND enhances my students’ music education.

They don’t look too cranky to me…

TCW’s products are now published by Kjos and one of their newest releases is a revised version of a theory book called Theory Gymnastics Accelerando 2. I own other TCW theory book publications and have admired them but not used them with my students for various reasons. However, I plan to use this one as a jump start for tweeners, teens, transfers and adults who need a boost or for those preparing for festival theory tests or AP theory courses. Each page students learn through one-of-a-kind written exercises–more like games–with clever slants and levels of difficulty.


What You Will Find:

1) Comprehensive Curriculum: Count on TCW to include systematic units that cover basic theory knowledge. If a student feels confident with all the content of this book, it will serve them well for a lifetime.

2) Variety: Twenty-one units are offered from Time Signatures, to Inversions, to Form, to Music History, to…The authors state that each unit can be prescribed in any order at the teacher’s discretion. This variety encourages teachers to shift to various concepts as needed and keeps learning fresh.

3) Level-Based Modification: The beauty of the book is the distinct pages found within each unit.

  • Discover Pages: offer an introduction to concepts by the very stylish “Dr Emma Jean Yuhs”
  • Practice Pages: provide ample room to try out newly learned concepts
  • Challenge Pages: if you sense a student knows the stuff but could use a review this will provide an adequate test
  • Thinker Pages: just in case a student seems overly confident, here’s one more challenge round to ensure comprehension
  • Review pages: ideal for the end of a session, term or after the entire book has been completed
  • Listening pages: it is intended that these pages be used throughout the course of the book. Free audio clips are offered online–I’m always happy to see online resources as I offer a lab with my lessons.

4) Teacher Guide and Answer Key: THIS alone is worth its weight in gold as the authors provide “Cranky Hints” for each unit. These are not mere hints, the host of activities provide ample group lesson plans and qualify as exciting summer camp curriculum! Besides the hints, the book includes lists of suggested music for listening, an answer key for the Accelerando 2 theory book AND reproducible theory and ear training tests. If you own games of TCW they describe how and when to correlate their games with various units. However, they share many games that you can make at home, too. One of my favorites: Bowling for Key Signatures—an entirely new way to use old soda cans!

What You May Miss:

It would be hard to think of something to miss in this series. The three “cranky” women of  TCW are teachers and it is obvious that each page, each activity, each game has been tested and approved by their own students.

Perhaps the only drawback is the price and size of the book–$19.95. However, the contents, the pedagogically sound sequencing of concepts, the illustrations, and the fun factor offer a terrific value.  Using the newsletter template at your MusicTeachersHelper account, copy a link to this blog if you wish to provide parents more information on their investment.  As stated before, the Teacher Guide and Answer Key is a bargain at $14.95 and is worth purchasing even if you do not choose to use the correlating theory book.

Creative, yes, clever, yes, consistent, yes AND hip too. Check out  Theory Gymnastics Accelerando 1 or 2 and all TCW’s products for yourself.

Click here to see how I use their Music Money in my studio.

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]


  1. Emily

    We love TCW stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to find everything though. There is a new website called and they sell everything TCW has! It’s run by two women who have used all the products in group and private theory classes. Hooray!

  2. Leila Viss

    Nice, thanks for sharing, Emily!

  3. lorna

    Workshop In A Box is a wonderfully, creative teaching tool, inspiring students and teachers alike!!!!!