Hot off the press is her latest book for complete beginner pianists entitled “My Piano Trip to London.”
Printed in full colour landscape, the first thing you notice is a sticker page that children will love using when they complete each song.
Each of the 17 songs represents a different London landmark or icon, giving a nice opportunity to engage the pupil in conversation outside music and then to relate it back to the lesson at hand. It’s quite an adventure to embark on with the pupil as you work your way through the book, from the Royal Albert Hall, to the London Eye, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben to mention but a few.
Over the years I’ve seen piano methods that contain lots of detailed instructions and exhaustive advice that quite frankly nobody bothers to read. Elena Cobb has really struck the balance I think in keeping each page clean and simple so that the teacher can do their job but also providing concise facts and tips that will be useful and enjoyable. I laughed to myself when reading the tip on page 19. “# is a sharp not a hashtag!” Just brilliant! It reminded me of a couple of weeks ago in a lesson after I strategically coughed at one of my pupils obvious abuse of the key of G major, she turned to me apologetically and said the immortal words, “Oh sorry! I completely forgot about the hashtag thingy!”
Another nice feature of this new book are all the activities that pupils are encouraged to do directly onto the page. The first task is to write their name, age and date of starting, followed by drawing around each hand then labeling the finger numbers. How nice for them in a number of years, perhaps when they are teaching music and parents themselves, to be able to open up this page and show their own pupils and children!
There are lots of other activities, from writing on a printed keyboard the letter names of the notes to a “spot the difference” colouring page. Pupils are encouraged to draw notes and rests and even compose their own song! Printed on 40 high quality pages, I had no trouble using pen or pencil to make marks. (On another method that I’ve used previously with young pupils, the pages are so glossy that the only way I can make marks is by using a permanent marker!)
At the very end of the book is a “Certificate of Achievement” for signing and dating by the teacher when the book has been completed, providing an excellent goal to motivate pupils.
America v. England!
I don’t know if it’s just me but I find some method books from America rather irritating because they insist on using the American music vocabulary and I’m sure that the same frustration must be felt when American teachers see English method books. Elena Cobb has very cleverly combined both methods of terminology into her book so that whether it’s a “measure” or a “bar” to you, or a “crotchet” or “quarter note,” teachers on both sides of the pond should be very happy.
As a composer of educational music myself, I know only too well what a difficult challenge it is to write songs that sound great and yet at the same time are sufficiently easy enough for beginners. Elena has met this challenge head on by writing catchy little pieces, supported by lots of duet parts, use of repetition and engaging lyrics and titles. There are also a few well known songs, given a little twist here and there in their arrangement! Take a listen here.
A frustration I have with many new music books is the binding. I don’t know about you, but I hate that before you’ve played the first line, the book has snapped shut on you! My pupils and I have had some comical lessons “wrestling” music books. We’ve had clothes pegs, bulldog clips and heavy books everywhere trying to stop their reluctance to open! But Elena Cobb has thought of this too as “My Piano Trip to London” comes spiral bound so it opens straight away with no fuss!
To be honest, the book is really hard to find fault with. A great deal of thought and effort has gone into it. One thing I did notice was that lots of the songs (pupil’s part) have been arranged in the treble clef for both the right hand and the left hand, whereas at this stage of the student’s development, I think I would prefer to see a more even balance of bass and treble clef. But that having been said, this is a challenge inherent with using the duet arrangement and Elena does include lots of songs later in the book with the more traditional mix of treble and bass clef. Also, there is a lack of fingering on the songs but this is a deliberate choice on her behalf and one with which, she explains in the inside cover, is left to the teacher to decide.
When you’ve encountered so many piano method books for beginners over the years, it’s hard to feel excited when you see a new one but this book is exceptional. “My Piano Trip to London” oozes fun and excitement with it’s engaging songs, activities and journey through London concept. The presentation and teaching is first rate and I think this book will quickly become a firm favourite with young students and teachers alike.
What’s next? My Piano Trip to Paris? New York? I eagerly await Elena’s next installment…
For more information about the book “My Piano Trip to London” where you can see a preview of every page, hear recordings of the songs and place orders, click here