A couple Jazz book reviews (and giveaways!)

I had the opportunity to review a couple of Elena Cobb’s jazz books, Higgledy Piggledy Jazz (Book 1) and Blue River.

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I’ll start with Higgledy Piggledy Jazz. Just the title alone makes me smile and gets my curiosity peaked of what I might find inside. The cover of the book says that it is for “inexperienced pianists who have plenty of enthusiasm between Grades 1-4.” For your typical U.S. methods I would say it would be a comfortable start with students in level 2B and up. The book includes a delightful CD which is recorded by a live jazz band. The CD includes recordings at slow and fast tempo, with and without solo parts. While the CD makes a very fun accompaniment, it can easily enjoyed on its own.

Higgledy Piggledy Jazz begins with a super cute piece called “Super Duck”. This piece is very catchy and begins with a simple 5th/6th interval bass line. The CD accompaniment even includes a duck sound that made me laugh right when I heard it. Students MUST try playing with the CD so they can play along with the fun trumpet solo! The next piece is “I ate all the choc’late” (something many of us can relate to, I’m sure…). It includes a nice walking bass line and another solo opportunity. The great things about these solo opportunities is someone can join in on the fun OR it’s the perfect opportunity for improvising. A fun idea is to play it the first time how it’s written then the second time improvise on the solo part.

Following the chocolate piece (I’m craving chocolate now…) is “You Tell Me Why I Wait for Christmas”. The bass line is back to the 5th/6th interval patterns. This piece has a nice and simple rock groove that allows for some more improvisation opportunities if you aren’t using the CD. That is one thing you will find a lot in this book- many opportunities to step out of the box and get creative! “Nerdy Cat’s Twist” (don’t you love these names?) has a classic feel. The tempo description at the beginning says “groovy” and it is just that. I absolutely adore the accompaniment for “Blues for Little People”. This is a very bluesy piece. “Time to Catch a Train” is a nice up tempo piece. Very light “tap dance” style. Funny thing…I first played these pieces without the CD and had thought about the tap dance style before I heard the accompaniment. What do you know? The accompaniment has that “tap dance” sound to it! “Polka Butterfly” is another must play with the CD accompaniment. This is another up tempo, very fun- polka style piece.

I love the layered chords in “Higgledy Piggledy Jazz”. I also enjoy the variation on the bass lines. This is a cute piece and the covers name sake. Following that piece is “Peony Pink”. With this piece a couple visuals come to mind. First riding in a pink convertible with the top down on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Perhaps there are peony’s covering the ground. Another visual I had was walking along on a lightly rainy afternoon with a pink umbrella and splashing puddles. There is a character change that is a little unexpected and then it resumes right back. The last piece, “Take Three” is a lovely jazz waltz. I enjoyed the accompaniment in this one. It sounded like a jazz or flamenco guitar which I really enjoy hearing. Very relaxing.

The first four pieces in this book included colored chords when the chord harmonies changed. I really appreciate this and would be very helpful with students. Several pieces also include some fun lyrics.

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Blue River is intended for the intermediate-Advanced level pianists. The first piece of this book is its namesake, “Blue River”. This piece has lots of triplets which is one of my favorite things to play in jazz music. I love triplets! Following this piece is “Star Dust”. I immediately felt transported back in time almost as if I had memories in that time, but I had never been.

“Cloud Seven, Latin” is a fun rhythmic piece with a latin feel. I really enjoyed “Mrs.  VanDerBlond”. This piece had several different moods, very charismatic and fun with my favorite- triplets! The last piece in the book was also one I really enjoyed, “Pearls and Blues”. I really enjoyed the tremolos. This piece was in true blue style. I could totally picture a lady singing by the piano in long beautiful pearls working the music.

As you can see from many of my descriptions above that the pieces from Higgledy Piggledy Jazz and Blue River are not only aurally appealing and fun to play, but Elena’s music naturally encourages the player and/or listener to use their imagination, visually creating characters within, even creating a story perhaps. Both are full of rich color and textures that can be enjoyed over and over. You can listen to all the pieces in her books on her website. If you haven’t tried Elena’s music yet, it is a must!

I always find it fascinating on how compositions, products, etc… come to be so I wanted to share a little bit about Elena and how everything came about including her teaching philosophy…

Background: Elena Cobb is a classically trained pianist and teacher and right now sharing her time between teaching piano at a 450 year old public school in England, and writing music. Because Higgledy Piggledy Jazz tunes were very popular she had written a musical ‘Higgledy Piggledy Jazz, or the Importance of Being Happy’ with a sold out premiere earlier this summer. (Molly Spencer is a little girl who lost her father in a traffic accident and now she is unable to walk. There is nothing physically wrong with Molly and all she needs is to be happy to be able to walk again. With the help of the Doctor Nerdy Cat, Super Duck and Mrs Van Der Blond, she visits magical Cloud Seven to see the Star Dust and to find her happiness.)

Philosophy: Elena expressed that she wants children to feel like stars. “I believe that a child who is stuck in front of the note which he, or she does not understand, is an unhappy child.” Her jazz inspired ‘Higgledy Piggledy Jazz’ series of interactive books (piano, alto sax and classical guitar ensemble) and ‘Blue River’ for piano were born out of the idea of giving her pupils an opportunity to perform with the real Jazz band, or to play along the CD with the live Jazz band recording. “I also wanted to communicate a message that classically trained pianists, sax players and guitarists can improvise and now I receive messages from teachers who write to me saying that they have transposed their favorite scores for the school band, or ensemble and they are having fun. And this is exactly my point!” Elena’s pupils are also frequent guests on the local BBC Radio playing, or singing live.

I asked Elena how she came up with the title, Higgledy Piggledy Jazz. She said, “I wrote this music for kids, and kids in heart. That is why it is ‘Higgledy Piggledy Jazz’ – not too grown up and ‘high brow sophisticated’. The title from one of my tunes in the book (nr 8), sits really well with the triplets, please clap along: ‘Hi-ggle-dy, Pi-ggle-dy Jazz!’ . (See sample score below) Trust me when I say that it is so much easier to master playing these chords when saying these ‘magic’ words! And I think I am more comfortable in thinking about my music as ‘Jazz inspired’.”
8. HP Jazz Piano p1

Elena has offered to give a copy of one of her pieces found in her Book Blue River, Star Dust to everyone!  Just head on over to her blog to download. Thanks Elena!

In addition Elena has offered to give 3 readers the chance to win one of the following books below:

~ ‘HP Jazz for piano with a play-along CD’

~ Blue River for piano

~ Download option of Blue River

To enter leave a comment on which book you would like most and why. For an extra entry like FPSResources AND Higgledy Piggledy Jazz on Facebook. Be sure to leave a separate comment saying you did so. Deadline to enter is by Monday, August 5th 10:00pm (mountain time).   (*Winner MUST respond within 72 hours of announcement or another winner will be chosen*) The winner will be announced on this blog and on the FPSResources Facebook page by Tuesday, August 6th. Be sure you subscribe to the blog and like FPSResources on the Facebook page so you don’t miss out seeing if you are a winner!   GIVEAWAY HAS EXPIRED
Disclaimer:  I received both books in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Tech Tuesday: Virtual Music Conferences

Last month I blogged about the Virtual Music Education Conference that is coming up. Shortly after that I found out that there is another one coming early 2014 from MusicEdConnect.

I’m excited to see virtual conferences becoming available for music teachers as it opens up so many possibilities. Teachers who haven’t been able to attend conferences in person now have the opportunity to attend online.  The beauty of these types of conferences is you can watch the presentations when you are available, in the comfort of your own home. The financial obligations in attending a virtual conference is substantially lower since there is no travel, lodging or food expenses.

If you missed the post on the upcoming Virtual Music Education conference, be sure to click here to read more. And don’t delay on purchasing your “ticket” because June 30th is the last day to purchase. The conference begins in 3 days!!! Even though this particular conference is geared towards Music Education teachers I have found the ideas are still relevant to my piano studio. I incorporate music ed ideas into my teaching all the time. So I’m looking forward to hearing the presenters. I’m really looking forward to hearing from Barbara Freedman- technology guru; Kalani- drum circle guru (I’ve always wanted to participate in one of his drum circles) and even Anthony from the “Wiggles” is participating. Looking forward to what he has to say.

I’m looking forward to hearing more about the MusicEdConnect conference as well.

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Don’t forget tonight is the deadline to enter the Ear Training Tip eBook giveaway!

101 Ear Training Tips for the Modern Musician (eBook review and giveaway)

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101 Ear Training Tips for the Modern Musician by Christopher Sutton is an eBook that includes 101 tips and suggestions to help you develop your musical ear. It is designed as a simple “coffee style” book giving 101 quick tips and advice that students can incorporate daily. This can be used as daily use for students or by going to whatever topic you want to find a tip for. Most of the tips are activity based.

Because this is an eBook, one unique feature is being able to share favorite tips with others. You can share the tips on Facebook, Twitter, email, etc…

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To get a better feel for what you will find in this eBook I thought I would share a tip for each subject.

Examples found in 101 Ear Training Tips for the Modern Musician:

Music Appreciation tip: “A nice way to learn about the various instruments of the orchestra is to listen to a piece of music called ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’ by Benjamin  Britten. The piece of music was written specifically to highlight each instrument in the orchestra. It’s a real good way to focus in on the different orchestra sections (strings, woodwind, etc) and listen to the effects they can produce. You don’t have to be ‘young’ to learn something from this piece- it’s great for all ages.”

Practice tip: “Play a musical memory game with your friends: Player A has to sing one note. Player B repeats that note and adds a second one. Player A then has to sing notes one and two and add a third note and so on. You can vary the game in many ways. Each player could sing one beat (in 4/4 for example), so they could choose to sing a crotchet, or two quavers, or whatever they choose…”

Active Listening tip: “Always keep an ear open for noises which have a musical tone. It may sound strange, but does your fridge hum a particular note? Or your doorbell chime a particular interval? Whenever you hear a noise which is steady enough to be called a ‘note’ (i.e. you could sing it), try to keep in it your head and then find out what the note actually is. Every day practice for absolute pitch!…”

Audiation tip: “Take some time to create a short melody in your head. ‘Hear’ the starting note and then let the melody develop. Don’t sing it yet. Once you’ve got it clear, ‘listen’ to the melody in your mind and apply the same listening skills you have been practicing with recordings to work it out. Maybe it just moves in steps or maybe there are larger intervals.”

Intervals tip: “…it’s also fun to test yourself in more casual listening situations that occur all the time. For example, say you hear a jingle on TV that’s only a few notes. Take a second to identify the intervals, and check yourself on your instrument. Not only will this help to make your interval recognition more reflexive, but you’ll remember the jingle next time you’re trying to sing that interval!…”

Chords tip: “Seventh chords are great for adding tension, because the extra leading tone always wants to resolve. They’re generally used in jazz and blues, but they can be applied to any style of music. Try swapping in a seventh chord right before you resolve your progression–it’ll give it an entirely different feel!”

Relative Pitch tip: “Bored of naming intervals and singing scales to train your ear? Try improvising on your instrument, but sing along as you play. This will help you connect your sense of relative pitch to your instrument and it’s a nice break from more structured exercises.”

Scales and Modes tip: “Every major scale is based on the same pattern of intervals: w w h w w w h. But this isn’t just a handy way of figuring out the sharps and flats that belong in a major scale. Since each mode corresponds to a degree of the major scale, you can easily determine the notes of any given mode in any key, using the same pattern. Say you needed to quickly determine the notes in an E Aeolian scale. We know that Aeolian corresponds with the sixth degree of the scale, so simply start counting the pattern of intervals from the sixth position. You’ll find a new pattern of w h w w h w w. Count up from E with this interval pattern and you’ll have your mode! Each of them has their own pattern, based on the original Ionian but starting at a different position on the scale.”

Rhythm tip: “Take a score of music that is new to you and which looks like it has tricky rhythms in it. Ignore the pitch of the notes, and focus on the rhythm. With your left hand, tap the pulse, or main beat- so if the piece is in 4/4, your left hand will tap four steady crotchets (quarter notes). With your right hand, tap out the rhythm, keeping your left hand going at the same time. For a bigger challenge have your right hand tap the pulse while your left hand taps the written rhythm.”

Improvisation tip: “Keep your ear training in perspective by finishing every practice with an improv session, focusing espeically on using intervals and patterns you worked on that day. They’ll feel more natural than they used to, and working them in with your playing technique will be a good indication of your progress. There’s nothing more encouraging than hearing your hard work pay off in your playing, so wrap up a set of exercises with some jamming to leave you feeling confident and looking forward to next time.

Playing by ear tip: “Listen out for patterns in music- or you may find yourself slowly working on a new phrase only to realize it is a phrase you played earlier. It may just be that this time there is a slight variation…”

Singing tip: “Before sight reading or singing a melody, there are a few steps you can take to make it easier to tackle accurately: Determine the key and meter, then glance over the range for an idea of what octave to tart in. Then look it over for repeating phrases, rhythms, and motifs, so you’ll have a preliminary concept of how the melody sounds. Now take a second to identify the tricker intervals and rhythms that string these melodic ideas together and practice them in your head a few times. Silently read the melody from start to finish one more time, now that you understand how it works…”

General tip: “Set yourself achievable goals. This could be anything from passing an exam, to performing in public or simply making it to bar 30 with no mistakes. Most people are motivated more when they have a clear goal they’re trying to achieve…”

As you can see from the ear training tip examples, 101 Ear Training Tips for the Modern Musician has a lot of potential in the studio and at home. All the tips included are tips that can be immediately applied and most don’t take a lot of time to do. Many incorporate day to day activities such as the interval tip example. 101 Ear Training Tips for the Modern Musician is a great addition for those who want to improve their ear in an enjoyable and natural process.

Be sure to check out the Ear Training Store where you will not only find several more ear training eBooks but also an ear training album and iOS apps!

Now for the fun part! Christopher has offered 20% off to all my readers and will giveaway 1 copy to one lucky reader! To take advantage of the discount just click here.

To enter just leave a comment below on how you use ear training in your studio. For an extra entry like Easy Ear Training on Facebook and then come back and let me know you did! Deadline to enter is by this Tuesday, July 23rd 10:00pm (mountain time).  (*Winner MUST respond within 72 hours of announcement or another winner will be chosen*) The winner will be announced on this blog and on the FPSResources Facebook page by Wednesday, July 24th. Be sure you subscribe to the blog and like FPSResources on the Facebook page so you don’t miss out seeing if you are a winner!

Disclaimer:  I received this eBook in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Tech Tuesday: Isle of Tune app and giveaway!

Every once in a while I run across an app that is so exciting because it is so out of the box! Isle of Tune takes composition and creativity to a whole new level.

Designed by Jim Hall, the iPad app is based off of the isle of tune game online where you can build a “musical” city. You start out by creating streets which ultimately serve as your “staff”. The cars will eventually drive to to play the music. In addition, you can move the direction you want the cars to “play” in. (Think repeats, coda’s, etc…) You can add up to 8 cars, setting each one at a different tempo if desired. You can even add in road delays (ie: rhythm values) before a car begins to drive. Street lamps and houses create rhythm “drum kit” style sounds and the trees and pot of flowers create the keyboard pitches. When you hover over these items you will find that you can change the rhythm or note pitch and actually create a fun composition.

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To get a real good feel of what it is here is a quick demo of what it does and how to create!

One of the best parts of this app is being able to see and listen to what others have created and share your creation as well. Some people did original compositions, others made an isle of tune from a popular piece or a fun spin off on twinkle twinkle little star, etc. The beauty of this app is the creative possibilities are absolutely endless!  Here are a couple YouTube examples of some awesome creations!

Michael Jackson’s Beat It-

Clocks by ColdPlay-

I don’t know about you, but my students will love this. So much so that I’m not sure they will want to go home after experiencing what they can create with Isle of Tune!

The Isle of Tune is now universal which means it is compatible with the iPhone, iPod and iPad and is amazingly only $1.99! Even better- Jim has graciously offered to give away 7 promo codes! Whoohoo!!!

To enter just leave a comment below. Deadline to enter is by this Friday (my birthday!), July 19th 10:00pm (mountain time).  (*Winner MUST respond within 72 hours of announcement or another winner will be chosen*) The winner will be announced on this blog and on the FPSResources Facebook page by Saturday, July 20th. Be sure you subscribe to the blog and like FPSResources on the Facebook page so you don’t miss out seeing if you are a winner!

Disclaimer:  I received this app in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Piano Olympic Event Rules (updated)

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As you know by now I like to hold “Piano Olympics” in my studio every four years. 2014 is our piano olympic year but we start preparing for our events in 2013 and go into 2014, with our final recital and celebration in May. I decided to do a little update on my piano olympic events and rule sheet and thought I would share it for anyone who may be interested in doing piano olympics in your studio.

You can download the event update for free here: Piano Olympic Event Rules or in my store.

Also back in 2010 when I was doing my last piano olympics I wanted to have some sort of written activity workbook that students can work on over the course of piano olympics. Even though I have some of the same students from 4 years ago doing Piano Olympics again this year, I’m sure there will be quite a bit of difference in what they put in their workbooks this time. I’m looking forward to seeing the progress. You can check out a couple sample pages from the workbook here. (Scroll down to Piano Olympics and you will see the link)

I also added a few more activity pages to the workbook. If you had bought the workbook in the past, no worries- I emailed you the updated version. However there are a few emails that bounced so if you are one of these teachers (Amy Hansen, Jane Lester, Cheri Richardson) please contact me so I can get the updated version to you.