Music Score Review: Elena Cobb’s “Higgledy Piggledy Jazz”

February 22, 2012

I am always excited to learn more about new music and teaching materials out there to add to my music library and share with my students. So it was great when I received a couple copies of this beautiful music book mailed all the way from England last month.

Mail from England: Beautiful Books and Warm Message from Elena Cobb

This fun piano songbook, “Higgledy Piggledy Jazz”, is a wonderful compilation of short jazzy songs composed by Miss Elena V. Cobb, a piano pedagogue based in England. This book is designed for students of grades 1-3, with five songs for grades 1-2, and another five for grades 2-3.

First of all, the book is beautifully illustrated, by Elena’s artistic sister Nathalie. There is almost one fun and colorful drawing paired with each song. The drawings have certainly raised my students’ attention to this book. One of them even asked me to make a copy of one of the drawings for her to bring home with! (Sorry for making photocopies but we only have a couple copies here!)

Beautiful Book Cover

Colorful Illustrations Inside

So far, my students have tried two songs in this book: “Super Duck” and “I Ate All the Choc’late”. They LOVE them! They think the songs are easy to play and fun sounding. Some of them also like the lyrics (their comment is “silly!” but that just means they love it). Since my students have been introduced to playing swing rhythm before (they love playing Pamela Wedgwood and Martha Mier’s solos and duets), they find it easy to catch up with it in Elena’s music as well.

Another great thing about this book is that it comes with a CD of jazz band tracks for students to play along with. For the first week or two, I introduced to my students the piano solo parts only (which was fun enough for them to play with). After that, I played the jazz band tracks to them: the slow one and then fast one with the piano solos. They listened to them with much interest and excitement. Then, I asked them if they wanted to try playing with the tracks.

Content Page

At first, my students were a bit intimidated (especially the younger ones) since they had never played with a background track like this before (they have played a lot of duets with me but not with music tracks or band sounds like this). What I did was first to let them play with the tracks with piano solos so that they could play along with less intimidation. Then, they would try the tracks with jazz bands only. Some were quick to try it out. It was not easy for them to play along with the tracks. They were used to keeping time on their own, and when it came to very strict pulse (since one had to follow the pulse of the track), it proved to be a little difficult for them (that was good for them to know that they were not keeping strict tempo/rhythm enough all along). But the older kids (ages 9-10) were getting better after a couple rounds; they wanted to play with the jazz band track (which was fascinating for them just to listen to) again and again just to get it right. It was a bit difficult for the younger ones (ages 6-8) to follow the tracks and play with them, both slower or faster ones. However, they enjoyed playing the songs all the same.

As a teacher, I find that the idea of different colorings of various chords great for students to recognize the similarities and differences in the harmony/chord positions. But at this stage I am not sure if they are using this coloring system to identify with the chords or simply find the chords without noticing the differences in colors. The idea of having both slow and fast tracks for each piece is good, but the tempo difference between them is quite big so students find it either too slow to follow to the slow track (metronome marking: 90 in “Super Duck” & 80 in “Choc’late” ) or too fast to the fast track (metronome marking: 140 in both “Super Duck” & “Choc’late”). It would be great if there is yet another track of medium tempo for each song.

Here is Joy Chan playing “Super Duck”:

[qt: 640 360]

Here is Joy again playing “I Ate All the Choc’late”:

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All in all, my students enjoyed the music and the playing experience. A big thank you to Elena for the wonderful book!

(Extra Note: One point worth mentioning is that part of the book sale will go to the Theo Trust Lifeline Charity, a trust that helps the orphans in Russia.

For more information on this book, please go to

Teresa Wong

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