Monday, August 15, 2011

Cool Songs for Cool Kids 2 Review

The "cool" songs in this intermediate level book by Gerald Simon have a sort of "Jon Schmidt style", but are a little more accessible to earlier piano grade students for those students who want to impress their friends with "hard-sounding" songs and have some fun in the process.
The first few pages of the book include a helpful theory overview of intervals (including augmented and diminished), swing style 8ths, the blues pentascale & L.H. barrelhouse blues, polka and rocking 5th patterns. Although the explanations might be a bit wordy for younger students, I like the framework provided that could act as a great springboard for further improv and composition for creative students.
As a teacher one of the things I find appealing are the relatively short length of the songs. The songs are just 1 or 2 pages with repetitive themes in different octaves and many repeating rhythm patterns. Most songs could easily be mastered in just 1 week. They would make a great "energizer" for busy teens if interspersed between regular lesson assignments.
The rhythm patterns are easily understood and the counts are written in for the first few measures of each song. Most songs include syncopated eighth note rhythms.
The book includes a good variety of pop moods/styles, from energized boogie, pop rock and polka songs like"Gigabyte Guru" and "Chillaxing" to relaxing new age, dreamy songs like "Wishful Thinking" and "Sweet Serenity." The music motivation site includes a full recording of nearly every song which is useful for both previewing to determine students level of interest in the book or listening prep activities to enable more successful mastery of the songs.

I mainly use this as a supplementary book, because the songs are fun to play and and can make great motivators, especially for the teenage students and boys. The songs in Book 2 are just a bit more challenging than Book 1 and require a comfortable octave hand stretch. Several include bass 1 8va ostinato patterns, walking bass, key signatures up to 2 sharps and 4 flats, triplets, syncopated accents, grace notes and glissandos.

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