Monday, March 14, 2011

Review of "Cool Songs for Cool Kids"

“PLAY IT AGAIN!” That was my daughter’s first reaction after hearing me play some of the songs from" Cool Songs for Cool Kids " by Jerald Simon. This fun spiral bound book contains 21 original piano solos that are very appealing because of their use of syncopation, engaging rhythms and repeating patterns. Many of the songs sound a lot more challenging than they are to play and would make nice showy recital selections. The book includes a nice variety of upbeat styles including jazzy, bluesy, rock, “New-ageish” with a few mellow songs added in as well.

What level is this book suitable for?

Although a motivated “beginner” may be able to play some of the songs after some dedicated practice I think this book is more suitable for early intermediate/ intermediate students. The syncopated rhythms and frequent hand shifts in many of the songs may pose a challenge for the typical beginner student.

Do the songs have kid appeal?

Go listen and you be the judge! (Cool Songs for Cool Kids) As a teacher I found it especially helpful that the music motivation website includes a full recording of all of the songs in this book on his website as well an excerpt of the sheet music from the first lines of each song. When I first listened to the song samples I knew this would be an especially great book for the boys and teens in my studio but the girls like it too.

What about pedagogical elements?


The beginning of the book includes a 5 page overview of theoretical concepts contained in the book including a basic introduction/ review of rhythm, pentascales, melodic and harmonic intervals, triads, swing 8ths, blues pentascale. I think the explanations are oriented more towards a teen or adult student as a child might find them a bit wordy and need extra clarification from their teacher.


I like using the first song “Five, Four, Three, Two,One… BLAST OFF!” as a transposition exercise. It’s definitely more exciting to play than Hanon or scales and is a great aid to helping students get the “feel” all of the different 5 finger patterns in a fun way.

Feeling the Beat

Even my preschooler loves the way the songs sound in this book. When she heard me previewing the book, she was begging me to play some of them again so she could dance to the steady beat. I decided to have her join me on the bench for some steady beat “duets.” “Beat-cha to it” and “Deep Sea Diving” with repeating C’s in the bass throughout were the perfect avenue for her to practice playing a steady beat while I played the melody.


“Lefty” which is written entirely for the left hand, provides a nice springboard for a lesson on jazz improvisation where the student can add their own right hand part.

Rhythm Skills

Often I find that after my students have been introduced to a new rhythm concept they could benefit from more practice than just passing off the lesson/technique book songs. The songs in Cool Songs for Cool Kids are full of interesting and challenging rhythm patterns including dotted notes, eighth rests, accents to help students better refine their rhythm skills.

Free Scales and Drills pdfs
The free downloadable pdf files available on the music motivation site are an extra bonus. They include "Knee Slappers" (Rhythm Drills), Pentascales, Barrel House Blues Patterns, Chord Progressions, etc.

I definitely feel lucky to have been chosen as a winner of the giveaway for this book a few months ago. It's been a great addition in my studio!
Next on my wish list from the music motivation site is "Variations on Mary Had a Little Lamb." It sounds like an entertaining way to teach about music styles!