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Cool Beans: Violin Duets

£14.95

21 character duets for pupil and teacher.

Cool Beans is an eclectic mix of 21 character duets composed by Celia Cobb and Naomi Yandell. The pieces draw on a wide range of moods, styles and playing techniques, and young string players will enjoy exploring and performing them with their teachers.

The duets in Cool Beans are designed to encourage excellence in both technical and performance skills, as well as build confidence in ensemble playing from an early stage. Each book comes with a separate pupil’s part, for ease of reading, as well as a full score.

CONTENTS

  1. Simon Says
  2. Marble Run
  3. Mind the Gap
  4. After the Storm
  5. On the Go
  6. Shut That Door!
  7. Watch Out (for the REALLY SCARY MONSTER)
  8. Pedal Power
  9. Shiver Me Timbers
  10. Jiggery-Pokery
  11. Lament
  12. Matchday March
  13. Tango Waltz
  14. Cool Beans
  15. Boat Song
  16. Road Trip
  17. Welly-Boot Hoedown
  18. Los dos amigos
  19. Mix It Up
  20. Bark Double (with apologies to Johann Sebastian)
  21. Museum Piece

Following 2021’s Top Banana (reviewed July 2022), Celia Cobb and Naomi Yandell have produced another volume of duets for string players. Cool Beans offers ‘21 character duets for pupil and teacher’ and, as with its predecessor, the pieces range from simple tunes comprising open strings and basic fingerings (equivalent to around ABRSM/Trinity Grade 1) to more complex syncopated rhythms, tonalities and position changes (bordering on around grades 2–3).

Cool Beans is available for violin, viola and cello, and each copy comes with a solo pupil part as well as a score with a duet part for the teacher or suitable partner. I enlisted the help of a cellist friend to play through the cello version, as we swapped between pupil and teacher parts throughout the book. While its contents shine with the range of styles, notation and techniques that are introduced gradually for the pupil, the teacher duet parts provide consistent support, with accompaniments that act as musical and harmonic scaffolding. They were also satisfyingly rich to play (not to mention a good test of my sightreading – a useful strategy for any teachers who may need extra motivation to inspire children on those early Monday mornings).

The Practice Notes included at the back of each book are particularly useful. Three bullet points illustrate the aims of each piece, as well as offer hints and a glossary of unfamiliar words or notation. Most teachers will provide notes for their pupils in a class; however, these notes can also be an easy reference for pupils, their parents and practice supervisors away from lessons. Let’s face it – kids forget everything you tell them anyway.

Cobb and Yandell’s love of analogies and storytelling is clear even from the piece titles, such as ‘After the Storm’, ‘Watch Out (for the REALLY SCARY MONSTER)’ and ‘Tango Waltz’, which suggest specific styles, images and moods to pique students’ interest. And what a range of styles. ‘Simon Says’ provides a call-and-response copycat song illustrative of its name, while ‘Mind the Gap’ introduces 5/4 metre featuring a cavernous crotchet rest on the fourth beat of the bar, with the suggestion ‘you might find it useful to say “shh” in each rest’ offered in the Practice Notes.

These books provide an injection of fresh repertoire for young string players, which will be a useful addition to any teacher’s arsenal and come in handy in many situations. It could be something fun with which to end the lesson away from exam syllabus repertoire, a performance piece for a studio recital, or a showcase of the power of musical storytelling, under the guise of gradually introduced techniques, notations and styles. The keys are the same over the violin, viola and cello parts, so the books could be used for mixed ensemble classes, or even between pupils of differing levels if you have students advanced enough to take the accompaniment line. Unfortunately, there is no double bass edition as yet.

All in all, this is a varied, vibrant and versatile collection of works to incorporate ensemble playing into beginner lessons – something certainly relished by teachers and students this side of the pandemic.

DAVINA SHUM, The Strad – May 2023

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