To my thinking, the explosion in songbooks with play-along recordings is fantastic. They are a major step forward in learning music naturally, and are a tremendous asset to the teacher when used properly.
Play-Along Books for Beginners
Standard of Excellence: Taking America by Storm! (method book)
Standard of Excellence is a band method which features the option of play-along recordings, and includes a workbook for music theory & history. If your child is using this in band, I recommend getting the play-along recording. These accompaniments can really crack the whip on students, while providing important problem-solving tools.
The Theory/History book is good for classroom use, but students studying privately should look to something more powerful, like the Master Theory Workbook (Kjos Publishing).
Play-Along Books for Intermediate Students (2-3 years)
Dowani Multi-Tempo Play-Alongs - How many things in your household can you honestly claim to be from Lichenstein? Well, here's the pefect thing to start your collection. These collections feature CD accompaniments at three different tempos. Most accompaniments are piano, but orchestral works have an orchestral accompaniment for the full-speed version. There are three different student folios each for clarinet and flute players.
Band Jam: A Great Introduction to Pop & Rock Music - This fine offering from Hal Leonard features exciting, accurate accompaniments and well-written melodies to classics like Born to Be Wild, Twist & Shout, Wild Thing, YMCA and other timeless standards. (yes folks, YMCA has become a standard) Books are published for a number of different instruments, and CD accompaniments ensure good pitch for young players.
Why I love Band Jam:
Classic, familiar tunes with stylistically accurate accompaniments
The reliable pitch, direct access and physical durability of CD's to play with
Well written melodies that are fun and give kids a real rhythmic workout. (with a guide melody softly but accurately played on the CD)
Other great Hal Leonard playalongs include Rock Jam, Jazz & Blues, Hymns to the Master, Dixieland Jam, Christmas Classics and Favorite Movie Themes. Search for them by title on Hal Leonard Online under the category of "Percussion & Solo Instrumental."
The Music of Henry Mancini plus one - One of Warner Brothers' latest offerings in this field provides a more melodic path to follow. Beautiful songs both familiar and unfamiliar are a great showcase for one of America's favorite composers, and for the more expressive side of a player's sound. Songs and accompaniments are accurately written and provide a fun way to improve counting and phrasing skills.
Easy [inst.] Solos or Duets: A Home Music Lab - Published in the 1960's by Amsco, this book features easy solos with piano accompaniment plus an optional second (duet) part for a like instrument. The individual parts also work well for duets even with no piano accompaniment. And now, newer versions of the book come with a 33rpm soundsheet that contains accompaniments and duet parts to 15 of the 45 songs. (Music Minus One sells accompaniments to all of the songs on its Easy Solos Vol.1 series)
But the best feature of this series by far is the fact that the same book is published for flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet and trombone. All of the same songs are in the same concert keys, and the different parts can interface with each other. Great for musical families.
Material in this book leans towards old standards and light classics, but it's a great forum for a younger player to get started on his/her own.
Play-Along Books for Advanced Students
Jazz and Blues: A Great Introduction to Jazz - Leave it to the guys at Hal Leonard outdo themselves again in the play-along category. This book features 14 jazz standards complete with chord changes and sample jazz solos that you can try. Try your hand at basic numbers like Moonglow or Fever, hit the mainstream with something like Fly Me to the Moon, or dive into bebop with A Night in Tunisia or Yardbird Suite. Just visit Hal Leonard's Website and do a search under "Percussion & Solo Instrumental."
Master Solos (Intermediate Level) - Hal Leonard has redone this venerable series with CD demos and accompaniments. Clarinet, saxophone and flute students can learn some fine classical pieces both by hearing them beautifully performed, and by playing along with the recorded accompaniment. Virginia students can take them to their district Solo & Ensemble Festival. All selections are VBODA Grade III.
Dowani Three-Tempo Playalongs - In addition to their student folios, Dowani produces some excellent play-alongs of standard literature. I have personally test-driven Carl Maria Von Weber's Clarinet Concerto in F-minor. It's great. Each set runs about $20 US currency, and the company is set up to do business with people in the US. This company offers a wide variety of products for a wide variety of instruments, and I like the products that I've seen so far.
Peters Edition "Music Partner" Playalongs - These are for the more serious advanced student, as they are partners to the world-famous Peters Editions of classical repertoire published in Hamburg, Germany. These folks may be difficult to get with, because their website is in German only. It might be possible to order them through a music store that can order Peters Edition sheet music.
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