Review: Keybop Volumes 1 & 2 (Jason Sifford)

Keybop is a collection of 11 jazzy piano solos by Jason Sifford, available in two volumes for mid- to late-elementary and early intermediate levels. Jason Sifford is a freelance pianist and composer based in Iowa, where he teachers both privately and at college. Volume 1 is likely to suit pianists of Initial to Grade 1 level, whist Volume 2 will suit players around Grade 2-3 level.

The Wriggle Rag by Jason Sifford
Atmosphere from Keybop Volume 1

These books reminded me very much of Pam Wedgwood’s Up Grade series. The composer says that the music is influenced by a variety of jazz and popular styles, from ragtime to blues, rock and modern. Much like Nikki Iles, Jason Sifford also states that the notes printed on the page should be seen as a starting point, and players are very much encouraged develop their own interpretations, particularly in terms of dynamics and articulation, but maybe even rhythm.

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All but one piece in Keybop Volume 1 includes an optional accompaniment, though they can all be played as standalone solos. Keybop Volume 2 contains only solo pieces. Volume 1 contains some useful notes for teachers, whilst Volume 2 contains a short programme note for each piece. One of the things which reminded me of the Up Grade series is that many of the pieces are challenging because of their rhythms. Many pieces in Volume 2 make use of syncopated rhythms, and in Volume 1, there is extensive use of quavers with rests. These are challenges which players of this level should be able to meet, but from personal experience, I find teaching some of the more complex rhythms by ear/rote to be useful.

Lullaby in Blue by Jason Sifford

The music is enjoyable and characterful, though perhaps not groundbreaking. In its favour, many of the pieces are short, often only a page long. The stave size is also quite large, another advantage for pieces and players of this level. One thing which struck me in particular was that each piece had its own character, and pianists will enjoy the challenge of portraying this through their playing.

Predicament from Keybop Volume 2

Overall, there are some imaginative ideas and effective writing. There are so many similar books, I wonder where these will find a place within such a crowded marketplace; however, sometimes we just need some new repertoire, new ideas and a change of pianistic scenery!

These are well worth a look.

[This post contains affiliate links]

Keybop Volume 1 is published by The Willis Music Company (exclusively distributed by Hal Leonard), ISBN 9781705141755, RRP £9.99

Keybop Volume 2 is published by The Willis Music Company (exclusively distributed by Hal Leonard), ISBN 9781705141762, RRP £9.99

I was sent a review copy of these book free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.

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