STRING RIFFS-Volume One, Two, Three (Gr. Beg.-1.5 String Orchestra with Piano). Karen Koger, Composer/editor/arranger. Karen Koger, Jun, 2014, $49.95 each.


Karen Koger (K.K.) is a cellist, composer, Orchestra Director in the Phoenix area. She currently plays for touring National Broadway shows and other freelance in the Valley of the Sun. She has been composing String Riffs (close to 80 titles) since June of 2013. She teaches Elementary Strings at two Mesa Public Schools. Karen holds a Master of Music from ASU and a Bachelor of Music from The Ohio State University.


String Riffs is a new series featuring concert arrangements for the beginning to intermediate string orchestra. Organized in three volumes of 19 songs each, String Riffs is sure to have pieces that will motivate your students to practice and will work well on your concert programs. All three volumes have a spiral-bound score and include a CD which has digital files of the parts; violin 1, violin 2 viola, cello, double bass and piano where applicable. The purchaser of String Riffs has the right to duplicate parts as needed. The parts may also be used in a paperless classroom or sent on-line for practice at home. Included in each volume of String Riffs are Concept Maps, aligned with State and National Standards, and String Libs, which are delightful little stories written by students using clever sound effects. Volume One has a Rhythm Chart; Volume Two has a String Riffs Sound Effects Guide; Volume Three features a Glossary of  Musical Terms. The titles, such as, Jitter Puggle, Chipmunk Chatter and D-String Dawg, reflect the nature of the pieces and appeal to students. Volume One uses notes on the D string and A and B. Volume Two firmly grounds the students on the D and A strings and Volume Three has independent parts, use of the G string and forward and backward extensions such as B flats and C sharps. The piano parts are of an intermediate skill level.


String Riffs is a refreshing approach to basic pedagogical skills necessary for mastery by the young string musician. Pizz and Bows and Pizz and Bows is an example of a song from Volume One which offers flexibility to the teacher and to the player. There are six separate lines which are to be played simultaneously. At the end of each line are two measures of whole rests during which the students chant “pizz and bows and pizz and bows” while deciding which line they would like to play next. The music is predominately on the D string and has a “challenge line A and challenge line B”. Volume Three has two pieces which can be played separately or together at the same time; The Pirate’s Awakening and the Pirates Lair. Most of the selections in String Riffs are thematic and lighthearted. They help set a positive atmosphere and reinforce solid skills needed for success. Highly recommended by this reviewer. There will be a CD with piano played by Miriam Hickman or a midi-version with strings and piano for $15.


Jaime Johnson is currently an elementary orchestra teacher in Mesa Arizona and has taught in the public school system for 25 years. She holds a B.M. in Music Education a M.M. in Performance Pedagogy and D.M.A. in Viola Performance from Arizona State University.

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