HomeEducationWhy Two (String-Playing) Heads Are Better Than One: Top Banana and Cool...

Why Two (String-Playing) Heads Are Better Than One: Top Banana and Cool Beans

In our latest blog, we are excited to shine a spotlight on the newest contributions to the enriching field of string pedagogy from the accomplished duo, Celia Cobb and Naomi Yandell, as published by the esteemed Stainer & Bell. These dedicated string educators bring a wealth of experience from previous collaborations. Through a writing process that blended inspiration and rigorous critique, they have crafted a pair of books, Top Banana and Cool Beans, designed to motivate and delight young string players and their teachers.

Read on to discover more about these innovative publications, the thought behind their development, and how they can elevate the learning experience for string players of various levels – all in the authors’ own words. Don’t forget to check out the provided links for a closer look, and listen to what awaits within the pages of Top Banana and Cool Beans!


For more years than we care to remember, we – Celia Cobb and Naomi Yandell – have worked as a team in many different settings. Not only have we taught side-by-side on a weekly string project in Cambridge called Stringmoves, but we often meet to play chamber music and share (over coffee and cake, of course) teaching strategies and ideas for new publications. Our combined experience has been invaluable in developing resources, and our latest publications for string players are the result of lots of trialling and tweaking.

We are often asked how this works in practice. Can two people really compose one piece? In which case, does one person compose the tune and the other write the accompaniment? Or is one person the composer and the other the editor? There’s no simple answer, but our pieces are very much the product of both of our brains. The process usually goes like this: one of us will come up with an idea – it could be a fragment of a tune, or a specific technical focus that we want to include for a teaching purpose. The other person will develop it, send it back and brace themselves for honest feedback. We can be fiercely critical of one another’s ideas because we are both passionate about writing pieces that will inspire our pupils to practise and that serve a clear-cut pedagogical purpose while at the same time sounding great in a performance situation.  And we have never (yet!) fallen out.

Top Banana and Cool Beans are our latest books, published by Stainer & Bell. We are pretty pleased with them and hope you, your pupils and their parents will have fun exploring them together.

Top Banana

Top Banana

Top Banana is a collection of 20 performance pieces for young string players, written specially to inspire pupils to communicate the character of each piece they play and perform.  We have included a wide range of moods and styles with the aim of capturing the musical imagination and motivating willingness to practise.  We’re happy to report that to date they have gone down VERY well with our pupils, colleagues, and reviewers.

Here are some details about the Top Banana series:

  • Approximate standard: Grade 1-2+
  • Editions available for violin, viola, and cello
  • Compatible keys for group-work options
  • Clear teaching points
  • Incorporates harmonics, glissandi and left-hand pizzicato
  • Includes practice notes
  • Interesting yet playable piano parts
  • Pupil and piano parts sold separately to minimise expense for parents
  • Accompaniment practice tracks are available here!

Although the books are aimed at early-grade pupils, we have also had great success using them as fun catch-up books for older pupils (including teens and adults) who have specific technical points to address, as well as pupils who have recently taken exams and need a body of enjoyable and technically-useful repertoire to work through quickly.

Cool Beans

Cool Beans

Cool Beans is a book containing 21 character duets for pupil and teacher, drawing on a wide range of moods, styles and playing techniques.  The duets are designed to build confidence in reading and ensemble skills, such as leading in, holding a separate part, and listening and communicating with a duet partner. The pieces are written with performance in mind, and many of them feature impressive sounding (but very playable) techniques and showy finishes. 

Here are some details about the Cool Beans series:

  • Pupil’s part (Initial-Grade 2+)
  • Teacher’s part (also suitable for more experienced pupils) (Grade 4-7)
  • Editions available for violin, viola, and cello
  • Compatible keys for group-work options
  • Clear teaching points
  • Incorporates harmonics, glissandi and left-hand pizzicato
  • Includes practice notes for the student/parents
  • In addition to a score, separate pupil part included for ease of reading
  • Develops all-round musicianship with music that prompts talk of keys, modes, jazz scales

We have been loving using these books with older pupils as well as young beginners, and are finding that intermediate-standard pupils are keen to ‘graduate’ to learning the teacher’s parts once they have mastered the student parts.

We have had enormous fun working together on these books, and we really hope that string teachers and the families that they work with will find them useful and, above all, enjoyable.

By Cecilia Cobb and Naomi Yandell


About the Authors

Celia Cobb
Celia Cobb
Naomi Yandell
Naomi Yandell

Celia Cobb and Naomi Yandell studied music at Cambridge and York respectively, and both teach string instruments in Cambridge, UK, where Celia is also Director of the Stringmoves string project hosted by St John’s College School.

They have co-authored a number of books for young string players, including Take Your Bow, a collection of 20 concert pieces for beginner string players, and Sight Reading: A progressive method (Initial-Grade 8), for violin, viola, cello and double bass, published by Trinity College London Press. Naomi is also the author of the Trinity College London Theory of Music Workbooks, including the recently-published Introducing Theory of Music.  They are both regular contributors to The Strad.

Favourably reviewed in Arco (ESTA), The Strad and Music Teacher, a number of their pieces are on the Trinity and ABRSM syllabus lists.


Interested in reading more about music and education? Check out other blog posts here!

Must Read