Review: The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff

Contest, Lesson resources, Reviews

Muttzart screenshot

I have been anxiously waiting to use and review The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff, a composition workbook for students created by Andrea and Trevor Dow by While it says it is for ages 7-11 the concepts that are taught are really great for all students. I think the age range is mostly due to the fact that it is based on a fun storyline and these cute cartoon characters Muttzart and Ratmaninoff who interact through the composing process.

In this review, I wanted to share a little more in depth, my experience using The Curious Case of Muttzart and RatmaninoffI knew one of my main focuses for Christmas camp was going to be composition and I knew that I wanted to use this book. One thing that I really love about most of the Dow’s products is that they are offered digitally. Because I did have teenagers participating in christmas camp, and to save money and time, I opted not to print out the entire workbook for each student and instead printed individual pages that were relevant to what I wanted to accomplish during camp. When teaching the composition lesson, I simply downloaded the book on my iPad and projected those pages I wanted students to see and learn on the wall. Once I felt they understood the 4 main composition tools I wanted them to learn and apply, then I turned it over to them to do the fun part- compose!

At camp, I had a couple students that were new to piano lessons and hadn’t learned notes on the staff yet. So for those students I simply had them write in the letter names and dashes (representing rhythm) instead. But the process we went through was the same as the students that did write on the staff.

At camp, we did not worry about adding the left hand. I explained to students that they can add that later at home because we simply did not have time to do this during Christmas camp. So that is something I look forward to seeing and/or helping with when they return in January.

The main tools that are taught in The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff is Motive, Repetition, Sequence and Retrograde. After we went through these tools, one of my students said, “I had no idea that there were actual tools that you can use when creating a composition.” I laughed and said, isn’t it great? Doesn’t it make writing a composition that much easier? This is important especially for students who are so worried that they can’t compose.

Every single one of the students walked away from camp with a finished (RH only) composition. I had one student that even wrote words for hers.






I have used several composition products over the years and I can honestly say that The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff has become a favorite of mine to use! Not only does it add fun with the character dialogs throughout the book, but it makes the whole process easy! The great thing about this book is you can use it successfully in private and group settings. Muttzart and Ratmaninoff interact throughout and make it fun and enjoyable for the student. Composing with The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff is an adventure your students will not want to miss!

You can find out more about  The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff by clicking any of the links in this post and watching the video above.

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  1. Julia T.

    I’ve been wanting this since it came out and would love to win a copy!

    I did a composition music camp this past summer using Joy Morin’s ideas from her “So, You Want To Be A Composer?” camp. This spring I would also like to try the Psalms Project that Natalie does with her students each year.

  2. Karen

    I’ve only done as much composition as is in the method books that I use. I would like to teach more composing and in a funner way; have been eyeing this book for some time. Hope I win!

  3. Coo Jarvis

    I’ve done a little composing with my students but would love to do more and this looks like the perfect tool for doing so. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  4. Tonya Dirksen

    Thanks for the review. I have been contemplating getting this resource. I would love to win it! I have tried composing with my students by making up my own worksheets and doing it step by step. My students love writing their own songs and I would like fun ideas.

  5. Penny Lazarus

    I have student composition books that introduce the same four composition tools: motive, repetition, retrograde and inversion but in a very dry boring way. I would love to have an updated and fun way to present these concepts in my studio!

  6. Jeannie

    I used this book for summer camp last June and July. Kids loved it! I had the ‘lesson plan’ enlarged and pick on lime green poster board and only printed out the work sheet for the kids. Worked great! Got a couple of new students.

  7. Jeannie

    prior message — I had the lesson plan enlarged and PUT on lime green poster board not ‘pick’

    Guess it’s been a long day.

  8. Lavinia Livingston

    I’m still afraid of teaching composition, feeling very inadequately prepared in terms of “know-how”. Your review of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff gives me courage. Thanks for offering the Give-away.

  9. Andrea Bentz

    I just got through using TPT’s cute Santa composition activity with younger students this week. I would love to win this resource!

  10. Tiffany Phillips

    I usually try to incorporate composition into my summer lesson plans. I would love to have a fun resource for the elementary kids. This looks like a great way to approach composition in a fun way. Thanks for the review! I would love to win a copy.

  11. Margaret Fontiveros

    I have not done much with composition and would love to use this book to make the process more clear and easier for my students. I would love to win a copy!

  12. FIona Mendes

    I teach MYC and part of the curriculum includes teaching the kids to compose. Most kids enter the international Composition Festival in February each year , so there is considerable interest in composing. However I am finding myself getting a bit tired of the old way of teaching composition, so this year I used art, poems, themes, etc to help them get going. The Curious case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff would really help to infuse more creativity into the teaching of composition process and hopefully lots of excitement in the kids to compose more and more ! I would love to win a copy – Thanks for the give-away !

  13. Kitty

    Thanks for offering this give-away! I usually have beginners make up their own short songs for the seasons.

  14. Karen T

    Would love to win. Have been thinking about purchasing. Fun way to teach in group class or my summer camp,

  15. mycgrimsby

    I also teach MYC & have my students enter a Composition Festival. I teach the basic techniques of motive, sequence, retrograde, inversion, fragmentation… but it would be nice to freshen it up!

  16. Rebecca

    I do teach composition, and have often utilized Wynn-Anne Rossi’s Creative Composition Toolbox series. I love it because each composition has a concept to focus on, and students seem to really like it, too!

  17. Bev Conway

    I was all set to start composition after the Christmas idea and my first Monday student crushed my spirits by commenting, “oh my last teacher did that and I didn’t like it.” I had trepidations as it was – how was I going to do this since I had never done it before? Should I make all my students do it or just those who are enthused by the idea? I need a very hands-holding method!

  18. Orlia

    I have done a bit, but know I need to do more composing with my students. What a fun, excellent resource!

  19. Sarah A.

    Just recently started teaching composition. Thanks for the ideas!

  20. Lori

    What a great idea to use this for camp!

  21. barbgrout

    I love to compose with my students. I have used several composition aids including Lee Evans but there is so much effort and intellect involved. I am using the Dows Santa composition pages this week and we are having a lot of fun. The kids are amazed how their motifs sound. I have been thinking about getting their composition work book and this would give us the chance to try it out! Spring semester is when we compose the most so this would be perfect timing!

  22. Brenda

    This looks like such a fun way to teach composition. It might even inspire students who feel they are not creative or imaginative enough. I would love to win a copy!

  23. R. Jeannie

    Thanks so much for the PIANO PRONTO method book and the Christmas duet. Love reading your updates and all the support you give to music teachers! Jeannie

    Date: Thu, 19 Dec 2013 22:33:15 +0000 To: [email protected]

  24. Geri Miller

    I have done a few simple composition activities with my students and would love to have a copy of “The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff.” I am having my students do Andrea’s and Trevor’s Christmas composition exercise over the holiday break!

  25. Ruth Michaelis

    I really enjoyed hearing how you used this, and getting some great ideas for implementing it.

  26. JoAnn Jordan

    The idea of teaching composition from the early stages totally fits my approach as a teacher and as a therapist. “The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff” seems like a great way to get youth to buy in. Offering this through our local arts commission is an idea I have for this summer.

  27. Claudia Reinsch

    I’ve been teaching those compostion concepts – repetition, sequence, inversion, and retrograde – as part of composition units, as well as camps, workshops, etc, for lots of years, but think I’m going to get the book and try it. It would be fun to try it with the cute story & fun characters. Love getting ideas from super teachers!

  28. Laura Holleman

    We have a new piano lab and so far we have primarily used composition exercises in different 5-finger positions. Students add notes to a given rhythm pattern and we have used this to study cadences. This book sounds like it would be a great resource – especially appealing to our all-boy class! Thanks for the review.

  29. Melissa

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say I “teach” composition in my studio–I’m not a composer myself, and certainly wouldn’t market myself as such. I do incorporate composition as a supplement, though! I love all of the Dows’ resources, and would love to use The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff in my studio!

  30. Loraine

    I use Composition tool box with my students. I am interested to get a copy of the book and try out with my students

  31. Sara Cochran

    I have several students who are interested in composition and have been looking for a fun way to teach it. Not being a composer myself, it would be nice to have the material spelled out for me to help guide! I’d love to win the copy.

  32. nicolebdouglas

    I have the students who are interested in composing take a familiar tune and have them notate the melody by ear to get started with learning how to format and write music. Then we go over how to choose chords and how to arrange them. Or if they are young and can’t stop playing a melody during piano lessons when they are supposed to be listening, I might have them write it down and we’ll finish it later. I’ve been wanting to try this resource, too. Looks great!

  33. M Dean

    I have been very excited about the possibilities for this book since it was released. I do not currently teach composition in my studio, but look forward to having the opportunity to do so when I return from maternity leave this spring.

  34. Amy Boze

    I used Carol Klose’s “Creative Composition” book this past summer with my students, and then they played their own compositions in a casual recital. (in the park, on my keyboard, followed by me treating them to ice cream at the local Dairy Mart) Lots of fun!

  35. Roshi

    I think this is a wonderful resource to have in a piano studio which is creative and fun . I like the students to do more composing and would love to have this ! Thank you for the opportunity.

  36. sjbraun

    I never have taught composition before — didn’t really feel I had the skills needed. But, this past week, I used a resource they made available in their 12 Days of Christmas giveaways to help each of my students “compose” a piece. The kids enjoyed it, and I did too. I’d love to win this to make composition a bigger part of my lessons. Thanks, and Merry Christmas!

  37. Sarah Carlson

    I just started teaching my students how to compose and they love it! I first have them notate familiar melodies to get used to writing out notes and so we can discuss chord progressions. Then I have them try to write out their own chord progression pattern. Once they like it, we add a melody over it. I would love to win a free book because I’ve been wanting to buy this one!

  38. Natalie Gibson Grimes

    Thanks for sharing about this resource. I like to offer new composers poems, pictures, or descriptive titles to choose from for inspiration. Then we explore creating an illustration through sound.

  39. Gwyn goertzen

    I have only recently begun to teach composition and this is one book I have been looking at. It would be awesome to be a winner in this drawing!

  40. Sheila

    I’ve taught some composing (Music by Me, Susan Paradis) along the way. This looks like a wonderful tool to demystify composing in an engaging process.

  41. Janice Martin

    This past year I have tried a couple times to do some composition with students, but I feel like I really need some kind of fun method like this to give direction. I know that I have a few very creative students who would really “eat this up”! I hope I win this giveaway as I have been eyeing this for some time:)

  42. Shaina

    This past week, I used the Save Santa composing activity Trevor and Andrea provided for the holidays with two of my students. These two come to their lessons always composing new songs every week. It was such a huge hit that both have begged me to start more composition in the studio. I hope to win this book for them, so that they will gain the tools necessary to continue their craft and to expand their musical knowledge.

  43. Melody

    I’ve used Music by Me and also composition activities from Susan Paradis with my students.

    This resource sounds really fun! Thanks for offering the giveaway!

  44. Sharon

    I wish the preview to this resource would be more helpful and thorough. Showing me one page does not give me nearly enough information as to whether or not this would be helpful in my studio. What a shame.

    • Jennifer Foxx

      Hi Sharon, because this is not my own resource, I don’t have liberty to share many pages. However, I did share a helpful video in this post that the Dow’s made highlighting their resource. If you skip to around :54 seconds in, you will see several sample pages highlighted. I hope that helps!



  1. YQA: Light but Fun Composing Ideas for Summer | Piano Pantry - […] The Curious Case of Muttzart and Ratmaninoff from Trevor and Andrea Dow​ (here’s a review from Jennifer Foxx) […]

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