Noteworthy People – Imogen Heap

By Jess

We are bringing back one of our segments called “Noteworthy People” where we focus on an inspirational person and tell you about their work. This time it is…

Imogen Heap

In the music industry we are often told to have several “strings to our bow” – excuse the pun. And no one seems to fit into this more than the lovely Imogen Heap.

On Wikipedia, the first sentence of her biography says Imogen Heap, is an English singer-songwriter, composer, and engineer.”

That’s already three big things!  Sorry, ENGINEER…?! We will come to that later!

You might know her as a singer-songwriter for songs such as Hide and Seek, The Happy Song or Just For Now. She recently appeared in Ariana Grande’s charity concert One Love Manchester as one of Ariana’s role models and icons:  

 Then again you could have heard of her because she composed the music for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

West End composer, nominated for an Olivier award- not bad going!

Becky went to see the production (lucky thing) a couple of weeks ago (the tickets had been pinned above her computer for literally a year!) and was absolutely blown away by the whole production, saying the music really added to the magic.

But what struck me in the Wikipedia description was the word Engineer. So I browsed trusty Google and realised how amazing this woman actually is!

I found a Guardian article titled “Imogen Heap: saviour of the music industry?”  which describes how she’s created a pair of musical gloves that allow her to change and create sound with her hands.

They are called Mi.Mu gloves and they give her the freedom to improvise and use simple movements to sculpt her music. Hence her job title- musical engineer!

She decided she had to embrace the ever changing music industry rather than running to catch up with it. Her innovative invention is a massive step forward for exciting and engaging live performance of electronic music.

As ever with music, it’s better to watch and listen to really understand this concept, so here is her TED talk – grab yourself a coffee and watch how she has the audience (and the music!) in the palm of her hands!

 For more of an overview of her exciting career check out her BBC Music page – we’re big fans here at BDMA! 

Back to the Future for Classical Music

by Jess

Classical Music….

Out dated. Boring. For old people.

I DON’T THINK SO!

Unfortunately, these are however some of the typical stereotypes we often hear when talking about classical music. Those of us that love the music know this not to be true! But how do we convince the non-lovers?

It is a sad fact that the world of classical orchestral concerts is fading away and people don’t go to as many classical concerts as they used to. Which is why the orchestral world needs a rethink – how can we keep this fantastic music living on?

A classical orchestra concert typically consists of an overture, a concerto and then a symphony in the second half. This has been the structure for many years, and yes, it works for the audience that currently watch it. But as we know, that audience is getting smaller and smaller and we want to bring new listeners in.

So I thought I’d have a little delve into some of the ways orchestras have been trying to tackle the problem.

What exciting new concert programmes have they come up with?

Have they collaborated with non-classical artists?

Have they varied their repertoire?

The inspiration for this research started when I played in a concert with the Notting Hill Orchestra the other week, an entire concert dedicated to film music. Not necessarily your standard Classical rep but it was ACCESSIBLE to the audience and brought in a full house. The pieces were relatively short and easy to listen to but what struck me most was HOW the orchestra put on the show.

Yes, I say show because that is truly what it was.

The orchestra were sat traditionally in the middle of a beautiful, high ceilinged church with spot lights surrounding them. Alongside the music, there was a light show that complemented the storylines and action within the music. It made the whole event really exciting and a very visual and successful way of introducing people to an orchestra.

Any die hard Metallica fans would also know that they have used an orchestra. Heavy metal meets classical symphony orchestra?! 7

What?!

Back in 1999 they recorded “Symphony and Metallica” (or S&M) with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. The bassist from the band, Cliff Burton, came up with the idea to “combine heavy metal with epic classical” (I love that classical is described as epic!) and actually a lot of inspiration for Metallica songs before this album he took from the work of Johann Sebastian Bach – who knew?

Back to the year 2017, the BBC Philharmonic orchestra (in Manchester) have been collaborating with Radio 1 Live Lounge to create a series called “Live Lounge Symphony” where they join forces with pop acts, adding the “epic classical” sound (I’m going to keep using epic!) to their famous chart topping songs. Last year it was with Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne!

Something else I’ve spotted in the concert halls recently is symphony orchestras playing film scores alongside the showing of the film. Just a few days ago the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra played John Williams’ score for “Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone” at the Royal Albert Hall. Imagine not only watching the film on a HD, 40-foot screen, but having the full spectacle of an orchestra at the forefront of the stage.

“an unforgettable experience for Harry Potter fans”

…and music fans!

Let’s hope we get more of these!

On the same theme as bringing a film to stage, orchestras have also been collaborating with actors and storytellers to bring famous children’s stories to life with live music. What a great way of heightening the imagination of young people as well as introducing them to the sound of the orchestra and the setting of the concert hall, with stories that they will know so well.

Finally, the one thing we have missing from the above collaborations and concerts is the use of traditional classical music repertoire.  

I’m happy to say that the concert programmers seem to be finding a way of broadening their audience for this too. Flicking through the Hallé Orchestra’s concert programme there are titles such as “Russian Spectacular” with music from Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich and “Never Mind the Weather” with music by Gershwin.

I like the idea of a theme to a concert, with some pieces the audience will recognise and some new ones they will be introduced to. I feel it’s a non-daunting way of getting people to watch and listen to classical music.

Hopefully ideas like these will continue and classical music and symphony orchestras will stay in the concert hall for many years to come.

On tour with the Street Orchestra of London

by Sophie

I recently took part in a really exciting project called the Street Orchestra of London (SOL). I didn’t quite know what to expect before we began but I soon realised how friendly everyone was and that we were all equally excited about the week ahead. This was the second SOL tour so some people had done it before but every single one of them had returned because they had had so much fun the first time around.

Having now completed my first SOL tour I can honestly say it was one of the best weeks of my life.

Here’s why:

The mission statement of the SOL is to bring high quality, live music to everyone, anywhere for free. We aim to reach wider audiences, providing free public performances in a variety of locations. On this tour we played at London Bridge Station, a refugee centre in Dalston, Greenwich Park, the Hackney Showroom for an orchestral club night, the Migration Museum, Brighton Pier, Brighton Pavillion Gardens and most recently at the Sound Unbound festival at the Barbican Centre.

A standard day in the life of a SOL musician would include between 6-8 performances in different locations, some of which may be planned, some of which might be completely spontaneous. It’s all hands on deck and we can go from sitting on a coach to performing in just 10 minutes.

The theme for our tour was ‘migration’ and as such we chose our repertoire to reflect this.

For example, we included Dvorak’s New World Symphony which he wrote after he migrated from the Czech Republic as it now is, to America. Neil Armstrong even took a recording of the piece to the moon on the Apollo 11 mission!  We incorporated music from composers all around the world, such as Bernstein from America, Bach from Germany, Prokofiev from Russia. We also included two world premieres by young composers: Bandstand by Freya Waley-Cohen  and Toranj Aftab Darvishi. I learnt that ‘Toranj’ is the pattern commonly found on Persian rugs! Bandstand also featured members of the orchestra ‘migrating’ into and out of the audience. The repertoire was varied; we played jazz, pop, funk, classical, North African, West African, folk.

I don’t have a favourite as it was all so much fun, but one piece that sticks out particularly is Maghreb Mix which is a medley of North African tunes including some from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. This piece required us to play some quarter tones – often we would consider these notes to sound out of tune as they’re not notes used in most Western classical music, but when used in certain contexts and everyone does it together they can sound really cool.

Each concert featured a different selection of music, and lasted a different length of time. Volunteers from the orchestra put together a new programme for each concert, selected from our tour catalogue of 23 pieces.

Joining us on our tour was a very special man called Jean-Paul Samputu. He’s a Rwandan composer and singer and he wrote and sang a few of the African songs we played on tour. Normally in an orchestra we don’t have to sing, but in his pieces there was also lots of singing for us and we loved it! His pieces, including Simba, which means ‘Lion’, really have a feel good factor to them, and they’re inspiring as he wrote them after a very turbulent time in Rwanda’s history. Jean-Paul is known also as an ambassador for peace and travels the world giving talks on forgiveness –an inspirational man to have the privilege to tour with for a week.

We try to get the audience involved as much as possible and break down the traditional barriers often associated with a concert orchestra. We encourage our audiences to dance along, sing along, and even conduct along.

One of our pieces required a guest conductor aka a volunteer from the audience to lead us. Our first violinist gave them a 10 second masterclass in conducting before embarking on Offenbach’s Can Can and it usually surprised them when they realised just how much power you have when you’re holding a baton. Despite occasional disagreement between the brass and the string sections (brass usually won as they’re louder!), we did our best to follow our guest conductor and usually the audience clapped along, with some brave people even attempting the Can Can dance!

Some of our performances were planned in advance, and some were more spontaneous. Some of the guerrilla gigs included flashmobs in Ikea and B&Q in Croydon, at a market in Lewisham and at Greenwich Park where we joined a busker, much to his surprise! He loved it though: as we played the theme for Ski Sunday whilst wandering around, he joined in and even came to support us at our orchestral club night at the Hackney Showroom later that evening!

One of the best things about SOL is seeing people’s reactions. I will never forget the expression on one homeless man’s face in a refugee centre in Dalston when he heard us play for the first time. I’ve never seen music affect someone visibly so deeply before, and it moved many of us to tears. I feel so privileged to have been able to take part in a project that has moved people to tears and to dance, and affect so many people in such meaningful ways. It’s such a joy to be able to bring a smile to someone else’s face.

It is this that the Street Orchestra of London stands for, and this that we hope to continue doing through the power of music.

The only thing that could have made the tour any better would be if I’d managed to avoid having a seagull poo on my hand while I ate pizza by Brighton Pier…but then they do say that’s meant to be good luck…!

We will be on tour again in July 2017 – look out for us!

#streetorchestra

 

Time Travelling with Music

by Sophie Simpson

Hello! I’m Sophie, a violin and piano teacher for the Becky Dell Music Academy in the new Manchester branch.

I’m sure many of you are aware of how versatile stringed instruments are; as a violinist there are opportunities to play in a pop band, folk music, in an orchestra, a quartet, as a soloist, at a wedding…etc.

However, I’d like to talk specifically about a particular niche I have found myself being involved in within the performance world: historically informed performance or HIP for short.

The music world is a competitive one and it can be useful to find something different to help you to stand out. I fell into the HIP world sort of by accident, but quickly became hooked, though I continue to perform on the ‘modern’ violin too. It might sound dull at first but I promise it’s not! It’s great when you’re performing to know that you’re creating something that sounds the way audiences would have heard it hundreds of years ago – if you close your eyes you could almost travel back in time…

What is historically informed performance?

The idea with HIP is that the performance reflects academic and practical research into how the music might have been performed at the time it was written. This research can take many forms including analysing surviving letters, treaties or publications from the time, the music on the page, or the instruments themselves can give us clues.

There are even some instruments that are no longer in general use, such as the viola da spalla, which looks a bit like a small cello (or big violin!), but was played with a strap around the neck and in more of a guitar hold and has five strings.

Here is a link to a video of Sergey Malov playing some music by Bach on the viola da spalla: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-H6XAIwZKA

So what counts as historically informed performance?

Taken literally, this could encompass anything that happened in the past, even yesterday!

However, when musicians talk about HIP they tend to think of the Renaissance (c.1300-1600), Baroque (c.1600-1750), Classical (c.1750-1820) and Romantic (c.1820-1850), or even early 20th Century time periods. Early recordings from the 20th Century can be classed as a useful resource for research, though obviously there are no recordings from the Baroque or Classical eras!

As a violinist one of my specialisms within HIP is the Baroque era. How are Baroque instruments different to their modern counterparts?

Instruments have been constantly developing along with technical advances and to adapt to changing styles of composition; there was never one point in history when people woke up and said ‘we are no longer in the Baroque era, today marks the start of the Classical era and we must adapt our instruments accordingly’!

The Baroque and modern violins look relatively similar upon first glance. The shape and dimensions of the body are much the same as they have always been. You may have heard of violin maker or luthier Antonio Stradivari and even today many luthiers try to make copies of his violins.

However, there are some differences: the Baroque violin does not have a chinrest as this was not invented until around 1820 by Louis Spohr; neither did they have shoulder rests, but they may have used a piece of soft leather to make it more comfortable to hold; the strings were made of gut instead of metal as they are today; the angle of the neck was shallower on a baroque violin than a modern violin as the gut strings could not take the tension that comes from a steeper angle.

The bow was also different: the baroque bow is shorter and convex (frowning) in shape whereas the modern bow is concave (smiling) and longer, which makes it more powerful. I play on a replica baroque violin for my historically informed performances of music from the Baroque era. The baroque cello does not have a spike, but instead the cellist balances the cello between their legs.

Wind and brass instruments also differed as they were not able to make metal keys for them in the baroque era, so brass players had to tune notes with their lips only, and wind players had basic holes for their fingers cut into the wood. These instruments feel and sound quite different to their modern counterparts.

In the Baroque era, the piano hadn’t been invented, but they did have other keyboard instruments including the organ and harpsichord. The harpsicord is similar to the piano, except that the strings inside are plucked instead of hit, and there is no pedal so it sounds quite different.

One of the other main differences is pitch.

Today we usually label an ‘A’ (the note an orchestra will tune to) as 440 Hertz, but in the baroque era, their ‘A’ may have been higher or lower than how we hear it today. It varied according to where you lived in Europe and how the church organ was tuned. Because people were not able to travel as far and as frequently as we do today, there was no standardisation of pitch until much later on. Based on research, historically informed performances of works by Monteverdi are often at a higher pitch of A=465Hz and Bach is often played at a lower pitch of A=415Hz.  

This picture is one of the earliest known depictions of a violin.

It is artist Gaudenzio Ferrari’s Madonna of the Orange Tree, painted 1530. A cherub is seen playing a bowed instruments which clearly has the hallmarks of a violin.

I hope this has been an interesting introduction to the world of historically informed performance, and an eye opener to just one of many musical opportunities out there waiting for you!

Over the last few decades, there has been a boom in interest in HIP and there are now many groups and orchestras who perform in a historically informed manner, including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Academy of Ancient Music. There are also several vocal groups who sing with a historically informed approach, including I fagiolini and Ex Cathedra.

Do look them up if you’re interested in finding out more!

The Manchester academy is here!

Hello, Jess here and I’m very excited to announce that the Manchester Becky Dell Music Academy has arrived in 2017!

We’re up and running with two tutors at the moment and have already got our first set of students in the Worsley area.

I chose Worsley as the base for the Manchester academy because it’s where I grew up. Having the personal knowledge of the area has really helped with spreading the news of the academy. Worsley has the same feel to me as Blackheath/Greenwich – both picturesque towns a short distance from the heart of exciting musical cities. It’s an absolutely beautiful place to be based and we’re really lucky to be expanding our musical community up here.

We currently have tutors for piano, violin, woodwind and singing. These tutors are myself (Jess!) and Sophie Simpson.

Sophie is our violin and piano tutor and graduated from her masters at the RNCM in the summer. Since then she has been busy with exciting orchestral concerts and projects up and down the country as well as teaching jobs around the North West. She is a keen Historically Informed Performer – this means she studies how music was played hundreds of years ago to try and replicate it.

I am teaching woodwind, piano and singing alongside managing the academy back in my lovely hometown. Since moving from London in the summer, I have been studying my masters at the RNCM whilst exploring what the Manchester music scene has to offer, playing for musicals and in orchestras and playing music on the wards of the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

 

But we’re not stopping at two tutors!

I’m always on the lookout for new teachers to fit with the demand of lessons. Don’t see your instrument on our list? Let me know as I’m always hiring new and adventurous professional musicians to teach and inspire.

So, how can you help us?

Know someone in the Worsley area? Might they want music lessons? Are you part of a group that can help promote this new venture?

We want our current Blackheath/Greenwich community and all our other friends to spread the word so we can expand this new academy, so talk about the academy and share our facebook page. If you want any more information please email me on jess@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk

Here’s to exciting times ahead…

Music in the Oscars

by Jess

Last night was the biggest, most glamorous party in the cinematic calendar – the Oscars.

And what amazing films and performances we’ve had this year.  Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Fences, Jackie, Florence Foster Jenkins…. The list goes on with an even longer list of all the spectacular performances from the actors and actresses. A personal favourite of mine was La La Land – stylistic, slick and, best of all, MUSICAL!

Which leads me to the theme of this article.

Music in the Oscars.

Because, let’s face it – music makes a film! 

There are two awards for music at the Oscars. Best Original Score and Best Original Song.The Original Score is the music that is composed for the overall film, the incidental music that happens during the scenes to enhance the action, the mood and the characters’ emotions. It’s the music we take for granted – but we’d definitely notice if it wasn’t there!

But on this Monday morning, I want to introduce you to the Original Songs that were up for nominations. These were the songs that were written specifically for the film. Maybe you can have a listen during your coffee break, on the way home from work or even ask your tutor to play/sing it in a future lesson!

So sit back and have a listen to these five great songs:

  1. AUDITION (THE FOOLS WHO DREAM) from La La Land; Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

This is the one we’ve all heard on the La La Land trailer, as you see Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dance away into the stars in a romantic, cliché Hollywood scene. Emma sings this song as part of an audition in the film. It’s so simply done with just her on screen, a plain back drop and one camera circling her face. Simple yet effective!

  1. CAN’T STOP THE FEELING from Trolls; Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster

This was my soundtrack to the summer – ask my Dad, I even had a dance move every time it came on in the car on holiday! Didn’t Justin Timberlake come back with a bang with this one?! It’s a feel good, upbeat, dance number. If writing the song wasn’t enough, he also featured in the film… his voice, he hasn’t actually turned into a brightly coloured Troll as far as I’m aware.

  1. CITY OF STARS from La La Land; Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

We’re back to La La Land but this time we’ve got Ryan Gosling taking centre stage. His character played a struggling jazz pianist, going from job to job and it was only when he sat down at home that he played the music he really wanted to play. This was the song he always chose to perform for his pleasure. It was a recurring theme throughout the film, and I loved it!

  1. THE EMPTY CHAIR from Jim: The James Foley Story; Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

This makes a lovely contrast to the others featured on this year’s Oscar lists. Sting made a comeback this year writing it. It has a beautiful folk quality, Sting’s resonating voice along with  solo piano accompaniment. Hauntingly beautiful.

  1. HOW FAR I’LL GO from Moana; Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda 

Finally we finish with Disney! You can’t have an Oscars original song without Disney. The music was inspired by traditional South Pacific sounds alongside the classic Broadway musical songs. The combination makes it pretty gorgeous! Disney have given us another belter with this song, possibility not as epic as Let it Go, but it still stuck in my head for a long time after I watched the film.

I hope you have chance to listen to these great songs. Let’s keep celebrating all this exciting music.

Have a good Monday.

A Day in the Life of a Harry Potter Musician

A few months ago we were lucky enough to spend a little time in the company of a musician who has had what many young classical musicians might consider the epitome of a musical career. Oh, and he also happens to be one of our very own BDMA Grandads – Francis Saunders!

We spent a couple of hours with Francis hearing all about his musical education, his teachers, the exciting recording sessions and so much more.

Francis’ musical life begun as a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral School where he then began learning the cello, aged 9.

Between then and now, among many other things, he has studied cello with some of the greatest teachers, he has travelled the world, been one of the longest standing members (37 years!) of one of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, the LSO, played on some of the most iconic movie soundtracks (including Harry Potter!) and been an important figure in education and outreach programmes.

We couldn’t resist asking him about what it was like to play on some of the most famous movie soundtracks…

Francis with composer John Williams

Francis with composer John Williams.

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We are desperate to ask you some questions about playing on the Harry Potter score! Tell us – how big was the orchestra?

Probably about 70 – 80… John Williams [the composer of the original film] conducted that session!

What was he like?

Everyone loved and respected him.

Any unusual instruments in that score?

Not as such but it was very percussion heavy. Some soundtracks do use less typical orchestral instruments like sax or recorder or cor anglais…

I’m always curious, do you ever get film scores in advance?

We do not, we get them on the day [of the recording]!

How long do you get to rehearse before recording?

Well, it depended on the conductor…but never very long.

How many takes would you do for the soundtracks?

Sometimes one take, sometimes more.

Apart from HP, what other soundtracks have you played on?

I’ve played on the Star Was films in 1978/79, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Indiana Jones: Raiders of The Last Ark.

Any particularly juicy cello parts?

Raiders was especially good.

And finally what advice would you give to your younger self, or an aspiring musician?

It’s jolly tough!  When I retired from the LSO, 200 people applied for my seat [he retired in 2007]. Keep improving and do as much studying as you can. Go to different people as they will offer and teach you different things. It’s also really important to be a team player and get on with people. Be organised and take your self and your work seriously and you will be fine.

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It is always a gift to meet any musician who has dedicated their whole life to their craft. We want to extend our warmest thanks and appreciation to Francis for taking the time to talk to us. He gave us such an inspiring insight into his world of being a high flying musician, a teacher, an orchestral player and so much more, most of which we couldn’t fit into this newsletter and wish we could have – rest assured it was magic to hear about.

Healthy Musicians

Healthy Musicians

by Jess

As a professional musician, I feel that I was told far too late about the importance of injury prevention and good posture. I was only made aware of it once I’d started my Bachelor degree and, as I went for a sports massage this afternoon to help the tension I’d acquired over years of playing, it occurred to me that we really should make our students and their parents aware of the importance of taking care of your body when you play.

When children start learning an instrument they are still growing. We want to make sure that playing an instrument has no effect on the development of the child but also that the child feels no pain as a result of playing.

If everything is at ease, the music will flow much more naturally!

So with this in mind, I want to share some tips for looking after your child’s posture and physical wellbeing whilst playing an instrument, but hopefully some of these ideas can be used throughout all areas of their life. The tips for sitting at the piano can be transferred to the computer and the heavy cases can also apply to heavy school bags!

Sitting at the piano

Sitting comfortably at the piano is so important, especially as the piano is so huge compared to the size of children. Your child should be sitting at a distance from the piano where their hands can reach comfortably. The chair or stool they sit on needs to be at a height where, similarly, the hands don’t stretch to reach the piano (if it’s too high there will be tension in the arms and if it’s too low the shoulders will start to droop.)

What you can do:

  • Make sure that you have a stool that is the correct height for your child. If you have multiple children learning piano then adjustable stools are fantastic. Otherwise think about improvising with cushions or books to get the right height. This also applies to drum kit players!
  • Every now and then check how they are sitting. Especially after school, tiredness can mean that shoulders will droop and necks will tense up – we want to avoid this! If you are aware of these things then you can just remind your child to sit up. Tell them they will be more comfortable!
  • Make sure your wrists don’t drop onto the piano, there should always be space for a mousie/tennis ball (delete as appropriate) to be underneath the hand.
  • Make sure there is a straight line from wrist to elbow and at a 90 degree angle. The elbow should never be higher or lower than the wrist ad there should not be any “chicken wings” – elbows moving up and down like doing a chicken impression!

Holding instruments

With instruments that we hold up, such as violins, woodwind and brass instruments, the main rule is BRING THE INSTRUMENT TO YOU. This means we don’t want to contort our body to fit the instrument but we want to stand in a comfortable position and the instrument fits into this posture.

What you can do:

  • If your child looks uncomfortable during practice, tell them to put the instrument down and “shake away” all the tension (a bit of silliness helps break up practice time too!) Then get them to stand in a comfortable posture and hand them back the instrument, making sure they don’t droop their shoulders or tilt their neck during this process.
  • Standing with both feet flat on the floor about a shoulder width apart will also really help (it’s impressive some of the one legged gymnastic stances I’ve seen!) This applies for singers as well; a good posture means breathing is a lot easier too.

Instrument sizes

I think we forget that some of the instruments are children our playing, are played by fully grown adults, and they often find them heavy! Some instruments have variable sizes which will help make playing easier and the instruments that are standard sizes often have straps that help smaller people to play them.

What you can do:

  • If your child plays a string instrument (violin, cello, guitar etc.) then you are lucky that the instruments come in smaller sizes. It is so important to ask the tutor for advice on what size your child should be playing on. Too big and fingers and arms will stretch unnaturally and too small we will start to get hunched shoulders.
  • Woodwind instruments are normally all standard sizes, so we have to find other alternatives. For flute players, there are flutes that have a bent round head joint to make the flute short and easier to reach the notes. For clarinets, saxes, oboes and bassoons it is important to get a really supportive neck strap. These are often ones that also go round the waist and shoulders so the weight of the instrument gets distributed evenly.
  • For brass players, there is a series of trombones called P-Bones that are made of plastic (and are brightly coloured!) meaning they are lighter for children to hold. These are also available in trumpets and horns. These are only suitable for young beginners, but there are a good starting point for slighter players, where weight of instrument is a problem.

Heavy cases

Lugging around heavy instrument cases is sometimes more detrimental to a working musician than a playing related injury. We fill our cases with mountains of sheet music, balancing the case on an already weak shoulder with a handbag resting on the other arm.

No wonder we get injured!

What you can do:

  • Make sure the case only contains the music needed for that lesson, don’t keep every piece they’ve ever played buried in the case. The grams gradually add up! So try to keep tabs on what books they are working on, check the notebook the tutor keeps for this information.
  • Try to buy a case with two straps if it needs to be carried on their back and that the straps aren’t too low on the child’s back. Low straps might look cool but they put so much unnecessary strain on the back!
  • If they take instruments to school, see if there is a storeroom they can keep their instruments in during the day. Especially for secondary school pupils, there is rarely much space to store things, so if the music teacher is aware they have an instrument to bring in, normally they will find a space to store it.

Hopefully you can apply some of these tips to your child’s practice routine. As ever, if you want to understand more about the instrument your child is learning then our tutors are always happy to answer your questions. We want a community of healthy and happy musicians so please come to us with any concerns or further questions.

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New Year, New MUSIC

by Jess

It’s the third week of January and we’ve all probably heard the phrase “New Year New Me” a fair few times by now. But at the Becky Dell Academy we’ve been thinking, what’s so good about making everything new? Why don’t we just revisit something, a hobby perhaps, that we have lost along the way?

Life becomes very focused on our daily activities. How many times have you heard the phrase:

“I used to <insert hobby here> but I just don’t have time anymore”?!

Well in 2017, we want to MAKE TIME!

What a crazy new year’s resolution that is.

But what we mean is, let’s take a small portion of our day and go back to a hobby that we sadly lost when life just got too hectic.

 

 

Obviously, our suggestion is MUSIC!

 

 

Whilst scrolling through twitter the other day, I came across an article from the BBC about adults picking up a musical instrument that they used to play when they were younger. And that was the inspiration for this blog:

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140709-never-too-late-to-learn?ocid=ww.social.link.twitter

It may seem a ridiculously scary and daunting prospect sitting down at the piano or picking up your instrument after 20 years of dust has settled. But it’s ok! That’s exactly what the writer of this article talks us through.

I won’t lie and say the technical difficulties have gone when you start learning again as an adult, but a deeper appreciation for the instrument and heightened determination to achieve something means that, actually, adult players learn surprisingly well.  Because you’re starting again out of your own choice, you motivate yourself to practice and push yourself to get to the next piece.

But in 2017, let’s bring back the music you left as a child purely for the JOY it brings! Music is such an emotive language, even if you find 10mins of your week to play, it can express the emotions you have been bottling up. A de-stress if you like!

And we all know that a de-stress once in a while is exactly what we need.

In the BBC article, British actor Samuel  West says,

“As an adult you’re much more knowledgeable about your own moods, so it becomes much more possible to use music as a way to express yourself….If I have a little piece I can play, I can listen to myself better, I can express myself better. That’s entirely a function of being older, and that’s a joy.”

So, the New Year challenge from the Becky Dell Music Academy is to dust down the trumpet, open up the piano lid, and find the sheet music in the bookshelf and PLAY! We are always happy to teach adult students so if you fancy learning as well as your child, or you know a friend who would like to start up playing again, then please contact us.

Happy playing!

Learning to see with sound

by Jess 

Whilst watching an episode of the One Show last month, I was astounded by a feature in a particular episode. It was about a 10 year old boy called Ethan Lock who was the most amazing piano player. He sat down to play the piano and I couldn’t believe what I was watching- especially as Ethan has been blind since he was a baby.

Music was Ethan’s main form of communication and as a toddler would go over to the piano when other children would be running around. It turned into a way of self-expression- much the same as with most musicians.

 

_88226729_ethanatpiano14After auditioning recently for St. Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh, he had been offered a place to study and the episode was following the story of how this was going to be a reality, when independence was currently not something Ethan had a lot of. His parents asked for the help of Daniel Kish, a blind man who specialises in echolocation, to come and teach Ethan how to get around. Echolocation helps him to understand the environment he finds himself in. By creating a clicking sound with the tongue on the roof of the mouth, which then bounces off surfaces in the surrounding environment, he can determine distance, locations, positions, contours and densities. This then helps him to build an image of the location he is in.

Ethan was taught this technique, firstly starting at home and eventually going to St. Mary’s School to understand the surroundings he was going to be faced with in his new school. Over a period of 3 months, naturally with ups and downs in the process, Ethan began to learn the art and finally managed to put it into practice in his school.

I was blown away with this story and it made me realise more than ever, how important music can be to people and how it really can be someone’s whole life.

You can read the BBC article and watch the whole story here.