Amy and I went to the Music Education Expo at Olympia on 26th February 2016. As usual we spent the day wandering around the 50+ stands covering all things music and went to a couple of lectures, I particularly liked one lecture on encouraging positive behaviour during lessons.
Below is my round up of the best bits:
Coach House Pianos – a piano showroom in Wales. Family run, they have over 250 pianos for you to try. Sure, it’s in Swansea so a bit of a trek, but if you are serious about buying a piano but don’t know which one to buy, then this is the place for you. They have a selection of Steinway’s, Yamaha’s, Bechstein, Bosendorfer, Bluthner and Kawai’s. Let me know if you are interested in buying from them as I am always happy to come piano shopping with people.
Carrying on with pianos, we found this great Yamaha piano. It can play like a normal piano AND completely silently with headphones due to a clever bit of technology inside. Starts from £3,500.
We then also came across this company called Black Dress Code making black concert attire. Very useful for professional concerts.
We stopped to have a chat with our friends from the BBC Ten Pieces team and I saw this flyer for BBC Proms Inspire – they are looking for composers between the ages of 12 – 18. For more, see bbc.co.uk/promsinspire for more details.
It’s always really interesting to see how people are trying to make music inclusive and readily available for everyone. This is why we’re really interested in a notation system called “Figure Notes” which we were introduced to when attending a BBC Ten Pieces event. Musical notation can look really daunting on the page, especially if you are just beginning to learn how to read it. “Figure notes” is a notation system based on shapes and colours. Basically you play what you see! This is a system that works very well for children with special needs or disabilities. It is used a lot by Drake Music Scotland, a charity that creates music opportunities for children and adults with learning difficulties.
There is a different colour for every note within an octave (a stretch of 8 notes). For example if we start on the note C, C would be red, D is brown, E is then white etc. It works mainly for piano because coloured stickers can be put on the notes. With each note having a colour, each register also has a shape. So the middle octave on the piano is circles and then the register below is squares. For example, we know that C is red, so if it was a red circle we would play middle C, and if it was a red square we’d play the C an octave below. The shapes then change size to determine how long you would play each note and therefore you’d start to read the rhythms too.
This all works for the natural notes but obviously in music we have sharps and flats too. A sharp (#) next to a note means we go a semitone (half a tone) higher than the note and a flat (b) next to it means we go a semitone lower. In this system of notation, they simply use arrows to point in the direction needed to go. So if we were looking at a brown circle (a D) that had an arrow pointing to the right, or higher up the piano, that would mean you play a D# because the symbol tells us to go higher. Likewise, if you see a brown circle with an arrow pointing to the left, or lower down the piano, that would mean you play a Db.
When learning a system of notation like this, it’s really important that the student can progress to reading traditional notation when they are ready. To bridge this gap, “Figure Notes” uses coloured notes, which starts to look like a musical stave but the notes are coloured in.