Not everyone can be the next Mozart, but every child should have the chance to explore and be inspired by music. Here are our tips on how to encourage young children to embrace music.


1. Make music together, make it fun.

Most children learn best through participation. There’s a reason why if you sing “If you’re happy and you know it…” you immediately want to clap your hands. Even simple nursery rhymes with actions can get children involved in making music. Through this song/game a child learns (without knowing they’re doing it) how to sing and clap in time, learning call and response, learning about musical cues and some may even show signs of singing in key!

So although we might have heard “heads, shoulders, knees and toes” a hundred times, it’s working wonders for our budding musicians.

Musical games like action songs are great because they give a simple framework around the music, and promote child participation. You can also use any musical game which has a clear and simple participation element, such as musical statues which promotes active listening.

Photo by Donnie Ray Jones (Creative Commons)

2. A child should feel safe exploring sound and expressing themselves.

As annoying as it gets (and here in a music shop that’s quite often) you should let children try out new sounds and just make noise. It could be bashing pans together,  strumming a guitar, or trying to sing the highest note they can get. The experience of new sounds, and learning how to make those sounds that will give children confidence in music.

Having safe (and maybe expendable) musical toys and instruments around is the best way to achieve this. There are lots of percussion instruments designed for children which are ideal, or perhaps dig out that old guitar from the loft. At a young age it doesn’t have to play well, as long as the children get a chance to make some new and interesting sounds.

photo by Senior Airman Austin Harvill

3.  Variety is important, but repetition is key

Young children will easily get tired or doing the same thing over and over again, so having a range of activities to do is important. Picking a handful of things each time from a dozen or so is ideal.

On the other hand it is through repetition that we see development. If you’re repeating these same dozen activities over a long period there will come a time when a child can just do it. Having this sense of achievement (and the appropriate encouragement) can be a great way to inspire a young musician.

We’d love to hear what you do to inspire a young musical child. Let us know in the comments!


March Music Quiz

March 1st, 2018 | Posted by Brian Ackerman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


Does music feature on your list of New Year’s Resolutions? Whether it’s learning a new instrument, playing an old one, or expressing yourself musically it can be hard to stick at. Here’s our guide to making your resolution last.

Image may contain: 1 person, playing a musical instrument and guitar

1) Have a clear goal.

Instead of a general “I want to play my clarinet more” give yourself a definitive goal that you know you can achieve with some hard work. Something like “I want to master this piece by March” or “I’m going to perform at a local concert on this date.”

That way it’s a lot easier to see progress, and having a deadline gives your resolution a little more urgency



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2) Take small steps.

Even if your goal is quite manageable it’s good to break things down into the smallest part possible. Think “this week I want to crack the first 4 bars.” If you always rush in and try and play a new piece at sight, stop and break it up into small passages, so you won’t hit a brick wall when it gets to the hard bit. It’s amazing what can be achieved just by doing a little bit every day.



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3) Reward yourself.

It’s a great feeling when these little steps fall into place, and one by one these steps get easier to take. Once you’ve reached your daily/weekly goal, give yourself a little treat (ideally nothing that conflicts with any other resolutions!) Whatever it is, it will reinforce your new good habits.



4) Tell people.

We’re social animals and although we can usually admit defeat to ourselves, we find it so much harder to admit defeat to our friends and family. Get as many people on board with your project and make them ask you how it’s going as often as they can remember. Keep a little diary on social media, and those messages of encouragement will go a long way.

Are you learning a new instrument? Consider joining or hosting a charity “Grade-1-a-thon” and gather sponsorship from family and friends (and maybe they can join too.) Not only will you achieve your personal goal, you’ll also be doing good for charity.



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5) Do it together.

Do you want to play a duet or write a commission for someone? That’s great: working together means you don’t want to let someone else down. Meeting regularly to practice is a great way to form a strong new habit. Approach a teacher and buy 10 music lessons up front, you’re more likely to take those lessons and you have someone to encourage you along the way.


Those are our tips for musical success for 2018. We’d love to hear what your New Year’s resolution is: let us know in the comments!

Quick Composers Quiz

December 27th, 2017 | Posted by Brian Ackerman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

You only have 60 seconds to get them all!

The best part of our work is guiding someone into the amazing world of music. Unfortunately we find a lot of people get off on the wrong foot by buying an instrument that isn’t fit for use.

In our workshop we have a team of people who set up the instruments when they arrive from the factory. They always need adjustments to prepare them for playing.  Here’s what it looks like for a violin:

This is how the instrument comes from the factory. If your instrument has plastic or paper wrap around the tailpiece, that usually means it hasn’t been touched since leaving China.

The two most important things to look at, which make the biggest difference in how the instrument performs are the pegs and the bridge. If your pegs don’t go all the way through the pegbox they won’t hold the string properly, making it much harder to tune, harder to keep in tune, and much more likely to snap a string while tuning.

The bridge is the most important adjustment we make. Bridges will be supplied “blank” allowing for adjustment to match the violin’s fingerboard in height and shape. If your bridge looks flat and rough-cut then it’s most likely still a “blank” bridge. This makes it much harder to play, as the strings will too far away from the fingerboard, and will get worse as you play higher.

Unfortunately at this stage a lot of places will ship out the violin without making any adjustments, however for us this is when the instrument goes into our workshop.

The first step is to put the bridge into the correct place, and measure the height of the strings. The exact height changes depending on the size of the violin, but we usually have to take a few millimeters off. We mark the bridge against a template that best fits the shape of the fingerboard and it’s off to the sander!

The bridge is taken down to the correct playing height and rounded and smoothed.

Next we file small notches into the bridge so the strings don’t roll or slip under tension, and add a little graphite (a fantastic dry lubricant!) to prevent the strings pulling and warping the bridge through years of tuning (we can tell if people only tune from one end of the instrument because the bridge will bend toward that end.)

Sometimes the nut will need a little widening, and a bit more graphite is added, and then it’s time to fit the pegs. A reamer widens the hole, to ensure the pegs fits all the way through (this allows a more even fit across the peg.) A little wire wool and peg paste is added to help it turn smoothly. Once the pegs are done it just needs tuning up.

And there you have it: one finished violin.  It should play perfectly straight out of the case now. Whoever gets this violin will surely be stepping off on the right foot.

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions please leave a comment or give us a call.

Christmas Quiz

December 1st, 2017 | Posted by Brian Ackerman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

New Website Design

October 5th, 2017 | Posted by Brian Ackerman in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

We’re looking at updating the website (it’s been a while now.) Here’s a draft version. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.



Starting in 2018 ABRSM are introducing a new format to their music theory exams. Here’s our short guide to help you (or your students) prepare for these changes.


What is being changed?

Grades 1 – 5 only. The grades 6 – 8 will remain unchanged.


What will the differences be?

The examples included are taken from ABRSM’s free practice papers

There will now be multiple choice answers for the musical terms and symbols question:


Cleaning up the time signature questions (grades 1 – 3):


Simplifying the layout of the intervals questions (grades 4 -5):

Simplifying the layout of the cadence question (grade 5)


A few exam questions are being replaced: the rhythm, melody and word writing sections, and the SATB short/open score questions will be replaced with questions focused on specific areas of theory knowledge.


What’s not changing?

The syllabus has not changed, meaning the same knowledge level will be required at each grade. The past papers and theory workbooks remain good resources for training and testing the appropriate theory knowledge, however the past papers will obviously not help students familiarise themselves with the exam format.

To help this ABRSM have produced a free set of downloadable practice papers (2 for each grade) on their website. Printed practice papers will be available to purchase from January 2018. You can also test the difficulty of their multiple choice questions with an interactive quiz here.


What does this all mean?

ABRSM have ruffled a few feathers with this change. The theory exams have been largely the same for the last 25 years, and were probably overdue an update. The rhythm, melody and word setting elements are the more “creative” parts of the exam, so removing them shifts the focus away from applied general musicianship and more towards testing musical knowledge. This makes the exams a bit more user-friendly and easier to mark, as the creative elements often require interpretation from the examiner.

I’m sure ABRSM (and we) are hoping that these new format exams are suitable for a wide range of students, and might encourage more young people to learn about music, and learn an instrument to a high level.

ABRSM stated that as their syllabus has not changed, the current learning material is still valid going into 2018. The full range is available here.

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions please leave a comment,