How Valves Work

October 25th, 2012 | Posted by Brian Ackerman in Brass Articles - (0 Comments)

This short video looks at exactly how a brass instrument valve works. It also explains what happens when a valve is incorrectly fitted.

Our new stock of Notus woodwind and Brass instruments has finally arrived.

These are made to our own specifications, and have proved very popular over the last few years.

New stock includes:-

  • A brand new alto saxophone AS-23
  • A new and improved flute FL-24
  • 4 types of cornet
  • Curved soprano saxes
  • Flutes with curved and straight heads

As well as being available for sale, they are also supplied on our Pure Rental scheme.

This is a short video showing you how to maintain your brass instrument valves, oiling them and putting them back in properly.

The demonstration is by Simon – our brass specialist. He is based in our Hove shop.

New Buffet B12 Clarinet Case

Old Style Case

The Buffet B12 has been an extremely popular clarinet with students and teachers for a long time now. Lightweight, strong, easy to play and keep clean, it makes an excellent choice for the beginner clarinettist. However, in my opinion, despite the high quality of the instrument, the outfit was always let down a little by the case.

Previously, the B12 came in a rather old fashioned, black plastic case that was, quite frankly, rather ugly! Given the choice between the B12 and the Yamaha YCL250 (now replaced by the YCL255), many young players would choose the 250 as it looked so much nicer… they were the ones who had to carry it to school after all!

However, Buffet have now fought back to win the style conscious beginner clarinettist by designing a superb new case for the Buffet B12 clarinet. This case was made available with instruments from around September 2012 and couldn’t be more different from the previous version. The new case for the B12 is still strong and durable but is now practical and looks great!

New Buffet B12 Clarinet CaseBuffet B12 Clarinet Case RearBuffet B12 Clarinet Case Rear With StrapsBuffet B12 Clarinet Case Accessory PocketInside the Buffet B12 Clarinet Case

Continue reading “New Case for the Ever Popular Buffet B12 Clarinet” »

Coloured Ukuleles

September 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Brian Ackerman in Stringed instruments - (0 Comments)

For some years now, coloured soprano ukuleles have been very popular in our shops. Literally thousands have gone out of our doors. Over that time we have provided a few different makes, according to availability and quality.

Unfortunately some of the ones we have done in the past we have had to stop supplying due to quality issues. The manufacturers have had problems trying to supply such a huge demand. This has lead to new factories setting up to try and take advantage of the demand, but alas quality has often suffered.

When the new Chord ukuleles came onto the scene, we were keen to try them out, as we were really struggling to find ones we were happy with. Continue reading “Coloured Ukuleles” »

Brass Instrument Guide

September 8th, 2012 | Posted by Andrew Hill in Brass Articles - (Comments Off on Brass Instrument Guide)

Brass instruments come in a variety of types but generally fall into three categories:

  1. ‘Natural’ brass
  2. Valved brass
  3. Slide brass

Natural brass - Bugle

Natural Brass

These are basically differing lengths of brass tubing each producing a series of notes in a ‘Harmonic series.  The Bugle, Natural ‘French’ Horn and Post Horn are examples of this.  Notes are altered by the players’ embouchure and speed of air-flow via the buzzing of the lips. Music written for ‘Natural’ instruments include The Bach Brandenburgh Concerto No.2 in F in which a Trumpet pitched in F plays one of the Concertino parts.  The Mozart Horn concertos were written for valveless horn and Koenig’s ‘Post Horn Gallop’ for a Post horn pitched in A (orchestral) and Ab (Band.) Continue reading “Brass Instrument Guide” »

Mutes for Brass Instruments

August 24th, 2012 | Posted by Andrew Hill in Brass Articles - (0 Comments)

Mutes for brass instruments come in a variety of shapes and types, and in differing materials to produce specific ‘muted’ effects.  Mutes do not necessarily make the instrument quieter. When a muted instrument is played fortissimo an aggressive, harsh sound can be produced.  It is worth trying out as many different makes of mute before you buy- play them over the whole range of the instrument from high to low, pianissimo to Fortissimo.  Some mutes can muffle and almost choke-off the lower notes whilst some can make the instrument sharpen in pitch!  Some French horn mutes in particular can alter the pitch completely.

All brass instruments can be muted (even tubas and sousaphones!) and the main types are (pictured below, left to right): Continue reading “Mutes for Brass Instruments” »

There are many types and qualities of bows for stringed instruments, but they all have one thing in common: the importance of maintaining your bow correctly.Paesold violin bow PA468

Loosening the Bow

When a bow is in its instrument case, it must always be loosened. With a reasonable quality bow, this means that the hairs will touch the  stick, somewhere near the middle. If a bow is left taut all the time, the following can occur: with a cheap bow, the stick will quickly ‘go to sleep’ and lose its natural spring; this means that each time you tighten the bow, you will have to wind it up that much more to get the required tension for playing, it may also cause the hairs to pull out, either at the frog end of the bow, or at the tip; occasionally, the stick may snap.

With a quality bow, these things may not happen, at least not as quickly, but irreparable damage can start to occur to the second most important tool in your instrument case: the bow will start to warp; as you look down the bow from the frog, the stick will curve: to the right on violin/viola and to the left on cello bows. This warping can sometimes be rectified, but this is expensive and time consuming and doesn’t always work.


Your bow will sometimes need re-hairing; many new players often mistake this for the thread in the tightening screw seizing up and many bows are brought into Ackerman Music because they won’t tighten up any more. In reality, it usually means that the hair has reached the end of its travel and will need replacing. You can usually see if this happens, as the the very end of the the hairs, where they join onto the slide into the frog, will appear very slightly discoloured and the width will be very marginally narrower. With entry level student bows you will usually need to purchase a new bow at this stage, as this is cheaper than having a re-hair.


Finally, always make sure that your bow remains clean; don’t be tempted to over-rosin the bow as this will leave a white, sticky residue over the stick and the front of your stringed instrument. If you do load too much rosin on to the hairs, you can use a quickly evaporating spirit, such as lighter fluid, to clean them, but be careful not to get it onto the stick. Even with a good bowing technique, after prolonged playing, we can get tired, which can cause our hands to creep up the bow and thumbs to move from the thumb leather and onto the hairs, which will leave a dark, greasy mark, this can also be removed with lighter fluid. If there’s a sticky build up on the front of your instrument, please seek professional advice, as the wrong cleaning product can easily damage the varnish.


Every couple of years, the second week of July brings us the new ABRSM Piano exam pieces. It’s a day teachers and students alike anticipate greatly – to see what new music will be available to them over the coming two years. The syllabus for 2013 – 2014 has delivered some fantastic pieces from all periods, including one or two that are bound to be favourites among young pianists!

The requirements for scales and sight-reading remain virtually unchanged although new covers for the books will be slowly introduced to bring them up to the level of the snazzy pieces books! The only small alteration is the introduction of natural minor scales available to grade 1 and 2 students.

Grade 1

Mozart’s Minuet in G starts us off – composed when he was only 5 or 6, this is one of the first pieces written by probably the greatest composer to ever live. However Das Ballett by Daniel Turk is bound to be a popular pick.

List B brings the tricky but entertaining Sailors Song by Felix Swinstead, along with a personal favourite in the alternative pieces, Borodin’s Polovtsian Dance from Prince Igor. This piece is in Simply Classics, Grades 0-1, arr. Gritton (Faber).  B5 is very enjoyable too – Gurlitt’s staccato piece Die Klappermuhle (The Clattering Mill).

There is always the chance in list C to play more modern pieces  and grade 1 brings the chance to play the middle eight from The Chatanooga  Choo Choo – bound to bring a smile to many parents faces.

Grade 2

Thomas Attwood’s pretty Allegro from his Sonatina in C and Handel’s Minuet in G minor are two highlights in list A. The second of these being available in Handel – Easy Piano Pieces and Dances (Barenreiter).

List B throws up some great pieces including Nicolai Podgornov’s Bear Dance and Arthur Sullivan’s Gavotte from the Gondoliers (Piano Time Opera – OUP). One that’s bound to get a lot of attention though is Chinese composer Li Yinghai’s, Xiong Mao. It means Panda in Cantonese and one listen to this will make you realise why!

Be prepared to be spoilt for choice in list C, with three cracking – though very tricky pieces. Youngsters will surely love the chance to learn Meet The Flintstones (C1), while Sarah Watts’ ‘Strange Things Happen’ (C3) and David Blackwell’s ‘Cat’s Eyes’ (C5) (Piano Time Jazz 2 – OUP) will also be popular choices. Continue reading “New ABRSM Piano Exam Pieces 2013-14” »


Strings are largely a matter of personal preference. It is worth experimenting with different makes and tensions (gauges) of strings to find out what suits you and your guitar.

Strings for acoustic guitars

Bronze wound strings usually have a brighter sound, however they generally do not last as long as phosphor bronze strings, which have a slightly mellower tone.

Tension or gauges of strings can make a big difference to the sound of the guitar, but again is largely down to preference. New guitars usually have medium or light gauge strings on them, as the higher gauge strings would give a stronger and slightly brighter sound. Lighter gauge strings will make the guitar easier to play as you don’t have to press down as hard, but as a result may not have a strong sound and it increases the likelihood of fret buzz. Continue reading “Basic Guide to Guitar Strings” »