Here in East Sussex the local government is considering closing its Music Service, due to lack of funding from central government. The jury is still out on what changes will be made as the process moves into public consultation, but in the mean time there is one government scheme open to music students nationwide.

The Assisted Instrument Purchase Scheme (AIPS) allows students to purchase an instrument for use in their lessons without paying the VAT. This represents a saving of nearly 17% and for those thinking about a next-step instrument this can be quite a large saving!

For example an advanced student looking to purchase a wooden clarinet such as the Yamaha YCL-650, would pay the net price of £874, rather than the full price of £1049, a saving of £175.

The scheme covers all sorts of instruments, so be sure to ask when you’re looking to purchase an instrument.

To be eligible you need to have tuition from a state school or local authority: this includes playing in the orchestra. To make the purchase, go to your school or music service and request the instrument you want under the scheme. They will send us a purchase order, and receive the instrument on your behalf.

Not all schools have made use of the scheme, but the finance department or bursar should be able to find any relevant information on the government website here:

We’re a big fan of the scheme, as it allows more people to take up a musical instrument!

Have you used the scheme? How did it work for you? Let us know in the comments.

What a Wonderful Quiz

April 30th, 2018 | Posted by Brian Ackerman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

50 years ago this month, Louis Armstrong’s “What a wonderful world” topped the UK singles chart. The question is: do you remember the words?


The Sound of Silver

March 31st, 2018 | Posted by Brian Ackerman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

This month we explore the use of silver in flutes. As you upgrade from student to professional the material of the flute changes from nickel to silver (and sometimes beyond that to gold or platinum!) Obviously this increases the price, but is it worth it?

Different metals have different resonance, which changes the harmonic overtones of the notes played. Let’s put theory into action and look at some flutes.

In action today we have a couple of Yamaha flutes: a nickel-body 212 and a silver-body 412. With the aid of a handy little phone app we can look at the whole spectrum of sound these flutes produce.

Firstly the nickel YFL-212

Now the silver YFL-412

As you can see the peaks on the silver flute are narrower peaks, giving the resulting sound more focus. The other main difference is a peak around 1200Hz (the second harmonic), which is almost as much as the octave, this means the silver gives a stronger overtone than the nickel, adding to the richness of the sound. The same is true for the other overtones, with much more prominent peaks shown at the higher harmonics.

With more sophisticated technology you might find these stronger overtones continue up the harmonic series, but even from our rudimentary findings it’s clear that silver flutes resonate quite differently from nickel ones.

Have you noticed a difference between the materials? Or tried a gold flute? Let us know in the comments.

A foolish quiz!

March 29th, 2018 | Posted by Brian Ackerman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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.