Category Archives: Friday Favourites

Friday Favourites

Take a friday pause
It’s been quite a week in music education in England, with new talk of a “rigorous curriculum” being discussed again. All is quiet on the Scottish front, but that doesn’t mean the blogosphere isn’t teaming with great articles!

Posts on learning

6 Ways to Identify High-Quality Music Teachers (The Musician’s Way) – 6 key things to look for in a music teacher. For my tips, click here.

Posts on teaching

Dealing with Choir Members who are Always Late (Chris Rowbury) – What to do if your choir members are late, and what you should do if you are always late.

Why the Wrong Kind of Praise Can Undermine Our Students’ Confidence (Bulletproof Musician) – why it’s better to praise the process than the person.

Posts about other things

Twitter? In the concert hall?? (Beyond the Notes) – What do you think about the idea of real-time tweeting a concert? Great idea for a conversation, or a travesty of modern times? Erica Sipes tried it and this is what happened.

Comfortable Piano Playing (Classical Mel) – Some key tips to make sure playing the piano is always physically comfortable.

The Sacrament of the Microphone (Dr Marc’s Blog) – What is it about the microphone which makes a performance seem more legitimate? Or does it?

What the Music Industry can learn from Milk (88pianokeys) – A great thought on the importance of the right kind of PR.

Theatre-going is not a competitive sport (Guardian Theatre Blog) – A timely reminder that we don’t have to see everything. Honestly.

Music in the News

Chalk Talk: New approach to music strikes the right notes (The Independent)

Queen’s official composer: youngsters are ignorant of classical music because of ‘elitist’ attitude (The Telegraph)

Government plans to fund music lessons (The Telegraph)

The Global Search for Education: The Master – Renée Fleming (Huffington Post)

50 Shades! The Musical Headed Off-Broadway in 2014 (

Why Gove’s shakeup of music education in schools hits the wrong notes (The Guardian)

Friday Favourites

Take a friday pause


Another quiet week on the blogs – everyone must be very busy! Still, there’s some great articles ready for you to enjoy over a cuppa tonight.


Posts on learning

Be the best singer you can, but don’t forget there’s more to life (Chris Rowsebury) – A very wise post about the nature of ambition and the realities of what it means to want to be good at something.

How to be profoundly grateful and feel better about your challenges (Ear Training and Improv) – A little early for Thanksgiving, but a post that encourages us all to be more thankful about life.

Posts on teaching

How to Tackle the Measure Monster (Teach Piano Today) – a lovely teaching tip to help students struggling with a specific bar or phrase.

Posts about other things

We Need to Talk About The Diva (We Need to Talk About Opera) – New to the Friday Favourites, We Need to Talk about Opera gives a spotters guide to a true diva, and separates real ones from their caricatures.

Music in the News

Listen to heavy metal? You may have low self-esteem (Daily Mail)

Singing boosts brain activity in Alzheimer’s patients, scientists say (The Independent)

Music – a gift for language learners (The Telegraph)

Shakeup in children’s music education has failed to bring significant benefits (The Guardian)

Music Teacher of the Year Awards conclude (Classic FM)

An arts education develops strong creative multi-disciplinary minds (The Information Daily)

Friday Favourites

Take a friday pause

This weekend marks Remembrance Sunday, and Rememberance Day on Monday. This year marks 99 years since the start of World War I, and as part of the reflections, I always find the last post almost more evocative than the silence – a true reflection of the power of music. If you want to take some time to reflect, you can listen to the last post here.

And now, onto this week’s blog posts:

Posts on learning

Get Real about Music Careers (The Musician’s Way) – Some harsh but true thoughts about what kind of music careers are out there.

How to catch up if you miss a choir rehearsal (Chris Rowbury) – From a new blog I’ve discovered, here’s some key tips on what to do if your winter cold keeps you from making it to choir practice.

Learning to Learn: Part 1 – Forget Me Not! (Music Teacher’s Helper) – A rather in depth post that talks about how we learn.

Posts on teaching

The Truth About Piano Students With Learning Challenges (Teach Piano Today) – a great post with ideas for any young student with concentration issues, learning difficulties or just a challenging personality. Tips that way beyond SEN students.

The Doctor Teaches the Piano Teacher (Compose Create) – A thought about what piano lessons are really paying for, and whether that means we can really have a 24 hour cancellation policy. There’s a link for a great leaflet explaining where music tuition fees go too.

You Know That Awkward Moment Before They Break Down In Tears?… (Teach Piano Today) – Some key tips for teachers to stop the struggle moments before they happen!

Music in the News

Highlights of Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme: Big Big Sing

Childhood Music Lessons May Offer Lifelong Benefits

Childhood music lessons ‘leave lasting brain boost’

And finally, this isn’t a blog post, but I came across this great series of YouTube videos explaining some basic theory concepts that has been created by one of the bloggers I follow: Pianoanne Theory Tutorials Playlist

Friday Favourites

Take a friday pause


Don’t forget, the clocks “fall” back this weekend, so there’s even more excuses to curl up on the sofa and read some excellent blog posts.


Posts on learning

Why You May Want to Avoid Watching the News Before an Audition (Bulletproof Musician) – Anything to stay calm, right?

Bottling up a small but significant musical moment (Beyond the Notes) – A lovely anecdote to remind us all of what we’re really doing this for.

Finding Time To Practice (The Musician’s Blog) – Some thoughts on how hard it is for professional musicians to actually find time to practice!

Choosing Repertoire (The Musicians Way) – Three key tips for choosing the repertoire you want to sing or play for concerts, competitions and events.

Posts on teaching

Now Available: Composition & Improvisation Prompts for Piano eBook (Color in my Piano) – A lovely new resource to inspire creativity for piano students. I’m definitely inspired to create some similar ideas for singers.

Posts about other things

Classical Music and Social Media: A Changing Landscape Within a Changing Landscape (The Collaborative Piano Blog) – How social media has changed musical careers, and some musings on the current state of affairs.

Why Children’s Theatre Matters (Guardian Theatre Blog) – Children’s theatre is often maligned, but it’s been getting better and better in recent years.

Five unexpected reasons to embrace Brahms (Guardian Classical Music Blog) – You’d never think this stalwart of the singing repertoire lists was so interesting as a composer!

Friday Favourites

Take a friday pause

Exam dates are starting to roll out this week, but never fear, we will be here to support you through. Plus, if you need to chill out after practicing, here’s the pick of this week’s music blogs.


Posts on learning

Why the Progress You Make in the Practice Room Seems to Disappear Overnight (Bulletproof musician) – Some thoughts on using interval training principles during practice to help you remember things.

Chess or Checkers? (Practicing the Piano) – The benefits of slow practice.

No tortoisian ambling, please (La Donna’s Music Studio) – Why slow practice isn’t enough on it’s own.

Cleaning Your Instrument (Music Teacher’s Helper) – Don’t know how to clean your instrument properly and safely? Here’s a collection of links to guide you.

Posts on teaching

The Top 4 Piano Studio Policies That Will Make You and Your Clients Happy (Teach Piano Today) – Key things to establish right at the beginning.

Your Studio Environment (Music Teacher’s Helper) – Some thoughts on how to set up your teaching space.

Music Advocacy and the Independent Music Teacher (Color In My Piano) – Are we advocating music lessons for the real reasons, and not for the secondary benefits?

5 Games to Bake… I Mean Make… Note Reading Fun! (Teach Piano Today) – Some cake-related ideas for practicing note reading.

Posts about other things

Should theatre fund audiences and not just artists? (Guardian Theatre Blog) – It’s great to fund finding new talent, but what if there’s no one to see the work?

Music in the News

Friday Favourites

Take a friday pause


It’s definitely colder up here, and so it’s been winter coat on this week. If it’s chilly where you are, curl up under a blanket and enjoy some of these great posts.


Posts on learning

Vocalists’ checklist for solving practice room problems (Beyond the Notes) – A really fantastic checklist for helping singers get more out of their practice times. Why not print it and stick it up in your practice space?

How to Get Unstuck and Break Through Learning Plateaus (Bulletproof Musician) – All about using feedback and awareness to improve your performance.

The Value of Music Theory (Classical Mel) – A great post summarising the benefits of studying music theory alongside performance.

Practice and Listen and Practice and Listen (La Dona’s Music Studio) – Some thoughts on the big news in the music world this week that learning the bassoon can help to win you a Nobel prize… maybe.

Posts on teaching

The Performing Teacher (Cross-Eyed Pianist) – Some interesting thoughts on why it’s important teachers should be performers too.

21 Days to Consistent Practice (Teach Piano Today) – How the first three weeks can make all the difference to ensuring good practice habits.

Don’t Leave it to Chance (La Dona’s Music Studio) – Some tips and resources on teaching intervalic reading (or, relative pitch reading).

How to Rescue The Unmotivated Teenage Piano Student (Teach Piano Today) – Some great ideas on how to motivate teenage music students.

Posts about other things

Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking (Professionally Speaking) – A nice summary post about some of the key ways to reduce nerves.

Maintaining Composure as Your Top Falls Off... (Speak Schmeak) – a really good example of how it should be done! And the poster misses that not only does the dancer keep her own cool, but the other female dancer also drops out of the formation to make it look more even – so teamwork!

Music in the News

Music and the Third Metric (Huffington Post)

Friday Favourites

Take a friday pause


October is here. I love October, but then it’s the month in which my birthday falls, so I’m biased!


Posts on learning

Build Greater Confidence by Approaching Practice Like a Surgeon (Bulletproof Musician) – Why reflective practice is more effective.

I’ll admit it… I’ve made a mistake (Teach Piano Today) – But is that mistake detrimental to learning music?

Pressing practicing questions and some answers (Beyond the Notes) – Some great answers to questions on the topic of practicing

10 Exercises to Practice When You’ve Run Out of Ideas (Jazz Advice) – Although aimed at Jazz players, these tips are great for improving sight-reading, aural skills, composition and general all-round musicianship.

In Praise of Slow Practice (Classical Mel) – Why sometimes it’s really important not to rush through when practicing.

15 Ways to Fill Your Child’s Piano Practice Tank (Teach Piano Today) – Here are some lovely ideas for all you parents hoping to motivate your kids to practice more.

Choosing a Balanced Diploma Programme (Dr Marc’s Blog) – An old post, but one which came to my attention this week for anyone interested in putting together a diploma or recital programme (the advice is true for any age and stage).

Posts on teaching

Don’t motivate. Inspire. (La Dona’s Music Studio) – A very important difference we teachers need to remember.

Introducing ‘Messy Piano’ or ‘Alternatives to spoon feeding’ (The Curious Piano Teacher) – Some thoughts on why too much planning, structure and organisation can be a bad thing for teaching and learning.

Questioning students while they work (Teaching & Learning Music) – Ten questions to help students think about what they’re doing when they’re composing.

Ten Tips for Marketing Your Students (Music Teacher’s Helper) – Ten great ideas to help build up student numbers.

Posts about other things

Young, gifted and back in the theatre (Guardian Theatre Blog) – Some interesting new research that suggests more teens and young adults are going to the theatre than ever before.

Serve without being asked (Speak Schmeak) – Can you be flexible enough in public speaking to go off-script when the situation demands it?

Music in the News

Singing cabbie treats his fares to garage and road ballads (Evening Standard)

Singing mice protect their turf with high-pitched tunes (E! Science News)

Will fat lady sing for NYC Opera? (Daily Express)

Lang Lang promotes education at UN headquarters (

Scottish Opera’s music director resigns after only 58 days (Guardian Classical Music Blog)

Berklee College of Music Will Offer Degrees Online (Herald Online)

Friday Favourites

Take a friday pause

Last Friday Favourites of September, and the evenings are definitely drawing in. There’s even signs of a few autumnal leaves around. Oh, and musicians everywhere are in the middle of planning their Christmas concerts! Whether you’re prepping for an exam this term, or looking to festive performances, take a break and enjoy a few of these great posts and articles.

On Learning

Make Practicing Less Frustrating With the 5 Whys Technique (Bulletproof Musician) – Instead of thinking the mistake was because “I suck”, why not try this method to figure out what the real problem is?

On Teaching

The Piano Survey 2010 (The Curious Piano Teacher) – Results from some PhD research showing the demographics of piano teachers in the UK

When to Apply For a Piano Exam (La Dona’s Music Studio) – Some important and challenging thoughts on when we should put students in for exams.

Music in the News

Nicola Benedetti: Every young person in Britain should be made to study classical music (The Independent) – Acclaimed violinist criticises music teaching in the UK

Teenagers tune up for the homeless (Linlithgow Gazette) – A guitar recycling project has got youngsters in Linlithgow strumming from the same songsheet

My brain was like mashed potato after a terrible car accident – but listening to Coldplay helps me remember who I am (Daily Mail) – How playing Coldplay helped Ed Buckly recover from hit & run.


A Beautiful Process for Scales (Practicing the Piano) – A great suggestion from a master class on how to bring life into scales (and this technique can be practiced right from Grade 1 in a limited form).

Friday Favourites

Take a friday pause
Autumn has definitely set in. I’m wearing gloves and I’ve been putting in exam entries left, right and centre. Theory exams with Trinity, musical theatre with LCM and a piano exam for me with ABRSM. It’s going to be a busy autumn. However, today is Friday, and that makes it time for a cuppa and the blog round up.

Posts about Learning

Student Plan – Setting Goals for the Year (Practice Makes It Easy) – A lovely post reminding teachers and students alike that it’s that time of year when we set goals and targets. Click over to my post on SMART Goals for more ideas on how to set your own targets.

Be More Confident at Your Next Audition by Going on a Facebook Diet (Bulletproof Musician) – The downside of Facebook for the Musician and why you it’s best to use social media in moderation!

Structuring Your Piano Practice (Classical Mel) – A great post about how more advanced musicians can get more out of their practice time. Although this post focusses on piano, actually the tips work for most instruments including singing.

Formant Tuning and Vowel Modification (Wonders of Voice) – A short but sweet post on why we need to change the way we sing on higher notes.

Posts about Teaching

5 Days of Piano Teaching Using Playdough (Teach Piano Today) – Some fantastic ideas on how to use playdough to teach theory concepts to students!

What Maternity Leave? When a Piano Teacher Becomes a Parent (Teach Piano Today) – It must be something in the air, but I’ve seen some recent forum posts about maternity plans for music teachers, so here’s a good post with some really helpful tips.

Free Printable: Piano Lesson Contract (The Teaching Studio) – Just like we have home-school agreements to help everyone know what they need to do to get the most out of school education, here’s a really simple way to present a parent-student-teacher agreement on what everyone will do to get the most out of music lessons.

 Other Interesting Things

Tchaikovsky not gay? Here’s some more musical shocks for you (Guardian Classical Music Blog) – Some interesting anecdotes about recent revisionist history coming out of Russia.

The Only Calibration that Matters (La Dona’s Music Studio) – Two lovely, encouraging quotes.

Finally, here’s La Dona’s latest funny. I may not have loved the Peanuts musical, but this is a great little comic strip from Charles Schultz: It’s all right… I can still play

Friday Favourites

Time to take a Friday Pause

A semi-palindromic date today –
always makes me smile, anyway! As the autumn sets in, there’s plenty of live music popping up around, but if you’re not lucky enough to be out and about tonight, have a read of this lot.


One Simple Bit of Tech May Be a Piano Teacher’s Best Friend! (Teach Piano Today) – A useful post about how to send mass text messages to students.

4 Ways Judging Can Make You a Better Teacher (ComposeCreate) – A lovely guest post on Wendy’s blog about how being the judge can help us all be better teachers (and musicians)

Learning music, riding bikes, and eating Oreos (Beyond the Notes) – Find out what layers have to do with learning (and use it as an excuse to open that pack of Oreos too)

Communicating with Teachers (The Musician’s Way) – A useful post with some thoughts on how and why to communicate with your teacher.

Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowships (The Curious Piano Teacher) – Ever wanted to travel to learn more about teaching? Here is a useful source of funding.

Perform Better Under Pressure (Bulletproof Musician) – How simply changing your perspective can make you a better musician.

Are Stage Adaptations Always Inferior? (Guardian Theatre Blog) – I’m usually of the opinion that “the original medium is the best”, but there are always exceptions…

5 Music Theory Tips: Part 2 (Music Teacher’s Helper) – A blog post packed with great little mnemonics to help you remember theory basics.

Getting Students Excited about Classical Music (Music Teacher’s Helper) – How to help young kids develop a love of classical music as well as popular music!

How to Use Pop Music to Improve Your Ear (Jazz Advice) – A Great post with ideas on how to use the music you listen to all the time to your advantage.

What Makes a Good Audience? (Guardian Theatre Blog) – Some thoughts about getting the balance right between too quiet and too loud!

Costume and Set Design (The Drama Teacher) – Preparing for LCM exams or interested in theatre? This video is a great introduction to the role of costume and set.

Which actors pass the telephone directory test? (Guardian Theatre Blog) – Who would you pay to see in any show?

What insecurities are keeping you from the stage? (Speak Schmeak) – Some thoughts on what it is that gives us performance anxieties.

Finally, this is an excellent post on how to practice, and how to learn songs. It’s from 2011, so I’ve left it till last. Keep an eye on the blog for future posts on how to practice singing more effectively: Vocal Technique: How to Best Practice Practicing Singing (The Counter Tenor Voice)