Category Archives: General

How to Make Musical Note Cookies

I thought, since it’s exam season, I might deviate from my usual posts of tips and tricks, and share a wonderful recipe I found for cookie-cutter biscuits. I have road-tested these and not only are they easy to make, but they also hold their shape really well when you use cutters.

I don’t have a musical note shaped cutter, but you can buy them easily online. This one, from Amazon.co.uk is currently retailing at only 99p with free delivery. If you don’t fancy making them musical note-shaped, you can do them any other shape you like!

The recipe came from Smitten Kitchen originally, and I have translated the American measurements to UK instructions to make it really easy for you

Excellent Brownie-Cookies

  • 375 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 225 g lightly salted butter, softened
  • 300 g cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven at 180C (Gas Mark 4, 350F). Line several trays with greaseproof paper or baking parchment – I did three and used them several times over.

Sieve and mix dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa together. Gradually add dry ingredients, and mix until smooth. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least one hour.

Roll out cookie dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top. (It does disappear once baked, though, so don’t overly fret if they go into the oven looking white.) You can pack them fairly tight on the baking trays, as they do not spread much.

Bake for 8 to 11 minutes (depending on thickness) until the edges are firm, and the centres are slightly soft and puffed. You want to take them out just as they turn from glossy to dry looking on the top – any longer and they will be a bit on try dry and crumbly side, rather than soft.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and try not to eat them all at once!

Have you found any great cookie cutter cookie recipes? Share them below! Or even post a photo of your musical cookies.

My First Singing Exam (yes, your teachers took them too!)

ABRSM Exam CertificatesI took my first singing exam in… oh, I won’t tell you, but I was aged 14 and in year 9 at school in the south of England. I had been taking violin lessons since I was eight, but my interest had waned, not least because my teacher refused to let me take any exams (I was about grade 4 when I stopped, but have only grade 1 to show for it).

My singing teacher let me skip over grade 1 as I had sung in choirs since I was seven or eight and knew a bit of music already. We prepared three songs, as well as covering the aural tests and some of the sight-reading. I can’t remember what I sang any more…

*goes to look up on the syllabus…*

Ok, I had prepared The Mallow FlingDie Henne and The Little Spanish Town. All of them are still on the lists, and I enjoy teaching both The Mallow Fling and The Little Spanish Town to students. I can vividly remember hating Die Henne, but we had chosen it, and so that was the song it was to be! Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m always keen to help students find songs they enjoy singing for exams.

I rehearsed several times with my accompanist, who was a good friend of my teacher’s. My first singing teacher did not play the piano, so her friend accompanied for exams. My second teacher played and accompanied me for my exam, and my current teacher does play the piano, but does not accompany me for exams.

Man at desk

My Grade 2 exam was scheduled as part of a special visit at my school. Examiners will come to any location at any time if there are enough candidates, and so there were a range of students nipping out of lessons to take exams. The room they used was the Old Library – a very large room with a grand piano. It was a lovely space, but intimidating to fill as a new singer. Quite different from the other venues I have taken exams in – a church sanctuary, a musicians society room, a conservatoire opera studio and someone’s lounge! I remember the examiner being very kind and reassuring, and that once I started singing everything felt so much easier and less nerve-wracking than it had minutes before. After that, I don’t remember much, so it can’t have been a bad experience!

I did well in my exam – I got a solid merit. I went back and completed my Grades 3, 4 and 5 over the next few years, and I am now working towards a performance diploma for classical singing and for musical theatre.

My first exam experience was just as scary as anyone else’s, but it was the beginning of a life-long passion and a life-long journey to become excellent at music so that I can share it with others.

What was your first exam experience like? Are you preparing for your first exam right now? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Why I Love Teaching Kids

I love teaching, partly because each and every student is unique. You never know what you’re going to get. Both kids and adults come with their own special joys that make them very different to work with. This is what I love about teaching music to kids.

Kids are unpredictable

You can be fairly sure that most adult lessons will more or less be similar every week. The late ones will be late, the hardworking ones will have worked hard, and the forgetful ones will have forgotten something! Part of being an adult is learning and developing consistency of character and behaviour. Kids haven’t got there yet. Some days, they’re bouncing off the ceiling, others they’re tired and unmotivated. Even when they’re fairly average, you never know when they’re going to turn around and say something totally bizarre, or incredibly insightful. Lessons with kids are never the same twice!

Kids are ambitious and take challenge in their stride

Most kids don’t really have much experience of failure, and none of them have learned the life-lesson of adulthood that ambitions have to be tempered with realism. Kids want to be actors, pop stars, astronauts and superheroes – they have no idea about gas bills and council tax. This means kids tend to take all the challenges of music like taking exams in their stride. Everything in their life is about learning, so they just take learning music as normal. It’s delightful to see them go forward with a level of confidence adults rarely exhibit. Give kids a challenge and they’ll almost always rise to it.

Kids are endlessly inventive

Adult life tends to crush creativity. We’re so busy keeping afloat and doing what we have to, that creativity is often squeezed into small portions of time, or applied to very practical problems. Kids don’t have this issue – so they’re always coming up with new ideas and thoughts. I always find I learn new ways of looking at music from the kids I teach because they just think in a more creative way than I do.

Kids are full of potential

With adults, you usually know where their musical journey is headed. Sometimes, one will surprise you, but most of them enjoy music as a hobby, or are already working professionally (or have ambitions to). Kids aren’t even close to a career plan, so you never know where their musical journey could take them. Some will go on to study music at university or conservatoire, and others will take non-academic routes to a music career. Many will find a non-musical career, but hopefully, they’ll take both the primary and secondary skills learned from music lessons into those careers and succeed at them. The delightful thing is, when you start the journey of music lessons with kids, you have no idea where they’re going to end up in the end.

Those are just a few of the reasons I love teaching kids!

If you have a child who is interested in singing lessons and you live in the Edinburgh area, why not arrange a trial lesson for them with me? I offer specialist tuition for primary aged children which develops all-round musicianship and develops vocal technique in a safe way for young voices. High school aged children are able to take formal singing lessons.