All Saint’s Day lesson: Perfect Harmony

Peace and Harmony to you all.

It is the 1st of November.  Yesterday’s lesson was posted on Halloween.  Although the lesson promoted a reduction of tension on the Vocal Chords, it employed a technique – which I call – Zombie Face.  It is actually very relaxing and peaceful, yet it looks a little scary.  Today’s lesson redresses the balance and brings peace.  It is peculiar to humans that we celebrate the dark night, rather than the bright new day of hope.  We worry about what has happened, despite hope of a positive future.

This video is a lesson which teaches the melody for All Saint’s Eve, the Performance of playing it in Octaves, Fifths and Fourths, the Composition of harmony and the Musicology of Greek thoughts on Natural Science and how it brings about Perfect Harmony.

It is a taster of what a lesson might look like.



Vocal Warm Up

Vocal Warm Ups

Students have requested that I record videos of the vocal warm ups that we do.  This assists practise.

This video demonstrates a sequence.  The sequence is short.  If it is learned, it may be extended to the Octave and practised in different keys.  This sequence only goes to the fifth degree of the scale and not up to the octave.

The Musical Sequence is: 1231, 2342, 3453 1.  It Cadences nicely as the final three notes are 5,3,1, which is a descending Arpeggio.

Notice that the second note sung is always the first note of the next stage in the sequence.  Memorise the second note and this will help to locate the next stage in the sequence.  Developing this ability teaches access to the upper reaches of the octave.

The video also teaches the sequence using the Solfeggio system – introduced by Guido d’Arezzo – also known as Kodaly Singing, as it was employed by the Hungarian Musicologist Zoltan Kodaly.  The sequence in Solfeggio is: Doh, re, me, Doh-re,me,fa,re-me,fa,Soh,me-Doh.  The respective hand signals are also taught.

Learn more by booking lessons online.

Finding a home in the Branches of Music

This Blog is on finding a home in the branches of music.  I have noticed that Students have a perception of what a Musician is and some don’t believe that they fit in.  Music is about performance and to be a musician, you must be good at playing pieces and going on Stage: right?  That assumption is not entirely correct.  I write this to present the differing branches of Music.  One branch is Performance, but there are others.  Every Student fits in and can find a home.

I am a Teacher: I look at music and think, “The best way to present this is in a lesson”.  Others might think the best way to present their ideas is in a Performance or Composition.  I am developing an interest in researching the Public Perception of Music.   Each lesson, I teach, explores low level Composition and Musicology: in addition to traditional Performance training.  This teaches Students and Parents that music is a broader Subject than the popular perception.  My Research is an Hobby.  I Blog, to explore ideas.  My writing style is directed at the Public, hence the use of the first person and colloquial terms.  If I were to develop my Research to bridge a gap in knowledge in the field of Musicology, I would assert that the Public’s understanding of Music has altered over the years – as Historic views on Aesthetics have altered and reached the Public Readership – and the influence of changing Perception of Music has diminished its importance in Education.  I would refer to an Historical viewpoint, show how modes of proof altered in post-Cartesian thought and establish an argument for moving forward, incorporating both Grecian and Modern Philosophies. My writing style would alter for the Journals in which you might find such writings, but that’s best left for another time. This Blog teaches that there are three branches of Music.  Students who understand the three branches can better direct their energy.

Music gets its name as it comes from the Muses.  The picture is of the Muses – Ancient Greek daughters of Zeus, concerned with Physical Gestures, Sound and the Written Word. There are arguments for 3 or 9 Muses. I use 3 as the 9 broadly cover 3 skills: Rhetoric, Sound and Non-verbal Communication. Any Student who knows me will hear the phrase, “Music is the Art of Convicting the Unconvinced”.  The subject of Music is the Study of Communication.  Mastery of Music develops pathways in the brain which are called upon when communicating effectively.  An Education in Music assists the Student in getting the right job and moving up in that job. The point that I am making is that Music is bigger than most people’s perception.  Other Blogs explain how the subject of music educates good communication.  This Blog teaches that music is wider than the Public’s perception.  It presents the branches and helps Students find their home.

A Student of Science understands that there are branches of Science..

Image result for hierarchy of Physics Chemistry and Biology

Mathematics gaining most time, resources and gravitas: followed by Physics and Chemistry.  Biology is seen as the least of the hard sciences, or the greatest of the “Soft Sciences”.  Psychology and the Social Sciences receive less time, resources and gravitas; leading to reduced uptake in the upper years of Secondary School and reducing further into Tertiary School.  “The Arts” are squeezed in, with the least time, resources and gravitas afforded to them.  My Research seeks to redress this imbalance.  This Research is an hobby.  If I were to develop it for Professional purposes, my PhD would be in Musicology.  This Blog is written to highlight that there are branches of Music, draw attention to branches which Students may not have considered and alter the perception of the importance of Music.

Whilst this Blog does highlight the Branches of Music and suggests that not all Branches are afforded the same respect; I do not write from a feeling of angst, I am merely musing.  Angie Hobbs – Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield – comments, whilst speaking on a programme about the Muses, that self inflicted “Time Poverty” means that we no longer muse.  Here is a link to the Radio Programme, to which you can listen after reading this Blog.

I am musing on the point that there are branches of Music and the Public Perception of Music does not account for these Branches.

The Branches of Music

The three Branches of Music are Composition, Musicology and Performance.  These are covered in Secondary School under the titles Composition, Listening and Performance.  Students who are not good enough are given Listening as a focus.  At no point do the Musical Staff stand in from of the Class and explain how Staff Members fit into the different Branches of Music.  Performance is pushed, Composition follows and – so called – Listening (which is an obscure form of teaching Musicology) is seen as something to do, if the Student can’t do anything else.  The Science Department has the same view of Biology, but at least it presents the different Branches of Science.

In the first two years of Secondary School I studied “General Science”.  A broad Education was presented.  Approaching third year – the time to choose specialisms – the Science Staff gave a presentation.  One Teacher said, “I’m a Biologist.  If it breathes, it’s Biology!”, another, “I’m a Chemist.  If it blows up, it’s Chemistry!”  The last said, “If it doesn’t work, it’s Physics!” and everyone laughed, although only some knew why.

It might be said that; if you ask questions about living things and you like answering by dissecting things, you are a Biologist.

Image result for neville longbottom

if you ask questions about chemical connections and you like answering by exploring reactions, you are a Chemist.

Image result for seamus finnigan

if you ask questions about the the natural behaviour across a spectrum and you like answering by theorising from the infinitesimal to the infinite, you are a Physicist.

Image result for hermione granger half blood prince

It is understood that Scientists cover a general knowledge of Science, specialise and develop an interest in one Branch of science – Biology, Chemistry or Physics.  The public perception of Music is that studying leads to Performance. This Blog is written to present the branches of Performance, Composition or Musicology.  You may find that you are struggling to see how your interest in reading about Music fits into Performance.  Rather than giving up, believing that you don’t fit in, explore which Branch fits your interests.

If you ask questions about interpretation and answer by Performing your interpretation, you are a Performer.

Image result for music performance

If you ask questions about the structure of sound and answer by presenting in the form of Piece, you are a Composer.

Image result for music composition

If you ask questions about the connection between disciplines and answer by presenting a talk or book, you are a Musicologist.

Image result for musicologist

I like to think “Logically” about “Music”.  Words with the suffix “ology” use systems of thought – Logic.  Musicology is the field of applying systems of thought to Music problems.

A well balanced Music Staff might present the Branches of Music to the Students as,

“If I play your Music, it’s Performance”, “If you play my Music, it’s Composition” and “If I talk about how Music fits within an Interdisciplinary field, connecting History, Theory, Philosphy, Education…..it’s Musicology”.  “And we are not the Biology of the Music world”. “So there!”

In Lectures, we became accustomed to hearing jibes like, “Musicologists don’t know where the play button is”.

Image result for musicologist

In fact a fellow student leveled the question, “Are you a Musicologist?!” at me and the tone of there voice was not complimentary.

I could jibe back: if you believe everyone should look at you, you are a Performer and if you believe that your music is the most important, you are a Composer, but if you can define the value in “Great Works”, you are a Musicologist.  That would be a jibe, though and not entirely true.

The issue is not that Musicologists know how to read, but not listen: it is that we know how to listen and like to write about what we have heard.  To those who put on concerts – either in which they Perform or have their music performed – it seems that actual music isn’t actually happening, in Musicology.  That is like saying that Biology is not actually a Science.  Music has branches and each branch asks and answers questions in different, but equally valid ways.

I Performed 144 times in 2007, I have a Masters Degree in Composition, so I can do those fields.  My passion is the Public Perception of Music.  I encourage Students to explore Musicology and Composition.  Traditionally, lessons train Performers.  Students often believe that they are never going to make it to the Stage and give up.  My lessons balance Musicology, Performance and Composition.  I have written this Blog to encourage a change in perspective.  There are various branches of Music.  explore all of them, find your niche and enjoy that.  You are making a contribution.


Music was originally the Subject which trained Communication.

As Philosophy altered, it placed greater emphasis on Scientific enquiry that the Humanities (whose proof is found by comparing and contrasting the opinions of Humans).

Providing and Education in Music develops Communication being Humans.

Subscribe to the Blog to find out more about why Music is the Art of Convicting the Unconvinced.

Exciting new development

I am excited to announce that I have extended my Teaching Catchment.


Related image

Having enjoyed teaching Students from Aboyne, Brechin, Sauchen, Keith, Stonehaven and, of course, Banchory, I have extended my catchment to Students from Aberdeen and Cults through to Montrose and Braemar.

Online Tuition is becoming more and more popular.  You are taught in the comfort of your own home and are able to receive the highest level of Tuition.  Lessons use video calling to deliver the same high quality, face-to-face, person centred tuition as location based lessons.

Q and A with Robin Thornton

Robin Thornton MMus, BMus (Hons.), ATCL (Dip.) teaches Singing, Guitar, Piano, Bass Guitar Drums and Music Theory. Music Tuition – either in the studio or online.

– Which subject(s) do you teach?

I give lessons in Singing, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Piano, Drums, Composition and Theory. Lessons are given on an individual basis and are person centred. Materials used in the lesson are guided by the pupil’s interests. Lessons are available at the studio or online.

– Tell me about your qualifications.

I hold a Masters Degree (MMus), BMus (Hons.) and a Teaching Diploma, which I passed with distinction.

I started teaching in 1993 as part of a local teaching initiative and realised that it was something that came naturally to me. In 2004 I self-studied Grade 8 – Guitar, Bass, Piano and entered myself for the exams. The three Grade 8’s gave me enough UCAS points to miss first year of the Teaching Diploma, so my, four year, degree entailed a teaching diploma and the remaining three years of the degree. While studying for the teaching Diploma I passed Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music Grade 8 Theory.
My Teaching Diploma is in the Principles and Practise of Individual Instruction and the Degree which I graduated with is in Music performance and composition, however I studied class room teaching for one and a half years. It is from classroom teaching the that I understand assessment, psychology and learning styles. I clearly plan lessons so that the pupil understands what they are learning in the lesson and what that learning is for.

What I learned on the Masters Degree informs my teaching. A thorough understanding of the history and development of music sets the context for the pupil’s learning and brings it to life.

– How much do you charge?

Lessons cost £17 per half hour and £34 per hour. All pupils begin be taking half hour lessons and, if it is appropriate, they advance to hour long lessons.

– Where do you teach?

I teach from my home studio and give online lessons. Online lessons are great is travelling is an issue. I teach local Students from Crathes, Drumoak, Strichen, Kemnay and Lumphanan, who find traveling difficult. I also teach Students in England, France, Russia, the Middle East and Australia, to whom traveling is impossible. Both – studio based and online – lessons are one-to-one and person centred.

I have a home studio at The Coach House Invery, Banchory. In my studio I have a Piano, Guitars – Electric, Acoustic, Classical and Bass Guitars – a Drum Kit, microphones for singing lessons and multple other instruments including – a Trumpet, Clarinet, Flute, Violin and Double Bass. These instruments are used in lessons to encourage pupils to be playful and explore their musical interests.

My first studio was in Kincardine O’Neil, then Glassel – just outside Torphins. My reputation spread and I taught pupils from Aboyne, Banchory, Stonehaven, Aberdeen City and the surrounding areas. This reputation has spread to the whole of Aberdeenshire as I have moved around.

– When are you available?

I teach from 09:00 – 20:30 – Monday to Friday and 09:30-13:00 on Saturday.

– Which ages and levels do you teach?

The youngest pupil that I am teaching is a 4 year old. The programme which is being followed is an age-appropriate mix of ‘Mini-Beasts’, ‘Kodaly Method’ and Gross Motor-Skills training. The eldest pupils are in their seventies. Teaching adult-learners is very rewarding. Adult-learners have a great breadth of experience to bring to the lessons. They ask questions that young pupils tend not to. This hones my teaching skills as I am required to think about my subject from different angles.

With such a wide range of ages, I am experienced in teaching learners who do not seek qualifications through to those who are preparing for University.

I also train prospective teachers to gain their professional qualifications. Teaching diplomas are no longer taught either at Aberdeen College or the Universities of Aberdeen or Robert Gordon’s. To maintain high standards and develop good teachers, I provide all the training necessary to gain professional qualifications in teaching.

– Which qualifications do you prepare your students for?

All levels and interests are covered. Whether you are taking up music lessons as a hobby or preparing for University entrance, I will tailor your lessons to suit your interests.

There are a variety of syllabuses which can be used to guide pupils on the route to becoming qualified. The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and Trinity are sylabuses which I would teach for solo performance. These offer a brought education in performance: separate training is offered in theory and composition. The Rockschool incoroporates both performance and composition into one syllabus. This syllabus is aimed at students wishing to enter the Pop Music side of the industry. All syllabuses offer a Jazz component which develops aural skills and interpretation.

– Describe your arrangements for online tutoring.

Online tuition works extremely well. I first trailed Skype lessons while on teaching practise, when I couldn’t get home for lessons. Lessons are set up via Skype or Google Hangouts and run in real time. The student takes their own notes and explains what they are seeing on the music. This facilitates long term memory retention. As part of all lessons, pupils Compose their own music. This is marked during the lesson and feedback is given.

I have taught throughout the UK, France, the Middle East and Australia, via online lessons.

– Do you have a personal message for students?

Study Music Classically, not just, study classical music. You will learn the Music that you like, in a manner which will not limit your growth.

Preping Publications: Plugging previous

I am preparing the next two books – 11 Compositions explaining the History of Western Art Music and 10 pieces to develop reading at the Keyboard – and a transcription of Recuerdos de la Alhambra.

These books will be published shortly and it is a good time to remind you of  previous releases on Drumming and Style for Keyboard Instruments.

The Ten Core Beats of Drumming (building your Drumming from the core) (The Core of Learning Music Book 1)Ten Core Style for Keyboard Instruments: Build your style from the Core (The Core of Musical Learning Book 2)

Click through:

Why Music Lessons are important: Performance Training for the wider world.



Image result for stage fright


This Blog Post deals with Understanding Performance Nerves. It will cover three topics:

Why confronting Performance Arousal is important.
What causes Performance Arousal.
A mind-set to deal with Performance Arousal.
Why confronting Performance Arousal is important
We all experience anxiety around Performance to some degree. This Blog Post will present a solution for managing that anxiety. The performative nature of the workplace means that developing coping mechanisms is important. Educational Institutions advocate STEM subjects, further up the Educational hierarchy. STEM subjects are Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. This is admirable as Education in the STEM subjects tends to lead to higher paid careers, although a rounded Education should focus on the STEAM subjects: that is Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Maths. The Arts are performative and develop coping mechanisms for presenting Research.

What causes Performance Arousal
The term Performance Arousal is used in this Blog, rather than Nervousness. Performance Arousal is a brain stem activity which has developed to protect us. Like blood-flood and breathing, we don’t want to have to actively control its function. What happens if we forget to flow our blood? Thankfully, nothing: our brain stem takes care of us. Our brain stem also takes care of Performance Arousal. We are woken up to perform by hormonal activity such as a burst of Adrenalin. This is important in such situations as a wild animal confronting us in the forest, troops attacking the Castle or (perhaps the scariest of all) being asked a difficult question.

I ask my Student if they think I am a nervous Teacher and they say no. Nervousness carries with it a negative connotation. This is true. I am not a nervous Teacher. I do become severely affected by Performance Arousal as a Performance approaches. Thankfully. The term Performance Arousal comprises of two words a) Performance – the necessity to confront ones’ fears in order to defend something, be it a Castle, or Research: and b) Arousal – to wake up. Hence, we are woken up in order to defend our stand point.

Image result for defend the castle

Perhaps this should read, “Mind Craft: Defend our Castle”

Developing Performance Skills is crucial in an isolated society.

A Story to illustrate Performance Arousal
The day of battle has been approach and now it has finally come. The Monarch stands on the battlements amid their Army. Surveying the landscape, they see the approaching enemy. Between the Castle and the enemy there is a flat plane, a wide River and a thick Forest. The Monarch exclaims, “I’m off to bed!” The need for defense is so far off that there is no need for concern. As the enemy approaches the Commander raises the alarm, “Arouse the Monarch!” and the Monarch is woken. They busy themselves preparing the Troops. You are approached and the question is asked, “Would you like extra Troops? Would that help?” These Troops will need to be taken from somewhere else, but they will return to their post later.

The day is won through Troops being correctly deployed. This is how Performance Arousal works.


Blood-flow is directed away from the Stomach – this feels like Butterflies – in order to support the Brain. It will return later. As the Brain-stem controls where blood-flow is deployed -you may recognise some of these symptoms – hands become cold, our neck becomes warmth, we think frantically or maybe need the Loo more than we otherwise might. This will come to an end as the danger passes and the “Troops” return to their Posts – figuratively.

A Mind-set to deal with Performance Arousal
Performance is about sharing.

A Student verbalised something which has been bothering me on a larger scale: they said, “You must be quite a show off to go on stage. Do you want people to look at you?” This doesn’t sit right with me and it has taken some introspection to figure out why. The answer is that I Perform to share my Research. Sharing inspires others.

It began to crystalise for me when I was playing Piano for a Dance for Parkinson’s Class. The Class is a Dance Class for those with Parkinson’s Disease. It encourages movement and uses Music to sooth, comfort and enable. I sensitively alter the speed and strength of what I play, to facilitate the development of those in the Class. Am I Performing? The Class Leader said, “Thank you for the Music”. There was an awkward moment of applause and bowing. Was I Performing?

The truth is that I was Performing, but Performing in the true sense of the word. I was the vessel for the Musical Experience. Without my input, the Music would not have happened. I am not the focus. The Music is the focus. When people come to Dinner, the designated Driver cannot drink alcohol. There is a Fruit Punch which my wife makes: it is delicious. We hand a glass of Punch to the Designated Driver and they comment, “Delicious, thank you”. They do not comment on the Glass in which the Punch is served. That is just the vessel. The vessel is necessary, to provide the sensory experience of Fruit Punch, but it is not the focus. This is the same thing with Performance.

Musically speaking, I might develop a approach to Tone, or Improvisational Technique. I might uncover an inspiring piece of Music. By sharing these discoveries, the Audience is inspired to include them in their own Musical Practises. I am the vessel and not the focus. This takes some of the pressure off me and reduces Performance Arousal. The same may be said in any field. When the Performer realises that the Research is the focus – and that the Audience are thankful for what is being shared – the anxiety is taken out of Performance.

The Audience will still say, “Thank you for the Performance”. That cannot be changed. By altering the Mind-Set of hearing, “Thank you for you being the focus”, to, “Sharing the Research has inspired me”, frees the Performer to enjoy the experience as much as the Audience.

No Teacher will teach exactly what we do for a living. Frequently I ask Parents, “What were you trained in?” and, “What do you do now?” They are seldom the same.

Teachers provide Learning Experiences.

The STEM subjects are important, however the inclusion of the Arts fosters an environment where Performance Training is integral.

Performance Arousal cannot be avoided, but it can be harnessed. When the Performer realises that Performance Arousal was developed to help when defending ourselves – albeit defending our Research – anxiety decreases.

The room is not looking at you. They are listening to what is being Presented

We Play Music: Communicating fun in Lessons

We Play Music: Communicating fun in lessons

There are moments that happen in lessons and lessons which I teach to many Students. I Blog as often as I can and my Blog Posts are short, so that I can quickly share some of the Teaching which comes up in lessons.

My specialism is Student/Teacher communication and today’s Blog is on key aspect of communication: understand the meaning of a word. All to often, communication breaks down because a word is used and the other person responds to what they think the word means. This causes confusion and defenses go up. Consider the following:

My Birthday is coming up and my wife said she wanted to get me a gift. I know my wife speaks Norwegian fluently and I also know that the Norwegian word “Gift” means “Poison”, so I am now defensive and I am not looking forward to my Birthday. I’m only joking, but there is an interesting point here. Students become defensive when Teachers say “Play”.

I cannot change the language of Music, but I work hard, with Students and Parents, to communicate that Play is:

– a reward after hard work

– relaxing and refreshing

– a place of discovery and adventure

Play is a gift.

Play does not mean:

– An opportunity for criticism

– The moment that the Student gets caught for not working hard enough.

– Restriction

I wonder where Students learn that “Play” means the latter, rather than the former. I see their defensiveness and work with them to alter their understanding of the word – it was great to see that break-through with a particular Student this week – and unleash their learning.

I teach that “We play Music”:

“We” – support and encouragement comes from Teachers, Family and Fellow Musicians.

“Play” – Music is rewarding, relaxing and a place of discovery and adventure.

“Music” – How we communicate.