Exciting new development

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


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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.

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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.