There is so much pressure to be brilliant at everything, whilst looking amazing and being surrounded by all that is wonderful. But, if you spread yourself too thin you won’t be able to do anything well - and exhausting yourself in the process. This first came home to me when walking around a National Trust property, when I realised how each member of the household had their particular sphere of influence and field of expertise. The old saying “Jack of All Trades” encapsulates the moral of the story… Jack of all trades, master of none!
We don’t all have a designated music room, or home office study space. However, it’s so very important to be organised so that we don’t waste valuable study or practice time. Just a few simple tips can make all the difference to maximise your time and create a positive approach of readiness to play or study. From organising your music to having a bag ready to go, as soon as you get the opportunity, you can save yourself valuable time and stress in a few simple steps.
Diagram your music, draw a picture, ‘read’ your score or just listen: You can be ‘practicing’ while you’re doing the dishes or sitting relaxing with a brew. Of course you need to spend time at your instrument in regular practice. However, there are other approaches, apart from sitting at your instrument, that can really help your performance. Sometimes it’s good to get away from ‘note bashing’ and take a different view point. There are many ways of getting ‘inside’ the music so that, when you come to play again, you’re already ahead of the game.
Scales, arpeggios and Broken Chords are often seen as a necessary evil to get out of the way before you start the main event of practicing your pieces. However, this is an imbalanced approach. Scales and arpeggios are a valid practice routine in their own right, bringing many physical, technical, analytical and even psychological benefits to your playing. They can even be enjoyable! Approach scales and other technical exercises as a positive use of your practice time and your performance technique will thank you!
I love music theory! Studying music theory gives you the tools to understand the music you love listening to and playing, and it gives you the tools to articulate what you like or don’t like about a piece of music.Also, as you start to analyse a musical work, it’s like peeling back the layers of the music and peeping inside the composer’s life and mind. Unfortunately, studying music theory is often viewed as a necessary evil. But if you can step outside of that negative mindset you can begin a journey, like an archeological excavation and there’s no knowing what hidden gems you might find.
If you’re watching my YouTube Music Theory lessons I want you to get the maximum benefit from my tutorials, so that your knowledge is secure and you will be ready for your exam. There are study techniques that can help you to retain knowledge more securely, and I discuss psychological theories which aid memory retention. I also explain some short-cuts to help you navigate quickly around the videos. Make sure you are making the most of your study time!
Being alone isn’t the same as being lonely. In order to progress and succeed in any discipline, it’s necessary to spend long hours alone. As a musician we spend long hours practising, but because our brain is busily employed the time flies by and we can then feel that sense of satisfaction. No doubt we all have our down days; no man is an island. However, being alone isn’t necessarily always a negative situation. Try looking at a period of solitude as a positive opportunity and the world looks like a different place.
Get To the Point (Graphite Pencil Demonstration for Music Notation) - Sharon Bill Music Matters Vlog
Writing music notation neatly takes a little bit of practise, but if you have the right tools the job is so much easier. Tidy music manuscript could be as simple as making sure you have the right pencil for the job. However, not all pencils are the same. I discuss which pencils are best for writing music with and I explain why. I also give a demonstration of what effects different pencils have ranging from 6H to 8B.
My academic journey wasn’t straightforward. Life is never a simple, straight path - the journey twists and turns, but keeps on unfolding under our feet. Reorganising a bookcase revealed strategic points in my education history and got me thinking about how, even though it’s a winding road, a progression of study had led me along a path that I didn’t even know I was on for many years. Success can’t always be measured by a single indicator and life is always about balancing priorites. I do love a good sort out and, while I was organising my book shelves, I was also sorting out my mind.
Maximise your music practice routine by taking tips from the business world. After listening to several business talks discussing time management and maximising productivity it struck me that much of what is suggested is also beneficial for making sure that we get the most out of our time at our instrument. 8 simple tips give us common-sense advice to help us get maximum benefit from our music practice. I even find a quick burst of motivation from the world of sport!
The Show Must Go On (Staying Positive and Proactive amid the Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic) - Sharon Bill Music Matters Vlog
The current health crisis is impacting us all. I discuss how, as a piano teacher, I’m responding to the social and health implications. The necessary precautions are affecting all of my household but we’re adopting a proactive approach and staying positive. I take inspiration from my Grandparent’s lives and the fortitude they exhibited throughout the war years, and I remember the lessons I tried to install in my children years ago - with old photographs I’m not sure they’ll thank me for!
Of course I love music in the usual sense but music notation is also so very beautiful in an artistic sense. I collect old music for many reasons; I think it is beautiful to look at and it can be repurposed as pieces of art and also for up-cycling old furniture. I also think that there is a sense of social history in these old music books, as we see glimpses of bygone performances. I don’t like to think of such music going to waste and I like to see it live on in another form.
Writing Bureau Shabby Chic Up-cycle Furniture DIY Project with Chopin and Haydn Sheet Music YouTube Video
Grieg’s Notturno (Opus 54 No 4) seems like the perfect piece to choose when sleep evades and the piano calls. I used to play this piece often when the children were small but it’s languished in a pile of music until just now. My family are quite used to me playing the piano at strange hours of the night, so I thought you might like to join me in a little midnight melody. I preface the playing of this nocturne by giving a little introduction to the music and the composer. Enjoy!
Playing an instrument can be hard work at times. Any artistic endeavour involves many hours of application and effort, and sometimes we can’t help but wonder, ‘Why Bother?’ It’s difficult to express in words the tangible effect that music and art has on our lives but we are much more than mere machines. Pieces of art and video clips help me to express the impact that music and art has on my life . Visits to the National Trust give me ample opportunity to find inspiration and help to explain why music and art deserve a place in our lives. Making music is so very worth the effort - keep on bothering!
The National Trust
Little girl dancing to old church choir Youtube Video
As exams loom it’s inevitable that we will feel nervous. We might look about us for a magical cure to deal with these nerves and help us to do our best. Although I have a bottle of Fairy Dust and a very special bottle of Mozart Mojo it’s unlikely that such things will be of any real value. The surest way to success is through consistent, regular application. Whether it’s your ABRSM music theory exam or your your practical (piano) exam I’ve lots of tips to help you and a wealth of resource to guide you every step of the way.
Mendelssohn’s “Elijah’ in a day! Nantwich Choral Society’s ‘Come and Sing’ event brought some interesting revelations and the fun began before we’d even sung a note, including stories of choristers being paid in sprouts and choirs singing in their wedding dresses! It was a tiring day (it’s a long Oratorio, with 42 movements) but it was so great to meet choristers from far and wide and I learned so many interesting tidbits about the work and the composer. What better way to spend a Saturday than meeting lots of lovely people and singing marvellous Mendelssohn?
For He shall give His angels charge over thee
Blessed are the men who fear Him
Cast thy burden upon the Lord
Thanks be to God
Lift thine eyes
He watching over Israel
And then shall your light break forth
Good posture is important in general, but is vital when spending time practising an instrument whether it’s singing, playing piano or playing a wind instrument. Whatever you play, bad posture can be detrimental to both your health and your musical performance. It can also play an important psychological role to your mental attitude when you practice. However, a few simple steps can set everything straight and give us a solid foundation for when we spend time at our instrument.
Very few of us have unlimited time to spend practicing. We need to be mindful of how we spend our time at our instrument and time management is vital in making sure we make the best progress we can in what time we have available. Deciding what we want to achieve when we play is so important. Whether it’s playing for pleasure or getting down to hard work, we need to be aware of our goals before we play - that way we won’t be disappointed with the end result.
Is musical ability a gift that just drops in our lap or is it a matter of hard work and consistent practise? Like many topics the answer is multi-faceted with no simple explanation. Some get a head start but musicianship is always related to application and growth in knowledge and ability. There’s always something new to learn but it’s all about enjoying the journey.
2019 ABRSM Past Exam Practice Papers are finally here, hot off the press! They’re an excellent revision resource and a great way to make sure you’re thoroughly prepared for your ABRSM Music Theory Exam. I’ve everything you need to help you work through these papers: I explain how to get the most from these practice papers and also how to make the most use of the videos I’ve prepared so that you are thoroughly confident in all the areas you need to understand for your ABRSM music theory exam.
Music Theory For Everyone Playlist
Grade 1 Playlist
Grade 2 Playlist
Grade 3 Playlist
Grade 4 Playlist
Grade 5 Playlist
The First 5 videos for 2019 ABRSM Grade 5 Music Theory Past Exam Practice Paper A parts 1 - 5
2019 ABRSM Music Theory Past Exam Papers for papers A grades 1-4 and papers B, C and S will follow over the next few weeks of 2020
Handel’s Messiah is a great way to herald in the start back to work. I’ve enjoyed a break but I’m glad to be back on timetable and I’m really pleased to be back at choir (Ceramic City Choir), especially if we’re singing an old favourite like Messiah. I’ve enjoyed singing various unusual pieces over the last year or so, but I’m looking forward to revisiting some more familiar works. As I flip through my old score I’m reminded of some past performances - some of which didn’t go so well. (In fact some were hilariously bad).
Here are some YouTube Snippets
All We Like Sheep
Surely, He Hath Borne our Griefs
For Unto Us a Child is Born
I love the sense of a fresh new year! It’s a time to plan ahead and refocus your goals. I’ve so many plans for my YouTube Channel for the year ahead. Get your pencils and your music books ready - together we’ve got this!
The close of the year is a time to look back and reflect. I look back over my YouTube journey so far and I want to thank you for your kind comments, your encouragement and also for your hard work. You have had such amazing success in your ABRSM exam results! It makes all the difference to know that there are real people out there and I’m not just talking to a camera lens. Such amazing exam pass marks and such lovely comments make it all worthwhile. Thank you!
For a change I’m sitting in the audience for a musical “Celebration of Saint Cecilia” - the patron saint of music. I’m usually chatting away about the various music activities that I’m participating, but this time the shoe is on the other foot and I go to listen to my friend sing with Keele Bach Choir. Sitting in the audience brings a whole new perspective to me about supporting local music. It’s also a great opportunity embrace new music and widen my horizons.
I’m all set for our Ceramic City Choir Christmas Carol Concert. We’re singing unusual and beautiful arrangements of carols, quite unknown Christmas songs as well as the usual congregational carol singing. On top of that we’ll be enjoying fantastic pipe organ solos and piano duets. I talk you through our programme and I’ve added links below so that you can join me in spirit. Merry Christmas!
Ring Out, Wild Bells
In the Bleak Midwinter
The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
O, Clap Your Hands
O little Town of Bethlehem
Come, Colours Rise
Music has been an integral part of my children’s life, from watching me perform to then performing themselves as part of our local music service. I’m so grateful for the input that so many people have had in their development over the years. Music education in schools, and also funding for extra curricular activities, is a topical debate and there are no easy answers. However, music, as a subject, has so much to give us all - even if it’s not destined to be your chosen profession. Here is my family’s story and my expression of thanks to all those who have been a part of our journey.
As musicians we use more muscles than just our brain. However, physical fitness has never been something that I thought much about - until now… Core strength and lung capacity are just two of the benefits that have really impacted my time practising my instruments, but in a general sense it’s so much better to get moving! As a complete beginner I’ve needed lots of help and advice along the way. I don’t think I’ll ever be a gym-a-holic but adopting a healthier, more active lifestyle (despite life getting in the way as it does) I’m definitely feeling the benefits of being more proactive about my physical wellbeing.
Music always has something new to offer but the new adaptation of Verdi’s Rigoletto, by the Glyndebourne Opera, has a surprising relevance to our modern life. Before I even got to the music there was so much more to this performance than I could have expected. Of course, the music itself was pure bliss! I expected to enjoy myself but Glyndebourne’s Rigoletto just keeps on giving.
Acoustic piano or digital piano - which is ‘best’? It’s like asking “How long is a piece of string?” It’s an impossible question because life is always about context and compromise. Budget, space and practicality are all matters that need to be weighed in the balance. The most important point is to make sure that music is being made!
Music is everywhere! Even if you think you’re not ‘into music’ it forms an integral part of everybody’s life. Incidental music makes sense of movie plots and makes advertisements memorable. We also use music to create a particular atmosphere or stamp a piece of our personality into a special occasion. You can’t get away from it - music is all around you.
Music is now classed among the Arts and Humanities, but this hasn’t always been the case. Only a few hundred years ago Music was classed as a Science. Although this sounds strange to our ears at first, it actually makes perfect sense. It also provides a helpful foundation of thinking in the way we approach our music practice. Of course, the best case is to take the best of both worlds and make a mix of the two categories!
When you’re working towards a performance exam there’s so much to practice: Piece A, Piece B, Piece C, Scales, Arpeggios, Broken Chords. If you’re not wise in how you manage your practice time you can let some aspects slip while you concentrate on one particular thing. Don’t worry! With a bit of nifty time management you can keep all of those practice plates spinning and keep on top of everything. I give tips and hints on how to make the most of the time you spend at your instrument - I even give you a template for a practice schedule.
Whether it’s piano, flute, clarinet - any instrument, and regardless of whether it’s ABRSM, Trinity, LCM - any exam board; taking a performance exam can be nerve-wracking! However, a bout of nerves isn’t necessarily a bad thing and there are ways to deal with nerves so that it doesn’t interfere with your performance. I chat about some obvious coping mechanisms and some not so obvious to help you make the best of your performance exam - you might even enjoy it!
With ABRSM Music Theory exams looming it’s easy to become overwhelmed, but good preparation is the solution. If you know that you’re fully prepared then there’s no need to get stressed and you can actually enjoy the fruit of your hard work with a great exam result. After decades of experience in entering pupils for exams I give you revision tips and explain how to be fully prepared for your music theory exam, to help you to work towards your best exam mark.
From Scala Radio, Classic FM and Radio 3 to Radio 2 and all the local stations we have plenty of musical variety to choose from. And then we have Amazon music, Spotify and iTunes - the list goes on. I myself am a fan of creating my own playlists. My choices are extremely varied and I can swap between Meatloaf and Mozart depending upon my mood. I have a look at whats on my different playlists and what dictates my choices. Music is for pleasure and we are never short of options.
I love singing in a choir! It’s a great way to meet with other musicians and enjoy being part of a live musical performances. Music isn’t just about working hard and practising. Of course, it is important that we keep practising to hone our skills, but we do this because we love music and we should enjoy it. Music is for pleasure too! As a member of Ceramic City Choir I get the chance to be part of all sorts of live performances with full orchestras, as well as piano and orang accompaniment. It’s great to sing some of the familiar favourites but it’s been great to try some new and unusual repertoire too - there’s always something new to learn.
Ceramic City Choir Website
Welcome to my first Vlog! I thought it would make a nice change to step away from music theory and piano to just have a chat. It’s obvious that music is an important part of my life and I’ve looked back to to try and find out how it all started. Listening to pieces such as Annie’s Song by John Denver, played on the flute by James Galway, to a Mozart Piano Sontata, to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor - all seem to have made an impact, though I didn’t realise it at the time. As I’ve searched back into my family history I’ve had some surprising discoveries - it makes me wonder just how much we are influenced by things we don’t even notice at the time.