Category Archives: Reporting

Pipe Dream?

At a recent in service there were requests from many of my colleagues for instructors to be issued with laptops (pre-loaded with Sibelius score writing software). Our co-ordinator, Peter Antonelli, asked that anyone who already uses their own laptop in lessons email him a description of use. It was agreed that I would post details here and send Peter a link.


  • Calendar (including reminder function) for noting report deadlines, quality assurance, exams, concerts, East Lothian rehearsals
  • Reporting (preparing txt to paste into Filemaker) – we need to save time as access to intranet via school computer (the only route) can be extremely limited
  • Auxiliary record of work – speed of typing and the impossibility of running out of space means that more detail can be included – abbreviations, whose meaning are lost to PTs (and sometimes after the event even to me) can be avoided. Copy/paste as relevant here as it is elsewhere.
  • Compiling SQA programmes including timings, negotiating order of pieces with pupil etc.

Solo repertoire

  • Having own edition of music with preferred fingering, written technical advice/reminders, personal layout choices for ease of reading – e.g. section numbers for ease of finding place – new phrases beginning at the left of the page
  • highlighting or excluding any passage e.g. a paraphrase of the great Scottish folk song “O you play the blue notes and I’ll play the black ones, And I’ll reach bar sixteen before you….”
  • highlighting top or bass notes
  • moving all notes to single pitch to concentrate solely on rhythm
  • having and altering a metronome (click track) for play-along
  • extracting midi file for pupils (usually several at a variety of speeds)
  • extracting passages to create exercises for specific technical points which arise
  • ties – one version with only played notes visible – another with played and held notes visible (sorry for the jargon – no way round this one)

Ensemble repertoire

  • using a file as virtual ensemble in lessons
  • being able to add to or subtract from pupils individual part with their agreement (resaving under their name before extracting to print)
  • preparation of midi files for pupils to take home and also for posting on Exc-el


  • playing pupils an extract of a professional recording of a piece on which they are working e.g. in iTunes
  • playing interesting while tidying up – things which may have come up in conversation in the lesson
  • preparation of supplementary theory handouts
  • preventing pupils from excluding an unpractised piece from the lesson by “forgetting it”
  • Countdown spelling game for concepts and musical terms i.e. spell out the word letter by letter in the hope that someone will recognise it before you get too far into the word

This final use often leads to short discussion about the component parts of the word where separating them out with the spacebar is a great help. I feel that those with an interest in language are more likely to retain the word thereafter. Were we connected to the internet in our rooms, I should love to access my favourite etymological website so that pupils might see from where some the names of concepts arise. Here are a few examples for your delectation:

syncopation   anacrusis   harmony   melody   rhythm   cadence   counterpoint

(I can see a new idea for an additional page on the blog emerging)

NBHS Instrumental Parents’ Evening

Last night saw the inaugural Instrumental Parents’ Evening in NBHS. Held in the school’s attractive Library, the atmosphere was congenial and I had the impression that most people were happy with the way things turned out. With five minutes per appointment, time was at a premium and, in the case of older pupils, it was important to bear in mind that a few undescribed years had passed. This is particularly true when a previously hard working pupil’s uncharacteristic loss of focus just happened to coincide not only with approaching exams but also with this event.

As I write, a programme on BBC1 about Scotland’s only Young Offenders Institute in Polmont is playing its part in keeping the big picture in mind.

It Says Here…

“The earth is like a spaceship that didn’t come with an operating manual.“      Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895 – 1983)

Amidst the rush of events which converge at this time of year – rehearsals, concerts, updating timetables, fun activities etc. –  it is possible that some seemingly smaller matters might go unreported. With this in mind, I’d like to say how pleased I was to receive the East Lothian Council Instrumental Music Service Handbook, which arrived through the door recently.

Following the stated aims of the service, there appear definitions of: Continue reading It Says Here…


Many people might wonder what kind of admin tasks are relevant to instructors. Some tasks are daily/weekly such as keeping a register of attendance and record of work or keeping up with email correspondence. Some are less frequent such as reporting. Others are annual, and one of these is a census of pupils, which we submit to our coordinator, Peter Antonelli. Continue reading Census

Only An Expression

In this season of reporting, the word technique features extensively and there are two points worth considering:

  1. what do we mean by technique?
  2. technique is the servant of expression

At some point in everyone’s life it is pointed out to them that educere has more to do with bringing things out in people than putting them in. The same is true of technique. This does not mean that I think everyone is a born guitarist but rather that the movements required are very natural. I would contend that Continue reading Only An Expression

The Decorator’s Dilema

“There is no such thing as a long piece of work, except one that you dare not start.” Charles Baudelaire (1821- 1867)

“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.” J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

Another day without pupils (no, not conjunctivitis – just activities week). I took the opportunity to get stuck into writing reports on an industrial scale.

The dilemma of instrumental reporting consists in Continue reading The Decorator’s Dilema