Tag Archives: East Lothian Guitar Ensemble


I conducted a short experiment over the last couple of days, concerning who gets what part in the first of our East Lothian Guitar Ensemble arrangements. The piece is in three parts – top, middle and bass. I’ve also created four heterophonic parts so you could say the structure of parts is:

1, 1a, 2, 2a, 3, 3a, 3b

Using Sibelius, I played the score to the pupils at performance speed – which is pretty brisk . In addition to the speed there are two other unusual factors:

  • there are 7 beats per bar – grouped as follows 12 12 123

  • it is based on a very unusual scale (E Lydian Dominant) – resulting in unusual harmonies – one effect of which can be to make the less confident pupil occasionally doubt that they have landed on the correct note

Before the music began pupils were asked to identify which parts would meet the following criteria for them:

  • the part would (eventually*) be manageable

  • it would provide some element of challenge and interest

  • it might appeal to their natural strengths e.g. by being essentially melodic, harmonic or rhythmic in nature

  • it would avoid any feeling of distress

Somewhat to my surprise, every group and individual chose as I would have predicted. This could mean one (or possibly more) of three things:

  • that pupils are aware of their current levels

  • that they are aware of the likely speed of progress over the remaining months (even although some have not yet played in the East Lothian group)

  • that I am unconscious of Derren Brown-style levels of manipulation

Over the holiday, I hope to upload not only play-along midi files but parts of the piece so, if you play the guitar, you could simulate the experiment. For this particular piece, Hungarian Wedding Dance, most of the parts will be in TAB as opposed to traditional notation. This is due to the fact that many of the notes have been relocated onto strings other than the one where they would normally be found. This is done for two reasons:

  • increased resonance e.g. using 2nd string E at fret 5 instead of open E on string 1 – the sound of which is a little thinner

  • the note is more easily reached from the previous note than it would be in its normal location

* eventually, in this case, is the Showcase Concert on Friday 27 March at 7:30 in Musselburgh Grammar School

All Quiet On The Western Back

I’ve been a bit quiet lately. Plans have not worked out as I’d hoped. I politely knocked back Ewan‘s offer of a 10-minute spot at the SLF and the opportunity to go to a RSNO concert with Knox Academy in school time as I wanted to spend time with pupils. Having taken Week 1 to complete all primary school testing (a decision I still consider correct) I didn’t wish to miss any more contact time. There were school groups to get underway and the first East Lothian Guitar Ensemble rapidly approaching (Friday 26th).

However, a 22-year old back injury flared up last Sunday and, in the end, I missed six school days – the last of which was today. That time was a mixture of spasms and medication, the cocktail of which seemed sufficiently strong to sedate an angry stallion. Possibly sooner than is sensible, I’ve weaned myself off these as tomorrow (Tue 30th) sees the HITS Conference – the only national conference of instrumental instructors. I’d like to be lucid enough to take in the content of the topics for which I’ve signed up in order to write them up here.

Thanks to everyone for their recent good wishes – especially to Pat Holden who, despite living in Haddington, drove to Edinburgh to pick me up for a concert in Haddington and then returned me safely home.

I’m looking forward to returning to normal school life on Wednesday, probably still sporting a walking stick. To continue the equine theme, I currently have the legs of a young foal – if not in youthful shapeliness, then in uncertainty, and a third leg – albeit it wooden – comes in very handy when core stability is transformed into comic salsa (no, that’s not a new font).

p.s. as I have to leave at 6.45 a.m. to hobble along to Waterloo Place for the coach to Glasgow tomorrow, I now regret watching Newsnight while writing this. I don’t see a refreshing night’s sleep being helped by dreaming about the collapse of the banking system. Perhaps a chamomile tea might help – as (to paraphrase Marx) proper tea is theft!