Tag Archives: Technology


Do I have any evidence of emerging technologies improving ensemble skills? Nobody has ever asked me this but I found myself reflecting upon the topic recently as a result of gradual changes in practice. In days gone by, I always began secondary school guitar ensemble rehearsals in Week 1. Increasingly, the result of this was that pieces peaked too soon and so, more recently, I’ve tended to start in week 3 or 4.

The single biggest factor has been pupils being able to access play-along midi files on this blog, facilitating more meaningful home practice. This year I hope to experiment by producing mp3s which pupils can import into their mp3 players. I don’t imagine that they’ll listen for pleasure, but they’ll probably drive their families not quite so far up the wall in households where the family computer is in the living room.

Freed from the rush to begin rehearsals, we have spent a little lesson time trying out a few ensemble pieces for size – playing along with Sibelius scores on a laptop with external speakers attached. This allows pupils to try out not only varied pieces, but different parts within the same piece – with some surprising results. Some pupils have bid for parts more difficult than they would have been allocated – the appeal of the part sweetening the extra practice required. Another surprise is that arrangements, shelved a few years ago as too ambitious for school use, are beginning to seem possible. Pieces with syncopations* and cross rhythms** intended to wrong-foot the listener can have a frighteningly similar effect on some players if sufficient familiarity does not materialise. As most instructors spend only one day in each secondary school, today’s technologies create a space where that familiarisation can take place.

* Int 1 concept                       ** Int 2 concept


A combination of Activities WeekStudy Leave and several trips allowed me time to get wired in about reports for one of two primary schools. The format of these is more like free prose than your online Filemaker/Freemis set-up. As they were to be emailed to the school for proof-reading (by the fastest proof-reader I’ve ever met) I merged 22 of them into one attached document. This allowed me to have an idea of the total word count. Allowing for headings, sub-headings etc. it weighed in at 5,040.

When I was a student, that would have been considered a dissertation and would have been the work of a term – or longer. Writing, merging, formatting and emailing was more a matter of hours. It’s funny how technology, combined with the simple fact of getting older can raise your game.

What’s also interesting is how problematic situations can help to hone your prose style. Praise can be quick and compact. It seems to me that highlighting a problem requires you to describe: problem; consequence; solution – in less than three times the space.

Stravinsky put it much better. (you may need to opt for full screen if you are using a feed reader)