making music in a classroom with a wide range of abilities

I’m excited to announce a new series of scores, intended for school music teachers.

When I ran music activities at Bordeaux International School, I was often faced with a class where some students had experience with instruments, others none; some read music, others read chords; and some played by ear, others used TAB. One thing they had in common – they all wanted to make music!

It is a challenge to keep every child stimulated according to their level of experience and learning style. To address this, I’m creating a series of super-flexible arrangements for use in the classroom. Here’s an example – ‘Sakura’ from Japan.

Although this score looks complex, it is in fact, quite simple. There is a main melody which is written in 2 octaves (the higher octave would suit more-experienced players). There is also a countermelody which is very easy, and would suit players with just a few weeks of learning. These two parts are also presented for Bb and Eb instruments.

Next you will find an unpitched percussion part. This can introduce young musicians to concepts of music reading. An easy piano part (grade 2-3) could be played by a teacher or more advanced pupil. Guitar and ukulele parts are presented in TAB, notes and chords, thus keeping a classical guitarist and a teenage rocker occupied. Finally, the bass line is presented in notes (perhaps to be played by a cellist) and bass guitar TAB.

The idea is that a teacher can find themselves presented with a class which might have a grade 2 Bb trumpeter, a beginner flautist, three guitarists who use TAB, a ukulele player who reads chords and two pianists. They will all be challenged and occupied.


Pupils can also refer to the YouTube score video at any time as a visual and aural learning aid.

You can download the score and parts in one simple step at Sheetmusicplus here.

If you have any comments, or ideas for arrangements, I’d love to know about them!

Recording ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ at Innerpeffray Library.

Now that I live in Scotland, I’ve inevitably become interested in Scottish traditional music. I’ll never be an expert, but the haunting melodies, and the beautiful Scottish dialect, are a great source of inspiration.

The site of a Roman camp

In 2017, I attended a concert at the chapel adjacent to Innerpeffray Library, near Crieff. This is a magical place that has attracted people since Roman times. In fact, a large field next to the river Earn just a few metres away, is known to have been an important Roman camp – perhaps the last one before they stopped their relentless march North. I like to harbour an image of Roman soldiers looking at the snow-capped mountains and deciding ‘C’mon guys, this is far enough. It’s been years since we had an Italian summer, and these guys put haggis on pizza for crying out loud!’

Manuscripts at Innerpeffray

I recently arranged some Celtic tunes for solo guitar, including the melody to which the Rabbie Burns poem ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ is often sung. The original title ‘Mo run an diugh mar an dé thu’ roughly translates as ‘My Love Today as Heretofore’. The library houses some first editions of the Burns collections – these being some of the rarest books in Scottish historical study. What better, or more inspiring place to record and film a performance?

Burns Manuscript

I’d like to thank Lara and her knowledgeable team of volunteers for their generous welcome. I was also very privileged to have been permitted to handle and browse through some of those early editions. I recorded three pieces – the last one on a bit of a whim! Here’s ‘Ae Fond Kiss’, recorded on September 2nd, 2021.

Happy Saint David’s Day to One and All

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years, it’s that there are wonderful people in every far corner of our world. It appears to me that an individual’s race, nationality and culture are irrelevant to understanding personal qualities. Consequently, I find myself disinterested in celebrations linked to flag waving, but I am a Welshman and, as it’s St David’s Day, I’d like to share this performance with everyone, regardless of your place of origin. Let’s find joy and laughter in our differences!

Theme from The New World Symphony by Dvorak, arranged for easy guitar ensemble

I have just finished another arrangement for beginners’ guitar ensemble. Once again, it strikes me how critical it is to install good habits into inexperienced fingers, while making the music comfortable and motivating to play. This arrangement provides teachers and learners with the following benefits:

(1) The key and positions chosen allow for finger-friendly pentatonic shapes

(2) Players can anchor the thumb on string 4 while playing the melody and anchor the fingers when switching to the thumb. This sets up the idea of sequential planting and stability at a later stage.

(3) Parts are provided in notes and TAB on different sheets. I’m very aware that there are varying opinions regarding the use of TAB. This arrangement allows teachers and players to decide.

(4) Every part has melodic interest. The arrangement avoids parts where some players have uninspiring long notes for extended periods.

(5) Pupils can, of course, refer to the YouTube video whenever they wish.

(6) The technical comfort of the arrangement lets players consider questions of musicality, phrasing and rhythmic accuracy.

(7) The theme is well-known amongst audiences making it an ideal concert work.

We must give a lot of thought to our choice of music for learners if we are to inspire them to continue and preserve our wonderful instrument.

The score and parts for this arrangement is available for immediate download here.

(Just Buy) The Bare Necessities

I’m absolutely thrilled that so many thousands of people are smiling at our rewrite of The Bare Necessities during these challenging times.

I’ve created a lyric and chord sheet which you can download here. It could be great fun to teach online or sing with your family. If we can all keep calm and have generous hearts, we’ll come out of this stronger and with a renewed sense of gratitude for all the good things we have. Keep safe friends.