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A Brief History of Music Production

February 13th, 2020 by

The first known audio recording was made in 1860, and a lot has changed in 160 years! This week we’ll be delving into the history of music production, and thinking about how general trends have changed along the way.

Make music, not war

The two World Wars in the first half of the twentieth century accelerated advancements in technology across the world as nations competed to one-up each other. Radio communication played a key role in the military, and it was only a matter of time before it was commercialised, with families turning to their radios as the main source of entertainment.

The first radio advertisement was rolled out in 1923, and music became increasingly popular during the bleakness of WWII. The increase in advertising on radio meant that stations now had larger budgets, and could pay for music with their newly acquired funds.

As music became more widely available and popular, it was inevitably commercialised. Big record labels held a monopoly on the music industry, and arguably still do, albeit to a lesser extent. Labels would identify potentially successful artists on their way to the top and provide them with the necessary resources to record their music in the hopes that some of the artists would become stars.

However, this is becoming an increasingly outdated paradigm as increasing numbers of artists are recording and producing their own music. Not only this, but even the way that people record and produce has changed.

Moving away from the studio

Arguably the most significant change in music production is that artists no longer require a studio to record. Previously, sessions at recording studios would take place at great expense. Music would be recorded in a live performance while producers simultaneously mixed the music.

As technology rapidly evolved in the 50s and 60s, there was a shift from live-mixing to multitrack recording. This meant that recordings could now be mixed after the initial session had ended, and that parts could be recorded on individual tracks before being mixed and compiled into one holistic tune.

A base track featuring the rhythm section could now be recorded in an initial session before vocals were recorded and added in over the top. Horns and string sections could also be recorded separately in separate takes. The ability to record multiple takes has revolutionised studio time for musicians, and made a meticulous, perfectionist approach possible.

The role of the music producer

Advances in technology are undoubtedly influential, and the music producer’s role has changed during that time too. The artist formerly relied on the producer to provide a critical eye and know the technical side of recording but they were expected to keep a distance from the creative process. This has now changed, as artists can produce their own material independently, and producers can be just as important to the creative process as band members.

Quincy Jones is one of the most successful producers and band leaders of all time. When working with Frank Sinatra, Sinatra would often introduce Quincy to the audience to ensure he received appropriate recognition for his efforts. This was a pivotal moment in celebrating the producer’s importance, as artists sought to collaborate with producers just as much as other bands and singers.

Quincy Jones is one of the biggest names in production, working with everyone from Michael Jackson to Count Basie.

Sometimes the producer will even overshadow the artist, and the singer or band that formerly hogged the limelight will be a secondary attraction to the producer. Timbaland produced some of the biggest hits of the 00s and released two albums under his own name.

The albums, ‘Shock Value’ and ‘Shock Value II’, featured the likes of Nelly Furtado, Justin Timberlake, and OneRepublic. Although by the release of ‘Shock Value II’ Timbaland had fallen slightly behind the likes of David Guetta in the production stakes, his name as the primary artist on the album pointed to the newfound importance and creative power displayed by producers.

Read more about some of the most influential music producers of the 21st century HERE.

Honey, I shrunk the studio

The size of the technology needed to record successful albums has radically decreased over time. There is now no need for an elaborate studio, and artists can mix and even create music on laptops.

DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) rule the roost now, and put the laptop at the core of music production for the time being at least. Streaming is the main way in which hear new music, and the internet is the main channel through which it is distributed. But this may change sooner than we think…

music production coursework edition book covers



Most Influential Music Producers of the 21st Century

February 6th, 2020 by

Performers often get all the credit for their hits, but in a lot of cases they work with incredibly talented producers who strive for perfection and push the artist’s music to the next level. This week we’re thinking about some of the most influential producers of the 21st century and the effect they’ve had on music.

Rick Rubin

Rick made his name towards the end of the twentieth century after he founded Def Jam records while still at high school. He went on to work with some of the music industry’s biggest names, and was named “the most important producer of the past 20 years” by MTV in 2007. Though some of his most well-recognised work took place before the turn of the millennium, he was twice recognised as Producer of the Year at the Grammys, in 2007 and 2009, for his work that encourages a stripped-back style that contributes to heightening the emotional power of his work.

Rick has worked with some of the biggest names in pop, including Adele.

Missy Elliott

The first female rapper in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and a highly successful artist in her own right, Missy Elliott’s work as a producer may go under the radar. All the same, it is important to recognise her as one of the key figures in launching many major stars’ careers. Her own work as a recording artist caught the eye of Thom Yorke and Damon Albarn due to her genre-bending, avant-garde approach. Her production career spans almost 30 years, during which she has collaborated with Eminem, Janet Jackson, and even Michelle Obama, cementing her position as one of the most influential musicians of this century.

Mark Ronson

Cover star of our Grade 6 book, Mark Ronson started out as a DJ while studying at NYU and quickly became one of the most sought after producers in the industry. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in the business: Bruno Mars, Lily Allen, and Lady Gaga to name a few. His ability to create a classic sound filled with horns that still feels fresh to a modern audience is unparalleled, as evidenced by the enduring success of his work on Amy Winehouse’s album, ‘Back to Black’, and the smash hit ‘Uptown Funk’ which saw him and Bruno Mars break record after record (if you’ll pardon the pun…).


Last year Timbaland released his Masterclass series where he imparted his knowledge about production in a series of online tutorials. He certainly kept himself busy in the 2010s by working on some of the leading singles from Justin Timberlake’s ‘The 20/20 Experience’ as well as Michael Jackson’s ‘Love Never Felt So Good’. However it was the mid-00s when he was at his peak – this was a time when the charts were seemingly filled with Timbaland-produced tunes. His own album, ‘Shock Value’ spawned several hits, perhaps most notably the track ‘Apologize’, which featured OneRepublic, transforming them into global stars.


Citing Daft Punk and Eric Prydz as influences, Avicii’s untimely death in 2018 closed the curtain on what had been a meteoric rise to the top for the Swedish producer. The song that launched his career into the mainstream, ‘Levels’, fused EDM and country music in a way that has been replicated by many artists since. This tune achieved Top 10 status in many European countries on its release, and topped the charts in Hungary, Norway, and his native Sweden.

David Guetta

David Guetta’s early days (and nights!) in music were spent DJing at nightclubs. He grew up in Paris and discovered house music in the late ‘80s, so his rise to being recognised as one of the biggest producers around was a gradual process. He received recognition from his peers, but really exploded onto the international scene in 2009 with two of the biggest songs of the decade. First was ‘I Gotta Feeling’ by the Black Eyed Peas. This became the most downloaded song of all time and topped the charts in 17 countries. The same summer saw the release of Guetta’s own track ‘When Love Takes Over’, featuring Kelly Rowland. His status was secured as one of the most sought after producers in pop.

Linda Perry

Linda Perry started from humble beginnings as a songwriter juggling multiple jobs when she moved to San Francisco in 1986. Fast forward to 2020 and she has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and was nominated for the ‘Producer of the Year: Non-Classical’ Grammy award in 2019. P!nk released her second album, ‘Missundaztood’, in 2001, and it was Perry’s work on production and songwriting on this album that saw her stock soar. She went on to write ‘Beautiful’ for Christina Aguilera, and work with Alicia Keys on ‘Superwoman’, so there was no way we could ignore her when making this list!

Kanye West

Love him or loathe him, there’s no doubting Kanye West’s credentials as a producer. Hugely successful as a performer and writer in his own right, his production credits include the likes of Drake, John Legend, and Mary J. Blige, while he also worked with Alicia Keys and Ludacris in the early ’00s. In his own music he has more recently opted for a more stripped back approach, but this does not mean he has lost the meticulous, studious edge that made Kanye, Kanye.



Teaching Rockschool – Drums Debut | Guest Blog

January 31st, 2020 by

With the start of a new decade, we’re excited to invite a whole host of new Rockschool teachers to give their tips, tricks guides and advice for our Guest Blog series. This week, we’re introducing drummer, educator and music psychologist, Michael Hutchinson from Triple-T Drumming based in the North-East of England.

Ready to roll! Michael poses for a picture with one of his drum students

Teaching Rockschool – Drums Debut

Welcome to a quick walkthrough on how to teach drums, starting with with early learners at the very start of their music education. As an instrumental teacher, many of you may not have formal training, and without structural influence teacher training can provide, building a lesson plan can be tough going when you have very little practical experience. We make mistakes and eventually loose students before we discover the right approach for them. Wrong or untrained techniques can lead to a demotivated student and your job – as a teacher is to motivate and inspire – can quickly seem jading and unfulfilling.

SIGN UP FOR FREE! RSL’s Teacher Registry advertises your services to music students in your area

In this article, I am going to take you through a couple of steps that could help you best serve the first students that come to you for help. Hopefully, these ideas will seem like common sense, but at the same time spark some new ideas, and if they do, allow you to implement them into your lessons and see how well they work. Debut grade is the longest and hardest grade to teach for the majority of students, young and old, because it is your learners’ first example of music tuition – so really concentrate on making it fun and exciting, and you’ll always be improving naturally over time.

Duncan Lee performs ‘Z’ from Rockschool Drums Debut on the XYZ Drum Channel

Things to Cover in This Grade

  • Holding the sticks – German, French, Traditional
  • Drum kit layout – Using terminology like ‘drum voice’
  • Counting – Why we count, how we count, understanding industry-standard counting techniques
  • Tempo – Can we keep time naturally, playing to metronome
  • Crotchets/Quarter Notes – both UK and US variants of this value
  • Quavers/Eighth Notes – both UK and US variants of this value
  • Drum Beat in 4/4, using eighth note and quarter note high hat patterns – Let’s play it, let’s count it
  • Moving the bass drum around that basic groove – 1 and 3 to start, then all quarter notes, then all 8th notes, then doubles
  • Rudiments – What are rudiments? Why is this knowledge useful?
  • Single Strokes in Quavers
  • Double Strokes in Quavers
  • Paradiddles in Quavers

“You can encourage reading music by standing next to the music stand and with a pencil point to the notes as they play. Younger students will take longer to master this skill, where you’re older students and adults may get this quicker.”

Reading Music

Reading music is possibly the hardest thing to teach, especially early on. In my experience, a student at this level will find it really challenging to look at the music and play the drums at the same time. Do not rush into reading music before you have both explored the drum kit first; got the grooves going; and have some fun! When you feel the student is ready, then introduce the scripted music bit by bit, recording their successes as you go.

Tip: You can encourage reading music by standing next to the music stand and with a pencil point to the notes as they play. Younger students will take longer to master this skill, where you’re older students and adults may get this quicker.

Hi! Stephan Seiler Drums plays through the Rockschool Drums Debut track “My Name Is” from Eminem

Passing the Exam

To successfully pass this grade, the student needs to be familiar with all of the above (see ‘Things to Cover in This Grade’), and more importantly, feel comfortable with all of the technical aspects before they can even think about entering an exam room. Using RSL books in conjunction with the above will help the student achieve a solid pass; however, they must feel comfortable, and that is your job as the teacher to get them to that level. Judging their ability to feel calm enough to perform whilst being watched by someone new is something that shouldn’t be ignored. Remember, this doesn’t, and shouldn’t, be something to fear. But, that means ensuring that every box is ticked, including mental prep before the big day.

The student must enjoy the song to play it well, and as a teacher, you should actively encourage your students to listen to the grade songs and choose four songs (3 for the exam and 1 spare) which they can identify with in some way. Never force a song onto a student if they don’t connect with it of any level.

Encouraging Personal Discovery

I’ll ask a question. Are you sure your way, is the right way? All students will have their quirks; and all players and educators will have them too! If you are teaching a technique, ensure that you’ve done your research on that specific technique, and identify any potential gaps in your approach. As educators, we must remember to expand our own knowledge over time. There is always something you don’t know that could improve you as a teacher, and in turn, the experiences of your students.

REPLAY! RSL’s interactive sheet music player gives you the ability to jam along with your favourite Rockschool performance pieces

Take stick grip, for example. Let’s take the ‘German Grip’: I have seen so many different variants of this grip, and I know I have changed my own approach over time to match my ergonomic style. Thanks to training from guys like Paul Elliott (Rockschool composer, educator and session player) and Gabor Dornyei, I have learned how to hold the sticks correctly, while adjusting to my own bodies specific dynamics. I do not teach my German Grip technique; I teach my guided version of the method, or more importantly, the correct technique, which should provide the best platform for a young player to grow and learn effectively.

Slow-Mo: Drummer, Stephen Taylor‘s ‘German Grip’ video breaks the technique down

Good advice and correct technique training should explain to the student the right way of completing the technique, but that it’s also ok to change certain aspects of it to match their body style. Never teach an idiosyncrasy specific to you, but create an open forum where they can decide what works for them over time.

About the Author:

Michael Hutchinson is a drummer, educator, and music psychologist from the North East of England. He runs Triple-T Drumming school of drums and has been teaching privately for 12 years. He is currently researching drumming from a psychological point of view studying with Sheffield University, music psychology in education performance and wellbeing and his main interest is drumming and its effects on working memory.

The Grammy-Winning Album Produced in a Bedroom | Music Production

January 30th, 2020 by

Billie Eilish’s victory at the 62nd Grammy Awards on Sunday night was impressive for many reasons. Her age, the number of awards won (5, including the ‘Big Four’), and her distinct musical style all seem to defy the music industry’s status quo, but she is now impossible to write off as a passing fad; her haul of Grammys suggests she is here to stay.

Her immense success at such a young age may come as a surprise to some, but to those with their finger on the pulse it serves only to emphasise the importance of understanding music production to young musicians.

Billie’s ascension to the top table of pop music is testament to her hardwork and talent, but it is important not to disregard the work of her producer and brother, Finneas. His work on her debut album, ‘When We Fall Asleep Where Do We All Go?’, earned him recognition at the Grammys too, and he was quick to acknowledge how the album was largely produced in his bedroom at their family home.

Billie Eilish won five Grammy Awards this year, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Pop Vocal Album.

Significantly, in an acceptance speech for one of their many awards, Finneas said “This is to all of the kids who are making music in their bedrooms today. You’re going to get one of these”. Proudly brandishing multiple Grammys might be the ultimate goal for musicians all over the world, but that level of success may well seem unattainable. So what’s the best solution for those who are taking their tentative first steps in music production?

“The laptop is the new guitar”

Long gone are the days when expensive recording studio sessions were the first steps in kickstarting a music career. Nowadays it is possible to create music on a laptop at minimal expense in the comfort of your own home. The wide availability of digital audio workstations (DAWs) coupled with the rise of social media and streaming services means that, with a helping of entrepreneurial spirit and tenacity, many artists can start generating their own music without holding out for a lucrative record deal.

When the RSL Team visited BBC Music Introducing 2019 back in November, we had the pleasure of listening to an entertaining talk between Laurie Vincent, one half of Slaves, and BBC Radio 1 DJ, Abbie McCarthy. In this discussion, Laurie boldly declared that “the laptop is the new guitar”.

Far from dismissing the guitar as a crucial instrument for songwriting and music-making, he was instead making the point that whereas the guitar used to be the go-to way for people starting out in music to write their own songs, it has now been replaced by the laptop because of its accessibility, portability, and malleability. People still play around with chords on the guitar and compose their own tunes just as before – the difference now is that these initial ideas can be developed into fully-fledged, recorded songs in an afternoon. Never before has it been easier to record, make beats, and produce your own homemade music.

A skill in its own right

Getting started can be as simple as opening up a DAW and hitting record, but mastering the many skills that make up music production is a complex process that takes dedication and talent. The application of techniques is likely to vary significantly from genre to genre; producing a track recorded by a jazz trio for an album will require a very different approach to producing an EDM track for DJs to play in a club.

At RSL Awards we believe that music production is crucial to supplementing your progress on an instrument. We also think that it is very much a skill in its own right. Our Music Production syllabus recognises this and is unique in having a range of assessment that stretches from grades 1 to 8 in order to prepare students for the wide range of roles within production.

More and more people are acknowledging the merits of studying Music Production as part of a well-rounded music education. Who knows, maybe it will open DAWs for you just as it has for the likes of Billie Eilish and Finneas…



10 Easy Steps to a Better Teacher Registry Profile in 2020

January 24th, 2020 by

We think our Teacher Registry is great, even if we do say so ourselves. It’s easy to create a profile, and very straightforward to upload all the relevant information. Best of all, it’s a completely FREE way to advertise your teaching services to thousands of potential students across the UK.

As our Teacher Registry continues to grow, teachers face more competition to get their profile noticed. At RSL we thought it would be good to give you some handy tips to improve your profile, get noticed, and stand out to potential students in 2020!

1. Upload a good quality image that reflects your teaching business

Make sure you choose a good quality photo that reflects you and your teaching business when creating your profile. Your photo doesn’t have to be a shot of you teaching someone, or a photo from a crazy angle at a gig; a photo that clearly shows your face is suitable. Of course, you may wish to include a picture of you with your instrument – just ensure it’s good quality and clear!

2.Use testimonials

RSL doesn’t officially endorse or affiliate itself with anyone on the Teacher Registry, so it’s always good to have someone else’s opinions on your teaching publicly available for others to see. Testimonials can be only two or three sentences in length but they go a long way in giving your profile credibility to someone who is not familiar with you.

Make sure you choose a good quality photo that reflects you and your teaching business when creating your profile.

3. Only upload relevant socials…

Social media is a great tool for a musician. Visibility across several platforms can be really useful, but it can get difficult to keep them all up to date. So, when uploading your profile, only choose the ones you feel accurately reflect your teaching persona and busy schedule. Your Instagram may consist of music related posts, but if your personal Facebook profile is full of dog pics then feel free to omit it from your Teacher Registry profile to maintain professionalism!

4. …and don’t create socials just for the sake of it

Although there are social media profile fields on the sign-up form, they aren’t compulsory to sign up for the Teacher Registry. There’s no need to create accounts just to fill out the fields on our form. Your teaching business might be more suited to some platforms than others, so don’t worry if you’re not on Instagram or LinkedIn – just include the most pertinent social media accounts that you feel best represent you as a musician and teacher.

5. Choose appropriate rates

Musicians are highly trained specialists, so don’t sell yourself short when choosing how much you charge. Unlike other teacher registries and tutoring websites, we don’t charge a commission on how much you earn – you get to keep ALL of your hard-earned cash without a middle man interfering. Therefore, adjust your rates to whatever suits you and your workload. However, do bear in mind that if your fees are too steep you may deter potential students. Check out ISM’s advice here.

6. Include an accurate website link

As a musician, you can really benefit from having your own website. Your own personal space on the web is perfect for posting performance clips, gig dates, and appropriate contact details. In order to optimise access to your website for students, ensure that your website address is preceded by HTTPS when signing up to our Teacher Registry. Doing this makes your site secure to access and means that we can fast-track the moderation process to get you up and running in no time!

7. Use a full link to your Twitter profile

Another common mistake is that teachers who apply to us include their Twitter handle in their Twitter section. Unfortunately our website isn’t able to link directly to Twitter handles yet, so do be sure to include a full URL link to your profile to ensure there aren’t any hitches in the moderation process.

8. Use the Additional Information section

Filling out the additional info section is not compulsory when signing up, but doing so accurately and succinctly will set you apart from other teachers and give your profile a polished look. Keep it brief, but personal. Use this box as a chance to let potential students know which instruments, grades and areas of music you specialise in, as well as what your teaching methods are likely to involve.

9. Include which instruments you teach

Potential students can filter by instrument when looking through teachers, so in order to appear to as many students as possible, be sure to include the instruments you are comfortable teaching. Remember, you can also include Music Theory and Music Production as topics for you to teach, so there are plenty of avenues for you to pursue.

10. Take pride in your profile

RSL’s Teacher Registry is a great resource that puts you, quite literally, on the map. This list should help you make the most of advertising your services and put you in a great position to secure new students and spread your love of music. We can only take you so far – now it’s up to you to sign up and submit an awesome profile that shows you at your best!


Practise with Purpose | Get Exam Ready and Enter Now!

January 9th, 2020 by

The big day is almost here! The deadline for Rockschool exam entries is next Friday, 17th January, so this week let’s think about nailing your exam technique.

girl practising drums
Ready or Not? Don’t practise until you get it right, but until you can’t get it wrong!

Learn Your Material

Your first priority when preparing for an exam should be to ensure that the material you’re playing is secure. Don’t just practise until you get it right, practise until you can’t get it wrong!

It’s important to have as much control as you can over your prepared material. Whether you’re aiming for a pass, merit, or distinction, you should make your performance secure overall, even in the face of exam day nerves.

There is plenty of existing material in the News section of our website on dealing with pre-performance nerves, while our Rockschool Method series focuses more intently on the individual components of exams. Check out our specific articles dedicated to looking at Performance Pieces, Technical Exercises, and more!

Use Nerves to Your Advantage

Nerves and exams come hand in hand, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing! For a start, if you’re nervous it means you’re conscientious and want to do well, which is a good sign. You might be anxious because you’re performing in front of an examiner you’ve never met, but don’t worry! Examiners will do their best to put you at ease, and remember that they only want to see you do well. They’ve all been in your shoes when they were first starting out!

The adrenaline of an exam can be quite exhilarating too. You may not get the opportunity to show off your skills that often, so make the most of it and do your best. That’s all anyone can ask!

We spoke to psychotherapist and life coach, James Banfield, about dealing with exam nerves. You can find his tips for dealing with performance anxiety in the video below:

Liberate Your Mind! Check out 3 Top Tips for tackling performance anxiety

Get Used to the Exam Format

It’s one thing to be able to play all your pieces and technical exercises well at home, but just as crucial to your success is the ability to do this in an exam situation. To prepare for playing your material in this scenario, try doing a mock exam with your teacher.

In your exam you’ll have the option of starting with either your technical exercises or performance pieces. Try doing two mock exams, playing technical exercises followed by performance pieces the first time and then swap round the second time, seeing which one you prefer. You might opt to use the technical exercises as a chance to warm up, or you may want to dive straight into your pieces; see which one you feel more at ease starting with!

A complete breakdown of marks from your teacher isn’t necessary for the mock exam to be worthwhile. The exercise is worth it simply for the opportunity to walk through the pieces and technical exercises all in one session, giving your stamina a boost. Exams are rewarding, but they can be mentally and physically draining, so it’s best to get some experience of playing for extended periods of time beforehand.


Mistakes Happen

There’s a reason everyone says mistakes are a completely normal part of music-making. The sooner you embrace the fact that errors are inevitable when you’re playing, the more content you’ll be. A distinction grade, reserved for exceptional players, is attained at 90%. This means there’s still room for 10 marks to be lost with no repercussions on your overall grade.

Don’t dwell on mistakes. Instead, focus on what you’ve got left to perform and do it to the best of your ability. What might seem like a catastrophic, glaring error from your perspective will most likely be a very minor slip to the examiner and definitely not the end of the world!

Check out our senior examiners’ advice in the clip below. We think you’ll find they agree with us!

Take Control! Some of our Senior Examiners explain how to stay calm during your exam

That brings us to the end of our Practise with Purpose blogs – we hope you enjoyed them and that you’ll continue to use our FREE Practise with Purpose Diary to make the most of your preparation. Best of luck to all of you who are already registered for exams taking place in February and March. If you haven’t registered and think you’re ready to take the plunge, then sign up below and start your Rockschool journey today!


Practise with Purpose | Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Musicians in 2020

December 18th, 2019 by

Happy New Year from everyone at RSL and welcome back to our Practise with Purpose blog! The start of the year brings with it the opportunity for New Year’s Resolutions and a fresh way of looking at things, so where better to start in 2020 than by thinking about how you can improve your practice sessions?

We’ve compiled our Top 10 Tips to make sure you give your playing a boost and hit the ground running this year!

“Learning a new instrument can help your understanding of music as a whole!”

1. A Regular Practice Routine

Prioritise improvement on your instrument or voice this year by making practice sessions part of your daily routine. Find a time of day that suits you and schedule regular sessions so that your practice quickly becomes a habit (link to prev article).

2. Stick to It!

This is the hard part! New Year’s Resolutions are always fuelled by good intentions and a desire to turn over a new leaf, but this can often prompt sweeping changes that aren’t sustainable. Start slow to begin with and don’t overwhelm yourself or you’ll lose interest and motivation quickly. You’re more likely to persevere if you set yourself small, achievable challenges and gradually increase your workload over time.


3. Jam Sessions

You can learn a lot by playing alone, but you can learn even more by playing with other people. Performing with others exposes you to musicians who will have different strengths and weaknesses to you. Don’t just sit there and admire other people’s talents – ask them questions, try to replicate their ideas. Think of yourself as a musical magpie on the lookout for different skills you can add to your arsenal. Music is about collaboration after all!

Video Lessons: Check out some of our Rockschool video lessons on YouTube now!

4. Listen to Some New Music

Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ is a great way to check out new music (other streaming services are available!), and there are plenty of websites that compile lists of new releases on a regular basis for your listening pleasure. Don’t neglect the countless ways that you can broaden your horizons! Ask your friends what they’re listening to, stick the radio on, and support your local music scene by going to gigs near you. You never know which exciting genres you might discover!

new year's resolutions

Play the Bass? Why not try out the drums to widen your knowledge of the rhythm section?

5. Play a Second Instrument

You’ll want to focus on mastering what you’re currently playing first, but thinking about music with a different instrument can be crucial in developing a deeper understanding of music and improving your all-round musicianship. If you’re a drummer, learning the piano, for example, can develop your understanding of melody and harmony. If you’re a vocalist, maybe take up the bass to compound your rhythmic solidity? Keep experimenting!

Using Rests For Better Basslines: A Rockschool Bass lesson

6. Warm Up!

Essential for vocalists and highly recommended for instrumentalists, the benefits of warming up are crucial to maximising your progress. It might add a bit of time on to your sessions, but going over your scales and focusing on improving your tone at the start of each session will produce results quickly.

7. Look After Your Instrument(s)

Your instrument, or your voice, are your musical tools, so be sure to keep them in tip-top condition! Warming up properly and staying healthy will contribute to this for vocalists, but replacing strings, tuning your instrument, and keeping it clean is just as important for instrumentalists.

8. Expand Your Repertoire

Conquering a piece of music so that you can perform it confidently and accurately is a great achievement, but it’s easy to rest on your laurels and go straight to the same pieces and ideas every time you pick up your instrument. Start 2020 by choosing some new songs, riffs, fills, or licks to add to your musical vocabulary. Transcribing is another fantastic way to improve your musical know-how and is totally worth the time and effort it takes.

Inspire Others! … and you may just learn some important lessons along the way.

9. Teach!

You don’t have to know everything about your instrument to start teaching! Don’t be dissuaded because you think you’re too young, or too old, or too inexperienced, or not good enough on your instrument (of course, you have a certain level of proficiency). Teaching others is a sure-fire way to fill in any existing gaps in your knowledge and revise the basics. Sign up to our teacher registry now to start advertising your services to potential students today!

10. Perform Whenever and Wherever

If you make a mistake in a practice session and no one hears it, do you really learn from it? If you make a mistake when performing in front of an audience then chances are you will remember it and try to avoid that mistake happening when you next perform that piece. Mistakes are a completely normal part of music – sometimes, no matter how carefully we practise, we make a slip in a performance. Performing more regularly will help you reduce and eventually overcome nerves or anxieties you might have ahead of an exam, while also giving you plenty of motivation to get to grips with that pesky semiquaver run or mind-boggling polyrhythm!

Those are our suggestions – try them out or put your own ideas to the test. Either way, be sure to keep a note of how you get on using our Practise with Progress Diary, and join us next week when we’ll be putting exam technique under the microscope!


Rockschool Stories | Ritesh Khokhar

December 17th, 2019 by

Ritesh and the team at Bridge Music Academy have been using Rockschool resources to teach contemporary, western music to students in Delhi, Gurgaon and Chandigarh since 2009.

We caught up with Ritesh to talk about his experience influencing music education across northern India for our latest ‘Rockschool Stories’.

Credit: Rohit Lal Photography

“We want to bring quality music education to as many musically starved people in India as we can.”

Can you give us a brief explanation of your teaching business?

Bridge Music Academy has been offering music tuition in ‘Western Classical’ and contemporary music since 2009, with four branches in Delhi, Gurgaon and Chandigarh. We have over 500 students studying across our four branches of the Academy, supported by over fifty highly qualified music educators. Subjects taught include Piano, Keyboards, Drums, Vocals, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Bass and Ukulele.

Out Now! Rockschool’s Piano and Keyboard syllabuses were completely separated and rewritten for 2019

How long have you been using Rockschool, and why has it worked for you?

We have been using Rockschool since 2005. We discovered Rockschool books on and ordered these our of curiosity. Students loved the material as it is the music they listen to and gives them the skills of perform and even make music of their choice. The teachers love the syllabus as it caters to every aspect of their teaching through a comprehensive examination structure covering elements like technical work, ear tests, general musicianship questions, sight reading and improvisation, along with allowing students to learn and perform the music of their choice.

Credit: Rohit Lal Photography

What’s your favourite performance piece to teach, and how does it improve your learners?

I have too many favourites, but if I have to pick one: I am currently teaching “He’s A Pirate” from the Pirates of the Caribbean Theme. It’s a great new composition for our Piano students to add to their repertoire. The piece is beautifully arranged and is perfectly benchmarked for this level. Students build their own composing skills along with their understanding of octaves and syncopation. The middle section features left hand arpeggios that stretch over and octave, which is an ideal accompaniment pattern to know at this level. A lot of the students already know the theme by ear too, so they enjoy learning it from the start.

Piano Play-Thru: Nick Maw takes his viewers through “He’s a Pirate” on his YouTube channel

What’s your favourite test to teach, and why is it important for your learners?

My favourite is getting to teach improvisation on a swing rhythm with my grade 3 piano students. Generally improvisation is very important because it makes students think about the building blocks of music. They see the importance of music theory as it becomes increasingly important here, so it’s nice to see them connecting the theory to the practical application from this stage. You still need to put the work in order to be creative!

Credit: Rohit Lal Photography

What’s your favourite success story?

One of my students, Ruhani, started to prepare for a grade 4 classical piano exam last year. Getting her to practice outside of the lessons became increasingly difficult. Her parents also found it difficult as they could not relate to the music she was playing. This year I introduced her to Rockschool Grade 5 Piano and she was immediately excited to see some of her favourite songs listed in the book. In under 2 weeks she had mastered her first exam piece. I remember her being so surprised by this she said to me “Do you remember how long it took me to learn a performance piece last year! It was close to 2 months!”. The reasons why she picked up this music much quicker was not because the music is not demanding, or interesting enough – it’s actually more demanding than comparable classical grade – but because she couldn’t stop herself from practising! She loved the music, which inspired a consistent routine and therefore: more learning, more enjoyment and more satisfaction. Even her parents enjoyed listening to her practise!

Credit: Rohit Lal Photography

What musician(s) inspired you to start playing?

My friends in school introduced me to artists like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, MLTR, Red Hot Chili Peppers, AC/DC, and many other fantastic rock bands. I actually played in bands for years completely by ear before getting into formal training. As I started learning, my taste in music grew, and I got into some amazing artists like Parliament Funkadelic, Joe Zawinul, Trilok Gurtu, Steve Gadd, James Brown, Chick Corea and Rush. That’s the thing that some people miss about studying music formally, it can really help you to appreciate music in a way you never thought about before.

Enter Sandman! You can play Metallica’s classic track on the Rockschool Grade 2 Guitar syllabus

Do you have any goals for the future of your teaching business?

We want to bring quality music education to as many musically starved people in India as we can. In practical terms, our future plans are to expand the business to include an online academy, and to build new franchises to help quality music education find its way into places that have never had to opportunity to take advantage of it before.

ENTER NOW! UK & Ire students can enter for their next exam anytime before the 17th Jan 2020

A big thank you to Ritesh for taking the time to speak to us. If you’d like to inquire into how you can learn with Rockschool in India, you click on the image below to get started now!

RSL India: Ritesh attends the Rockschool Guitar, Bass & Drums Launch event in 2018

If you’d like to nominate yourself, a music teacher you know, or even an entire school for a new chapter of Rockschool Stories, click on the button below and drop us a message!


Rockschool Stories | Roz Bruce

December 11th, 2019 by

After using Rockschool’s guitar books to improve her own playing, Roz Bruce continued to use Rockschool Electric Guitar since she began teaching in 2009. Since the release of the new Rockschool Acoustic Guitar syllabus, Roz has also taken to incorporating this material into her lessons, which have been adapted for both individual and group learning.

“It’s important to me to be a part of the community I’m in and to encourage budding musicians of all ages and different walks of life.”

Can you give us a brief explanation of your teaching business? Include any achievements you’d like to highlight.

I’ve been teaching private and group guitar lessons for a number of years now. Many of my lessons use Rockschool materials quite heavily, and many of my students have achieved their Rockschool grades in electric and – more recently – acoustic guitar. It’s always an amazing feeling when a student does well in their graded examinations, but it’s an even better feeling when they enjoy the whole process. It always helps when there are so many songs that the students love to play at each grade!

How long have you been using Rockschool, and why has it worked for you?

I’ve used Rockschool since I started teaching in 2009. I actually used the Rockschool syllabus to improve my own playing before I began teaching by gaining some grades. I’ve always appreciated the effort it takes to keep things up to date and fun for instrumental learners, whilst also ensuring that the foundational skills are imbedded along the way. I will always enjoy to play, and teach, the ‘Rockschool Originals’ – but the benchmarked versions of real songs that you find in the latest releases are a better way to engage learners, in my opinion.

Rockschool Acoustic Guitar ALL Grades
Double trouble: Rockschool’s full suite of grades for electric and acoustic guitar features tracks from some of the most iconic artists of all time

What’s your favourite performance piece to teach, and how does it improve your learners?

I really enjoy teaching a lot of the well known tracks that feature on the latest Rockschool Guitar syllabus, but I especially love the Metallica songs. If I had to choose my absolute favourite though, it would have to be ‘Bonecrusher’ from grade 2. It’s so much fun to play and it always ends up in my head! my students always absolutely love it, too. Even those who aren’t particularly into heavy metal end up getting a lot out of learning it.

Bonecrusher! Roz’s favourite tracks is the metal-themed Rockschool Original for grade 2, electric guitar (Credit: Rupdeep Paul)

What’s your favourite test to teach, and why is it important for your learners?

I really enjoy teaching improvisation. Personally, I think it’s the most important skill to get a good grasp of early on, particularly if you want to be able to solo effectively on the electric guitar. If you’re a lead guitarist in a band, you’re going to find yourself improvising a lot and you’ll need to get comfortable with being able to trust yourself in that situation. I like to take a creative approach to teaching improvisation, inspired by composer and pianist Christopher Norton. His approach heavily focuses on taking what the student is already confident with and working with it as a foundation to develop their own technique. It works well and it’s always a very musical, practical challenge.


What’s your favourite learner success story?

Outside of students passing their exams, seeing students go on to be in their own bands is always really great. I have an ex-students who has gone onto play in her own death metal band, which is great. I’m really happy for her, but smaller successes also delight me. Witnessing a young teenager practise diligently until they develop the bravery to get on stage and play will always make me beam with joy.

Festive fun! Roz’s students, Hazel and Violet, play at a Christmas Concert in 2018

What musician(s) inspired you to start playing, and why?

I fell in love with Jimi Hendrix at a very early age. His creativity and the obvious love he had for his guitar was, and still is, really inspiring. I like to get my guitar and treat it as Hendrix treated his: with wonder and fearlessness. If you were to study one guitarist, it would have to be Jimi.

Favourite Jimi track?

I can’t choose a favourite Hendrix song, but I adore the entire ‘Electric Ladyland’ album. I actually listened to it about 3 times this weekend – it never gets old!

CLassic: footage of the Jimi Hendrix Hendrix Experience playing ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’ Live in Stockholm, Sweden in 1969

Do you have any favourite personal experiences as a musician?

We’ve played some really cool gigs in our band. Some support slots we’ve had have been particularly enjoyable. These have included playing with Gong, The Blockheads, Focus and Arthur Brown. Playing these bigger gigs is always an experience and meeting the artists is also really cool.

Do you have any goals for the future of your teaching business?

I have recently moved base from Derby to Nottingham, so my goal is to develop my teaching business here and gain a good reputation. It’s important to me to be a part of the community I’m in and to encourage budding musicians of all ages and different walks of life.

What reasons would you give to encourage young musicians to teach others?

Teaching others always puts you in a good mood. Every time you share what you’ve learnt and make someone smile, you will smile yourself. It’s a fulfilling job and it feeds your soul, just get yourself out there and you’ll begin to improve after every lesson you take.

A big thank you to Roz for taking the time to speak to us. If you’d like to inquire into how you can learn with Rockschool Electric Guitar and/or Acoustic Guitar in the Nottingham area, you click on the image below to get started now!

You can also contact Roz via her own website:

If you’d like to nominate yourself, a music teacher you know, or even an entire school for a new chapter of Rockschool Stories, click on the button below and drop us a message!