Category: Uncategorised

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…

PLEASE NOTE: THE MUSIC PRODUCTION ENTRY DEADLINE (UK & IRE) IS SET FOR 20TH FEB 2020! THINK YOU’RE READY?

ENTER NOW!

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.

DOWNLOAD YOUR PRACTISE WITH PURPOSE DIARY NOW!

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!

ENTER NOW!

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.


DOWNLOAD YOUR PRACTISE WITH PURPOSE DIARY NOW!

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!


ENTER NOW!

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 musicroom.com 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!

I HAVE A ROCKSCHOOL STORY

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.


DOWNLOAD YOUR ROCKSCHOOL PRACTICE DIARY NOW!

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: www.guitaristroz.com

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!

I HAVE A ROCKSCHOOL STORY

Rockschool Stories | Peter Elliot

December 4th, 2019 by

Peter and the Guitar Teacher Bushey team embrace both group and one-to-one teaching methods – whether in their studio or for home visits – with a firm belief in music’s ability to develop self confidence and build long-lasting friendships.

“I genuinely believe group tuition is the best way of learning for the majority of students. I’ve always been motivated to offer music lessons that are affordable for as many students as possible… “

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

Here at Guitar Teacher Bushey, we offer guitar, bass and ukulele lessons in Bushey, Watford and the wider Hertfordshire region. Students have the choice to learn in the comfort of their own homes with one of our tutors (all of whom have a degree in music, a DBS and at least two years teaching experience); take one-to-one lessons with me in our Bushey studio; or take group lessons with other learners of a similar skill level. This is our most popular option, with students really enjoying the experience of both learning and making friends. Whatever they’re trying to achieve, we’ve seen some fantastic results, and it’s a much more affordable option as well.

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

3 years. I used to use RGT, which I grew up learning myself, but have moved wholly to Rockschool now. The pieces are relevant, varied and well arranged. The backing tracks make practise more enjoyable whilst giving students the feel of playing in a band, hearing harmonies and developing an understanding of composition and arrangement. The exams also create a useful focal point and acts as a strong motivator for practice.


All Smiles: a student enjoys a guitar lesson at GTB

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

‘Another Dime’. We’ve taken on a lot of new students recently, so I’ve had a lot of students take the Rockschool Debut Guitar grade. Not only is this a very popular piece, but it also gives a lot of scope to develop parts through variations, bounce off ideas for call and response, work on power chords and to use as the basis for improvisation.


XYZ Music Academy present a run-through of ‘Another Dime’ from Rockschool Guitar, Debut

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

I think it has got to be ‘Sight Reading’. Improv is naturally more fun, and this is integrated into a lot of lessons already. However, I feel guitarist (myself included) often neglect sight reading – especially in their formative stages – which can really work to the detriment of their development later on. Whilst not necessarily the most fun exercise for most, I do think it’s a vital skill for advancing musicians into the most technical aspects of their chosen instrument.


Team work makes the dream work: Guitar student tackle a new lesson as a group

What’s your favourite learner success story?

There has been so many students over the years who have excelled; but to pick a recent story, a student of mine named Louis received 100% in his debut grade and I was completely blown away!

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

My dad. I actually wanted to start playing the sax when I was 7, but the owner of the music shop (coincidentally our neighbour) advised against it as I was at the stage where my front teeth had fallen out. I thought, “dad plays guitar, that’s pretty cool, I guess I’ll try that then!”. Since then, I have been inspired by lots of musicians, for a variety of different reasons (mostly in the jazz genre), but there are too many to mention!


Peter takes a group lesson using Rockschool Guitar

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

We aim to continue expanding and improving our groups. II genuinely believe group tuition is the best way of learning for the majority of students. I’ve always been motivated to offer music lessons that are affordable for as many students as possible, given that music lessons are becoming increasingly difficult to afford for a lot of families. We will continue to offer even more variety to our students (we recently ran a crash course in singing for beginners) alongside a growing list of supporting resources. Eventually, I imagine we’ll move more online too.

Why would you encourage skilled musicians to start teaching music like yourself?

In my experience, it is highly rewarding to see students develop and it’s a creative challenge to come up with new and exciting ways of delivering lesson material. It’s vital that teachers are accomplished and experienced musicians before they start teaching, as they are more likely to have a better understanding of the importance and context of different aspects of music education, as well as the developmental journey of their learners. It also serves as an inspiration to students to know that their teacher has applied what they teach. For most musicians, I think that education is the part of their work which is most likely to have the biggest long-term impact on the future of music in our society. We’re not just helping create the next generation of musicians, but also the next generation of listeners and appreciators. Teaching is the best way to help enrich and sustain our music in our communities, and of course, learning music has a whole host of other benefits, such as building confidence and promoting cognitive development – which are worthwhile and rewarding in their own right.


A big thank you to Peter and Guitar Teacher Bushey. If you’d like to inquire into how you can learn with Rockschool Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Bass and Ukulele with Peter, you click on the image below to get started now!

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!

I HAVE A ROCKSCHOOL STORY

Rockschool Stories | Lisa-Marie Harris

November 27th, 2019 by

Lisa-Marie and the team at Mayzmusik Performing Arts Academy opened their doors back in 2000. Located in Abergavenny (South Wales), the centre of excellence for Performing Arts currently uses Rockschool Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Drums and Bass to support their music education programmes.

Promoted to Principal in 2019, the company website labels Lisa-Marie “Our most multi-talented tutor”. That’s not surprising to read, given she is listed as a specialist educator in Woodwind, Guitar, Bass, GCSE and A-Level Music, and a range of performance and dance disciplines!

“I find successes in the little things, as well as the huge achievements. The first “ah-ha” moment is just as rewarding as helping student go on to study at a high level, or work as a professional musician.”

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

We’ve been teaching the Rockschool syllabi since we opened in 2000. We’ve stuck with them ever since, but now that the grades include songs from so many well known artists, we’ve found that more students are interested in studying Rockschool than ever before. As teachers, we’re always satisfied with the material across all of the instruments we teach because each book provides an ideal balance between the development of fundamental techniques and performance skills.


Mayzmusik students perform at a show

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

For me, it’s got to be ‘All Funked Up’, the classic Rockschool composition for Grade 5, Bass. I really enjoy getting to teach the popping & slapping techniques that are included in this piece in particular. For anyone learning the bass, these techniques are something students are either really looking forward to learning, or are completely unaware of and find themselves really wrapped up in for the first time. Either way, it’s all good fun. ‘Best of You’ from Rockschool Acoustic, Grade 3 is another favourite with me and my students. It provides a great opportunity to teach unbalanced strumming techniques – plus, it’s a great song!


Bassist, Neil Bartlett, performs ‘All Funked Up’ for his YouTube channel

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

They all have have equal merit. I guess it depends on the student and what they want to achieve. Sight Reading is a perfect exercise to instil into those less-disciplined students who can really profit from learning how to practise with structure. Getting them to a point where they can read exactly what is on the page as they’re playing is a great achievement for both student and teacher. It’s a skill that many highly regarded musicians can’t even claim! Improv is another extremely useful skill – especially for those students who have an extreme fear of empty bars! Teaching them rhythmically, one pitch at a time, that filling that space isn’t as daunting as they once thought can be extremely rewarding. This particularly applies to those students who have come to popular music after being classically trained.

What’s your favourite learner success story?

I find successes in the little things, as well as the huge achievements. The first “ah-ha” moment is just as rewarding as helping student go on to study at a high level, or work as a professional musician.


Lisa-Marie and a group of students smile for a Christmas selfie!

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

Honestly, my dad. Both my parents are musicians and I grew up in studios with pianos and guitars everywhere! I’m pretty sure I could read music before I could read English – which actually made teaching a little difficult at first, as I have no memory of the learning process. I guess it was inevitable that the children of two musicians would follow in their parents’ footsteps!


A big thank you to Lisa-Marie and the entire Mayzmusik team. For all inquiries into how you can learn with Rockschool Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Drums or Bass in the Abergavenny region, just click on the logo below to get started!

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!

I HAVE A ROCKSCHOOL STORY

Rockschool Stories | James Wood

November 22nd, 2019 by

James is one of the rarer teachers – a group we wholeheartedly embrace – who tutors musicians his own age, and older. Passing his Rockschool Drums Grade 8 exam in 2005, James begun teaching local drummers right away. 14 years later, he’s still going strong!

“I started learning Rockschool around 2002/2003 with my first drum tutor who encouraged the RSL Grades as a good way of learning drums and progressing effectively over time. I was hooked with the drums and loved learning the tracks in the grade books, so for me it was a no-brainer to pass this on as a teacher.”

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

I’ve had a fruitful career so far teaching the drums to individuals across a variety of age groups. Each with their own separate backgrounds, cultural influences and musical tastes. I passed my RSL Rockschool Grade 8 Drums with a Merit In December 2005 and ever since have been encouraging others to do the same with their drumming education.

You mentioned that you passed your grade 8 as a Rockschool student back in 2005 – when did you start learning with Rockschool yourself, and why did you stick with it?

I started learning Rockschool around 2002/2003 with my first drum tutor, who encouraged the RSL Grades as a good way of learning drums and progressing effectively over time. I was hooked with the drums and loved learning the tracks in the grade books, so for me it was a no-brainer to pass this on as a teacher. Much of what my initial tutor taught me about teaching has stayed with me, and even influenced my own approach as an educator to this day. He always used to say: “If you can say it, you can play it”. If in doubt about an exercise; slow it right down to snails pace and start from there. Despite sounding counter-intuitive, this is the quickest way to speed up your playing!

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

I’ve been using Rockschool Drums resources for around 14 years now. It works well for me and my students, because it keeps a drummer actively engaged with a diverse range of areas to focus on and even develop further later on. This results in – and I’ve experienced this as a drummer as well as a teacher – a more well-rounded player that can adapt to a variety of playing styles and situations.

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

Oh, there isn’t one for me – there’s just too many great tracks! It comes down to the diversity available. There’s so many genres and the stylistic applications of them is a separate education in itself. Recently, I’ve been teaching a student the grade 6 piece “Ziggy Stardust” (David Bowie) and I didn’t realise how that songs syncopation is so satisfying to analyse, learn, teach and play. Combine that with the simultaneous bass drum work, cymbal stabs and some really fluent drum fills, and you’ve got yourself a really challenging track to learn. It’s really helping my student to develop stylistic awareness in this genre and maintain consistency in groove and flow, so it’s a great composition to have in the teaching arsenal.


Ziggy played guitar! Incredible rare footage of David Bowie performing “Ziggy Stardust” in 1972

What’s your favourite test (sight reading, improv etc) to teach, and why is it important for your learners?

I’d have to say the ‘Ear Tests’, as they really make a player stop, put their sticks down, and actually listen to what is being played. It also introduces beginners to the concept of taking performance notes and learning to add them to the page in front of them. It’s such an invaluable tool in the learning process, and just another instance where you suddenly see a student take a huge leap forward. Seeing the change happen in front of you will never get old. It’s always a really cool experience.

What’s your favourite learner success story?

One young girl I was teaching a few years ago, was totally absorbed in everything I was teaching her and excelled really quickly with her drumming. It was amazing to see the speed of her progress and to get such positive feedback from her mum almost immediately. She was clearly a very natural, talented player, but hearing that she went on to start a band and won a music award through her school is just another instance where this job gives you moments that make it all worthwhile.


One of James’ early drum-heroes, Matt Sorum, plays a classic solo on tour with Guns N’ Roses in 1992

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

I always remember my father used to listen to Guns n Roses downstairs when I was little. Hearing Matt Sorum’s drum solo from ‘Live In Tokyo, 1992’ had a massive impact on me then, and still does to this day! For me, at that time, I remember it gave me my first taste of what was possible as a drummer and I knew that it for me. Thomas Lang at Drummer Live in London – 2004, I believe – was another one that just blew my socks off and made me pick up the sticks and never want to put them down!


Masterclass: Drum legend, Bill Bruford, inspired James at an ACM masterclass back in 2012

Do you have any favourite personal experiences as a musician?

I spent a week in a free masterclass with Bill Bruford at the ACM in Guildford (Surrey), some time between 2011-2012. What stayed with me was how he just hung out with the students and talked about good music. He was so so natural and interested in everyones passion for the drums. It was a great time for me. The first time I got to play my local venue was another memory I’ll never forget. Playing at the place where I’d gone to so many gigs, and been inspired by all the great musicians that came to town was really special.

Do you have any goals for the future of your teaching business? If so, explain what they are and why they’re important to you.

Long term, I see myself expanding more and more with the private tuition service, and eventually getting access to my own personal drumming studio. I love teaching, and only now can I can appreciate how much tolerance and patience it has given me as a person – and that’s quite a profound thing when I think about it. It’s important for me to keep teaching drums in general so that the next generation of drummers in this area have somewhere to go and learn from someone with experience, who also cares about their passion for the same instrument. Teaching is’t just a fun pastime that allows you to earn money; it’s keeping an art-form alive in your part of the world. What’s more special than that?


Creating a spark: James uses Rockschool to teach drummers in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas

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

I’ve found, throughout life in general, that there is something to be learnt from everyone. I often think of people as each having the ability to present a new piece of a puzzle that you couldn’t have seen without having met them. I’d wholeheartedly encourage people to share their musical gifts with others and teach wherever they can. Even if It’s for free for a short while, you should do it as a learning experience for yourself. It makes you a better player, for one, and establishes you as an influential figure for musicians in your area. Happiness never decreases by being shared!


Thanks James! I’m sure you’ll agree, there’s some really great quotes in there, that we hope will inspire you to either start teaching, or pick up a pair of sticks yourself and seek out your local drum tutor as soon as possible.

If you’d like to contact James for lessons, you can find him on Facebook, or on the RSL Teacher Registry here!

Play The Bigger Game | Music Mark Conference ’19

November 18th, 2019 by

MUSIC MARK CONFERENCE ’19

The Music Mark Annual Conference travels to Sheffield for its 2019 edition.

RSL are excited to attend this year’s Music Mark Conference in South Yorkshire’s vibrant city of Sheffield. This is a great opportunity for us to catch up with Music Mark members – from Music Hubs to their teaching and support teams – and be inspired by the panels, discussions, music education workshops and CPD sessions, all designed to best serve today’s music and performance teachers.

This year, the event will explore a selection of case studies designed to promote the most collaborative, enterprising and inclusive programmes from across the country, as examples of how to revitalise the classroom environment. Keynote speakers include: former Mayor of Sheffield and Green MEP Magid Magid; CEO of Sound and Music, Susanna Eastburn (MBE); and Diana Johnson (MP), Chair of the APPG for Music Education.

Music Mark have also organised a selection of engaging, practical CPD sessions, in which you’ll be able to find RSL’s UK Education Strategy Manager, Dan Francis, demonstrating how our brand-new Professional Diplomas can support the talent pipeline; either as an individual setting up their professional career, or as an employer securing a high-quality new workforce.

Securing the Talent Pipeline: Rockschool Professional Diplomas at Level 4 & 6

In this hands-on, practical session, delegates will be introduced to the new RSL Awards Professional Diplomas and how they each work to support the delivery of high-quality, industry-relevant learning, both inside and outside the classroom. Delegates will take a piece of well-known Rockschool repertoire, and through a practical performance workshop, explore the teaching opportunities and learning outcomes that can be gained from the material.

This session will map the learning to the objectives in a range of qualifications (from KS2 to KS5) and demonstrate how the diploma supports professionals working in a variety of teaching environments, as well as young people moving into a portfolio career.

In the session we’ll:

  • Perform a section of music and then identify the instrumental skills and musical understanding required to perform it
  • Look at how these skills underpin a range of qualifications
  • Identify how this approach supports learning for individuals, ensemble rehearsals and in the classroom

To close, we’ll focus on the new Rockschool Professional Diplomas in order to show how they help advanced musicians to develop, evidence and reflect on their work as they develop a portfolio career. We see this qualification as something that can be adopted by all Music Services running Student Leadership Programmes, as well as those looking to support undergraduate and graduate musicians as they embark on their career as a portfolio musician.

We look forward to seeing everyone in attendance on the day. If you’d like to review the event programme before your arrival, you can download it below.

EVENT PROGRAMME