Play Fewer Notes

Ideas and resources for music education.

I’m adding Alvin Lucier’s I am sitting in a room (1969) to the list of pieces in my ‘new music concert’ that I’ve never got around to putting on (one day…). I saw a great version this weekend at the rainy days festival in Luxembourg.

I’ll do it digitally, and I’ll try and run some tests in my classroom first. Maybe a shorter text for performance in a school?

Watch this space…


This is an old post from my old blog, but I think it is still relevant…

I think, I hope, that I’ve created simple and effective resource that goes some way to helping students engage in the Kaija Saariaho set work (Edexcel A Level Music).

Click here to access a small piece of code that runs in Sonic Pi, the free live-coding music synth that works great in schools.

Essentially it takes live sound as an input, and adds reverb and harmoniser effects akin to those in Petals, the set work. I’ve attempted to annotate the code below:


There are a few things to note:

  • You need to set your inputs and outputs up in Sonic Pi. It’s easy to do. It does work with laptop speakers and mic, but feedback is a problem. An audio interface with monitors is preferable (though feedback can still occur).
  • As mentioned in the picture, the harmoniser effect is subtle. Changing the numbers to other whole numbers adds more discernible intervals.
  • The effect doesn’t change over time like the Saariaho effects. If you can, change the dry/wet mix on your interface to create a ‘Saariaho-like effect’.

Though it seems complicated, essentially all you need to do need to do is open the code in Sonic Pi, run the code, and play an instrument. It does work!

All I do is set up a mic, and get students to come and play their instruments. They can play long and short notes, explore their range, as well as extended techniques. Any sound will work. They then hear the ‘processed’ sound live.

My students enjoyed this, and it helped them understand how the electronics were changing the sound of the ‘cello in the Saariaho set work. Feel free to use my little piece of code, and ask any questions if you need help setting it up. I hope it is useful!


#resource #idea #code #sonicpi #alevel #edexcel

I am David Guinane, Music Teacher at the École internationale Differdange et Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg.

Before my current job, I was Head of Music at Beaumont School, St Albans (UK), and Subject leader for Arts at The International School of The Hague (Netherlands).

Aside from my day job in the classroom, I write articles, resources and reviews for a variety of publications, such as Rhinegold Publishing , the BBC, and OCR. In addition, I have co-authored two books published by Harper Collins and Rhinegold (see below). As a freelance music education consultant I work for a range of exam boards, Music HUBs and publishing houses.

I run CPD on a range of topics, from music technology to general music education, and often speak at music education conferences.

If you wish to contact me about training or writing, or anything else, please contact me via email or LinkedIn. If you enjoy my blog and use any of my ideas, please consider ‘buying me a coffee’.

This blog contains resources, thoughts and ideas arising from my career in music education, as well as a variety of other musings that compel me to blog.

I co-wrote How to Teach Music: Secondary, a list of 100 ideas for outstanding music departments, which I am quite proud of. I also co-wrote the OCR GCSE Music Study Guide. It is a great book, especially if you teach or study the OCR GCSE Music course.

Some recent feedback:

Standing Upright Session for young people in Newcastle

Music Tech Conference Session

North Tyneside Music Education Hub, Speaker:

A fantastic hour of CPD brilliantly delivered, thank you. Brilliant insight in how to use Music Tech in lessons, it was very valuable to me.

Mark Allen Group Music Tech Conference, Speaker:

Excellent seminar, thank you! Thank you that was so so so helpful! Excellent and very informative session!

Microsoft Teams doesn’t like GarageBand files.

This can be a problem if you are a Microsoft school using iPads.

The solution is simple; the workflow less so.

As Microsoft sees the ‘.band’ files (GarageBand projects) as folders, you need to zip or compress them first. On iPads this is quite easy, direct from the Files app:

This ‘.zip’ file can be attached to Teams posts, or assignments, with no problem:

When receiving the file, students need to save it somewhere sensible, then find it in the Files app (they won’t be able to open it in GarageBand, but they will try). If they click it in Files, it should un-compress and a GarageBand project will appear:

And that’s it. To make GarageBand files work with Teams, just compress them, attach them, and un-compress them afterwards. This is useful for sharing templates that students can then edit.


#ipad #apple #garageband #microsoft #teams #howto