Music Education Solutions

#MESis10: February Competition

Throughout 2018 we are giving away a different prize every month to celebrate our 10th Birthday!

February’s prize is 2 tickets to our Curriculum Music Conference, which takes place in London on 12th March.

To view and enter the competition pop along to our Facebook page. Good luck!

To celebrate Music Education Solutions® 10th Birthday, we’re posting our top ten tips for music teaching each month during 2018! This month’s list is compiled by David Ashworth.

  1. Why use apps?  Apps usually upload much more quickly on tablets compared with software on computers, they rarely crash, and are intuitive to use. Although Apps are becoming more expensive, they are still far cheaper than most music software computer programmes, and the added bonus of using iPad apps is that the built in microphones, speakers and camera ensure that you have everything that you need to create, record and play music!
  1. Getting the best and most from your apps. When considering apps for classroom use, try to look at them with more of an ‘agnostic’, open minded approach. The app designers will have produced their apps with certain uses in mind, but also consider how they might best work for you in supporting your curriculum work. How might the features they offer support your teaching and learning needs? The examples which follow provide some pointers to thinking and planning in this way…
  1. Bloom is a generative music application for iOS created by Brain Eno and Peter Chilvers. The software plays a low drone and touching the screen produces different tones, which play in a loop. The fact that it provides an instant display on the screen makes it ideal for working with graphic notation. It can also be used for live improvised performance and its use of simple modal scales makes it a great app for aural work with older students. The fact that it is easy to play and produces beautiful sounding melodic lines makes it an ideal application for use with younger students and in some SEND contexts.
  1. SampleToy the first thing to note is that you can ignore the word ‘toy’ in this app’s name. What makes it so useful is the speed at which you can record and play back a sampled sound. A great way of bringing more interesting unusual sounds into the classroom which are often beyond the reach of students in terms of affordability and playability.
  1. iReal Pro is a real time-saver. Simply type in chord progression for any song to instantly create an accomplished sounding backing track comprising guitars, bass, keyboards, drums etc. The songs can be played back in any key and at any tempo. Great for rehearsal, improvising, composing and performance activities. The tracks can also be played back in different musical styles. So students can get a feel for stylistic conventions and also have a lot of fun devising interesting cover versions of well known tunes. I find Scarborough Fair as a reggae number particularly engaging!
  1. MiniSynth 2 from Yonac is a simple virtual synthesiser which gives students the chance to build and use their own synthesiser sounds. This can be an excellent independent learning tool for those are keen to explore music technology at a fairly basic level. They can experiment with changing oscillator settings, filters and effects to design and save configurations for use in subsequent music making.
  1. Air Vox makes use of the iPad’s built in camera to detect hand motion gestures which can be translated into sounds. Moving the hand up and down vertically over the iPad changes the pitch of notes, played from a chosen scale. The other hand can optionally move horizontally to control the volume or tone of the sound output. This is a great app for use in live performance involving dance or movement. It is also particularly useful for SEND students with limited motor control.
  1. GarageBand is one of the all time best apps for music makers and the basic version is part of the standard iPad suite of apps. To name just two of the features, GarageBand’s ‘Smart’ instruments can be used for writing diatonic chord progressions in any key and the Smart Drums uses a unique matrix grid, allowing users to create convincing drum patterns where the degree of complexity and relative dynamic levels can be easily controlled.
  1. Thumbjam is one of many ‘virtual instrument’ apps available for the iPad. Where it scores significantly over many of its rivals is in the way it allows the user to manipulate the tablet interface to add elements of expressive control to the triggered sounds. Wobbling the finger on a note will add a degree of vibrato whilst tiling the tablet will control the volume and other settings. There are a range of articulation settings and a large choice of instruments and scales which enable the user to play musical melodies and harmonies with considerable subtlety and nuance.
  1. Although you and your students will find apps quite easy to use, it is often a good idea to enlist technical support from the experts in your school. Storage/retrieval of students work on iPads is not as straightforward as it is on computers, so find out what systems are in place to facilitate this in your school. Your tech support should also be able to advise on buying and installing apps across a range of devices. Finally, don’t forget your students! Some of them will be way ahead of the game – and may be a useful further source of advice on getting the most from your apps….











Copyright © 2018 Music Education Solutions® Limited. All Rights Reserved.


Congratulations to Michelle Bingham of The Oaks Primary School in Birmingham, who won the first of our 10th Birthday Competitions this year! Michelle won January’s prize, a class set of Music Notation Starter Packs, for her Year 4 class who are currently learning Xylophone with S4E Music.














Dr Elizabeth Stafford pictured with pupils from The Oaks Primary School.

To celebrate Music Education Solutions® 10th Birthday, we’re posting our top ten tips for different types of teachers each month during 2018! This month’s list is compiled by Dr Elizabeth Stafford.


  1. Don’t panic! So you’re the only musician in your school? Or maybe there are no musicians in your school at all? Don’t tell anyone we told you, but you don’t have to be ‘a musician’ to teach primary music, in the same way that you don’t need to be J.K Rowling to teach writing! However ‘unmusical’ you feel, you WILL be able to teach primary music because it’s at a level designed for 5-11 year olds, and you are much older and wiser than that!
  1. Invest in quality teaching resources. Make things easy for yourself and invest in an up-to-date curriculum scheme and modern resources. You don’t need to create everything from scratch yourself, particularly if you’re not confident about music. Let the experts do the legwork for you and use commercially available resources that you can adapt to suit your class. Adaptation is easier than invention – shout-out to Disney and their live-action-remakes!
  1. Clear out that music trolley. If it’s broken – chuck it. If you don’t know what it’s called – find out. If you don’t know how it works – find out. If you haven’t got a full class set of instruments, or at least one between two – time for a fundraiser! You can’t teach music effectively without providing functioning instruments for your pupils to play – it’s in the national curriculum and everything!
  1. Talk to your local music education hub or service. In England your music education hub is specifically charged with helping YOU teach music better, so don’t be afraid to knock on their door for some advice. Although this is not a statutory role in other parts of the UK, music services love to develop their relationships with schools, so get in touch and find out what they can do for you – musicians love to chat about music!
  1. Get some CPD. Music is one of those subjects where it’s quite hard to learn what to do from a book. Attending a practical CPD course, or even an online course with video and audio exemplars, can be a great way to raise your confidence and give you some new ideas to try out. Even meeting up informally with colleagues in your school cluster or consortium can be enough to spark off some new ideas. Whatever CPD you undertake just make sure there is a good ratio of information to cake – it’s been scientifically proved* that you can’t take in information without simultaneously taking in sugar.*Exhaustive research by Dr E. Stafford.
  1. Read the National Plan for Music Education. This plan is due to finish in 2020, so now would be a great time to check whether your pupils are getting their entitlement under this plan! Grab those opportunities before they go, as who knows what will happen post-2020? (Fingers crossed it’s not nuclear holocaust, eh? Although I bet your ancient music trolley will survive that intact…)
  1. Involve your pupils. Don’t be worried if your pupils are ‘more expert’ at music than you – celebrate it! Ask them to be a group leader for less confident pupils, ask them to start off the singing or playing in a performance, have them bring their instrument in and use it to contribute to class compositions and improvisations. We all know that kids love being given a job to do, and playing the violin is much more educationally valuable than sharpening pencils! Although it can make a very similar sound…
  1. Film everything! Ok well not EVERYTHING, but as many activities as you can. It’s much easier to show progress through audio and video examples than through numbers on a spreadsheet. Ofsted have said that they expect to see audio and video assessment evidence for music, so make sure you have some videos and audio tracks ready for your inspection. Just think, if you create enough examples for them to look at, maybe they won’t have time to leave the room to do the rest of the inspection…
  1. Drink water. Yes, I know, patronising much? But seriously, practical music lessons, particularly involving singing, dry you out much more than ordinary teaching. If you don’t want to lose your voice, keep sipping – and remember that clear spirits* look just like water when decanted.*Definitely do not do this.
  1. Enjoy it! Music is meant to be fun! So even if it’s not your thing, try to make the experience enjoyable for yourself as well as your pupils. Consider sharing your own favourite music as part of lessons and talking about why you like it – just make sure to check for dubious lyrics first, obvs!



Music Education Solutions® turns 10 in 2018!


Music Education Solutions® turns 10 years old in June 2018, and the company has a whole year’s worth of celebrations planned! Aside from their champagne birthday lunch, which is incorporated into the First Access Forum event on 8th June, they will also be offering a year-long programme of competitions, discounts, giveaways and promotions to celebrate this milestone.


The 10th birthday competitions will be run via the company’s Facebook page, so make sure to like and follow them to be in with a chance to win some amazing prizes throughout the year. These include live and online course places, resources, event tickets, and even a free INSET session for your school or Music Education Hub!


The company will also be marking their 10th birthday by raising money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Look out for the donation boxes at all Music Education Solutions® events this year. Music Education Solutions® will add 10% to all donations received at their events during 2018, so give generously!

Watch our new vlog to find out all about the programme for the Curriculum Music Conference 2018!


We’ve spent some time recently reflecting on what has been a very busy year for us, and we thought it would be fun to copy and paste our company diary into one of our favourite educational word cloud tools to see all of the year’s projects come to life on one page! If you’re not familiar with how word clouds work, the more times you use a word, the bigger it gets, so the image below gives you a flavour of some of our biggest projects of the year.

Wonder what 2018’s word cloud will look like?!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year,

from all of us at Music Education Solutions®.

2017 Word Cloud

Following a successful inaugural event last year, Music Education Solutions® will be hosting their second Curriculum Music Conference on 12th March 2018 in London. This event is open to anyone with an interest in primary and secondary music including Music Education Hub Curriculum Leads and those responsible for SMEP, music advisors, primary music coordinators, secondary music teachers, instrumental teachers, and music education academics.


The programme includes practical workshops, discussions, product launches and presentations. Key highlights include the launch of Primary Music Magazine, an Open Forum discussion where delegates can table their questions for discussion, a workshop on the use of Body Percussion to develop Literacy, and the launch of two new schemes to support primary non-specialists, from pBuzz, and Big Clever Learning. Also timetabled for the day is a Music Production workshop, presentations on KS4 & 5 music and advocating for music in your school, a discussion on tackling transition, and a presentation on the latest academic research into Popular Music Education.


Presenters include Henry Vann of the ISM, Marie Bessant of OCR, Ollie Tumner of Beat Goes On, Dr Alex Timewell of Leeds College of Music, and Kay Charlton and Dr Elizabeth Stafford from Music Education Solutions®.


In-between sessions, a comprehensive trade fair will give delegates plenty of opportunity to browse new music and teaching resources from companies such as Out of the Ark, Warwick Music Group, Charanga, RSL and MusicFirst.


Further information and booking can be accessed via the Courses & Events page.


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CPD Centre West Midlands have recently had their seventh successful learner graduate from the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators programme!

The centre has to date attracted over 40 learners from different disciplines including Early Years and Primary Practitioners, Instrumental Teachers working for Music Education Hubs or privately, and Community Musicians working in the non-formal sector. The learners come from right across the UK and Channel Islands!

Successful learners have praised both the Distance Learning and the Local Partnership routes for the qualification, with 100% of completed learners surveyed rating the support provided by their mentor as ‘Excellent.’

My mentor really understood my circumstances and some of the barriers to learning that created. Together, we were able to map my study schedule. She was only an email, phone or skype call away. The speed of response was incredible – my work was often marked and feedback issued with a couple of hours. This really allowed me to make the most of my time.’

The centre continues to develop its provision and range of learning materials, with innovation driven by a commitment to support learner needs. Programme Leader Dr Liz Stafford is delighted by the learners’ success to date, ‘We are so proud of our seven successful CME graduates, and wish them every success as they move forward with the next stage of their career development. It is a really exciting time for our centre as over the next six months we will be supporting another 10 learners to completion, with the remaining learners due to complete in 2019.’

To find out more about the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators, visit the CPD Centre West Midlands website.

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You can watch the highlights video from our 4th annual Singing Strategy Symposium here: Watch Video