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MUSIC:ED reviews the Bands of The Household Division’s annual concert at Cadogan Hall.

‘What,’ I hear you ask, ‘is Music Education UK doing at a concert by the Massed Bands of the Household Division?’ It’s a cold and frosty night in Central London and here we are in our best bibs and tuckers rubbing shoulders with the Army’s finest – what’s the link?

Quite simply, it’s about careers. Specifically, careers in Army music. Forty new cadets sign up to play in an Army band every year. You can enrol as young as 16 and stay on till you’re 55. You get to train at the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, as well as to continue your studies at the London College of Music on the BA Hons or BMus course if you want. And you get to wear a cool uniform.

In fact, the uniform is what this annual concert at Cadogan Hall calls itself after – that and the well-known march by Lloyd Thomas. Scarlet and gold are the colours of the Household Division‘s parade uniform and they deliver military music on State Ceremonial occasions such as Trooping the Colour. Band members are drawn from the Corps of Army Music (CAMUS) and, according to Major General Ben Bathurst CBE in his foreword to tonight’s programme, ‘all of them are passionate about music’.

So it’s with a pleasant sense of anticipation that we settle into our seats and the lights dim to reveal not only the Massed Bands seated onstage but also an assortment of players dotted around the hall, poised to deliver a welcome fanfare. And what a fanfare it is! Stirringly performed by the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry Band, it’s a fitting start to what the Household Division’s website calls ‘an evening of musical pomp and grandeur’.

The trumpeters are followed by a welcome from the Household Division’s Senior Director of Music, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Roberts, and an introduction to compere, Alasdair Hutton, best known for his many years presenting the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This warm, genial Scotsman, dressed from head to toe in tartan, is the perfect host, introducing an impressive array of ensembles, conductors and soloists over the next two hours.

The ensembles range from the small (the Household Division Saxophone Quartet) to the large (the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra). Conductors are drawn from across the Bands of the Household Division while soloists include winner of the 2017 Household Division’s Young Musician of the Year Competition, Stephen Shepherd (saxophone), Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama graduate, Corporal James Sandalls (violin), and Honourable Artillery Company Band reservist, Ben Godfrey (trumpet).

What is particularly exciting about this eclectic musical evening is the range of styles covered – from traditional brass band music to Latin American, from sacred music to jazz, from classical music to specially commissioned new music like Nigel Hess’s New London Suite, performed to a film depicting the hustle and bustle of the capital. According to the programme, ‘this tapestry of London life starts with Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian’s journey across the newest bridge over the River Thames, followed by London Eye which depicts a flight on the riverside wheel and the panoramic views it affords. It concludes with Congestion Charge with its oom-pa-pas, whistles and jeering from the clarinets capturing the stressful attempt of Londoners to go about their business in the face of overwhelming odds.’

What’s also exciting is how well rehearsed and polished the performances are and with what precision they are delivered. Which is not to say that the concert lacks heart. On the contrary, the humanity of each player is evident. From small touches like the choreographed introductions to certain pieces (two players brought the house down with their po-faced pacing to some rather sombre music) to the evident respect afforded by the players to their conductors, there is a sense that these musicians take great pride in their work.

Here’s Major General Ben Bathurst again: ‘The Army is all about talented individuals working as a team and, as a result, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Being in a military band is exactly that, each musician playing their part and being able to depend on each other to do the same. The result is absolute commitment and performance to the highest of standards.’

Which brings us back to the start – careers. Perhaps it’s best to leave you with the words of Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Roberts – again, in the programme: ‘To lead State Ceremonial music has been the highlight of my career and the greatest honour of my life. Throughout my long career within the Army, I have been afforded the greatest opportunities to develop professionally and to perform on the world stage at events that, as a young musician, were beyond my wildest dreams. The musicians you see tonight are the most dedicated, talented and passionate men and women I have had the honour to work with and I consider myself hugely fortunate to conduct them and to work alongside them on a daily basis.’

We head off into the cold, happy to spread the word.

Scarlet & Gold ran from 6-7 December 2017 at Cadogan Hall.

Posted In  Event reviews

Music Education UK reviews Grand Union Orchestra’s new family show

Grand Union Orchestra (GUO) has been a fixture on the London music scene for over 30 years. Led by composer and multi-instrumentalist, Tony Haynes, it has at its heart the grandest kind of union – that between people of different cultures – although, of course, its name also references London’s great canal, the source of much coming and going in its own right. The orchestra brings together musicians from all over the capital across a variety of musical genres and styles. It also features a host of singers from across the world and these become the voices – and representatives – of the different kinds of music.

Song of Contagion puts the singers at the front and rightly so since their songs tell the story of this new family show. Performed at the recently refurbished Wilton’s Music Hall in Cable Street, E1, the first song, sung by GUO stalwart, Davina Wright, with vocal backing from Mahamaya Shil and Delwar Hossain Dilu, takes us back 150 years to a time when cholera raged unchecked in London and Kolkata: ‘Turn the corner into Cable Street – a sharp breeze from the river catches you, sometimes the scent of the sea… the street remembers.’

GUO stalwart, Davina Wright © Gaetan Bernede

GUO stalwart, Davina Wright © Gaetan Bernede

And so begins an epic performance which not only looks at the history and politics of five diseases but also explores the music of the associated countries and continents. Thus, Song of Cholera moves between the UK and India; Song of HIV between the US and Africa; Mosquito Songs (dengue and zika) between Africa, the Caribbean and Brazil; Song of Broken Hearts (cardiovascular disease) worldwide via London and the music of Marie Lloyd and Mind Songs (mental illness) between Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

This last section looks particularly at post-traumatic stress disorder, described in the programme thus:

‘Three singers (Delwar Hossain Dilu, Jonathan André and Maja Rivic) tell their tales, individually at first, then overlapping. A survivor of the Bangladesh/Pakistan war obsessively recalls being hunted down in the mountains; in Angola, a Portuguese conscript soldier wearied of the relentless jungle warfare attempts suicide; a refugee from the war in Syria tries to console her child, haunted by the loss of her father and husband.’

This provides one of many thrilling moments when four jazz soloists – two trumpeters (Claude Deppa and Shanti Jayasinha) and two saxophonists (Chris Biscoe and Tony Kofi) – improvise frenetically over a climax in which all the singers eventually join, culminating in an echo of a medical orderly’s refrain: ‘Horror of war, beyond what words can tell.’

GUO horns with Tony Haynes (left) on trombone © Gaetan Bernede

GUO horns with Tony Haynes (left) on trombone © Gaetan Bernede

It’s powerful stuff and comes from a place of passion, integrity and protest. Again and again, the show delivers gut-punching, heart-wrenching messages about ‘politicians’ self-interest, patient activism, media headlines, corporate lobbying and national guilt’. Most of the time, the musical performances match the clarity, scope and ambition of the vision but, occasionally, there are weak moments – the odd tuning issue in the string section and, possibly, an over-reliance on the sheet music. Perhaps this is unfair – after all, classical orchestras use scores – but there was a sense that the piece was not quite ready for performance (admittedly, Music Education UK attended on the opening night) and this was exacerbated by the slightly laissez faire attitude of some of the musicians to being on (and at the side of the) stage – don’t chew gum or check your phones, for example! In a piece of such blistering dramatic possibilities, it would have been good to see GUO take the staging to the next level: scale back the music stands, commit to the visual as well as the aural experience. But these are small niggles in a performance with so much heart. (And to be fair, with funding for music other than classical at an all-time low, perhaps there just aren’t the resources to achieve this.)

GUO does a staggering amount of outreach and runs the Grand Union Youth Orchestra (GUYO), providing young Londoners from all cultures and backgrounds with an opportunity to make music together. Both orchestras are hugely deserving and Tony Haynes should be applauded for his unswerving commitment. Song of Contagion is extraordinary, ambitious, heartfelt, mind-boggling. Thoroughly recommended.

Song of Contagion ran from 13-17 June 2017 at Wilton’s Music Hall and will tour throughout 2018.


Header photo: GUO singers (l-r), Davina Wright, Maja Rivic, Mahamaya Shil, Delwar Hossain Dilu, Tommy Vun Chueng Ng and Jonathan André © Music Education UK

Posted In  Event reviews

Introduction to the Certificate for Music Educators (CME)

Musicians' Union

7 July 2017

The level 4 Certificate for Music Educators (CME) is designed to help music educators demonstrate and gain recognition for their professional abilities, while also developing and consolidating their skills and knowledge.

It was launched to fill a gap: there was previously no qualification that could be taken by all music educators in any setting working with any musical genre. The CME is designed to address key principles of working as a music educator while tailoring these in way that is applicable to each learner’s specialism.

The CME is primarily awarded by Trinity College London through a network of centres. If you are reading this, it is because your centre uses learning materials provided by the Musicians’ Union. This website is where you will find materials for Units 4, 5 and 6 of the CME. Contact your centre if you have any difficulties accessing it. If you need more general information about the CME, your centre can also provide this for you.

Follow the links on the CME channel for the materials for Units 4, 5 and 6.


 

Posted In  Certificate for Music Educators (CME)

The Music Handbook Level 3

+44 (0) 20 8501 0405

Jolly Learning Educational Publishing

Cyrilla Rowsell & David Viden

£32.08 (£38.50 including VAT)

The Music Handbook Level 3 builds on the skills the children learned at Level 1 & 2, while still supporting the teacher every step of the way.

Suitable for children aged 7-10, The Music Handbook Level 3 builds on the lessons from Level 2.

The Handbook has 212 pages and includes 7 CDs with all teaching and song tracks. The CDs provided with Jolly Music contain teaching tracks, that are intended for children to imitate, rather than sing along with, and they are therefore sung simply and without accompaniment in order to provide the best model for the children.

The Music Handbook Level 3 also contains:

  • 30 clear, structured and sequenced lesson plans
  • Includes four rhymes and 25 songs, including lots of old favourites
  • Reinforces the children’s knowledge of pitch names and handsigns and introduces lots of new rhythms
  • Resources section with songs, rhymes, actions and games
  • Templates for puppets and rhythm activities

Visit the Jolly Learning website to hear samples of the tracks included in with The Music Handbook Level 3.


Posted In  Teachers' books

The Music Handbook Level 2

+44 (0) 20 8501 0405

Cyrilla Rowsell & David Viden

Cyrilla Rowsell & David Viden

£32.08 (£38.50 including VAT)

The Music Handbook Level 2 builds on the skills the children learned at Level 1, while still supporting the teacher every step of the way.

Suitable for beginners aged 6-9 years, this book builds on the work begun at Beginner and Level 1.

The Handbook has 208 pages and includes 7 CDs with all teaching and song tracks. The CDs provided with Jolly Music contain teaching tracks, that are intended for children to imitate, rather than sing along with, and they are therefore sung simply and without accompaniment in order to provide the best model for the children.

The Music Handbook Level 2 also contains:

  • 30 clear, structured and sequenced lesson plans
  • Includes 2 new rhymes and 8 new songs as well as lots of old favourites
  • Reinforces the children’s knowledge of pitch names and handsigns and introduces lots of new rhythms
  • Resources section with songs, rhymes, actions and games
  • Templates for puppets and rhythm activities

Visit the Jolly Learning website to hear samples of the tracks included in with The Music Handbook Level 2.


Posted In  Teachers' books

The Music Handbook Level 1

+44 (0) 20 8501 0405

Jolly Learning Educational Publishing

Cyrilla Rowsell & David Viden

£32.08 (£38.50 including VAT)

The Music Handbook Level 1 builds on the skills children have learned at Beginner’s Level, while still supporting the teacher every step of the way.

Suitable for beginners aged 5-8 years, who have completed The Music Handbook Beginners. The Handbook has 192 pages and includes 7 CDs with all teaching and song tracks.

The CDs provided with Jolly Music contain teaching tracks, that are intended for children to imitate, rather than sing along with, and they are therefore sung simply and without accompaniment in order to provide the best model for the children.

The Music Handbook Level 1 also contains:

  • 30 clear, structured and sequenced lesson plans
  • 5 new rhymes and 14 new songs as well as lots of old favourites
  • Introduces the children to pitch names, pitch handsigns, rhythm names and notation
  • Resources section with songs, rhymes, actions and games
  • Templates for puppets and rhythm activities
  • Suitable for children aged 5-8 who have completed Beginner’s level

Visit the Jolly Learning website to hear samples of the tracks included in with The Music Handbook Level 1.


Posted In  Teachers' books

The Music Handbook Beginners

+44 (0) 20 8501 0405

Jolly Learning Educational Publishing

Cyrilla Rowsell & David Viden

£32.08 (£38.50 including VAT)

The Music Handbook Beginners has been developed so that any teacher can teach music to childreneven those without any musical experience.

Suitable for beginners aged 4-7 years, the Handbook includes 6 CDs with all teaching and song tracks.

The CDs provided with Jolly Music contain teaching tracks, that are intended for children to imitate, rather than sing along with, and they are therefore sung simply and without accompaniment in order to provide the best model for the children.

The Music Handbook Beginners also contains:

  • 30 clear, structured and sequenced lesson plans
  • Photocopiable child assessment record
  • Resources section with songs, rhymes, actions and games
  • Puppet templates

Visit the Jolly Learning website to hear samples of the tracks included in with The Music Handbook Beginners.


“I have found the key to teaching SEN students is using multi-sensory, systematic, reinforced teaching methods.  Jolly Music is a perfect example of all of these three things combined together, making it a wonderful inclusive music education programme.”  – Karen Marshall, Music Educator (SpLD Specialist Music Teacher)


Posted In  Teachers' books

Jolly Music Big Book Level 3

+44 (0)20 8501 0405

Jolly Learning Educational Publishing

Cyrilla Rowsell & David Viden

£25

Jolly Music Big Book Level 3 contains the complete collection 25 songs for Level 3 in a large easy-to-read format.

Each rhyme or song includes pulse marks to guide the children in performance, and pictures to remind them of the appropriate actions. This 52 page big book has an integral fold-out stand is ideal for whole class singing. Your children will love the full-colour illustrations.

Posted In  Pupils' books

Jolly Music Big Book Level 2

+44 (0) 20 8501 0405

Jolly Learning Educational Publishing

Cyrilla Rowsell & David Viden

£25

Jolly Music Big Book Level 2 contains the complete collection 25 songs for Level 2 in a large easy-to-read format.

Each rhyme or song includes pulse marks to guide the children in performance, and pictures to remind them of the appropriate actions. This big book has an integral fold-out stand is ideal for whole class singing. Your children will love the full-colour illustrations.

Posted In  Pupils' books

Jolly Music Big Book Level 1

+44 (0) 20 8501 0405

Jolly Learning Educational Publishing

Cyrilla Rowsell & David Viden

£25

Jolly Music Big Book Level 1 contains the complete collection of 7 rhymes and 29 songs for Level 1 in a large easy-to-read format.

Each rhyme or song includes pulse marks to guide the children in performance, and pictures to remind them of the appropriate actions or games. This big book has an integral fold-out stand is ideal for whole class singing. Your children will love the full-colour illustrations.

Posted In  Pupils' books

Jolly Music Big Book Beginners

+44 (0) 20 8501 0405

Jolly Learning Educational Publishing

Cyrilla Rowsell & David Viden

£25

Jolly Music Big Book Beginners contains the complete collection of 5 rhymes and 24 songs in a large easy-to-read format.

Each rhyme or song includes pulse marks to guide the children in performance, and pictures to remind them of the appropriate actions or games. A perfect resource to help teach music to children!

Jolly Music Big Book Beginners is a perfect accompaniment to The Music Handbook. This full-colour big book is ideal for whole class use and comes with an integral fold-out stand.

Posted In  Pupils' books

Work with video in the new version of Dorico Pro 2

Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2: Review

Steinberg

  • Price information (Dorico Pro 2):
    • Dorico Retail – (boxed) £497, (download) £480
    • Dorico Retail crossgrade from Sibelius or Finale – (boxed) £257, (download) £239
    • Dorico Education – (boxed) £300, (download) £282
    • Dorico Education crossgrade from Sibelius or Finale – (boxed) £153, (download) £136
  • Price information (Dorico Elements 2):
    • Dorico Retail – (boxed) £497, (download) £480
    • Dorico Retail crossgrade from Sibelius or Finale – (boxed) £257, (download) £239
    • Dorico Education – (boxed) £300, (download) £282
    • Dorico Education crossgrade from Sibelius or Finale – (boxed) £153, (download) £136

Key information


Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2

Dr Steven Berryman checks out the latest releases of Steinberg’s score-writing software, Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2, a new ‘lite’ version.

My review of Dorico 1 for MUSIC:ED highlighted the benefits of this relatively new software for schools; something that can embrace a more natural, creative approach to writing that might intrigue teachers looking for an alternative.

This Summer (2018), Steinberg released Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2 – a new version – offering even more choice for schools but also an entry-level product in Elements.

The comparison of the two new versions reveals that the entry-level Elements is in no way reduced to prevent some creative work (you can read more here).

The significant difference for me is the flexibility in editing you get in the Pro version. Many students in Secondary schools might not ever use these features so it seems good that other useful things have not been compromised.

The limit of 12 instruments in Elements 2 shouldn’t hinder students’ creativity but I’d recommend teachers try both versions (as I did) to ensure they can make a sensible decision about which would be suitable for their department.

So what’s new?

No review can ever do justice to the wealth of features in Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2 but I was thrilled to see a new handwritten font (Petaluma). There can be a real tyranny of sameness when writing using notation software so seeing some variety (and fonts that are comfortable to read) is good and students will enjoy using this alternative font.

Other subtle but equally striking improvements include dynamics erasing the background when they cross bar-lines (all those times when you’re struggling to make scores look tidy will be no more!). Even more fascinating is that Dorico Pro 2 will play back microtonal accidentals.

Large time signatures are now supported with ease

Large time signatures are now supported with ease

Students will be pleased there is video support and this is an excellent feature considering how prevalent composing for film is in the GCSE and A Level briefs. It would be a great feature to use in Key Stage 3 too – when students are often introduced to film music.

Editing

I liked the new ‘System Track’. This reminded me of online notation editor, Noteflight, and how bars can be added and removed, and this would make Dorico a good follow-on for students who have been using Noteflight.

There is a great deal of finesse in the editing potential Dorico Pro 2 offers and, much as this might not be immediately applicable to students in schools, it will be an important set of features for advanced students and those considering further study.

What I love about Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2 is that you can start to write immaculate-looking scores and the time spent fussing over nuances will be saved by the software’s ability to create clean-looking scores with ease.

New tools for Dorico Pro 2

Dorico Pro 2 brings a set of new and very useful arranging/composing and editing tools that includes explode, reduce and multi-paste.

Explode is going to be so useful for students experimenting with how to expand (or explode) material across instruments. When I tried this, I thought the distribution of notes was quite effective but this quick process means you have more time to experiment with the voicing by saving time in clicking in lots of notes. This is going to be a powerful feature for those working on coursework as is the new reduce feature (which does the opposite of explode).

For teachers who are arranging music, these features will be particularly useful as will the new smart staff management features which allow you to create extra staves for solo instruments and ossias and divisi for section players.

Lots of exciting additions to Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2, including support for ossias and other extra staves such as those required for divisi strings

Lots of exciting additions to Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2, including support for ossias and other extra staves such as those required for divisi strings

Many music teachers create bespoke arrangements for their classes and Dorico is going to be a time-saver, and a joy to use, when creating what often can be complex arrangements that attempt to embrace the skills of the individual students.

The way divisi is handled, and how it accommodates at times complex needs, will be of most use to the budding string orchestra arranger.

Elements 2 – a good place to start

This entry level version might be a good place to start if you’re interested in exploring the potential of Dorico. I needed to spend time learning the workflow after decades with Sibelius but I found copying out scores (rather than trying to ‘compose’) helped me to gain some experience of the interface.

Elements 2 has the features of the Pro but has some limitations that should not reduce the creativity of students (such as only 12 players maximum). The new features of extra staves, divisi and reduce/explode are also missing from this version. I’d find these too useful to not have and would rather have the students use the Pro version to benefit from them. If you have ambitious students who are working on microtonal works, they’d also miss this in Elements.

Elements seems to concentrate on the writing process (as Engrave mode is not in this version) which was the feature I found most alluring about a potential move from Sibelius to Dorico. Now I’m finding this intuitive approach to writing very compelling and something I think students would enjoy.

A 30-day trial

I highly recommend music teachers in particular get a 30-day trial of Dorico Pro 2 and Dorico Elements 2 and have a go: try and do an arrangement for a class or ensemble. You’ll see that some of the editing processes that would have taken some time might now reduce and you can see your scores being even more legible.

I’m enjoying seeing the development of Dorico and teachers should be part of it so that more voices can contribute to ensure it supports what we aspire to do in the classroom and enhances what budding composers want to and could achieve with their composing.


Header image: Work with video in the new version of Dorico Pro 2


About the author

Dr Steven Berryman is Director of Music at City of London School for Girls and a Visiting Research Fellow in the School of Education, Communication & Society at King’s College London (2017-2019).

He previously taught at the North London Collegiate School and the Junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music.

Steven has examined and moderated for GCSE and A Level Music and contributed composition chapters to two study guides for Rhinegold Education and a chapter for an edited volume from Routledge (2016). He has been a Teach Through Music Fellow and a Teacher Advocate for Music Excellence London in addition to education projects with the Learning Departments of the Royal Opera House, London Philharmonic Orchestra and NMC Recordings.

Steven studied composition at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Cardiff University, gaining a PhD in 2010. Cypher (2010) was selected by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for performance in their Welsh Composers Showcase and was performed by the orchestra in 2011, conducted by Jan Van Steen at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay.

In 2011, North London Collegiate staged Steven’s musical theatre work for a cast of over fifty girls, Juniper Dreams. Opera Holland Park commissioned Steven to transcribe arias by Donizetti for a dance performance, Dance Holland Park, in June 2012 and, the same year, he worked on music for two plays: Jamie Zubairi’s one-man show, Unbroken Line (Ovalhouse, December 2012), and Corpo: Lixa da Alma (Cena Internacional Brasil, Rio de Janerio, June 2012).

Versa est in Luctum was performed in Washington DC in January 2013 as part of the New Voices @ CUA Festival and, in September 2016, LSO Community Choir and students from City of London School for Girls performed Steven’s O Come Let Us Sing as part of Old Street New Beginnings, celebrating fifty years since the joining of the St Luke’s and St Giles’ parishes.

Steven is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art and a Freeman of both The Musicians’ Company and the Worshipful Company of Educators.

Website: www.steven-berryman.com
Email: info@steven-berryman.com

Posted In  Product reviews

Students using Cubase © Steinberg

Cubase 9.5: Review

Steinberg

UK Education prices including VAT
 
Cubase Pro 9.5 – (boxed) £308, (download) £291 
Cubase Artist 9.5 – (boxed) £171, (download) £153 
Cubase Elements 9.5 – (boxed) £58, (download) £57 
 
Special educational pricing is available for all Steinberg software products saving 40% off the suggested retail price. There is further discount on site license orders, updates and upgrades.
 
Please contact your local retailer for more information and price quotes.

Jazz musician and producer, Steve Rose, reviews Steinberg’s Cubase 9.5.

Key information

  • Title: Cubase 9.5
  • What it is: Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
  • Developer: Steinberg
  • Available from: local retailers and the Steinberg website

Pros

  • Extensive audio and MIDI manipulation
  • Integration with other Steinberg products
  • PC and Mac compatible
  • Ability to collaborate with other Cubase users over the internet

Cons

  • Steep learning curve, especially with Cubase Pro
  • Virtual Instrument sounds can be a little unrealistic

These days, choosing a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) has become a major investment – not only in money but also in the time needed to learn the considerable feature sets that today’s software offers. 

There is a wide range of rivals: besides Cubase, some of the more popular choices are Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, MOTU Digital Performer, Avid Pro Tools and Propellerhead Reason.

Each has a similar overall concept albeit with variations, providing the ability to record both audio and MIDI information, together with extensive editing and creative possibilities that grow ever more sophisticated with each software version.

So why is Cubase 9.5 a good choice of DAW?

Cubase 9.5

While Logic Pro X has become very popular due to its strong MIDI instrument set and editing possibilities, it still runs on an Apple-only platform – so if you have a PC, you’re out of luck.

Cubase runs on both platforms and because it has been around since 1989 (when it was then only able to record MIDI information), it is a mature and well-featured piece of 64-bit software. It is equally suited to recording a large acoustic ensemble, creating loop- and sampler-based modern music genres or making a film soundtrack.

Complete beginners might be daunted learning the workflows associated with such sophistication but Steinberg has various versions in its Cubase 9.5 range, starting with a very basic cut down DAW in the shape of Sequel (currently £68 from the Steinberg online store here), which provides a selection of loops and a basic ability to record audio & MIDI. Here, a beginner can get up and running in a relatively short space of time but they might feel the limitations of the software after only a few weeks of use.

For more sophistication under the Cubase banner comes Steinberg’s Cubase Elements (£85), followed by Cubase Artist (£265), with the flagship Cubase Pro (£480) offering a dazzling array of features. The system requirements obviously grow as the power features increase.

Cubase Pro

As its name suggests, Cubase Pro is aimed at audio professionals and consequently has the biggest learning curve.

As a recording musician for over 30 years, I began using various tape machines at my home studio back in the 1990s but gradually incorporated computers as their power grew. I used an early incarnation of Cubase in about 1998 together with the revolutionary Yamaha DSP Factory sound card – revolutionary because at last computers could record audio reliably, which was a major step forwards.

Now, 20 years later, I was curious to see how quickly I could become reacquainted with the software which has grown out of all recognition since those early days.

Initial setup

Initial setup took me hours when I expected it to be minutes – I can’t say Cubase Pro is very intuitive on this. The relevant ‘Audio Connections’ page required me to enter all the inputs and outputs of my Universal Audio Apollo sound card before I could hear anything at all.

Fortunately, the internet is full of useful videos and advice from many users who have come up against the same problems plus the Manual is pretty clear. Dedicated learning Music Technology sites such as Groove3 also can be worth the subscription fee for the time it takes to thoroughly familiarise oneself with a new piece of software.

I always say learning the idiosyncrasies of a new DAW requires similar dedication and patience to learning to play an instrument. Both can be very frustrating!

Fig 1: The Audio Connections page is where Cubase 9.5 is configured to work with computer hardware

Fig 1: The Audio Connections page is where Cubase 9.5 is configured to work with computer hardware

What can it do?

Having at last got everything working, I began testing out the capabilities of Cubase Pro.

There are thousands of good-quality audio loops already loaded in a variety of styles, together with the ability to slow them down and speed up, fit to a given length, play backwards, drop into a sampler for playback on a keyboard plus anything else the user can imagine.

Recorded audio can be similarly treated, tuned and quantised and Pro offers over 90 high-quality plugins to tweak things still further.

The ability to take a piece of recorded audio and replace it with MIDI blurs the barrier between the two and allows such things as the replacement of drums at a later stage of production.

I like the idea of online collaboration using Pro’s VST Connect software – getting a musician anywhere in the world to play on one’s own track in virtually real time is now a possibility thanks to Steinberg’s groundbreaking features.

Score-writing

While not primarily score-writing software, Cubase Pro can produce decent-looking scores and parts (although they can’t be refined as much as dedicated engraving tools such as Sibelius or Steinberg’s new Dorico).

However, writing basic parts for live performance from, let’s say, a MIDI track can be handled easily even in Elements and Artist but Pro adds more functionality.

I hear there are plans to integrate Cubase Pro with Dorico, which would be an amazing achievement, but as yet it hasn’t happened.

Fig 2: Cubase Pro’s scoring facility

Fig 2: Cubase Pro’s scoring facility

MIDI sounds

MIDI instruments built into Cubase 9.5 are largely centred around their HALion software, a sample player that incorporates over 3,000 instruments in Pro.

I find some of the sounds a little uninspiring when compared to, for example, Logic’s excellent Alchemy but nevertheless, there are plenty of useable sounds, especially when complemented by Steinberg’s other Virtual Instruments.

Certainly, Cubase has a full set of textures on offer right out of the box but for really excellent pianos, strings and other acoustic emulations, 3rd party VST instruments would be better.

Other features

Cubase Pro has excellent Video writing facilities: finished soundtracks can be exported to video directly from Cubase, which uses the same engine as Steinberg’s Nuendo (a DAW dedicated mainly to video and game audio production).

I like iC Pro’s ability to use an iPad or iPhone as a remote control for Cubase, which ends running to and from a computer when recording on one’s own.

Also worthy of mention is the seamless linking to Wavelab, Steinberg’s mastering software, for example, allowing the use of forensic editing tools to get rid of that fire engine that went past during the perfect take at the click of a button.

Who’s it for?

I would say that Cubase 9.5 Elements or Artist has a good balance of features to usability/learning time, perhaps something school students aged 14-18 might put to good use.

For University level, Cubase Pro 9.5 has all the features that would ever be needed while Steinberg’s Sequel might be ideal for younger children to learn the basics of Music Technology.

You can compare the features of each package here.

There are too many facets to Cubase 9.5 to cover in this review but I’m very impressed with the overall feel and unique workflows that Cubase offers. I’m even starting to use Cubase over my familiar Logic Pro X for some recording projects, which must mean I’m a convert!


Header photo: Students using Cubase © Steinberg 


About the author

Steve Rose is a freelance double-bass player, pianist, composer and educator with over thirty years’ professional experience. 

Steve RoseHe has worked primarily as a jazz performer, both in the UK and at festivals across the world, playing with the Jonathan Gee Trio for over twelve years and as a bass sideman for Joe Lovano, Benny Golson and numerous other musicians.

As a keyboardist, he played regularly with Paul Weller, the Fine Young Cannibals and Samantha Fox while, as a session player, he is to be found on numerous film and TV soundtracks.

He has composed extensively for theatre and dance companies, adverts, films and TV and has been composer-in-residence for theatre companies such as Major Road, Strange Cargo and Emergency Exit Arts.

As an educator, Steve has taught at Middlesex University and toured schools and colleges with Rambert, London Contemporary Dance Theatre and Northern Ballet.

Website: http://www.steverose.co.uk
Email: steve@steverose.co.uk

Posted In  Product reviews

Nursery Rhythm Kit

Key information


Music Education UK reviews the EYFS percussion resource

There was big excitement at Music Education UK with the delivery of Drums for Schools’ and Sound Children’s Nursery Rhythm Kit. The large, square bamboo basket was a pleasure to unpack; so much so that we were tapping, banging, scraping and shaking our way through the contents within seconds of lifting the lid!

Fifteen wooden and/or metal instruments cover the basics of world percussion – from the guiro (played all over the world but used particularly in South American music) to the kokiriko (originally from Japan and Korea) – with two copies of most instruments included as follows:

  • 2 animal clackers
  • 2 horio shakers
  • 2 frog scrapers
  • 2 tiktoks
  • 2 agogos
  • 2 one-bar chimes
  • 1 cow bell
  • 1 (small) djembe
  • 1 shaman drum

There is also a book of 30 music cards with ideas for leading Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) music sessions as well as guides to ‘What’s in the basket’ and ‘Where it comes from’. The book, written by Anna Ryder of Sound Children, is not specifically related to the kit – a slight disappointment as it would have been nice to see ideas for using the actual instruments provided – but this is a small niggle given that it is bursting with creatively presented musical activities for children at EYFS.

We decided to trial the Nursery Rhythm Kit during Black History Month (which takes place during October in the UK). We took the kit to four different nursery settings and used it with groups of 12 to 15 two- to three- and three- to four-year-olds in music sessions of up to 30 minutes in length. The teacher (a peripatetic EYFS music specialist) introduced the instruments in sets of three over a number of sessions, allowing the groups to familiarise themselves with the look and sound of each instrument as individual children were invited to handle and play them in turn. This was combined with simple repeating word rhythms (using examples of fruit and vegetables from Africa and the Caribbean) which all of the children were able to join in with – first by clapping and then on claves (provided separately).

Once all the instruments had been introduced, an entire session was devoted to the Nursery Rhythm Kit which was placed in the middle of a circle of children, all of whom were invited to choose an instrument. The teacher used the shaman drum to lead the group while the children familiarised themselves with their instruments by chanting and playing the fruit and vegetable word rhythms they had learned during the previous sessions. The teacher then introduced a simple song from Nigeria which highlighted different children by name as everyone played along to a steady pulse. By the end of the session, children were enjoying holding and playing their instruments, chanting and singing in time, experimenting with pulse and rhythm, working as a group and following a leader. In some groups, the teacher was able to take this one step further by inviting a child who was able to keep a steady pulse to the front to lead the rest of the group using the shaman drum.  Children were excited to be singled out in this way and took pride in wielding the big beater and banging the biggest instrument of the lot in front of their friends!

Feedback from both children and staff was overwhelmingly positive and the Nursery Rhythm Kit was a resounding success. The teacher had a few concerns when she first saw the kit: that the younger children might find it hard to manipulate the larger instruments; that the nature of the materials used and slightly ‘homespun’ feel might result in the odd splinter (not an issue); that some of the instruments (eg the frog scraper) were not as well made as other examples on the market; and – most concerning of all – that the basket used to store the instruments might not be suitable for peripatetic use. This last was the only issue of ongoing concern: the teacher found it difficult to carry the kit with the rest of her equipment (guitar, stand, CD player, props etc) and ended up making two journeys to and from her car to each nursery and from room to room within each nursery. While this would not pose a problem in settings which purchased the kit for use in situ, it was a significant problem for a peripatetic music specialist – one which could be solved with the simple addition of a clasp, hinges and handles to the bamboo basket, preferably made of leather to ensure sturdiness, longevity and ease of carrying.

Overall, the kit is good value at £127.00 for educational use (£181.43 otherwise with a discount for online purchase) and would make an excellent addition to a set of musical resources for children at EYFS, whether that be in a nursery or children’s centre, a child’s home or – with appropriate improvements to the bamboo basket – for use by a peripatetic music teacher or EYFS music provider. Due to the nature of some of the instruments (the tiktoks and agogos have their beaters attached to them with cord), children using the kit should be supervised at all times.

Posted In  Product reviews

Learn a fun mambo as a class

Learn a fun mambo as a class

Sing Up & Drums for Schools

Shelley Ambury & Andy Gleadhill

Shelly Ambury from Sing Up and Andy Gleadhill from Drums for Schools explain how to create a group performance with help from Sing Up and Drums for Schools.

What your pupils will learn

  • Improved awareness of pulse (keeping a steady beat), pitch (echo singing), rhythm (layering rhythmic patterns over a pulse) and structure (call-and-response patterns)
  • Motor skills and instrument handling l Singing (tuning, expression, diction)
  • Listening and ensemble skills (maintaining a part within a group)

Click below to download the PDF

Learn a fun mambo as a class

Learn a fun mambo as a class


Links

singup.org  |  drumsforschools.com
@singuptweets  |  @drumsforschools

Posted In  Lesson plans and  Teaching resources

MUSIC-ED

Classical 100

+44 (0)20 7636 5400

ABRSM

Classical 100 is a free resource for primary schools in the UK that’ll ignite enthusiasm for classical music in your classroom.  

Classical 100 features 100 pieces of classical music in a dynamic list, ranging from Bach to Bernstein and Handel to Haydn. You can sort the music by mood, instrument, tempo and historical period, or in any other way that suits you.

Posted In  Online resources and  Teaching resources

Dorico

Key information

  • Title: Dorico
  • What it is: Scoring software
  • Developer: Steinberg
  • Price information: Dorico Retail – (boxed) £497, (download) £480 / Dorico Retail crossgrade from Sibelius or Finale – (boxed) £257, (download) £239 / Dorico Education – (boxed) £300, (download) £282 / Dorico Education crossgrade from Sibelius or Finale – (boxed) £153, (download) £136
  • Available from: https://www.steinberg.net / https://www.dorico.com or music shops

Dr Steven Berryman road-tests Steinberg’s new score-writing software

The background to Steinberg’s Dorico – a new notation software to join the likes of Sibelius and Finale – has been told well in previous reviews and music educators might be interested in new software but might have plenty of scepticism towards it too.

Investing in music technology equipment and software is an expensive venture – it needs regular updates and quickly dates. I was keen to see if Dorico offered something that might tackle the frustrations that users have with other programs in addition to matching the well-used interfaces of software such as Sibelius and Finale. I have used Sibelius since the beginning and, while I was not particularly sceptical, I knew it would be a steep learning curve approaching new notation software after so many years of using Sibelius. I went in with an open mind and, thankfully, Daniel Spreadbury at Steinberg (@dspreadbury) was able to give me an introduction to the software at Steinberg’s offices in London.

Bringing it all together

To those of you familiar with Cubase, Dorico was built to make use of Cubase’s audio engine, meaning Dorico has access to the same VSTs and the various procession tools (amp modelling and synths for example). This is good news for those schools or users that might have Cubase already as now you can have the notation editor that can give you a superior result to the inbuilt notation editing facilities of Cubase.

A more intuitive approach to writing

One thing I always found frustrating with other notation software was that you needed to obey the rules of music theory from the outset. In some respects, I needed to know what I wanted to write in Sibelius before I entered it as changing musical details (note lengths particularly) would necessitate bigger changes. For students in the classroom, particularly at GCSE and beyond, I would often see a plague of common time: students entered their compositions without thought to metre but their music would be in common time (4/4) by default. Discovering that they meant their composition to be in triple time meant a hefty rewrite. This is in no way a significant criticism of Sibelius but a flaw in a software as a composing tool. You are not free to express yourself devoid of the rules of music theory. Dorico provides a flexibility I personally always wanted in Sibelius and an approach I use in my own composing: not quite knowing the metre required but writing free of bar-lines and adding in these details once the musical ideas become longer. What surprises you upon using Dorico for the first time is that you can enter notes and the ‘bar’ keeps growing to accommodate. I can add in details such as time signatures later and even change the note values without disrupting the material and necessitating significant rewriting. Daniel called these ‘non-destructive edits’ and you are pleasantly surprised by the automatic re-notation of the material as a result of any edits.

Starting the writing process

Starting the writing process

I missed the ability to move the notes around with the cursor keys as I would in Sibelius when I clicked in the wrong note. I did enjoy being able to add a bar line where I wanted, free of any considerations about my metre. Being able to add the metre later is a real joy and being able to change it and have Dorico re-notate your music correctly in the new metre is a dream. Dorico separates the process of ‘writing’ and ‘engraving’ and it is good that you can save the necessary tweaks to a separate part of the process. I think this is a clear message to students of the work process: set up your score, write your music, ‘engrave’ your music, play it and then print it. As Daniel put it, Dorico looks to ‘stretch what a scoring programme can be: out of your brain into the software’.

I can add barlines where I like, free of metre

I can add barlines where I like, free of metre

I can choose the time signatures after the notes

I can choose the time signatures after the notes

Spacing and parts

Music teachers are endlessly producing arrangements and parts for classes and ensembles and the quality and ease of producing these will be a significant concern to those working with groups. I wanted to see how Dorico would fare with scores I have already produced in Sibelius so I exported these via XML. I opened up a Bach Chorale exercise from a student and this appeared without any error and the look of the score is very pleasing. Extracting parts was easy and the look is excellent and print-ready without much editing needed – though I am looking at very straightforward material.

There are plenty of options to adjust the look of the score

There are plenty of options to adjust the look of the score

Music frames and the potential for handouts

I am probably not alone in trying to create worksheets and handouts for students that feature musical examples lovingly engraved and I have grown fond of the ability to export graphics from Sibelius and be able to insert these examples into documents. Daniel introduced me to ‘music frames’ and the possibilities are quite exciting. An ingenious way of creating a worksheet or handout directly in Dorico without the need of exporting material but also a way of replicating the various instances where you might need a small additional staff on a score (for example, if you are putting the plainsong at the start of a choral work or a small example at the bottom of a score for how an ornament might be realised) or other occasions when you might need to add additional musical details without conflicting with other material. I would need even more time to explore this feature but, already, I can see some quick ways to devise handouts suitable for teaching in a variety of contexts from school to university. Being able to create frames that can be altered in size and remain as editable music and not a fixed graphic is thrilling.

I can add additional music frames without conflict with other material

I can add additional music frames without conflict with other material

Summary

Having spent over two decades working with Sibelius and being at the stage where I felt I would not need to look for an alternative software and trying something new and learning the various shortcuts and processes would be daunting, I was pleasantly surprised by Dorico. Of course, it is different but some shortcuts were similar and I was able to discover various processes through exploring. Also, by looking at the impressive YouTube channel, you can discover more about the software and learn in a relatively short space of time how to get started. It might not have a lavish printed manual but having instructional videos is incredibly handy, particularly if you are in a class context and want students to be able to learn various features of the software independently. I recommend taking a look at Dorico – you will be surprised by the intuitive nature of the ‘write’ process and will discover some possibilities that other software has not been able to do with such ease. The Dorico journey is not quite over yet and you might find some features that do not match the likes of Sibelius but, given time, I sense we are going to have an impressive software that is going to allow greater freedom in the composing process not only for those in schools but also those working professionally. Steinberg shows a great deal of energy and support for those working in education and I welcome this as a school teacher. We often pick up our music technology skills on the job and knowing there is a good support network and a dedicated education officer who you can contact for advice is fantastic.


About the author

Dr Steven Berryman is Director of Music at City of London School for Girls and a Visiting Research Fellow in the School of Education, Communication & Society at King’s College London (2017-2019).

He previously taught at the North London Collegiate School and the Junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music. Steven has examined and moderated for GCSE and A Level Music and contributed composition chapters to two study guides for Rhinegold Education and a chapter for an edited volume from Routledge (2016). He has been a Teach Through Music Fellow and a Teacher Advocate for Music Excellence London in addition to education projects with the Learning Departments of the Royal Opera House, London Philharmonic Orchestra and NMC Recordings.

Steven studied composition at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Cardiff University, gaining a PhD in 2010. Cypher (2010) was selected by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for performance in their Welsh Composers Showcase and was performed by the orchestra in 2011, conducted by Jan Van Steen at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay. In 2011, North London Collegiate staged Steven’s musical theatre work for a cast of over fifty girls, Juniper Dreams. Opera Holland Park commissioned Steven to transcribe arias by Donizetti for a dance performance, Dance Holland Park, in June 2012 and, the same year, he worked on music for two plays: Jamie Zubairi’s one-man show, Unbroken Line (Ovalhouse, December 2012), and Corpo: Lixa da Alma (Cena Internacional Brasil, Rio de Janerio, June 2012). Versa est in Luctum was performed in Washington DC in January 2013 as part of the New Voices @ CUA Festival and, in September 2016, LSO Community Choir and students from City of London School for Girls performed Steven’s O Come Let Us Sing as part of Old Street New Beginnings, celebrating fifty years since the joining of the St Luke’s and St Giles’ parishes.

Steven is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art and a Freeman of both The Musicians’ Company and the Worshipful Company of Educators.

Website: www.steven-berryman.com
Email: info@steven-berryman.com


 

Posted In  Product reviews