Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Northwest Update

we now have a few songs in our repertoire: Space Oddity - David Bowie, Womaniser - Britney Spears, 7 Nation Army - white stripes and a few nursery rhymes for one of our younger charges (twinkle twinkle and frerer Jaques). Martin an Sean - both pupils of landgate school, are coming on leaps and bounds with singing and in seans case keyboard skills and Connor is finding his voice. check these clips:

Connor vox

Frerer Jaques


This is Sean's first go at vocals and he was quite nervous but he did a fantastic job. Its worth noting that martin used to be happiest learning songs with a backing track and plenty of practice.. this is the second time through straight off the page. apologies for excessively loud keyboard - we have a better recording which I will try and put up...

Sean has let on that he has written a couple of songs himself.. hopefully we'll get to hear some of them next week and get his input for a song for the project.

on Nov 17th we're due to visit the wigan stadium with pupils from both schools we're gonna video our trip and then get a sound track together to accompany the visuals hopefully for performance next year...

see you soon


Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Pause & reflect...

Lead musicians (left to right) Andy Banfield -East Mids, Alex Ivanovich - South West, and Merlyn Sturt - North West, met with Lead Co-ordinator Doug Bott at Bluewater Studios in Ollerton on 28th October to reflect on the Digital Beginnings work so far; reflections which will inform the ongoing work.

The music sessions which are already taking place in the North West and East Midlands are already proving extremely successful in providing opportunities for young disabled people to actively participate in creating and playing music.

Discussions were extremely wide-ranging, but perhaps most useful were those that focussed on striking the best balance between process and 'product', different definitions of what is meant by 'composition' in music and establishing realistic expectations for what each project can achieve in terms of different creative outcomes.

Looking forward to seeing some musical, audio and visual content from the projects up on this blog soon!


Thursday, 15 October 2009


Hello, Its Andy here. I'm working with Ash Lea school which is based in North Leicestershire. I'm assisted by Cherie who is my associate musician, we've had some really successful sessions so far, on our topic "Who am i".
We've been focusing on the things that engage the students. Our first session we got the children to bring in and discuss things that interest's them. And we created some mini podcasts. for each pupil. which was a good starting point, and triggered lots of ideas for the project. Animation, Soundbeam, Sound to film, filming etc.
Myself and Cherie will keep you posted as we go on.

see you on the 27th Andy

Studio Address for the meeting on the 27th Bluewaterstudios Grices Yard Station Road Ollerton Village Ollerton Nottinghamshire NG22 9BN

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

digital beginnings Northwest

Hi all,

Merlyn here, lead musician for Digital beginnings NW. Greetings from the northwest contingent. the project has been on the go for 5 weeks already in the from of taster sessions at Landgate and Hope schools both in Wigan. Landgate provides for pupils on the autistic spectrum and hope provides predominantly for children with PMLD. Several pupils at landgate are strong singers including Martin Flynn who has a stunning ability in vocal mimicry. Drake Northwest have worked with Martin on previous projects including music engine and it is great to have him on board.

The taster sessions took place in both schools and now the project has started pupils from landgate are coming over to hope (less than a mile away) to make use of their fantastic facilities: a dedicated studio with projector, lights, sound-system and a Midi Creator setup. We have had 2 successful sessions so far for which I have been assisted by Tom (trainee associate musician) The first session involved some Dalcroze techniques to help pupils establish a sense of musical pulse. The second involved performing some music to accompany images of a space launch. It is hoped that during the project vocal pupils will learn to sing solfa and form a mini choir that will hopefully receive some vocal coaching from a student at the RNCM.

Other plans for the project include a trip to the local football stadium with the intention that pupils will capture images and video footage of their day trip to be accompanied at a later date by appropriate music composed or chosen by them ( or a mixture of the two).

It's early days but its a great team including a great deal of support from teachers at Hope and both myself and tom will be trying to keep you up to date as the project develops.

bye for now


Friday, 24 July 2009

Digital Beginnings SW

Hi Everyone

Alex here, lead musician on Digital Beginnings for Drake Music South West. Myself and Clive (trainee musician) will use this blog to share brief but regular updates on our planning and delivery so you can find out how things are going down at Penrose School in Bridgewater.

Back in June, I visited the school and spent a very pleasant couple of hours there. I met Liz Tebbutt, who is (amongst many other things) music co-ordinator at the school. I also met some of the students. It was certainly a lively and friendly place. It is quite a mixed school with 45% of the students having PMLD, 25% identifying ASD and the remaining 30% having SLD. Click here to find out more about Penrose School at their website.

Unlike many special schools, Penrose do not have a Soundbeam. However, they do have an interesting piece of kit called an OM-i, which Liz kindly let me have a look at. It works a bit like Soundbeam, in that there are beams (in this case beams of light) which you interact with to trigger audio or visual events. It has a number of static beams, and you need a reflective surface to trigger the beam (it comes with gloves and hats etc designed for this purpose). You could argue that this makes it less accessible than a Soundbeam, but Liz believes that it is more used than many SB2s in schools often are due to it's user friendliness. Have a look at OM-i for yourself here.

We are planning our work to focus on the lower school as a musician who is funded by Jessie's Fund will be working with the older students at around the same time we are there. There may be some opportunity for our projects to overlap and for some collaboration to happen.

At the moment it is undecided whether we shall use a 'term theme' for musical inspiration, go on a field trip somewhere or simply start with a blank canvas.

Our Digital Beginnings work is due to start after half term, so it'll run from November 09 until February 2010. We'll add to this blawg when more stuff happens.

Cheers for now

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Free software

Please use this post to share links to and ideas about useful music software resources. If you have access to this blog feel free to edit and add to the info below. If not please email suggestions to dougbott'at' (where the 'at' should of course be @):

Free / very cheap software, useful for schools & musicians
Notam DSP - Audio sequencing software
Kristal - another audio sequencer
Soundplant - play audio files from computer keys (or via a switch box)
Ambiloop - virtual audio loopstation
Audacity - free wave editor with fx
Guitar FX Box - a virtual fx processor, great for connecting a mic to a pc to use echo, reverb etc. on the voice - costs 20 euros
One Switch - web-site listing a bunch of switch accessible music software
Whitecap - Audio visualiser software. Platinum version ($30) responds to mic / line-in
Audio Hijack Pro - for grabbing audio from anywhere on your computer (Mac only). License costs $32 but can use without a license for any 'hijackings' up to 10 mins.
iShowU - for recording anything you're doing on your computer screen, audio or video (Mac only). $30
MAX - for changing any kind of audio file into any other kind of audio file (Mac only.)

Software schools may already have which can be used for music
MS Powerpoint

Sounds, MIDI files & other resources

Free audio plug-ins (probably not appropriate for most schools)
Soundhack - lots of interesting dsp tools
Destroy FX - does exactly what it says...

More challenging Free audio software (probably not for schools!)
Bome's MIDI Translator - control almost anything in your computer via midi
Pure Data - a bit like max/msp but free
Super Collider - a code based audio programming language, very steep learning curve but sonically it is excellent and once you get your code right it is very robust