New Music School for Songwriters

I know scarcely anything about pop music and I certainly don’t intend to spend my time trying to write a hit song! I am, though, fascinated to find out what makes other composers ‘tick’ and I endeavour to support and encourage those just setting out on their creative journey, whatever road they may take. Thus it was that I found myself attending an “Introduction to Songwriting” day with The Songwriting Academy, founded last year by Martin Sutton. I thought it would be a bit of fun and interesting – an innocent bit of ‘me’ time. I was surprised to find my day was also motivating and personally enriching. I came away feeling a little envious of young songwriters who can look to the Academy to set them on their chosen path!

Those of you who do know something about the pop scene may be aware that Martin Sutton is himself a multi-platinum selling songwriter and producer. He has brought together a team of award-winning writers who have sold over 200 million records for well-known artists. From their collective experience of writing for the world’s charts, they have developed a system of learning to guide the student “from the spark of creation to producing a
record ready for the charts.”

Having experienced Martin’s “Introduction”, I am sure the  team will deliver. Course providers, especially in such a commercial arena, are often careful not to give too much away at a first encounter, but that is clearly not Martin’s way. He packed into the day as much information and experience as was feasible. I recognised a kindred spirit, passionate about sharing and enabling. In other words, a committed  teacher. In music, we must grow and live out our learning and that is what the Academy’s team of “publishers, record labels, managers, agents, lawyers, accountants and song pluggers” will facilitate for lucky students.

To find out more, visit

Teaching Tonic Sol-fa and Standard Notation Simultaneously

Some years ago, a group of music educators who were great fans of John Curwen’s sol-fa method, developed in Victorian times, founded the Curwen Institute and one of them, William Swinburne, wrote a book, through which they hoped to renew the use of sol-fa in UK schools by teaching the method in parallel with notation.This was the “New Curwen Method”, published by Stainer and Bell. Sadly, it looks as though the venture wasn’t well supported and the Institute seems to have disappeared (as its founders have aged or died?). I believe that the book is now out of print but there are copies available from Amazon. It was based on the idea of teaching with a giant stave on a whiteboard against which the teacher would form the sol-fa hand signs. Doh (Do in Kodaly system) would be marked with a square at the beginning of the stave. Kodaly’s system was also a development of John Curwen’s ideas. In the Kodaly method, pupils initially learn to read from rhythmic stick notation with the first letter of the sol-fa syllable under it. It is possible to combine the two by writing sol-fa letters on a stave, with stems and dots to indicate rhythm.  “The Kodaly Method” by Lois Choksy, published by Prentice Hall. has  an appendix of songs in progressive order, in addition to examples of stick notation and hand signs.
In my  free software Learn Tonic Sol-fa With GridPlay, described on this blog, I try, in some grids, to parallel the New Curwen Method by writing the sol-fa syllables on a modulator which is as close as I can get to a musical stave. The pitches of these syllables can be ‘played’ with the mouse, so the user can check  pitch accuracy when singing from the syllables.
This example is in C Major but the layout of the grid could be used as a template for other keys.
 The software also includes fully chromatic C-based ‘notation’ grids in different registers.
Several posts on my blog deal with aspects of tonic sol-fa, so if you don’t see what you want in this post, check the ‘Category’ menu in the sidebar for more on this subject.