A to Z of Percussion


A couple of years ago I published a collection of blogs about percussion. It was an A to Z of percussion instruments and to save searching I have now collated all the links on one page. Here are all the links:









E, F and G


H, I, J, K and L


M, N, O, P and Q


R and S


T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z


I did receive some helpful comments after the last publication and I updated the collection with the information from colleagues and fellow percussionists. If you spot an omission of error please get in touch and I will rectify it. Keep striking, or in my case bashing.

© P. R. Birkby 2017

Posted in Instrumental teaching, Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sing, Sing, Sing and Sing


It has been a busy ten days working with, and enjoying the sounds of, four very different choirs in Yorkshire. Performances in the sympathetic acoustic of Wakefield Cathedral to the unresponsive dryness of the Holiday Inn Barnsley function room and somewhere in the middle a refurbished factory that is Hope Bank Works.

There have been a number of studies promoting the benefits of singing in a choir, and music in general, for all ages. Here are a few links to some articles and research.






Each choir has been a pleasure to listen to and accompany with a diverse collection of music including Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man sung by the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir https://www.facebook.com/Yorksphilchoir/, gospel and Coldplay from the Barnsley Youth Choir http://www.barnsleyyouthchoir.org.uk/, Salsa favourites with the Hope Bank Community Choir http://hopebankworks.co.uk/ and anything goes with the Monday afternoon Hope Bank sing song that can include cake, sherry and lots of conversation as well.

Catch future concerts if you can although the 8th and 9th December Christmas concerts by Barnsley Youth Choir sold out a few days after going on sale, the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir sing again in Wakefield Cathedral on the 16th December and Hope Bank Christmas concerts are the 10th and 17th December featuring bands, choir and small groups.

© Peter R. Birkby 2017

Posted in Music Composition and Performance | Leave a comment

Me and my piano


I do not remember starting piano lessons although there are two dusty certificates somewhere in a box of papers to prove I passed my grade 1 and 2 piano examinations and for many years I spent hours at the piano learning, arranging and composing music.

The years of piano lessons with Mr. Roberts at the Lyceum on a Saturday morning was by far the longest period of formal instrumental training I ever had. Even during this time I was performing with bands as a percussionist but my parents found it very difficult to source a tutor for these instruments and it was much more straightforward to have piano lessons. After the initial foray into the first grades my piano teacher and I had a good discussion as to what I wanted from the piano and we decided to play music. Guided by Mr. Roberts we said goodbye to the exam syllabus and hello to Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, Debussy, Bartok…

I studied percussion at College and continued to use the piano as a prop for arranging and composition until I found that the music was coming to me so fast that I did not have time to try it out at the keyboard and I had to trust my memory for chords, intervals and melodies. This freedom from the instrument allowed me to think of different ways to approach these musical building blocks as well as writing with more consideration for the actual instrument that would be performing the music.

I now use whatever method is the most useful to compose, ideas still arrive and I often jot them down in my music sketch book, sometimes the studio is more appropriate for creating the sounds required and I have returned to the piano. No longer afraid it will make the music sound too pianistic, it is now just another tool for the creation of music and sometimes it is fun to play as well.

Traditional Christmas is an easy collection of music arranged and composed for piano or keyboard especially with the beginner in mind.

Download the PDF from https://payhip.com/b/XH53 for £1.08p or

https://sellfy.com/p/LYYV for $1.20

Traditional_Christmas© Peter R. Birkby 2017

Posted in Music Composition and Performance, Instrumental teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drummers are percussionists too


Well into the teaching term now and already some of the drum pupils are asking about when they will be playing percussion again. Introducing the sounds of percussion into the drum lessons has inspired most of the students to consider the possibility of creating different timbres from instruments and listening to music from other cultures. This is all achieved by using hand percussion instruments and showing them ways to produce consistent sounds rather than just letting them ‘have a go’ as is often the case with the percussion trolley.

Limited resources in most schools means that most of the students will not be able to try timpani or tuned percussion, although some whole class teaching now uses glockenspiels, but much of this is taught in isolation. Ideally whole class percussion would have a mix of pitched and unpitched instruments to work with to facilitate a percussion ensemble rather than the narrow experience of a bells band, samba group or djembe circle.

Drums working with percussion and visa versa is an important introduction to the concept of working with others in band situations and my students that gain experience playing in bands progress much quicker than those that work on their own. As a band usually has one drummer, and drums as a study area is becoming more popular, sharing the chair and adding percussion at other times is a way to give more players this ensemble experience and some teaching of how to play the percussion instruments properly will make this experience far more rewarding.

With this in mind I have collected together my six ‘percussion for beginners’ titles for the novice percussionist. All my most recent music is now published online at https://payhip.com/prbpnews with 60 titles and growing.

The six titles cover simple, basic, rhythm reading with special dispensation for early technique limitations and instrument availability. The tuned percussion parts could be performed on any two from glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, tubular bells or marimba, even piano at a push, only two timpani are needed (no pedals required and kit tom toms could be substituted as a start) and the rhythm quartets can be performed on the drums from a separated kit, using the body, with hand percussion instruments or any mix of the above.

The six titles are:

Four sessions for hand percussion https://payhip.com/b/adWR

Dozens of Duets for Timpani and Drum Book 1 https://payhip.com/b/to6X

Four sessions for tuned percussion https://payhip.com/b/ShPn

Dozens of Duets for Keyboard Percussion Book 1 https://payhip.com/b/sSkd

Dozens of Duets for Drums Book 1 https://payhip.com/b/qHwg

Rhythm Quartets Book 2 https://payhip.com/b/m8ZM

These six downloads contain over sixty-six different works for percussion and all for less than £6.00 including taxes.

Introducing the whole family of percussion to drummers can open up their imagination to many musical possibilities and I hope you find time for this during your lessons.

© P.R.Birkby 2017

Posted in Instrumental teaching, Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

We are family 

Sometimes it is too hard to explain, better to go with the flow, so I’ll just say ‘thank you’ for everything.

Posted in Music Composition and Performance | Leave a comment

Life and Creative Life

IMG_5173Just noticed that fruit is far more plentiful at the moment and it is over two months since I posted anything although to me it seems like last week. Apologies to any followers, you have probably now found a more productive blogger, and I will try to keep going in this new phase post PhD, post musical and post post.

I have been getting to the end of the academic year with exams, reports and celebrations of musical progress. After Pioneer the Rotherham Musical, with the musical direction and performances, it was difficult to return to my usual life of only composing, teaching, performing and assessing. Now I am back and hope to tell many people about the whole process of putting the musical together at the music and drama education expo in Manchester on the 4th of October, website is http://musicanddramaeducationexpo.co.uk/manchester/

As well as this the Dozens of Duets series is growing with the Dozens of Duets for Brass Book 1 https://payhip.com/b/YoaH priced in £.

Dozens of Duets for Keyboard Percussion Book 3 https://payhip.com/b/GVrU in £ or https://sellfy.com/p/Y3g6/ in $.

Solo publications are Seven Sounds for percussion soloist (3 timpani, tom tom and suspended cymbals) https://payhip.com/b/8VAC in £ or https://sellfy.com/p/4ceM/ in $ and four arrangements with piano accompaniment for keyboard percussion instruments Solos for percussion https://payhip.com/b/HIuy in £ or https://sellfy.com/p/6ukp/ in $.

I will try and be more regular with my posts, I have saved many articles to read and hopefully discuss in future blogs, although sometimes life just gets in the way.  Need to tell you about the new body percussion compositions I have been trying out with 300+ students, the Kenton band I have been performing with or the composers collective that has been rehearsing…

© P.R.Birkby 2017

Posted in Instrumental teaching, Music and Enterprise, Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Long and Winding (and Enjoyable) Creative Road


IMG_4602Last year I had the idea for Dozens of Duets and started to compose some new music and in no time I had approximately eighty works to include in the series of books. This first part of the process was interesting and enjoyable, creating new music and revisiting compositions from the nearly forgotten past, all with the purpose of including them in the collections.

The second part of the process, the reviewing, assessing and grading of the music to put with similar standard others, took much longer. The collection had grown to ninety six works and each of these needed to be judged for inclusion in books ranging from: Book 1 very easy to Book 8 recital music and most points in between with more emphasis on the easy repertoire.

The original plan was to compose a series of books of duets for most instruments, similar to the Study Suite for… book that has been used in music departments as standardisation repertoire, but this soon transformed into collections that are more instrument specific. The more the music became targeted to individual instruments then more music was composed and the database of music is now into the hundred and twenties and I have only published five from twenty planned Book 1s and one of the Book 2s. If everything goes to plan there would eventually be eight books of twelve duets written for twenty different instruments, six down one hundred and fifty four to go.

To get a good understanding of how each instrument is taught from basics I have had a number of conversations with expert teachers and in the early books the focus is on which notes and music pupils can relate to and attain during the first part of their journey learning the instrument. In these detailed discussions it was revealing to hear comments about exam systems, with their reliance on playing a major or minor scale in an octave, that do not fully inspire and challenge during these early stages. These discussions have then led to more compositions and the creative process has started again.

The books are published as digital downloads with all the early examples created in a landscape format for the flexibility of on-screen and/or print use and the books now available are:

Dozens of Duets for Bb Clarinet Book 1  https://payhip.com/b/K7xi or                                  $ https://sellfy.com/p/4Xun

Dozens of Duets for Bassoon Book 1 https://payhip.com/b/XCMj or                                        $ https://sellfy.com/p/P0vS

Dozens of Duets for Eb Alto Saxophone Book 1 £ https://payhip.com/b/Fzwx or                $ https://sellfy.com/p/qEfG

Dozens of Duets for Recorder Book 1  £ https://payhip.com/b/MLE6 or                                 $ https://sellfy.com/p/hIV7 

Dozens of Duets for Keyboard Percussion Book 1  £ https://payhip.com/b/sSkd or             $ https://sellfy.com/p/mmGT

Dozens of Duets for Keyboard Percussion Book 2  £ https://payhip.com/b/T4Fk or            $ https://sellfy.com/p/FRHz

Posted in Inspiration, Music Composition and Performance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment