Sticks for Starters


Participation in music is life changing. Regular singing and/or playing an instrument have many benefits especially where health and social interaction are concerned.

For the first time in my music teaching experience, forty years and counting, I am meeting drum students in schools that have the spark of enthusiasm for music but there are barriers in their way.  The main one is having the money to buy some drum sticks.  Many have ingenious ways of creating drums at home, the bucket, armchair and pillow kits being a few, and their own proper pair of sticks would be a great help for their progress.

After a Facebook post about this situation, earlier this week, I have been offered new and part-worn sticks from drummers and shops in the UK and Australia.  I have always found the community of musicians very supportive of people needing help and thank you for the offers. Keep those sticks coming.

This GoFundMe campaign is to raise money to get the sticks to those that need them.  Sticks cost £3.50 per pair to send in the post and the target figure of £500 would get around 150 pairs of sticks out.  I do not intend to stop when the first batch of sticks have gone and hope to work with shops, manufacturers and associations to make this an on-going campaign.

If you know, or suspect, any students are struggling please get in touch.

Please pass this information on to any other drum/percussion teacher you know.

Thank you for reading, any donations will be gratefully received, sticks or money, and just think; for a small amount we can do a great deal of good through music.

The link to the GoFundMe page:

© P. R Birkby 2018

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On My Trolley

Using the Music (or Percussion) Trolley in Schools

Teaching at a number of schools in different areas of the North of England has given me an insight into the use of the trolley of instruments. This resource is often to be found gathering dust at the back of a storeroom with a collection of instruments in various states from pristine to beyond repair.

Perhaps I visit schools in areas where there have been some difficult dealings with the music trolley. Looking at the instruments on the trolleys and the collections of beaters, mallets and sticks that are supplied to strike the instruments I am not surprised there is damage and perhaps some caution in the use of the trolley in class creativity.

I understand this and setting some ground rules at the start of the session could help. Find the loudest or most piercing sounding instrument and make a signal for everyone to stop playing. Make sure everyone understands what to do when they hear your signal.

The following picture shows some of the variety of materials and shapes of striking surface for playing percussion instruments. In general:

Wood, metal and plastic headed sticks are loud

Wool, rubber and felt can often bring out tone in the instrument at a medium and quiet dynamic

Brushes and rutes are soft

All sticks

If you are working on specific rhythms with beginner students sometimes a mnemonic, word or phrase, is useful to help pupils remember. I ask the students what their favourite book, film or interest is and then ask them to work out the word or phrase that will help remember the rhythm.

As an example the following rhythm that has been named: unicorn, lemonade, cherryade, butterfly, J2O, BB-8, theropod, elephant and Viktor Krum by my students. These are the ones I can remember.Plus 2:16_1:8

To help with using the percussion instruments on the trolley in some traditional ways I have published a book of duets that pair up many of the most commonly found instruments. It is available as an instant download in PDF format from

I am interested to hear from users of the book if other resources are needed. A collection of mnemonics, tips on what each instrument can do and how to play them (short films) or any other ideas that might be useful. Please tell me if you think of any from your experience(s) with the trolley.

© P.R. Birkby 2018

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Starting Percussion

Four Session

Four sessions for the beginner percussionist, listen to the complete tracks at

Download the sheet music from

Free play a long tracks available at

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April 1st

Decoys and whistles

Toot Tango 2 for some April first fun

Download the sheet music from

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Strings and Bells

Spring Daffs

Welcome to Spring

Download the sheet music from A4 size

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Demands of many deadlines


The track a day, #atrackaday, challenge has been very useful in concentrating my mind on an effective use of time and resources. I have uncovered many unreleased recordings as I delve through the archives and this week have put together the album of the Work In Progress series.  The first books in this series are now twenty years old and the publications for a percussion ensemble of 10 players included the score, parts and music minus one recordings for each part.

It was interesting to listen to them all again with more experienced ears especially the various standards of recording and production.  I have put them together as a short album on the Bandcamp site

Research for my previous post revealed that 66% of resolutions for the New Year are broken before the end of January.  By curating the music I have discovered into themed collections I am already approaching the end of March.  Not a bad start to the year.

(c) Peter R. Birkby 2018

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A Track A Day


Or for some social media #atrackaday

Introducing my New Year’s good intentions, after a holiday period of coughs and splutters, even though George Arnett in the Guardian article a few years ago found that 66% of resolutions last less than a month and 86% don’t last the year. My aim is to post a new track each day during 2018 and I’m now on day 9 (started early).

During my housebound weeks I listened to music and found lots of it, many pieces that I had composed during the past few years and then stored, suppressing all those creative ideas to complete the PhD now doesn’t seem worth it. Now it has been rediscovered the obvious action is off the hard drive and into the ether so you can give it a listen and decide for yourself rather than just reading about it in the blogs.

I hope some of the music resonates with you in some way, there are always percussion sounds on much of what I produce, and there may be some surprises in there as well. The more complete tracks will be available to listen to at

The mainly MIDI versions will be posted on

And there will be some tracks with film that you can access at

Any sheet music to go with the tracks will be available on (priced in £s) and (priced in $s)


Hope you all have a happy listening year and today’s track is Within The Glass Copper Skin from Urban Music

© Peter R. Birkby 2018

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