This is the week


This week 60 years ago the song Rock Around The Clock (written by Max Freedman and James Myers) recorded by Bill Haley and the Comets took the top spot on the Billboard chart in America.   It had earlier been released as the B side to another record but was re-released in 1955 after it had been included as part of the soundtrack to the film Blackboard Jungle. In America it stayed at number 1 for eight weeks and in the United Kingdom it was in the charts in both the January and November of 1955.

On the Wednesday of this week (2015) the Rotherham Children’s Festival One Voice concert takes place at the AESSEAL New York stadium.  Most of the music performed during the concert will have been influenced by the rock and roll revolution that changed many peoples listening habits 60 years ago.  One Voice is a celebration of singing with thousands of children taking part and this year there is a special song in the programme.  The song is the winning entry from the Rotherham Songwriting Competition called This Is The Day and written by the West Melton School Choir.

I have been involved with the arrangement and production of the song and also preparing the backing tracks for other schools to use. I visited the school and recorded the choir which will feature as part of a film and music project to be completed in September. The pupils in the West Melton School Choir were a credit to the school and the village, we discussed music and songwriting and they performed the song for the recording with pride. I am looking forward to hearing a massed voices version at the concert.

This week is also another choral celebration in Germany, the European Choir Games, with Great Britain being represented by another choir I have had the pleasure of working with recently the Barnsley Youth Choir. They enjoyed a great deal of success in the World Choir Games in Latvia last year and this week two coaches of singers and volunteer helpers have made it to Magdeburg to sing, learn and grow from the European competition.

I hope everyone involved in both the events has a great experience and will continue enjoying and participating in music making for many years to come. This Is The Day backing track and lyrics are available at

If you want to know how the European Games are going the Barnsley Youth Choir Facebook site is full of information

© P.R.Birkby 2015

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Strings, reeds, mallets and mouthpieces update

cartoon by Andy Pitchforth

It has been a month since the introduction of the Study Suite for… concept and I am happy to announce that the versions for the different instruments are progressing well. Each collection of studies is edited for the specific instrument and all the instrumental versions are compatible with the free album of accompaniment tracks available at the Urban Skyline Bandcamp site. Follow the link to listen

The studies now available are:

Study Suite for oboe

Study Suite for bassoon

Study Suite for alto saxophone

Study Suite for tenor saxophone

Study Suite for cornet or euphonium

Study Suite for guitar

Study Suite for bass

Study Suite for glockenspiel

Study Suite for vibraphone

Study Suite for violin

Coming soon are the Study Suites for trumpet, trombone, flute, viola, cello, clarinet, xylophone, marimba, tubular bells (chimes), horn in F, tenor horn and tuba. Please email if there are any other instruments you would like me to include in this series.

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The artists’ dilemma


To become or never to start

To consider commercialising art

To have a presence, a business plan

To work to deadlines, a creative span

To produce to order in multiples of ten

To limit an edition for a premium of yen

The music, design, craft and installation

The photograph, film, plan and collection

The novel, sculpture, painting and rap

The fashion, concerto, print and map

The song, play, performance and comedy

The dance, poem, story now parody

All promoted online with graphics and dots

All with fifty word descriptions and a few still shots

All have the walk through showing threesixty degrees

All in a virtual space dressed up for the needs

All with the gallery owner who shares all the sales

All for recycling a package of tried and tested tales

All to interest the buyers, bait them with a promise

All to do with investment, return to silence doubting Thomas

What is the alternative?

Why is it so competitive?

Where should I look to grow?

Who’s the person in the know?

How will I survive?

Will the press release help me stay alive?

For many centuries a patron was the key

For the artist they were a necessity

Forward looking cultural supporters

Fortunes spent on creative courtiers

Formal works to mark an occasion

For a better life not tax evasion

Now the patrons are hiding away

Now the choice is too difficult to play

Now the artist is an enterprise

Now a company is the disguise

Now all educated with a degree

Now with the skills for everyone to see

The web

The pins

The blog

The shop

The merch

The videos

The photos

All cropped

The social connections

The online directions

Converge on a landing page

Two clicks away from a sale is a maximum

Set up for websites that give of the optimum

It’s starting to sound like a load of old patter

But written with passion and a sense that it matters

Many the offers pop up to take the strain

But with expensive monthly fees that will just drain

Any cash for the artist that could be invested

In time and space for new ideas suggested

Be wary out there as a buyer or seller

Your newest connection could be a cave dweller

Solitary life with the time to think

Something we all need before we sink

In the corporate money chasing scheme

We sense we’re free but it’s all just a dream

Get back to it now, must create to order

And don’t forget to set the video recorder

© Peter R. Birkby 2015

The collection of poetry Travels of a peripatetic percussionist will be available soon.

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Machine heads, mallets and double reeds

Violin_half_Scroll copy

Just some of the essential parts of instruments that rarely get a mention but for my recent publications they are a necessity.

Study Suite for guitar promoStudy Suite for bass _promoV2

The machine heads are needed in the Study Suite for guitar and Study Suite for bass so that all the keys come out in the right order.

Study Suite for guitar

Study Suite for bass

The choice of mallets for Study Suite for vibraphone and Study Suite for glockenspiel will change the balance between instrument and accompaniment track.

Glock_promo    StudySuite for Vibes Picture

Study Suite for vibraphone

Study Suite for glockenspiel

The construction of the double reed will dictate the responsiveness over the whole range when performing the Study Suite for oboe or Study Suite for bassoon.

Oboe_promo       Study Suite for bassoon promo

Study Suite for oboe

Study Suite for bassoon

All titles and more available now at

Accompaniment tracks to the Study Suite for… series are freely available at at slow, medium and concert speeds.

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Reaching the audience (customers) on social media

Study Suite for bassoon promo

Who wants Study Suite for Bassoon and where are they? A case study.

Publishing so many books for different instruments during the recent weeks, and there are more to come, has made me consider the “how to reach your audience/customer using social media?” question again. Marketing is all about building a relationship with your customer so all the sales articles indicate and on social media how do I find the audience to start that relationship?

First a little research into who my customer might be so that any emailing or page promoting is targeted at the relevant musicians rather than having a scattergun approach which is more likely to lose customers than start a conversation. There is no specific age or demographic segment to a music audience although the Study Suite for… series ( is aimed at the more advanced performer so teenage and older would be the target range. I hope that music (and art of all kinds) does not depend on social status so identifying one segment of social grading in the A to E range (not a perfect 5th for the musicians amongst the readers) cannot be used to narrow down the target group. (If you want a little more information about how the pollsters look at the society they are quizzing from Ipsos-Mori is a good introduction).

For this study I decided to use the search terms bassoon or #bassoon and then broadened this out for a more general search to bassoon network or bassoon teachers.

The searches

A Facebook search resulted in a number of pages linked to Wikipedia of people that had or do play the bassoon, one add friend button (with a bassoonist) and like pages for orchestras, general music related groups and pages.

Twitter results were mixed showing a number of possible people to follow with bassoon as part of their name and #bassoon revealed more results that were often different to the bassoon search.

In Google I used the search terms network and teachers alongside basson which resulted in a list of sites for shopping, library music, cartoons, a masterclass promotion and various teachers and databases compiled by interested companies and one for the British Double Reed Society website (

LinkedIn was the most immediately productive search with a list of bassoon players and teachers (all had some shared contacts) and I easily invited many to connect. Within a couple of hours many had replied and connected as well and for those that did, welcome.

Study Suite for Bassoon is now published through the Sellfy store prbpnews

© P. R. Birkby 2015

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To pay, donate or take

Cartoon by Andy Pitchforth

Cartoon by Andy Pitchforth

Do you pay the price on the label for your purchases or given the choice would you donate what you think it is worth?  Do you buy your music or expect it to be free?  These questions are behind many of the music business strategies being developed at present and I am in the process of publishing a series of books for instrumentalists, most instrumentalists but not keyboard, with the intention of trying to get some answers to the questions.

The Study Suite for… is already available for guitar, vibraphone and bass with regular additions to the catalogue for oboe, marimba, violin, trumpet, clarinet, glockenspiel, saxophones, cornet, cello, trombone, viola, bassoon, flute, xylophone, euphonium, horn, bells… planned for the coming weeks.  The files of the sheet music (in .pdf format) are available to buy as a download for $1 (around £0.65p) from and the accompaniment tracks (at a choice of speeds) are available from for free or with the choice to make a donation towards future projects.

The sheet music is selling and the audio accompaniment?  I will keep you informed when the sample size has some significance from a number of cultures around the globe.  Are there other businesses that run on a pay what you can afford or what you think is the value or just take it basis?  I doubt it but this is what the music business and my business is trying to come to terms with.

Thank you to Andy Pitchforth for the cartoons used in the series.

(C) P.R.Birkby 2015

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International Dawn Chorus Day

Good morning and for those that decided to have a late one, good day.

Sunday May 3rd 2015 or International Dawn Chorus Day inspired me to include an excerpt from a suite for percussion quartet, Sweet Whistling, on my YouTube channel

For years I have listened closely to bird song and have used some of their techniques in my own work. Not the pitches or themes, although Sweet Whistling uses a few, but the way that there are repeated but subtly altered motifs during the course of many of the calls.

In The Point Of No Return (for timpani soloist) I chose to use a motif that is repetitive yet never repeats itself during the course of the composition.


This is the theme which I consciously worked at during the music to be very recognisable and the main structural element of the work but never repetitive in a cut and paste fashion. When I listen to bird song there are many examples of this concept being developed by the bird during the course of the call.


The percussion group on the film is the Mixed Metals percussion ensemble performing two movements from Sweet Whistling sheet music available from A pdf of the music to The Point Of No Return is available to download at

Information about International Dawn Chorus Day can be found at their website and there is a free pdf from the BBC with some general information

© Peter R. Birkby 2015

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