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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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

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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, gospel and Coldplay from the Barnsley Youth Choir, Salsa favourites with the Hope Bank Community Choir 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

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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 for £1.08p or for $1.20

Traditional_Christmas© Peter R. Birkby 2017

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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 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

Dozens of Duets for Timpani and Drum Book 1

Four sessions for tuned percussion

Dozens of Duets for Keyboard Percussion Book 1

Dozens of Duets for Drums Book 1

Rhythm Quartets Book 2

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

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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.

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