Tip of the Week


Over the years BDMA Director Becky has been sharing her Tips of The Week for her tutors and students and now we have collated them all together for you - so dig in and absorb all the knowledge!



Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam.

16/03/20 -TIP OF THE WEEK - Ask your tutor to record short passages for you

Do you have a feeling yet that our lives are going to be marked BC (Before Coronavirus) and AC (After Corona)

So, the tip of the week this week is something that I used BC but will be even more useful AC ): 

Ask your tutor to record small sections for you to listen to when practicing.

I think this will be useful when you are having virtual lessons and not in the same room.

Obviously, your tutor could record the whole piece for you, it is a lovely resource. But if you are struggling in a certain area, having a recording of it helps, but more than that, there is a method of doing it that I've found useful.

If they record it four times, the first two are for you to listen to and then the second two to join in on. 

This will only be a short clip but a very useful one to practice with. 

09/03/20 - Tip of the week: Exams/Grades in July

This is your annual reminder not to enter students for grades in July!

It's hot, stuffy, it's the end of the academic year and kids are exhausted. In my experience, students generally get a 10 - 15% lower mark than at other times of the year, so unless there is a critical reason (such as they are moving or they desperately need the certification for a specific reason) then either do the exam earlier in June, or in September or October after the summer break.

Also - please only enter into September exams if the student is around to practice and do lessons during the summer holidays!


03/03/20 - Tip of the week - Aural

It's always good to finish off a lesson with a few minutes of aural. When I was learning piano, my total aural training was a hurried 5 minutes in the two lessons before the exam *eye roll*

I use a mixture of aural on their instrument, singing and clapping/body percussion. It's good to start getting confident with identifying major and minor (happy/sad) chords, intervals and rhythms.

04/02/20 - Tip of the week - Intensity

I sometimes find that the intensity of playing is dropped when you are playing quietly (piano).

Playing quietly doesn't mean dropping the boldness, intensity or finesse of playing, the only thing that has changed is the volume. Losing boldness can mean you may not connect with the note or music properly, only half playing or being cautious in your playing, we don't want cautious playing!

Try to be committed in your playing, even if playing quietly. Practice this with some scales (alternating forte and piano) or a quiet passage in a piece.

28/01/20 - Tip of the week - practise counting in or conducting

You know those things you take for granted, such as tying your shoelace or doing a button up. Once upon a time, you didn't know how to do that and you had to be shown.

It's a bit like that with counting in when we start a piece of music. Even your tutor couldn't do that once!

Learning how to count in will help you to understand pulse and metre. Ask your tutor about it this week.

If you think you are beyond this stage, ask your tutor about conducting and try to practice conducting along to a piece of music. I used to do it to Beethoven Symphonies - rather dramatic but lots of fun!

21/01/20 - Tip of the week - what exercises can your tutor create from within pieces that are tricky to help you get better at the piece?

I was doing a piece with a student last week that was really tricky and to make it more fun, rather than just going over the same technique/bar, again and again, we created our own fun exercise to help with the piece.

When your tutor creates an exercise this way, this will help you to see how to build this kind of exercise up and hopefully makes the piece more exciting and more playable!

13/01/20 - Tip of the week - Going at the pace that is right for you and checking if you need coloured filters

I had an interesting session with a student a couple of days ago. He's quite young and had missed a couple of lessons before Christmas due to illness. This means that he hadn't had a lesson in 6 weeks and it felt like he had forgotten everything we've learnt over the past year.

This coincided with me realising that he benefits from using a coloured filter when he reads music, so as the filters had arrived this week, we used them on his sheet-music and experimented with going back to the beginning of his book (we're currently halfway through).

Being able to read all the easy music had such a wonderfully positive effect on his confidence it was great to see!

Added in the bonus of his being able to read the noted music better because of the filter and it was a very positive experience all round.

We often feel we have to go at a certain pace in lessons; pressure to finish a book/do a grade/prepare for something, but the most important thing is that you are going at the pace that is right for you and you are feeling positive and enjoying the lessons.

If you think you might need coloured filters, maybe suggest it to your tutor and they can pop into the office and borrow our set .

03/12/19 - Tip of the week: Bowing and concert prep!

Here are a few bits and bobs to think about when preparing for concerts (and learning to understand the etiquette when attending concerts!).

Stage Presentation:

Remember to ask your tutor to help you enjoy the on-stage presentation. Doing all these things can help make the concerts a serious but exciting event for you and your families as well as encouraging you to take what you are doing seriously and feel confident.

Things to chat about :

  • How to walk on stage...if the audience is clapping, acknowledge it.
  • How do you carry your instruments/set up their music…
  • How to respond when you make a “mistake”...or how not to!
  • Allowing a moment of stillness and silence at the beginning and end of your performance.
  • How to accept applause - a nice confident bow is a way of thanking your audience for listening as well accepting their thanks to you for playing!
  • To smile and enjoy your moment  - “Without ego be proud of your accomplishments!”.

With different instruments come different performance difficulties. It is a tutors’ job to help you combat these and feel happy and secure on stage.

For example - singers!

It is scary to stand up without hiding behind an instrument - a tutor should get you to practice how to stand in lessons, where to put your hands, where to look in a performance e.g perhaps slightly above the audience's’ head but never at the floor! You could talk about mic technique and practice, even just with a hairbrush!


The last thing to discuss with your tutor is -

Performance Etiquette:

It is important to help you understand being respectful of other performers. If you can engage and be considerate when other people are playing then you can expect the same for when you perform. Also watching others perform is a great way to learn so try to watch as many concerts as possible, you will learn the etiquette simply by being around more experienced concert-goers.

And lastly, and most importantly, try to prepare with a positive frame of mind. You should feel excited about sharing what you have learnt and there is no need to compare yourself to anyone else - always, have fun!

19/11/19 - Tip of the week - Warm hands!

It's COLD at the moment - don't know if you've noticed ;0) and cold hands make it tough to play!

I was teaching a student the other day who had come in from school and her fingers were freezing, poor little lamb!

Make sure you have warm hands when you start to play or practice, either by rubbing them together or running them under a warm tap or making sure you wear gloves. Musicians need warm hands!!!

12/11/19 - Tip of the week - Your tutor can’t correct everything!

Last week I was teaching one of my little ones (aged 6) and I could see she was about to make a mistake. I stopped myself and waited it out and sure enough, just before she played the wrong note, she realised herself and auto-corrected.

If I had stopped her and anticipated her mistake, it would have removed her ability to self reflect and auto-correct.

Self-awareness and critical thinking is a large part of turning out a successful musician (and human being I'd add).

When you get to the end of a piece it’s good to think about "two good things and two things to improve on". Again, this is a good use of self-reflection.

01/10/19 - Tip of the week - Online Exam Entry

My tip this week is that if you are entering an exam, do this online with your tutor and a parent there and then.

This way you know that all the details are correct (name, DOB etc) and you can pick the date you all want and if that is not available you can decide on a back up date and most importantly you can pay for the exam there and then, rather than having to owe the tutor.

We had a couple of instances over the summer of there not being clear communication between parent and tutor over possible exam dates. We will always maintain that the decision to enter a student for an exam should be the tutors’ as they know when you will be ready.

Try to enter for the exam all together or if you can't do that, the tutor should write an email with their recommendations of when the student might be ready for an exam. I know lots of these conversations usually happen naturally at the end of the lessons etc, but an email can confirm this.

Any questions, please ask.

Last year we continued our EXCELLENT merit and distinction rate of 86% (and pass rate of 100%) and I want to congratulate all of you that entered for an exam so successfully. Bravo!

10/09/19 - TIP OF THE WEEK - Stressed vs not-stressed posture

We've all had to deal with it at some point - realising that tension and stress is getting in the way of us playing to our full potential.

You've probably heard "RELAX YOUR SHOULDERS!" or "RELAX YOUR WRISTS!" millions of times over the course of your learning - but what can we do to make it easier for you?

Younger (and most older) students find it much easier to pick up on things like tension when they have something to compare it to. Look at opposites so you can see how it feels to have tense or relaxed shoulders, wrists, faces, jaws and so on can be a great way to become aware of tension, and how to relieve it.


  • Make a fist / tense their shoulders / scrunch up their face as tight as you can and count to 8.
  • After the count of 8, try to completely relax the muscles in the isolated area.
  • Think about how your hands/shoulders/face felt before and after the exercise. Are you more relaxed after deliberately releasing tension?
  • Next time you play and your tutor notices tension (when you are not expecting it), tell your tutor where the tension is and use this exercise to relax your muscles.

Scrunchy faces are a particular favourite of little ones and they love to see you look silly!

25/06/19 - Tip of the week - Recap what you have learnt this year.

By this stage of game, you are mostly exhausted and it's a slow slide down into ice-creams and No More School.

Rather than trying to learn a lot in these last couple of weeks, use the time to reflect on what you have learnt and achieved this year. A good time to pause and reflect and play some tunes you love!

21/05/19 - Tip of the week - Vocal apps

Some of our tutors attended a Professional Development session on anatomy and physiology of the voice and body with Marianna and she used three apps. I've been playing around with them for my students and they're great!

They are:

Larynx ID

Vocal Folds ID

Essential Anatomy 5

The first two are cheap and the last one is expensive. The first two are the most useful as you can look inside the throat in good detail. I've found it's been really useful to explain what's going on when you sing as you can't see it.

Do you have any other music apps that you use?

16/05/19 - Tip of the week - Incorporating musical knowledge 

Your tutors might incorporate musical knowledge questions into your lessons each week by asking you to identify various points. This will help to lay solid foundations of understanding - and take the pressure off when your exams come around!

Think about the following to begin with:

- Structure

- Time signature

- Key signature

- Musical terms and signs

- Dynamics

- Style

- Period

- Accidentals

Try to get into the habit of looking at these things with your tutor before playing every piece - it will make sight reading much more fun, too!


07/05/19 - Tip of the week - Soundwise App

A reminder that if you're doing Trinity Rock and Pop grades then the Trinity Rock and Pop and Soundwise apps are great ones to get. If you buy a grade book with a download code then you can redeem it on the app and it will play the backing track both as a demo and without the instrument/voice, you are studying so you can practice playing with the track. 


23/04/19 - Tip of the week - Syllabus Books

Did you know that you can buy all the books containing syllabus repertoire straight off the Trinity College website? This is super handy if your tutor wants you to explore new repertoire options and tailor your exam repertoire to suit you.

Have a look: https://shop.trinitycollege.com/shop/syllabus/

Remember - You should purchase your own books for your exams.

19/03/19 Tip of the week - Are you having fun?

Your tutor should make your music lesson fun this week.

Learning doesn't always have to be serious, how can your tutor make this a memorable experience this week?

They might try: playing you a track from a band you don't know about that will light up your ears, telling a joke, composing a little ditty in your lesson, improvising together or maybe re-naming all the pieces you play.

I was reminded this week that you can't learn when you are in terror mode (skiing down a very steep mountain!!) so we will make this lesson fun and see how you learn when you are in fun mode.

12/03/19 - Tip of the week - Happy Birthday!

As a professional musician, how many times have I been asked to perform Happy Birthday to my listeners? (I personally remember a gig in which we were asked to play it 3 times in one set - urgh!). "Happy Birthday To You" is indeed a cheesy right of passage and a must-know for all of us - everyone should be able to play it!

Our tip this week is for your tutor to teach it to you! Whatever instrument you play, there are versions out there for all ages and stages.

If you are a piano student who fancies a challenge, check out this Happy Birthday 3 ways reharmonisation (just a bit of fun, ey!)

29/01/19 - Tip of the week - Clap rhythm of the melody line

Feeling the pulse and keeping the tempo steady is very important to the success of a piece! We all know how much we want to speed up!

A good tip is to clap the rhythm before you start playing the piece. Once this is mastered, your tutor claps the pulse and then you clap the rhythm, and then you swap.

If you are more advanced, why not ask your tutor to teach you 3 against 2 or "Nice cup of tea" ;0)

15/01/19 - Tip of the week - Dyslexia/Dyspraxia

This week's “tip of the week” is for anyone (particularly string players) who have dyslexic/dyspraxic students who may struggle with a mainstream approach to learning an instrument.

Beginners, particularly string players, can struggle with both reading and maintaining the correct hand position / tuning at the same time. Here's a trick that I have started using with one of my beginner violin pupils;

Try playing a familiar phrase (such as the beginning of Frère Jacques) immediately before you begin to play/read the piece that you are working on. This way, you will associate the correct hand position with correct tuning and find it easier to maintain the correct tuning throughout the piece.

If you are more advanced, you may benefit from playing scales associated with the key signature of a piece to get your ears in the correct soundscape.