• Make Some Noise research publishes key findings

    In September 2018, Creative United, in partnership with OHMIDrake MusicOpen Up Music and Youth Music, launched a major research project. The aim of the research was to capture a detailed, national picture of the experiences of disabled people regarding music making, and get a sense of the experiences and participation levels of disabled children and adults.

    No data of this nature previously existed, despite the fact that there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK –  that’s 8% of children, 19% of working age adults and 45% of pension age adults.

    We asked Music Makers, Music Educators and Music Retailers to participate in this important research by sharing their experiences in a survey.

    Some key findings:

    49% of parents of disabled children responding to the survey told us that their children experienced moderate or severe limitations to accessing a music lesson of any kind


    Less than 25% of music educators believe that high street music shops generally meet the needs of their students in purchasing what they need for their music making


    63% of music retailers said they are not aware of any specialist products or adapted instruments for disabled people


    Over 50% of music educators told us that “difficulty accessing a suitable instrument” is a barrier to their students’ music making

    The research findings also revealed a number of other disabling barriers such as transport difficulties, finances and a lack of information about the existence of adapted instruments, which all hinder parity of opportunity. Only 25% of Disabled music makers knew were to source an adapted instrument if they needed one and less than half of Disabled music-makers had been able to find a teacher who met their learning needs.


    Next steps

    The Consortium is working on a number of initiatives to help address these barriers, including the recently announced collaboration with the Nottingham Music Hub, which will pilot a new approach to ensuring that disabled children at mainstream primary schools are able to participate fully in making music through Whole Class Ensemble Tuition.

    For further information on the full Consortium research findings or the Nottingham Music Hub Pilot programme, please contact:

    Mary-Alice Stack
    Chief Executive, Creative United
    Direct line: 020 7759 1115

  • Nottingham Music Hub announces new approach to supporting access to music

    Nottingham Music Hub

    An initiative announced today by the Nottingham Music Hub (NMH) will pilot a new approach to ensuring that disabled children are able to participate fully in making music through Whole Class Ensemble Tuition at primary school.

    Research recently conducted by a Consortium of leading access to music organisations has found that a lack of knowledge about the existence of adapted instruments is a major barrier to ensuring parity of opportunity for disabled children.

    Virtually all standard musical instruments require two highly dextrous hands to play and hold them, and so without the right enabling equipment and/or adaptations many children are being unnecessarily excluded.

    Despite the Department for Education’s stated commitment to “equality of opportunity for all pupils, regardless of … whether they have special educational needs or disabilities”, the Consortium found that no national data set exist on levels of participation in music by disabled children.

    Moreover, their survey findings show that less than 25% of parents with disabled children and only 54% of music educators responding to the survey agreed with the statement “I know how and where to source an adapted musical instrument”.

    Nottingham Music Hub

    Rachel Wolffsohn, General Manager of The OHMI Trust (OHMI) a charity dedicated to music-making for physically disabled people, said:

    “OHMI has shown that traditional instruments can be adapted for any number of disabilities, but that’s only half the story. We desperately need projects like this one with the NMH and Creative United, to bring the instruments and teaching skills to the children. We are really excited to be a part of it.”

    The pilot initiative being launched next month by NMH in partnership with Creative United and The OHMI Trust will aim to identify and respond to the specific needs of all children in Year 3 of mainstream primary schools across the city, ensuring that they are able to take part fully in the Whole Class Ensemble Tuition that forms part of the standard curriculum of education in Year 4.

    Ian Burton, Chief Executive of the Nottingham Music Hub said:

    “We genuinely believe that music is powerful and can have a transformative impact on children. Nottingham Music Hub is committed to sharing the joys of music making with all children and our teaching strategies are designed to be inclusive. Since we started working in the city, the number of children learning instruments has gone up exponentially and we want to make sure that this includes disabled children and children with special needs because everyone deserves the opportunity to make music.”

    The pilot has been initiated by Creative United which operates the Take it away scheme, an Arts Council England funded initiative that aims to make the purchase of musical instruments and associated equipment and accessories easier and more affordable for parents wishing to support their child’s learning and participation in music.

    Peter Knott, Midlands Area Director, Arts Council England, said:

    “At the Arts Council we believe that every child and young person should have the opportunity to take part and experience great art and culture. We’re delighted to support these plans to offer disabled/less able bodied children the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument when these chances may not have been available in the past. I, for one, look forward to seeing and hearing the results.”

    If successful, the partners hope that their approach to building the knowledge and confidence of both parents and teachers around the availability of adapted instruments and equipment will be adopted more widely, helping to substantially increase the number of disabled children being actively encouraged to participate fully in learning and playing music from an early age.

  • Is it time for a new approach to teaching music?

    Much has been written recently about how music education is declining in schools.  But there’s still a lot to remain positive about. Despite cuts to music education budgets, young people are finding ways to create more music than they were over a decade ago. A recent report by Youth Music found that 67% of young people are making music on a regular basis, as opposed to just 39% in a similar study in 2006. However, the nature of the music making is changing – instrument learning, more traditionally taught in schools, is declining.  Is this solely down to education cuts or is it also time to rethink how to support aspiring music makers?

    DIY music education is thriving. Thanks to advances in technology over the past decade, it’s never been easier to create, produce and record your own music, and even release it independently. Many young people are taking advantage of this, but more traditional areas of music learning are not faring so well. GCSE and A Level Music exam entry rates are decreasing annually, and recent research points to a reduction in the music curriculum offer in state secondary schools as a result of the introduction of the EBacc. Instrument playing also takes a significant dip in secondary school. In the Youth Music report, a third of all 7-10-year-olds surveyed said they play an instrument, but only one in four is still playing at the ages of 16-17 and there’s a big gender gap too, with boys much more likely to stop playing by that age.

    Is it time for a new approach to teaching music?

    Lots of reasons have been cited for the decline of instrument learning, with one of the biggest barriers being financial. Many lower income families (over 40%, according to the MU) simply can’t afford the ongoing costs of instruments and lessons. However, according to the Youth Music report, young people from lower income families are just as likely (sometimes more likely) than others to play an instrument and/or sing, and make music on a computer. Looking at instrument learning more closely, the way music lessons are approached could play an important part in how likely young people are to persist with an instrument. Nathan Holder, professional musician and author of the intriguingly titled book ‘I Wish I Didn’t Quit Music Lessons’, believes that a different, more empathetic approach is needed.  “Music education can be quite one dimensional in its approach,” Nathan says. “Learn these notes. Then learn these notes. Then learn these notes. We should get children to actually talk about music, understand the story behind it. What was it like for this composer at the time?”

    Nathan knows what it’s like to feel disengaged when learning an instrument. He started learning the piano from around the age of six years old but stopped at 13.  “I was bored,” he explains. But there were other factors too. His younger sister also began learning piano and was soon more advanced than he was. He was also learning the clarinet, and he felt that it was better suited to him than the piano. “Certain instruments can be lonely. With more portable ones, there’s more opportunities to play with other people, whether in bands, in orchestras or groups.” He agreed with his parents that he’d continue learning the clarinet until he reached Grade 8 standard. By then he’d developed the passion to continue, taking up the saxophone along the way, and began to forge a career as a professional musician and teacher.

    How the pressure of learning can take its toll

    He wrote the book as a culmination of a few things. When living and working in Germany he would often discuss music with people and eventually ask them if they played an instrument. He would frequently get the response, “I used to play, but I gave up” Pressure is one of the key reasons children give up learning an instrument, according to Nathan. “Pressure comes from parents to hit certain grades, there’s pressure to learn – which can lead to boredom of certain kinds of music, and of practising by themselves.”  He started to teach in a different way to help avoid this. “In Germany, I was teaching a young kid, my German wasn’t great, and I could see that after a certain point the message wasn’t getting through. So, I had to think of other ways to engage him – I’d sing songs with him, encourage him to dance to music and even help him to compose his own pieces. Children already know in their mind what they like.  It’s rarely shown is how they can explore what they like even further. It can leave kids with more questions than answers. Why can’t I explore Tupac, or AC/DC? Why does it have to be Tchaikovsky?”

    Nathan Holder

    Nathan Holder, author of “I Wish I Didn’t Quit Music Lessons”

    Involving music professionals more

    Nathan believes there is a disconnect between music professionals and music education, creating a gap that needs to close. “Many musicians would love to go out and speak to children about what they do. Providing that bit of inspiration would make such a difference. There might be a kid in the room who doesn’t think the teacher understands where they’re coming from, and it could take one person talking about their experiences that resonates with that child. Why not explore music that children listen to outside school, such as grime, trap, death metal? If they can’t hear the music they’re listening to in school, they will think that the lessons in school aren’t for them.”

    One organisation that has been helping children do exactly that is Future DJs. Founded by professional DJs Austen and Scott Smart, they visit schools and put on live performances, after which students can register for lessons.


    Future DJs

    DJ decks have been recognised as musical instruments by the AQA exam board since 2018 and can be performed in the same way as a traditional instrument at GCSE level. Future DJs provide visiting tutors to help bring the necessary skills for DJing into the classroom.  “We’re teaching DJ-ing in 35 schools across the UK and have taught over 450 aspiring DJs,” Future DJs sales and marketing manager Claire Le Tissier explains. “This number is rapidly growing as schools are seeing the benefit of connecting young people with their music departments through the music they listen to and understand. Every student who learns with us is a student with a new fascination for music — and potentially a new enthusiasm for studying music further.”

    What does the future hold?

    Enthusiasm for music will never be dimmed no matter what set of circumstances a young person is in – as Lord Black puts it in a House of Lords debate on music education in October 2018, “Even in the world’s poorest slums , the refugee camps and the disaster areas, people make music and it is central to their lives. It is the most basic but important link to all our past and, if we so believe, paints the most powerful picture of the world beyond.” But no diamond starts off polished – it needs to be honed and refined. The opportunity to have a good and accessible music education at school is needed as much now as it has always been.

    Youth Music’s CEO Matt Griffiths describes their report as a ‘call to action’. “It’s time to shake up the way music is perceived, funded and delivered, in order to make it more inclusive, equitable, and relevant to young people’s needs and interests.”


    Useful links

    Many articles have been written about music education recently.  Here’s some links for further reading:

    Why the crisis in music education is a crisis for all (Big Issue)

    Incorporated Society of Musicians State of the Nation report

    Youth Music – The Sound of the Next Generation

    Musicians’ Union – state of play report

    House of Lords debate – music education (October 2018)

    Natalie Bedeau

  • The fascinating world of Early Music

    Many popular musical instruments as we know them today have evolved from earlier models.  One of the best known is the recorder, played widely in schools. What you might not know is that it’s still possible to get your hands on many other early instruments, thanks to the excellent Early Music Shop, founded in the 1960s. It specialises in the sale and distribution of reproduction medieval, renaissance and baroque musical instruments, as well as associated sheet music and accessories, with two showrooms in Saltaire, Yorkshire and Denmark Street, Central London. Emma Williams, manager of the London store, provides an insight into this fascinating world.


    How did the Early Music Shop start out?

    The Early Music Shop was started during the heyday of the Early Music revival during the late 1960s. The Early Music movement started at the beginning of the 20th century by Arnold Dolmetsch and continued by his son Carl. During the ’60s and ’70s the movement gained wider audiences through musicians like David Munrow, who brought various Early Music instruments to the masses. Munrow’s six-part documentary Early Musical Instruments is well worth a watch to discover all the weird and wonderful medieval and renaissance instruments! Due to growing demand, The Early Music Shop was founded by Richard Wood and we celebrated our 50th anniversary last year. The shop has changed ownership over the years, and we were delighted to become an independent music shop once again last year under our new owner Chris Butler.

    Your range is extensive, how many instrument lines do you sell?

    We sell Early Music instruments from recorders to harpsichords to lute kits. Our current count of different types of instruments is over 75. In terms of recorders, we have over 600 different ones!
    The instruments we stock are made all over the world, from the US to Japan.

    Some of the instruments are very niche, where do most of your customers come from?

    Our customers come from all over. We have a huge customer base in the UK but send instruments and music all across the globe. The Early Music World is quite small in many ways, so we’re often the first port of call for musicians needing anything Early Music.

    David Munrow demonstrates a selection of early music instruments

    What’s the age range/skill level of your typical customer?

    The age range of our customers is very wide, from toddlers to people in their 90s. Some of our customers are living proof that you’re never too old to learn something new! We cater for and see all skill levels in the shop, from people beginning their musical journey, through to music college students and professional musicians. There is a massive movement to learn and play music in older generations, especially through U3A (University of the 3rd Age).

    How do young people find out more about / have access to early musical instruments, aside from your shop?

    The recorder is often the first instrument people play so is very accessible but has a certain “uncool” stigma attached to it. Recent BBC Young Musician Finals have had a recorder-player and its capabilities has become more widespread which is good! Other more unusual Early Music instruments can be viewed and sometimes played at various music museums like the Bate Collection in Oxford. Often people learn a bit about our instruments, like the lute, when doing the Tudors in school. There’s a wealth of videos on YouTube which can be a great source to discover more about Early Music and to see and listen to the instruments.

    Here are just a few of the types of instruments you can find in the Early Music Shop:

    EMS Serpent in C
    “People always ask what the serpent is called when they see one in the shop and it couldn’t have a more descriptive name! It’s an early brass-style instrument, though it’s made of wood or nowadays often in resin. It is most similar to the tuba in terms of the sound it makes and the mouthpiece. You need to have pretty big hands to play the serpent as there are no keys, and small fingers fall into the finger holes!”

    EMS Serpent

    EMS Serpent

    “Gemshorns always delight people when they try them in the shop. They’re played like a recorder, but they have a very unique sound due to the horn. Each gemshorn is different as they are made out of horn, usually from African cattle.”

    “Gemshorns always delight people when they try them in the shop. They’re played like a recorder, but they have a very unique sound due to the horn. Each gemshorn is different as they are made out of horn, usually from African cattle.”


    Hora Bowed Psaltery
    “The Bowed Psalteries are triangle shaped and you play them by bowing the strings down the sides. One side is for the white notes, and the other for black notes. The sound they create is hauntingly ethereal and they’re used mostly for medieval and folk music.”

    Hora Psaltery

    Bowed Psaltery

    Hurdy Gurdy
    “The Hurdy Gurdy is consistently the most searched term on our website. It’s a string instrument but instead of using a bow, you turn the wheel which works as a bow against the strings. They tend to have 4-6 strings, some of which are drone strings, and two are chanterelles, or melody strings. There are keys like a keyboard that press against these chanterelle strings, producing the melody. It’s most commonly used in medieval and folk music, and is even used in rock music!”

    Hurdy Gurdy

  • What’s on in Greater London – music hubs, shops and events

    Photo by Teddy from Pexels

    Each month we will be featuring a different region, with the aim of bringing these services into contact with each other.

    For May and June 2019, Take it away are featuring activities and shops in the Greater London area.

    Music shops who offer Take it away

    These music shops in the Greater London area all offer Take it away interest-free loans in their stores.


    Music Hubs

    Music Hubs are a Government-led initiative, previously referred to as schools or music services. They are partnerships between state schools, companies, charities and practitioners. Hubs receive funding from the Department of Education via Arts Council England. It is the responsibility of every Hub to distribute funding amongst organisations to ensure that these targets are met:

    • Ensure that every child aged 5 to 18 has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument (other than voice) through whole-class ensemble teaching programs or weekly tuition on the same instrument
    • Ensure that clear progression routes are available and affordable to all young people
    • Develop a singing strategy to ensure that every pupil sings regularly, and that choirs and other vocal ensembles are available in the area

    Below you’ll find a list of the music hubs in Greater London. Each hub provides different services and receives different levels of funding, dependent on needs and services. For example, some services provide one to one tuition, some offer classroom sessions or some offer Orchestra or performance opportunities. 

    Central London Music Hubs
    Outer London Music Hubs


    If you are interested in joining an amateur orchestra, here is a list of active orchestras, bands and ensembles across London. Many of them welcome new members of any standard with no audition needed.

    Find out more about orchestras, wind and brass bands