Collaborative Music Making

Feb 18, 2014

The Future of Music Education

Here is a clearly laid out, colour coded representation of Pachelbel's Canon. Its a great piece for teaching about ground bass or ostinato, or as a simple group performance exercise. Its a classic hit that kids seem to enjoy across the board, perhaps helped by modern pop references from Black Eyed Peas, Coolio (back in may day) and Green Day.
Although it has a simple harmonic structure and rhythmically aint too tricky neither, it can be tough to get a classroom of kids playing this piece as a group, and without performing it they will have to rely on listening and theory to understand how it works.

Using conventional notation will probably require:

  • transposing into a key that will suit the instruments available.
  • re-writing the individual parts for players or teaching each individual section by rote.
  • writing out parts for other instruments (inc. percussion)
  • teacher will have to conduct performance.
These are all worthwhile steps to creating a group performance but there are many primary level teachers who would feel out of their depth trying to achieve all this in the small amount of time available to them for arts and music.


Using animated notation a group performance can be achieved, in four separate parts using the following steps:

  • Find a tuned instrument that can play the scale of C for the bassline. (C,G,A,E,F,C,F,G)(Repeat)
  • Divide the class into four colour groups.
  • Give each section a different instrument or sound to make.
  • Follow the movements on screen, use you ears, decide what sounds good and what sounds rubbish. Try different performances, learn from your mistakes, get involved!


From teaching using both forms of notation, i find that the most vital difference is that conventional notation implies their is a correct way to do things and that the goal of the exercise is to create a performance as close to the written score as possible. This is often a barrier to creativity and learning for students and teachers.

Animated notation is a more open form that invites creative input from students and teachers, allowing them to explore aspects of the music in a more informal and hands on way. It offers more scope for experimenting with different pitches, timbres and instrumentation. It also places responsibility on the students themselves requiring them to listen more critically to the sounds they are making and how the represent the original piece.

Please feel free to try it out in your class and send any feedback to

    For more visit:

Jan 3, 2014

NYOI Concert tomorrow

The National Youth Orchestra Of Ireland will be performing in the conert hall, Dublin tomorrow at 3. Here's a short Video of soloist Nail O Sullivan and conductor Gearoid Grant, with the orchestra rehearsing the Haydn Trumpet Concerto.

They'll also be performing Beethoven, Bizet and a few Irish bits from Leroy Anderson.

NYOI Trumpet Concerto Rehearsals from NYOI on Vimeo.

Nov 28, 2013

New Animated Score for DabbledooMusic

The latest animated score for DabbledooMusic. This one encourages classes to play along with Pachelbel's canon (now in C Maj). This type of animated score is at the extreme end of the scale in terms of performer interpretation. It is designed for specific learning goals and so needs to be strict in terms of rhythm and pitch.
It does still show how effective animated notation can be in getting large groups of people of take part in group performance with no rehearsal or proir experience. This is helped by the encouragement of a some hiphop and old soul break samples and the keys playing of Johnny "jazz cat" Taylor.

Mar 19, 2013

Graphic Notation for Teaching Music

Conventional music notation was largely invented for, and is most widely used by, professional musicians, composers and music theorists.

Why do we assume that this notation is suitable for teaching music to children?

Well I don't, so I made my own, with the help of illustrator Killian Redmonk:

Nov 13, 2012

DabbledooMusic is a music education project in collaboration with visual artist Killian Redmond. The aim is to create a multimedia creative music resource for kids, roughly between the ages of 6 and 12. the project combines graphic notation, animated notation, composition and performance through activity books and free online resources.

The project also include lesson plans for teachers to make it as accessible as possible for use in the classroom. Dabbledoomusic is based on the belief that creativity and collaboration need to be central in in modern education and that music as a subject, provides opportunities to promote these ideas in very practical ways.

Our first activity book for children will be released before christmas along with an updated version of the Dabbledoomusic website. We hope that 2013 will see teachers, parents and most importantly the children, using these resources to create, collaborate and enjoy music making.

Oct 2, 2012

Creative Music Making for Young Musicians

This coming Saturday the DabbledooMusic Project moves into its next gear. Although workshops are a great way to introduce young musicians to the idea of using graphic notation to explore music making, an hour is never enough to cover the range of possibilities available.

6 hours over 6 weeks is probably enough time to just scratch the surface, but starting this Saturday that is what 12 kids between the ages of 6 and 12 will attempt with myself and Killian Redmonk leading the group.

Each week a different area of music making will be explore using the free online resource, DabbledooMusic, and a number of worksheets for the participants to record their own creations and ideas.

More info here:

Dabbledoomusiccourses ay the Centre for Creative Practices

Jul 2, 2012

Next week will see DabbledooMusic at the Kinsale Arts Festival in Cork. The workshop will be an hour and a half with all of the resources taken from the

There will a range of instruments for the young musicians to use from home made interments to a selection of Korg synthesizers!

                                                                Kinsale Arts Festival