In early July I joined East Sussex Music service's primary curriculum leader, Alexandra Dalton, in Eastbourne for its first electric violin improvising summer school, which welcomed 14 young string players of grade 5 standard and above from the county's schools. Yamaha has a great range of 'Silent' violins and electric violins which we've already seen used most effectively as a way to (re)motivate teenaged string players and provide a range of new creative possibilities which can challenge, stimulate and broaden their approach to string playing. So I was delighted that we were able to support this event with the loan of a range of 4- and 5-stringed Yamaha electric violins for the use of participants who didn't have access to an electric violin.
Yamaha is famous for its keyboards, pianos, brass, woodwind and music technology. But not many people know that Yamaha has produced violins, violas, cellos and basses for some years now. Our pride and joy probably lies in the 'Silent Strings'. These are electric stringed instruments which not only look and sound wonderful but, as Sarah Drury (Head of Strings at Sherborne School) has written in a past issue of YES, they have remotivated her mid-teen boys who suddenly find that string playing is 'cool' again and are joining friends in rock, folk and jazz bands, as an extension of their classical performing activities.
The 'Silent' strings were designed originally to overcome a noise problem when practising. The instruments themselves, being skeleton instruments, make almost no sound. Instead they contain electronics that re-create something close to the acoustic sound, when listening on headphones. Great idea, but they also make fantastic performance instruments in their own right, and this is what's really firing up the imaginations of performers, teachers and learners alike all across the UK.
we have lots going on to help us champion the use of the Silent Strings in this way, icnluding an exciting composing project with the Bournemouth Orchestras, under the guidance of music technology specialist, Andrew Kitchenham, this Autumn, where GCSE groups from two schools will work on new music for electric strings. Watch this space for updates.
Also, Jonathan Price, of the Manchester Camerata, has been running a community project in the north-west, taking the Bach Cello Suites to outdoor audiences, using the Yamaha Silent Cello. More recently we've teamed up with talented young cellist, Barney Morse-Brown - a graduate of the Royal Welsh College and of the Royal College of Music. Barney specialised in classical and Baroque cello but is now working with major folk scene artists, like Eliza Carthy, as well as his own group, Duotone andwith the Kate Garratt Band. Barney appeared with Eliza Carthy on TV's 'Later With Jools Holland' late in 2008, using the Silent Cello. He's a stunning and energetic performer and we're planning to work with Barney on workshops and demonstrations.
Top jazz double bassist, Malcolm Creese, prefers to use the Silent Bass in his live gigs, because it overcomes the problems of feedback often associated with amplifying a double bass. He tells us the sound is much more controllable and, if any of you caught his gigs with Acoustic Triangle in cathedrals around the UK in 2008, you'll agree that it does sound beautiful.
This year we are working with West Sussex Music Service, bringing some Silent Strings to support their workshops with primary string players. Again more of that later. If you know of anyone using Silent Strings in an educational setting please let us know and we'll feature them here.
Well, after lots of preparation, the day arrived and Yamaha, along with representatives from the whole of the UK music industry, had geared up for Education Day at the brand new London International Music Show in London's Docklands.
Students and their teachers were treated to a broad range of experiences from Yamaha, including displays and demonstrations of Yamaha's world-beating instruments and equipment from orchestral to rock instruments, from concert grand pianos to the much loved digital Clavinova pianos, from synths to the brand new 21st century instrument, the Tenori-On!
Yamaha ran some superb workshops for drum kit beginners, led by Yamaha Music School teacher trainer, Kew West. We collaborated with the European String Teachers' Association in their wonderful presentation of Yamaha electric strings, led by Sarah Drury. We also supported our colleagues, the Associated Board, lending them a top-of-the-range stage piano for their workshop on improvisation, led by Pete Churchill.
I met lots of educators and would like to thank all of you for taking the time to visit me on the Yamaha stand. Please take some time once a week to glance through this site and post your comments, requests, ideas and links to great teaching resources. I hope to see you again soon!