Week 6 & 7: 100 Hr Challenge


Day 1: Fail, still in Brumtee, spoke to mi ma about secretly moving my piano from the old house to the new (behind Pa’s back), we’ll see, he doesn’t really do Internet btw.
Day 2: Fail still in Brum, social media workshop, helping these cherubs become digital journalists.
Day 3: Fail, still in Brum exhausted, chilling with my baby
Day 4: Mediasnackers training/CPD, still in Brum
Day 5: Back in Londungeon, practice for an hour
Day 6: Practice for a couple of hours, start with some Bach, Debussy and then chords, training myself to play chords as quickly as possible
Day 7: Didn’t manage to fit any in. Booo! But I contacted a jazz pianist for lessons

Week 7:
Monday: Practiced for a few hours, still getting my head round playing chords automatically.
Tuesday: Chris D came round and we jammed around compositional ideas.
Wednesday: Had a lesson with my new teacher and learnt loads!!
Thursday: Been practicing, properly
Friday – Sunday: Doubt I’ll get a chance back in Brum.

Someone asked me what is the 100 Hour Challenge? I quote Rachel Carter:
“Pick something about which you are passionate, which you have a deep desire to learn or to achieve yourself. It can be related to work or totally personal. Ideally it’s something you will share with the wider world. Practice, read up on, share your knowledge on your chosen challenge for at least one hour a day, every day, for 100 days.”

This week will take me to the 49th hour.

Soulful Summer

Just completed a week of workshops for THSH and UFA, project was called Soulful summer.
I helped facilitate sessions based mainly on developing young people’s composition skills. I was blown away by the young people’s ideas and good vibes. Some of the feedback I got was great, and was nice to see some of the younger participants’ confidence really grow!

Here’s some audio:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Safari Life: written in a day, based on a drum ostinato played in an improvised ostinato exercise I always use.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Our version of Summer Time, I led the rhythm section, or they led me lol! Huw lead horns, Shereece led the singers.

Thanks to Katy G and Jan P for their assistance and support!

………….Only a few more days to go before I get some time off to develop my own creativity, yay!

Week 5: 100 Hour Challenge


Day 1: Fail
Day 2: Fail
Day 3: Fail
Day 4: Fail
Day 5: Fail
Day 6: Fail
Day 7: Fail

Summer workshops all day last week. In Brum. I suck. Yes, I do. I’d come home and want to sleep, but had planning and preparation to do. When I’m near my keyboard nothing will stop me. Sing it!

100 Hour challenge: Third week

Hmmmm…

Day 1: Practiced for two hours
Day 2: Practiced for an hour
Day 3: Back in Birmingham, no practice
Day 4: Nada
Day 5: Nada
Day 6: Nada
Day 7: Nada

Hmmm think I failed there. I did read up on stuff but… few ebonies and ivories were tinkled last week! On the plus side, whenever I am home I practice. I asked a local Birmingham church whether I could practice there, thanks to Clare Edwards, but the times available clashed. Gonna do more Brum based piano hunting.

100 Hour challenge: Second week

Day 9: Practiced for two hours, worked through 2-5-1s randomly. Tried to improvise over them, sounded pants!

Day 10: Went to Rachel’s after workshopping all day, got lost, took ages to get there so was tired and hungry, played through scales, and tried to improvise, felt a tad exposed and embarrassed playing knowing Ms. Carter was listening but got through it. Was rewarded with Rachel’s home grown cherries, yum!

Day 11: Nada, all day workshops, planning, emails, tired. Fail

Day 12: Nada. See above

Day 13: Fail. All day workshops.

Day 14: Fail. Read a bit about jazz theory but no playing.

I’m not worried, when I’m near a piano and not working, I’m practicing, as I’ve been working in Brum so much, there’ve been fewer chances to play.

100 Hour Challenge: Days 4 – 8


I spoke to my mum about my old piano (given to me at childhood); currently covered in cobwebs and black bags (don’t ask), but the easiest option was to use my fella’s MIDI controller attached to Garageband, couldn’t be bothered to pair up with Logic, wanted a less heavy DAW, a basic piano sound was desired.

Some of the notes didn’t work, but it still helped me to tinkle away. I feel loads more confident about modes, I over intellectualised something quite simple. I played through several modes in each key, mainly dorian and lydian, it helped a lot. Apparently every scale can be made into a series of chords.

Day 5: No practice, no excuse really, as the lovely Rachel said I could use her piano, but ran out of time to arrange this, however I spent some time learning about self-marketing.  Still a fail!

Day 6: Friday, all day workshops with a 6am start, had a little time to jam on the piano with Chris Bishop (see Paganel project), but failed again as I jumped on a train straight after to London. I saw the amazing blues, ngoni maestro Bassekou Kouyate perform at the Barbican, the music was amazing, crowd were dull – hardly any dancing! Booo! Bassekou’s improvising is amazing, his music show’s the origins of blues music and has an amazing stage presence. His wife has a beautiful voice, such power and playfulness! Loved it.

Day 7: Spent 3 hours practicing which included a chat with composer Sid Peacock about jazz theory. I went through progressions, realised I got some chords wrong, went through 2-5-1s again. I realised I had been confusing myself with trying to work out which scales to use, and relying too much on the key signatures. I’m getting better at spotting 2-5-1s in pieces, which means I know what initial scale to use, although there are plenty more to explore; baby steps.

Some great pointers from Sid were, practice with a metronome accenting beats 2 and 4, play 2-5-1s in a random order, get a teacher, check the improvisation primer and not get to bogged down with theory to start with, noodle. Thank you Sid!

Day 8: Using the advice from Sid, created 12 scraps of paper for each key, picked one randomly and practiced 2-5-1s.

Played through “Tune Up”, chords mainly and worked out how to play chords and melody. Tried to improvise, it sounded okay, but a bit dry. Need me some licks! Then played through some other pieces including yesterdays. All good, the louder I play the more confidence I get, but that’s the problem, I’m worried about disturbing my neighbours, so am quite timid. “Headphones”! I hear you exclaim, yes, I will use ’em next time. Wounded that I’ll be away from my keys for another week! I must get better at finding a piano in Brum!

Paganel Home Week Project

Today was the first of our “home week” sessions at Paganel school, and it was the first time I worked with Chris Bishop from BXL, who is a drama practitioner. This morning we worked with year 3, a lovely bunch of young people, with great ideas. We started with some icebreakers, bonding exercises, trying to learn names, although both Chris and I have confessed we are awful at this so name badges next week are a must!

As part of a reflection for the project we have to blog about our experiences, I normally reflect during certain milestones of a project,; (beginning, middle, end) so this process is new, but should be fine.

In retrospect, both Chris and I felt the session went well, we were able to create a buzz about the ‘home’ themed project, demonstrating the theme by bringing in realia; my items from home were; a Sainsbury’s shopping bag, photo of my family, and headphones. It was cool to get the young people guessing their significance, especially the shopping bag. We were concerned about the year 3s ability to think in more abstract terms about what ‘home’ signified, but some were able to do this, rather than just getting geographical and literal interpretations, some delved into the emotional side, and some the plain weird; dinosaurs!?! Chris brought in some of his late grandfather’s war medals which was really great for the participants to see, they had lots of curious questions.

We had limited time to get young people making drama and music performances, but in ten mins our 2 groups shared a performance based on their ideas of what home was. My group, explored the sounds of sisters, which included moaning, and chatting, fused with body percussion. I was impressed at how readily my group were to share their work and the feedback both groups gave was good; (initially one word answers), but I reckon once they get used to the process, we’ll get more specifics in their answers.

Chris’ group did freeze frames based on a story one of the young people shared about a dog that nearly got run over.

I think it was a successful start, the theme of the project and aims are known, although we had less time to work on devising performance work/ideas, we were able to produce something.

Year 4s session went really well too! Great answers, energy and was impressed with form tutor Dave leading the musical performance with some excellent conducting skills. He rose to the challenge, although nervous. Feedback was good, looking forward to next week!

100 Hour challenge: Days 1-3

I started on Sunday learning  2-5-1 chord progressions, just about got the right hand down, left hand is easier, I revised my knowledge of modes. I then worked out how to transpose them into different tonal centres. I am learning a standard called “Here’s that Rainy Day” by Jimmy Van Heusen, it has lots of 2-5-1 chords in it:

I’ve worked out the chords, can play the melody alongside them, it just needs polishing. I tried improvising over the chord progression, but realised I didn’t know what I wanted to say, musically that is, also what style am I to play the scales? So many questions. I stopped asking questions and kept on playing.

Day 2: Monday, woke up and practiced, I tried to transcribe some of Alice Coltrane’s Jaja Jaja Rama, read up on scale theory in my jazz book, played through the scales and modes and had enough time to go through the Van Hausen tune again.

Day 3: Not so good,back in Brum town, had back to back workshops, 9-4, then from 6:30 – 9:30 practitioner ensemble, so was playing music, mainly improvised music with fellow workshoppers, but not on piano, instead on the fantastic Güiro and tambourine…. I would have rather done my challenge in the time but… By the time I got home and ate dinner, I was asleep. I reckon I’ve done more than an hour for days 1 and 2, so kind of excuses day 3.

Day 4: Today, I am in hunt of keys. Will find a way!

So far the experience has been fun, the self-discipline part is hardest, so many distractions, humans, chocolate, sunshine, who wants to be locked indoors practicing when the sun is out?

Young Music Leaders: Peer to Peer learning in Music

The music manifesto website peeps have uploaded a great video about students (at a secondary school in Surrey) discussing the benefits of peer to peer music tuition.

I think it’s a great idea to have a weekly club where young people can share ideas and mentor one another to achieve music creations!!

I wish some of the inner-city schools I have taught at were as well equipped as the one in the video…

There is so much talent that is being undernourished because music departments have tiny provisions.