New system makes learning to play a musical instrument easier for everyone
Ten year old school boy Aiden’s dreams of playing a musical instrument are coming true thanks to the ground-breaking notation system Figurenotes which was developed in Finland to teach people with learning disabilities to play music. Within only a half hour lesson at his school in Inverclyde, Aiden who has autism was able to play tunes along with his classmates.
“Aiden’s attitude in class has changed completely,” says his Lilybank School music teacher Annona Thornton. “He now has the confidence of someone who knows they can make an effective contribution, and he has even gone on to perform in public.”
“It’s beautifully simple,” says Drake Music Scotland’s Chief Executive Thursa Sanderson. “Players simply ‘play what they see’ by matching coloured shapes on stickers on the piano keyboard or fret board of a guitar to the symbols on a page of music.”
Since receiving an Inspire Fund award from Creative Scotland (then Scottish Arts Council) in 2008, Drake Music Scotland has piloted the system with a variety of learners in both SEN and mainstream settings across Scotland and created software with exciting results.
“Among the inspiring projects taking place,” continues Thursa, “are pupils on the autistic spectrum who have learned to play the piano and guitar, pupils from Castleview SEN School who have joined their non-disabled peers in Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise orchestra, pre-school children who have been introduced to notation as part of fun music activities – and Figurenotes has had a real impact on the learning progress of whole classes receiving instrumental tuition in mainstream schools as well.”
Drake Music Scotland will showcase these achievements at the “I Can Play Music” Figurenotes Conference on Friday 26th November at Glasgow’s City Halls. “It is an opportunity to discover the difference Figurenotes is making to music education in Scotland, and the day includes practical and interactive workshops and performances from pupils such as Aiden,” says Thursa. “We hope people will go away from the day inspired by the potential of Figurenotes for their own practice and with a new vision of what is possible.”
Creative Scotland Chief Executive Andrew Dixon, who will be speaking at the conference in November, comments,“Figurenotes is a revolutionary system and an idea that Creative Scotland is pleased to have invested in. The project has transformed access to music education and performance for people of all ages and abilities across Scotland. A system that has the capacity to open up the creative process within people that might not otherwise make their own music is worth investing in and we’re delighted that it’s made such a difference to Aidan and others’ lives.”