The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. What does it make me realise? That I should blog more!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

We take assessment very seriously at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music – at Sydney Conservatorium of Music

View on Path

Happy Birthday Synergy Percussion. Timothy Constable speaks about what Synergy means to him at the celebration tonight. – at 107 Projects

View on Path

Nothing like finishing a 15 min work for orch & choir the night before penultimate rehearsal! @thankyoukaren – at Sydney Conservatorium of Music

View on Path


Photo of me jamming in GarageBand courtesy of Jonathan Nalder

I’m having fun at the Slide2Learn conference on mLearning in Sydney. Did a presentation this morning – the deck below was created in Apple Keynote and has been converted (and the many videos removed!). Here’s the session description:
Reflecting on the uptake of music technology in schools in the 1980s, teacher, researcher and programmer Andrew Brown (Griffith University) wrote “These experiences clarified the motivational aspects of electronic technologies, even though they were largely used to replicate, rather than innovate, musical practices” (2012). This session looks at the emerging trend of the “iPad band” and proposes that in most cases Brown’s observation again rings true. How can mobile technology offer truly innovative opportunities for musical performance? This session explores, hands-on, ideas from the bleeding edge.
We started off by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of GarageBand’s built-in jam session and doing a class-wide performance. We then moved toward the experience I described in my blog last month where participants were Jamming in a single Ableton Live session with Lemur and TouchAble on iPads.

I’m in the middle of composing a large work for orchestra and choir at the moment, and as I was setting up my pedalling notation shortcut for the first time in Sibelius 7.5 it suddenly occurred to me that this may be a workflow that others haven’t thought of. I can remember back in the days of Sibelius 1 and 2 that my wishlist included a special “pedalling wizard” because lining up pedal markings too so long and if you were working on piano music and it needed reformatting, you then had to spend hours moving pedal markings around. No longer! Simply set up the right shortcuts and all of your pedalling can be done very quickly… like this:

Set up shortcuts

If you haven’t discovered shortcuts in Sibelius, you haven’t lived! My favourites include double bar lines and split system for when I’m making worksheets, but hey, that’s me. To get to the shortcuts preferences go to FilePreferences or type Ctrl+, (Command+,). Next click on Keyboard Shortcuts in the list.

In this case we’re making a shortcut for the “lift again pedal” line. You may also want to make one for the initial pedal (Pedal lift) although I tend to do this through the lines gallery (shortcut L). Similarly you could make one for “Pedal lift finally” if you’re doing a lot of pedalling. To create my shortcut I chose Line Styles from the Tab or Category list, then Pedal lift again from the Feature list. Click Add and type the shortcut you want to use – I chose Alt (Option)+P because it’s not used already by Sibelius (yes, that’s P for pedal). Finally, click OK. Here it is:


Setting up a shortcut in Sibelius

Using the shortcut to add pedalling quickly

You can use the shortcut in two ways, depending on whether you prefer using the mouse or the keyboard.

With the mouse

Add the first Pedal lift line (for me, through the Lines gallery, but you could do this with a shortcut too) by selecting the notes that you want to add the pedal line under, then adding the line through the gallery or with a shortcut if you made one for this too.

Pedal lift

I’ve highlighted the passage I need the beginning pedal line (“Pedal lift”) under. Then I type L for lines to bring up the Lines Gallery, and select that line.

Now you’ll repeat that procedure, highlighting each passage with the mouse (easy if it’s just one bar, because if you click anywhere inside the bar but not on a note or stem you’ll select the whole bar), but then typing your new “pedal lift again” shortcut (Alt/Option+P if you chose the same as me) to place the line under the passage. As you’ll see, the ends of the line align perfectly with the last pedal line, meaning there’s no more fiddling necessary!

Pedal lift again

All I need to do now is highlight each passage that requires pedalling, and type Alt/Option+P

With the keyboard

You can actually use the same process above, but replace making the selections with the mouse and make them with the keyboard (type Shift+Right Arrow to select one note at a time or Shift+Ctrl/Command+Right Arrow to select one bar at a time) then press Alt/Option+P to add the line. But perhaps less fiddly is this:

Select the note where the pedal line needs to start, and type your shortcut (Alt/Option+P if it’s the same as mine). Press Spacebar to move the line one note at a time. When you have extended the line enough, press Tab to return to the note the line started at, then use the Right Arrow to move forward to where you need to start the next line (or Command/Ctrl+Right Arrow to jump forward one bar at a time).

Other shortcuts


My lovely Sibelius book

I hope  that’s helpful for a few of you out there. There are loads more shortcuts and tips for using Sibelius in the free videos that go with my book Sibelius 7 Notation Essentials – I’ve got a page that explains how to access them here.






I posted an obscure photo last week showing set-up for a lecture I gave the following morning. I’m interested to know if anyone else has tried anything like this in music education, because it seems like a big technological uphill to get there (tho “there” is quite geekishly cool). I’m thinking I might write at length and give this some context within the literature if someone doesn’t just say “Humberstone, you idiot, that’s not innovative, that’s just a stupid way of doing something”. So the problem set was to take a mish-mash of devices, as many of us have individually and in our classrooms, and see if they could be used to improvise, perform and compose. I decided to go with Live because having seen Tim Shiel’s amazing LiveSchool presentation about how he redeveloped Gotye’s last album for performing in Ableton Live, and I figured even if I don’t have Tim’s chops (by a long way) at least I knew the software could do it. Here’s a (hyperlinked) list and some photos of the gear I had on hand:

LPD8Obviously the hardware controllers are easy to set up because they each appear in Live’s MIDI dialog in settings, and will each show as a separate MIDI in, so you can easily ascribe each to a single track (and therefore set that track to one sound). You can arm them or not, and so students can improvise together and just some of them be recording new material.

Getting the iPads to work is a little more fiddly. Once you’ve done the set-up it works, but I found that if they’d slept for a while or been reset there was a good chance that they’d lose their MIDI in in Live, or if you connected one to a virtual MIDI in that another was using, it would be “knocked off”. This means if students go mucking around with settings you’ll have a load of interruptions. It also means you’ll probably be setting up in class time, which you’d normally avoid. This is the problem I’d really like to solve. Anyway, if I haven’t put you off giving it a go, here are the steps:

  1. Lemur on the iPad in Perform mode. Quite similar to playing pitched instruments on the Ableton Push.

    Lemur on the iPad in Perform mode. Quite similar to playing pitched instruments on the Ableton Push.

    Set up Lemur by:

    1. Downloading and installing the Lemur daemon (app) on your Mac
    2. Dragging the LiveControl document (this will have been copied to your Apps folder on your Mac) to the Lemur app on your iPad via iTunes on your Mac
    3. Going to settings in Lemur on your iPad and selecting the LiveControl settings from the Project List
    4. Tap More Settings and under MIDI 0 select the same Daemon Output and Input number from your Mac. *Note* do this in a really logical way, and work out some way to keep track of which iPad is which MIDI number, such as putting a sticker on the back of the iPad – so you know which iPad is which “instrument” in Live.
    5. Tap Done, then the Play pad
    6. Repeat steps B to E for up to 8 iPads (because you have Daemon inputs 0 to 8).
  2. Set up touchAble by:
    touchAble on the iPad, triggering all clips in Live's Session View on the Mac.

    touchAble on the iPad, triggering all clips in Live’s Session View on the Mac.

    1. Downloading and installing the touchAble client on your Mac
    2. Running touchAble on your iPad, and tapping on your Mac client
    3. Tap on the session button twice to maximise it
    4. Repeat for any remaining iPads (who will share session control)
  3.  Set up Ableton Live by:
    1. Going to preferences and making sure that Live sees all of the various MIDI ins and that they’re all switched on under Track.
    2. Adding a MIDI track for each instrument – that means one for each hardware instrument and one for each of the 8 Lemur Daemon inputs (if you have 8 iPads running).

      Setting up MIDI ins in Ableton live

      Setting up MIDI ins in Ableton live

    3. Dragging a different Live instrument to each MIDI track so each person is improvising with a different sound. Spend some time thinking about how the sounds will interact texturally, and also sound that work over a wide pitch range (high to low) so they’re not competing in the same frequency range. You can also pan etc. to create “space”.
    4. Test all of the inputs! Each one should play a separate sound. touchAble can also be set to play an instrument, but because it doesn’t have the multiple ins that Lemur has, I used it to control the whole session view, so some students were “DJing” the whole thing rather than performing, improvising or recording. We allocated a few tracks to each DJ.

Now you’re ready to jam! The process that I used was to show students first how to do drum programming on the Push, and used the duplicate feature to create a series of drum patterns, and then added in live drumming from the push and other drum pads like the Beatstep and LPD8, quantizing as we went. So we now had 4 or 5 live percussionists either playing live or recording loops and adding to them as they went (I facilitated this in Live).

Having created a load of percussion sounds, we agreed on a key/mode for the Lemur and other pitched controllers (e.g. MIDI keyboards), and went around the room each recording a series of ostinati in that mode one after another (again, I facilitated this in Live).

Next the DJs took over, running existing material and experimenting with it in different combinations, as well as arming and disarming tracks for additional live improvisation over the top (like conductors of an ensemble). To be honest, it wasn’t what I’d call amazing, but it was a great experiment, and I think with more sensitive use of the technology (and more bullet-proof MIDI-in from Lemur) something really unique could be achieved. Here’s a really short soundbite of what the students created….


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