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SCOTTISH MUSIC GRADED EXAMS - Editions for Fiddle, Accordion and Harp

SCOTTISH MUSIC GRADED EXAMS - Editions for Fiddle, Accordion and Harp
Taigh na Teud / Royal Conservatoire of Scotland ISBN: 9781906804817

Any healthy tradition is underpinned by good teaching, whether that is within a formal educational structure, via individual mentoring, or a more general oral passing on of skills. Publishers Taigh na Teud, working with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, have produced this series of books which will help guide students through various stages of learning. Currently there are series’ for three popular instruments - Fiddle, Accordion and Harp - with others presumably following in their footsteps.

Within formal education, it is essential for there to be recognised ways of measuring progress, comparable to currently more conventional study options such as classical music. These books open up options for people who want to use traditional music as the basis of their study. In that respect they are a huge step forward. They also address issues of ‘testing’ for those playing by ear rather than playing from the written page, and allude to the need for specialist examiners.

I have taken on the review of these books, writing from the perspective of an interested person and that of an occasional player who can barely read a simple melody line from written music, i.e. it is a parental view.

The books are well produced with input from relevant experts and a good range of tunes which are likely to be played widely outside of the classroom. Someone has clearly done an excellent job and I suspect it would be hard to overstate the amount of work and planning that has brought them to fruition. The graded nature, tackling tunes which introduce skills and technical challenges in a staged way, would also be of interest to people who might be picking up an instrument later in life or who might want to study their instrument in greater depth.

An obvious danger is that publication of a particular setting, coupled with the suggestion that tunes should be played exactly as written to make it easier for examiners to grade or test a particular technique, might result in a standardised musical output, but I presume that this issue has been addressed and that students will be encouraged to also add their own stamp on the music.

The books are well produced and affordable. I’d recommend them to anyone wanting to explore their chosen instrument, at any stage of life. They may be used by children but these are not children’s books, they are specialist teaching material. If you have children, grandchildren etc., who you would like to encourage, it would be worth buying relevant copies to encourage them along. If their local school doesn’t teach traditional music, they might even be able to take the book into their school so that they could follow their particular instrument choice.

Pete Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 107 of The Living Tradition magazine.