Friday, 12 December 2008

Christmas and New Year Opening

The website will be open for business 24/7 as usual, but please note the following:

23rd December - orders despatched as usual
24th - 26th December - no orders despatched
27th December - orders despatched as usual
28th December - 1st January - no orders despatched
2nd & 3rd January - orders despatched as usual
4th January - no orders despatched
5th January - back to normal, i.e. Monday to Friday processing and despatch

BUT orders for items which have a despatch date of 3 days or more are ordered specially and none of these can be processed until 5th January, as all the publishers are closing from 22nd/23rd December to 5th January. This means you can expect to receive these items no earlier than 9th January.

As the music publishing business is closing down for the whole of the Christmas period, I am taking the opportunity to have some time off.  Throughout this time, I will be checking email periodically, so do get in touch if you have a question.

I hope you have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Snow in Rossendale

This is the view from my window this morning - lots of snow fell early in the morning.  No post and no deliveries today as it can be difficult to get here in this kind of weather.

The kids enjoyed it - with teachers stuck in gridlocked roads, most schools closed for the day or finished at lunchtime.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Effect of VAT Change

This week's talking point has been the Pre-Budget Report and the change in VAT to be implemented from Monday 1st December.  I thought I would provide a quick explanation on how this affects purchases from VS Music Supplies.

Sheet music and books are zero-rated for VAT - this means no VAT applies.  So the price of a book on 30th November will be exactly the same on the 1st December.

Music accessories - reeds, music stands, strings, etc. - are all VATable at the standard rate of 17.5%, 15% from Monday.  In theory, this means that their price will reduce from 1st December.

However, as this is a small part of my business I am not VAT registered so cannot claim back the VAT costs.  This means that since I have already paid for all of the accessories in stock at 17.5% VAT, regrettably my prices will have to stay as they are for now.  I will of course reconsider prices of individual items as and when I stock up again at the new lower rate.

I hope this answers any questions you might have about VAT, if not, please drop me a line.


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

More Folk Music

I have added more titles to my collection of folk music - from Scottish publisher Taigh na Teud. They have previously published popular collections of ceilidh tunes, but are now adding CD versions to their collection.

So if you play fiddle, you will find an increased selection of Scottish tunes to play. Cellists and Accordion players will also find new titles there, and for a flexible group of strings, guitar, piano and recorder there is a collection of tunes for ensemble -Scottish Favourites.

For those planning Burns nights events, there is a great collection of Robert Burns songs (with lyrics) arranged for fiddle duet, guitar and/or piano.

To see the full collection of folk music, click here.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

After the dramas of two weeks ago, all is quiet on the plumbing front, so life is back to normal now.

I finally finished my paperwork, but was then struck by the mystery of the disappearing books. Four trombone books are nowhere to be seen - they were there at the last stock take in April, but have disappeared since.  No doubt they will turn up in completely the wrong box next time I do a stock take, but it is really annoying, especially since I have had to buy more!

Every week I add new titles to my website and/or stock.  There is so much music out there, I rely on publishers and customers bringing new titles to my attention in addition to my regular trawl through the catalogues.  This week I have added The Guitarist's Way to my site, after a local customer requested it recently.  It doesn't seem to be too well known, but it is a good starter series for guitarists.

I have also added New Christmas Praise for brass/wind band, which is a great set of Christmas tunes for bands.  My band section on the website is a little thin - it's one of my projects for 2009.  I have added a few more books to my accordion section too, more to come there.

That's all for this week, have a good weekend.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Half-term, plumbing and Wayne Marshall

Business tends to drop a bit at the school half-term week, so this is usually a good time to do other jobs which have been waiting for a while.  I started out with the best of intentions, sorting out paperwork, bank reconciliations, invoices and doing a general stock check and tidy up.

But on Monday afternoon I heard the sound something like that of a tap turning on.  Mystified I tried to find the source of the noise, and when I got into the kitchen about 30 seconds later, found 1 cm of water on the floor, rising fast!  After a tussle with the stopcock, I managed to turn off my water and mop up.  No more work done that day!

So the plumber turned up, identified where the leak was roughly (in the floor), managed to restore a small (cold, not hot) water supply in the kitchen only, and then started to hunt in the floor for the leaky pipe.  Unfortunately the pipes were concreted in and in the process of excavating he hit the gas pipe, thus leaving me without heating and cooking facilities just in time for the coldest night of the year!

Then he went home, no doubt to a warm house with hot and cold running water.  Fortunately I had some coal and lit a fire to keep myself warm in the evening, got a microwave dinner and wrapped up well.

On Tuesday morning the next plumber turned up, made an attempt to repair the gas pipe but couldn't as it had fractured completely.  It turns out the local water company decided to massively increase the water pressure on Monday afternoon, and the cold water intake pipe gave up the ghost.  The really good news?  My insurance doesn't cover the repair to the pipes, just resulting damage, which didn't happen as I was on the spot when it happened.  So the answer was to replace the offending pipework, bypassing the old stuff.  This meant running the pipes around the door instead of under the floor.  Cue plumber number 2, several long copper pipes, a pipe bender and a blow torch.  Here is a snapshot of the new pipework running above the door - lovely eh?  Bear in mind each of these pipes cost me £108 (ok, they're a lot longer than this snippet shows, but still...):

So after the flood, parting with over £300, 5 hours of workmen and mess, and the cleanup, I really needed something to cheer me up.  Today I went to the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester to hear a lunchtime concert by organist/composer/conductor/general musical superman Wayne Marshall.  He played Messiaen's Les Corps Glorieux - I'm generally not a Messiaen fan but hearing his organ music played so well live was relaxing and uplifting.  It was recorded for later broadcast on Radio 3, they're having a Messiaen season to commemorate his 100th anniversary in December.  I have become quite a fan of organ music lately, but it really does sound much better live than recorded.  I intend to increase and improve the selection of books I carry for organ - I hope to do this after Christmas.

So, my half-term week hasn't gone quite to plan so far - how was your week?

Friday, 24 October 2008

Being Green - The Winter Journey

In a post in July, I showed how my parcels start their journey to my customers, and how green they are - most of them go to the post office on foot, through the fields and past the sheep.

Well now the winter is approaching the very pretty route I show you becomes less pretty - a couple of days ago we had had so much rain the ground was waterlogged, squelchy, muddy and at times dangerously slippy.  So it's now time to switch to a different route and I thought I would post a few photos.

The journey starts the same, but instead of going uphill through the fields, I divert to a track (above).  This road is hundreds of years old and shown on 17th century maps, but as you can see its lower reaches have not been maintained in recent years.  It is stony, which gives grip but has a small stream running down it in the wet, due presumably to a broken field drain further up.  This is a haunt of goldfinches, greenfinches, robins and dunnocks, and I always see little birds flitting away as I approach.

On the way uphill, I took another photo showing the village where I live and work.

Further up, the track improves as it gets closer to the farm and some houses.   If you have eagle eyes you may notice a traffic cone sitting in the field.  Why?  No idea, but it's been there all year!  The sheep don't seem to mind.

After this, a footpath takes me to join the path I normally use before crossing the A road (see the post from July further down this page).  This route is a bit longer, but much safer and easier in the wet weather. 


Once I have taken the parcels, I have another alternative route home which I sometimes use if I am feeling very energetic or it's a nice day, as it was today.  This follows the roads, so is over twice the length and time of the other ones.

The last month has been very busy with the start of the new school year.  I have odd spurts of interest for specific books - A Tuneful Introduction to the Third Position for example, where I sold out of stock three weeks in a row.  A Standard of Excellence Book 1 is a popular beginner brass tutor with schools in my area, Team Strings 1 for Viola is this week's bestseller.  

That's all for now - I do hope to be adding more stock to the website in the next few weeks, will let you know when it's done.


Saturday, 11 October 2008

Christmas Gifts

It's taken a while, but I have now completed the Christmas gifts section on the website. I have tried to select gifts of different prices and characters for all members of the family. For practical gifts, the music bags are a great buy - good value for money, durable and will prevent the "I can't find my music" routine as you are trying to get the offspring out of the door to the music lesson!

The quaver coffee mugs are my favourite gift item - a classy and simple design that will brighten up any kitchen. For those who have a tendency to break mugs, the treble clef mug is a good option - a thicker construction means this should be less breakable.

In regards to stocking fillers, for kids there are instrument badges, for adults the Classic FM books are firm favourites.

So, do your Christmas shopping early - I even have wrapping paper for your gifts.

I have also got a great selection of Christmas music now - for solo instruments or groups. I will still be adding to it over the next few weeks, but if you are looking for carol collections, they're all there, whatever your instrument or ability. Check it out by clicking here

That's it for now - happy shopping.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Christmas is coming ...

I know it's only the end of September, but Christmas stuff is starting to appear in all the shops, and VS Music Supplies is no exception.  For me, it does seem odd to be loading Christmas music on the website while we still have warm sunshine outside, but it has to be done!  There is now a selection of Christmas music listed (more to come), gifts will follow in the next week or so.

The process has been slowed a bit by the huge demand for music books as schools and students get back to work in September.  I have been working hard to keep up with orders, but my suppliers are struggling and my orders take a little bit longer to arrive than normal.  Things get a little crazy at this time of year!

Why not take a look at the Christmas music on the website?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Folk Music

It's been a while since my last post, as I have been gearing up for the new school year and making improvements to my stock and website.

Some of the changes are:

  • increased range of bags and other instrumental accessories

  • addition of a section for accordion

  • increased folk music section

Which brings me neatly on to the subject of today's post. Folk music is increasingly popular, and there have been a lot of recent publications in this area by mainstream publishers. Boosey and Hawkes have been publishing their collection for fiddle over the last few years, the most recent addition being The Greek Fiddler which unsurprisingly contains Greek music.

These books were published in a traditional instrument/piano version, albeit often with guitar chords. Recently publishers have changed this to instrument/chords/CD versions, which gives players the opportunity to play along to backing bands - definitely an improvement on piano! Boosey and Hawkes have revamped parts of their fiddler collection by introducing the Fiddler Playalong books for violin, viola and cello.

Schott has now published some excellent collections of fiddle music, covering English, Scottish, and Eastern European music. These playalong collections contain a lot of tunes - often around 80 and guidance notes on the music and playing traditions. These are great reference volumes which will keep you occupied for hours! While the Eastern European collection does cover some Klezmer music - for those who don't know, this is traditional Jewish music from Eastern Europe - there are also other collections focussing exclusively on this.

You can check out the folk music section on the website by clicking here:

Further developments are planned for the folk music section - in particular, an increased selection from Scottish Publisher Taigh na Teud.

As always, if you are looking for something in particular and don't see it, drop us a line: and ask.

Next week - Christmas is coming...

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Back to School ...

It's that time of year again, and the mad rush to get everything ready for the new school year has begun. This year, the item of choice seems to be conductor's batons - I sold more in one week than I did in 9 months! I have a new range on the website -

Over the summer I have added lots of new items to the site:

  • gig bags/cases for clarinet and flute

  • massively increased selection for voice

  • new section for accordion

  • increased folk music section

  • Trinity Guildhall exam books

  • American Popular Piano

  • increased range of strings and instrumental accessories - more to come on this

So why not check out the site and see what's new?

Friday, 15 August 2008

New Exam Syllabus for 2009 - piano, singing

This summer has been a bit of a double whammy, with both Associated Board and Trinity Guildhall bringing out the new piano exam syllabus for 2009 at the same time.  The website - now contains all the new books and pieces.   CD recordings of the exam pieces are a great way to decide which pieces to choose for the exam, and are a good guide to how a piece of music should be played - these are also on the website.

The Associated Board has also made changes to piano scales and sight-reading - the new books are now on the website.  Do remember that while the 2007/2008 exam pieces can be played for the first set of exams in early 2009, the old scales and sight-reading are no longer valid and you will need the 2009 set.

Discounts on bulk purchases of these books are available for teachers - just put "teacher's pack" into the search engine.

The Associated Board has also given the singing syllabus a makeover, with new sight-reading there as well.  There will be new set of songbooks published soon, but they are currently being printed and are expected to be available in early September.  In the meantime, I am gradually loading all the exam pieces for the singing syllabus on the website.

The Art of Song (Edition Peters songbook) has been revised and republished in line with the new syllabus.  So it's all change for voice!

I try hard to get all the pieces needed for exams for every instrument, but if you ever can't find anything, do drop me a line - - and ask, I can get pretty much anything that's in print.

That's all for now, I will keep the blog updated with the new publications.


Friday, 25 July 2008

For Amusement Only!

Someone sent me this and I thought it would be good to share ...

The Golden Rules of Ensemble Playing
  1. Everyone should play the same piece.
  2. Stop at every repeat sign and discuss in detail whether to take the repeat or not. The audience will love this a lot!
  3. If you play a wrong note, give a nasty look to one of your partners.
  4. Keep your fingering chart handy. You can always catch up with the others.
  5. Carefully tune your instrument before playing. That way you can play out of tune all night with a clear conscience.
  6. Take your time turning pages.
  7. The right note at the wrong time is a wrong note (and vice versa).
  8. If everyone gets lost except you, follow those who get lost.
  9. Strive to get the maximum NPS (note per second). That way you gain the admiration of the incompetent.
  10. Markings for slurs, dynamics and ornaments should not be observed. They are only there to embellish the score.
  11. If a passage is difficult, slow down. If it's easy, speed it up. Everything will work itself out in the end.
  12. If you are completely lost, stop everyone and say, "I think we should tune".
  13. Happy are those who have not perfect pitch, for the kingdom of music is theirs.
  14. If the ensemble has to stop because of you, explain in detail why you got lost. Everyone will be very interested.
  15. A true interpretation is realized when there remains not one note of the original.
  16. When everyone else has finished playing, you should not play any notes you have left.
  17. A wrong note played timidly is a wrong note. A wrong note played with authority is an interpretation.
by J.W. Swing

Monday, 21 July 2008

Being Green - How my parcels get to where they're going

Every business has to be green these days, but how do you know that they really do what they say? I thought I would show you in pictures how my parcels start their journey to my customers.

I am keen that my business produces no waste, so every box of stock I receive from my suppliers is cut up and reused as stiffening for my parcels. Offcuts and leftover paper are composted or burned as firelighters. My parcels are made to the exact size of the contents, and wrapped in brown paper - economical and durable. It also helps keep down the cost of posting and packaging for my customers.

The parcels then go into my rucksack and start their journey to the post office - on foot. Across the river and up the hill, up the hill a bit more and then across the dual carriageway.

Past the church:
And to the post office:
Of course, there are some occasions when the rain is so heavy I take the post in the car (a car in the lowest emissions bracket), but most days my parcels travel the mile to the post office on foot.

By supporting my local post office with my parcels, I also help to keep business in the local area. So VS Music Supplies is a low waste, environmentally friendly business supporting other small businesses in the area.

If you have any thoughts on this or suggestions about how I can be greener, why not post a comment?

Thursday, 17 July 2008

A Frustrating Week

One of the frustrations of being a retailer is that you are dependent on a whole host of other people in getting products to your customers.  I can't keep everything in stock all the time, though I do try to keep the most popular books.  The thing is, when you urgently need something for a customer from a supplier who is normally 100% reliable, things go wrong.  This week I have had:
  • the order placed with a supplier for an item which went out of print after I placed the order, only they didn't bother to tell me, just marked my order "complete" (!?) and forgot about it
  • the order placed by phone but promptly lost by the supplier and so not actioned
  • the supplier who dispatched an order later than they normally do, but in this case I really need something in the parcel, plus put inadequate postage on it which meant it took 4 days to arrive
I've also had parcels sent to a four-year old address, ones that disappear in the post completely never to be seen again, one which looked like it had been used as the office football, and ones with an incomplete address which took two weeks to reach me.

Another oddity which I really don't understand is that I tend to get a rush for a particular instrument or book, from all over the UK so I know it's not the same teacher!  Sometimes I have a saxophone week, sometimes a flute, clarinet or violin week.  This week it is "Music Theory in Practice Week".  This book is published by the Associated Board and is a series of workbooks on music theory, hence the title.  These books have recently been rewritten (the lower grades anyway) and republished in shiny new covers, so maybe that explains the demand this week?  I don't know, but this week I have sold the same number as I normally do in two months.   Very strange.  

The new PayPal Express Checkout has been causing a few problems, with glitches in the software - in particular how it connects between my site and their checkout.  I have spoken to my web hoster and they tell me they and PayPal are aware and working on it.  In the meantime I have made a couple of changes to my checkout which should resolve most problems.  I'm sorry if you have had problems, but it should be better now.

Monday, 14 July 2008

The "hub" of VS Music Supplies

VS Music Supplies is a home-based business, with no physical shop. The advantages of this are:
  • work when I like
  • have a cup of tea when I like
  • get out in the fresh air every day when I take my parcels to the post office on foot, being environmentally friendly
  • the view from my window (right)

The disadvantages:

  • becoming addicted to checking my orders at all times of the day and night
  • boxes in my house
  • no office cleaner to tidy up after me!

So, I have a small office with a view of trees and birds, and a nice plant on the windowsill. It's certainly better than a crowded office in a city, with a view of walls of other buildings! Home working isn't for everyone, but it does work for me.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

VS moves into the blogosphere...

So why a blog? Well, space on the website - - is limited and it occurred to me that a blog would give more space to discuss music just published, along with anything else going on in VS Music Supplies.

So to get the ball rolling, in June I went to the London music show and browsed the stalls of publishers and wholesalers - watch out for a great new selection of gifts later this year! I met Christopher Norton, whose compositions are bestsellers all around the world. He gave me a guided tour of his new, co-authored publication, American Popular Piano and I listened to some of the audio which accompanies the books. This is a great new piano tutor which is going to be big, believe me. It gets kids away from the dry, classical-based tuition to a more intuitive, popular style of piano playing while still providing the technical content needed to develop skills for classical music. Many of the exercises are based on masters such as Czerny, but reinvented by Chris.

The key difference between this and other tutors is the use of the audio content. We are all getting used to playalong CDs (wish I had these when I was learning!) which give players the feel of playing with an orchestra or band. In American Popular Piano, this is taken one step further in developing improvisational skills as well as playing along, something sadly neglected in much instrumental tuition. We focus too much on reading music, not doing enough listening and these books will help redress the balance. The only downside for us Brits is the use of American terminology - whole notes, half notes, etc., but I'm sure we can live with that!