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!