Frequently asked questions

What does the Music Aptitude Test for West Herts secondary schools entail?

Registration is now open for the various tests available for entry into the South West Herts consortium schools for entry in September 2021. The Music Criterion test is one of the tests that you can register for and everyone is welcome to apply to take this test. It is designed to test a student's aptitude to music. Whilst it is designed to provide places to children who have an aptitude and love of music, it does not exclude children who have not had the opportunities to learn to play an instrument up to now. If you pass the first stage of the test which is an aural test, you can even sing a song if you cannot play an instrument yet. The idea is to give these students the opportunity to further explore their potential when they get to their chosen secondary school. Please click here for details of the Music Aptitude Test for 2020 applications. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions about this.

What guitar should I buy and where can I buy one?

We recommend a first guitar should be a nylon strung, classical guitar. Suggestions include the following: 4/4 Encore ENC440FT 3/4 Encore ENC30OFT Falcon 3/4 Size Martin Smith 3/4 Size Acoustic Guitar (Argos) Below is a good online shop but there are others you can find through google. For sizes please look here If you prefer to buy directly from a shop there is a list below: The Music Dept., St Albans Britannia Music Shop, St Albans Wembley Guitar Centre, Wembley If you'd like information about electric guitars , please contact me directly.

How are term dates arranged?

Exact term dates including inset days and half term will be aligned directly with the term dates for each individual school. Instrumental lessons take place on the same days each week and are scheduled for every week during the term including the last week. It is possible that we finish early if we have reached the 33 lessons invoiced for and this will be communicated to the children. Unless otherwise informed, music and instruments must be taken in to school on this day every week unless informed otherwise. The lessons start the first week back at school and finish the last week of term with the exception of the Christmas term where lessons will start back the 2nd week in general to allow children time to get used to the new school routine. Sometimes it is necessary to change the lesson day to navigate around various school activities such as trips, tests, snow days etc. or teacher absence due to illness or other commitments. Obviously, not all of these activities are known in advance. However, any extra days will be communicated in advance via email or text. We aim to provide 33 lessons during the school year but the number of lessons per term will vary depending on the number of weeks available. It is important that children are prepared to have a lesson every week. We will invoice for 11 lessons per term to total 33 for the year. We keep strict registers and records for every week and if we do not manage to make the 33 lessons during the year we will credit he following term or issue a refund. There are a total of 37/38 teaching weeks a year available to us each year so it is possible to miss several weeks during the year without making them up. For you own reconciliations, please keep a record of the dates your child has a lesson rather than the dates they miss.

What keyboard should I buy?

If you do not have a piano for practise, a keyboard is a great alternative. It would definitely help as you will need to practise in order to make any progress. There are so many options appropriate for beginners depending on budget, see below for a link to Gear4music which is a good place to start. Example The best option is one with 88 keys that are weighted to help emulate the feel of a piano. But anything is better than nothing. While headphones can be very helpful, it is also nice for you to hear them play once in a while. It might be an idea to start off with a cheap one and as students show commitment and practise they can be rewarded with better ones.

What equipment do I need for learning toplay the drums?

There are plenty of ways to practice without a drum kit and which are silent or near-silent, help develop your drumming skills, and require little or no equipment.

  • Air drumming
  • Use pillows and cushions
  • Practice pad
  • Pots, pans and cardboard boxes
  • Go electronic


Investing in a drum kit is a step to take when you have played the drums for a while and you’re confident that you are going to continue in the long term.

Drum kits require space to set them up and you also need to have friendly neighbours (or live far enough away from them that they don’t mind the noise).

In the early days of learning the drums you can get a long way before you need to take the step of investing in your own drum kit. Many drummers learn and practice drums for many years before they even think about getting their own set of drums.

Air drumming

This is a very valid and worthwhile method for practice. It’s free and it’s silent. The more time you spend with drum sticks in your hands, the better. If this means you’re air drumming along to your favourite songs or thrashing out air rudiments, it is all better than not practising at all.

Use pillows and cushions

Pillows are great, not only because they’re quiet, but they also provide very little rebound, which means you will need to work your hands twice as hard. When you work your hands on a soft surface and then move back to a normal drum surface with rebound you’ll find everything feels lighter, faster and more responsive.

Practice pad

Practice pads are designed to respond as much like a drum as possible and so provide a quiet means of playing sticking exercises and rudiments. Pads come in a variety of shapes and sizes – it’s worth trying out a few to see what suits you best. Don’t confuse practice pads for the “silencer pads” that people sometimes put on acoustic drums to reduce their volume. Some practice pads can be mounted on to a cymbal stand if you want a bit more flexibility with positioning.

Pots, pans and cardboard boxes

Get creative with your kitchen utensils and make yourself a drum kit! However, if you hit a pot or pan with a drum stick it will be very loud, so either tape the ends of some old drum sticks or tape a towel onto the pot. Cardboard boxes and other ‘junk’ can make great sounds too.

Go electronic

Another step on from the ideas above is to get yourself an electronic drum kit. A couple of advantages of electronic drum kits over acoustic drums include the fact that you can play in headphones and keep the noise to a minimum but they also generally take up less space. Combined with improvements in the quality of sounds getting better all the time and the reduction in cost, access to a drum kit is getting more and more accessible to more people whatever their household circumstances.

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