Music at School




The only way I know how to feel something is to make a mix about it.

One of my favourite things to do as a teenager was to make a mixtape. Self indulgent? Yes. Time consuming? Always. Satisfying? Beyond words. I had mixtapes for everything (and everyone .. including my dog “Shoona”). Now, before I continue, a word of warning: mixtapes are mixtapes. Not ‘mix CD’, ‘playlist’ or even ‘mix tape’. Please. They are WAY more refined. Mixtapes are not a random mix of favourite songs, they live on magnetic tape and are painstakingly created according to nine strict rules:

1) Mixtapes are for others. Actually, they are specifically for one person. One mixtape per person. No duplicates. A mixtape is a very personal thing; you can’t just create a Spotify playlist and share it on your favourite social media site. You must know the person’s musical taste before you begin their mixtape.

2) Mixtapes are musically intelligent. A mixtape is not something you can throw together and hope that it works. A mixtape full of top 40 hits just isn’t a mixtape. If you add One Direction or Beyoncé you have failed. Mixtapes show how musically educated you are. They give the impression you listen to lots and lots of music, frequently visit gigs that are at venues other than O2 or Wembley, and spend your Saturday mornings at the local independent record shop. Use covers, live versions, acoustic versions, orchestral backing etc etc. Anything that makes you seem in the know.

3) Mixtapes have a theme. I don’t mean that all the songs should be Disney songs (necessarily). What I mean is that there should be some kind of musical or thematic glue that subtly holds all of the songs together. Here’s some examples: Songs that have the word “girl” in the title, songs that use hyperbole, songs about summertime, Disney songs by Indie artists, songs containing saxophones, songs about two or more things

4) Mixtapes have an order. Mixtapes tell a story leading the listener from one song to the next in dramatic fashion. One of my favourite films, “High Fidelity” staring John Cusack, traces a record shope owner and the 5 mixtapes he creates over the course of the film. The main character, “Rob Gordon”, at one point says

“The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, ….  then you got to cool it off a notch.”

6) Mixtapes are only as long as they need to be. The worst thing is to make a boring, 16 track mixtape. Don’t overstay your welcome. Don’t feel like you need to fill the tape. The optimum length is 7 songs – 7 songs that complement each other are far better than 20 songs that don’t.

7) Mixtapes NEVER have repeating artists. This is huge. Never, ever, ever have the same artist on the same mixtape. The only reason you can repeat an artist is if your theme requires you to i.e. your theme is “Pairs” – you can then have two tracks featuring the same artist.

8) Mixtapes are mixtapes. Having a good variety of tracks is a really key to success. One depressing track followed by another and another and another is a fail. Mix it up.

9) Mixtapes have a Identity. Give your mixtape a name. My top tips are that you use the person’s name, the theme and add Vol 1 at the end (but really you can be as creative as you like). For example, using the themes from point 3 above:

  • “Patootie Vol 1” (Songs the word “girl” in the title. A patootie is a pretty girl).
  • “Stopping traffic” (songs with hyperbole).
  • “Out Late with John Vol 1” (songs about summertime)
  • “Independently magical Millie Vol 1” (Disney songs by Indie artists)
  • “Bird Songs Vol. 1” (songs containing saxophones) – named after Charlie “Bird” Parker one of the greatest saxophonists of all time.
  • “dRum” – songs about drums or alcohol

So, post your mixtapes in the comments below. Here’s is one to give you some inspiration:

To: My future girlfriend (I hope!)

Theme: Use of hyperbole and love

Title: “Stopping Traffic Vol. 1”


  1. Best Day Of My Life – (Beach Avenue acoustic cover) by American Authors
  2. To The Moon & Back (Extended version) by Savage Garden
  3. I’d Die Without You (Childish Gambino version in the 1Xtra Live Lounge) by PM Dawn
  4. Fast Car (Boyce Avenue feat. Kina Grannis acoustic cover) by Tracy Chapman
  5. Every Breath You Take (Aaron Krause feat. Liza Anne) by The Police
  6. Daughters (Rendition) by SoMo by John Mayer
  7. She Moves in Her Own Way – The Kooks

Here is the mixtape on You Tube:

The music of Star Wars

I’m not a huge Star Wars fan. I like it- a lot – but I’m not a Jedi or anything. That said, I’m looking forward to the new film and in readiness for it I’ve started watching the films from the beginning. I was amazed by how much of the story I’d missed (really … it’s quite embarrassing). Anyway, the main thing I’d missed was that the music for each film continues for the whole film. There is no let up at all.

Continuing from my last post about Star Wars I thought I’d bring a little music quick from the people at Sinfini Music.

What do you know about the music of Star Wars? Here’s a quiz: (don’t forget to post your result in the comments)

Here’s a PDF file with all of the GCSE Music Set Works summarised by musical element. This is a really useful document that will help with revision (particularly the extended writing question).

Bowie takes a bow

One of the great performers of the 20th Century has decided to hang up the lycra, put away the face paint and allow the curtain to finally fall on his musical career. David Bowie, a pop icon, will never tour again. At least, that is what his agent (presumably now his former agent) has said. It’s been over 10 years since the pioneering pop star last took to the stage. Now aged 68 he has decided that enough is enough.

No one in the history of British Rock Music has had so much success for such a long time. All of his contemporaries – where are they now? He has released 26 studio albums, 9 live albums, 46 compilation albums, 5 EPs, 110 singles and had 5 UK number ones. He has also released 13 video albums and 49 music videos. I pity the fool who can remember how many times Bowies has reinvented himself – from the alta ego “Ziggy Stardust” to splendid minimalist style of “Always Crashing in the Same Car”.

One of his most recent singles to be released was in 2013 and was, perhaps, a song about himself – an older person reminiscing about time spent and time wasted. His most recent, released in 2014, only managed to reach 18 in the UK Charts so maybe it is time for Bowie, under pressure, to take a seat.

Maybe that’s a sign of modern love but I don’t think anyone is going to be dancing in the street. Bowie is still one of the music industry’s greatest heroes.

COMPETITION – how many Bowie songs are hidden in this post?

Be smarter play music!

Regularly playing a musical instrument helps to boost intelligence. That’s what some clever researchers over at the University of Zurich in Switzerland have decided. They say that regular playing an instrument changes the shape and power of the brain!

It can even increase IQ by seven points in both children and adults

Experts said there is growing evidence that the brains of musicians are structurally and functionally different from non-musicians – in particular, the areas of the brain that help coordination, hearing, storing audio information and memory.

“We found that even in people over the age of 65 after four or five months of playing a instrument for an hour a week there were strong changes in the brain.

Researchers said: “For children especially we found that learning to play the piano for instance teaches them to be more self-disciplined, more attentive and better at planning. All of these things are very important for academic performance, so can therefore make a child brighter.”

Mr Jäncke also said that music can also make it easier to learn foreign languages and become more perceptive in interpreting the emotions of others.

The research is published in the online publication Faculty of 1000 Biology Reports and you can read more here:

What do you think?

Happy Birthday John!

Today would have been John Lennon’s 75th birthday had he lived long enough.

John Lennon was an English musician who gained worldwide fame as one of the members of the Beatles, for his subsequent solo career, and for his political activism and pacifism. He was shot by Mark David Chapman in the archway of the building where he lived, The Dakota, in New York City on Monday, 8 December 1980. Lennon had just returned from Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono.


How many John Lennon songs can you recognise from just one line?

New Audio & Video

I finally did it! The audio and video feed is now available on the right hand side (under Audio & video). Just click on each link.

Alternatively (and I think that this is the best way) you can subscribe to the podcast in itunes. Once in iTunes go to “Advanced” -> “Subscribe to Podcast” and then enter this address into the box:

I hope it helps!

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