was successfully added to your cart.
All Posts By

Morningside School of Music

We care about the environment


At Morningside School of Music, we have always taken great pride in the fact that we try our best to care for the planet. From our beginnings as a company, one of our first tenets was to consider the environment when operating in our day to day work. We didn’t mind if it was going to cost us more, we believed that if we were ethical from day one, then we could only do good for the planet and all its future inhabitants.

Here are some of the areas in which we try our very best to make a difference.

  1. We decided very early on not to renew our branded company cars, instead opting for bicycles and public transport when needed.
  2. We minimise the use of all materials as much as possible, especially plastic.
  3. We reuse everything that we can including cardboard boxes, paper and envelopes.
  4. We only purchase recycled printer and copier paper.
  5. We don’t purchase recycled toilet rolls, as due to the chemical process, they are worse for the environment.
  6. Our toilet rolls are purchased in bulk to avoid unnecessary repeat deliveries and packaging.
  7. Any materials that we can’t reuse, we recycle where possible through our appointed recycling contractor.
  8. All lighting inside and outside Morningside School of Music are LED.
  9. During daylight hours, we try our best to use natural daylight in reception, rather than switch lights on.
  10. Motion detectors are installed inside the music school to minimise power consumption of our internal lighting.
  11. Our outside lighting has sensors that only switch lighting on when it is dark enough, minimising power consumption.
  12. Unlike a lot of businesses and households, we switch off all electricity at night time (except our alarm system and CCTV).
  13. Our computers are set to go to sleep when not in use.
  14. Our computer monitors are set to go to sleep when not in use.
  15. Our printers are energy star qualified and also go to sleep when not in use.
  16. We only use remanufactured ink cartridges.
  17. We send our used ink cartridges to a charity to raise money and be reused.
  18. Our digital pianos are switched off when not in use, and they are set to switch off automatically if the teachers forget.
  19. Our toilets have been fitted with water reduction devices.
  20. We have a very small hot water boiler which heats water only when the hot water tap is turned on and not continuously.
  21. We do not purchase products which are tested on animals. We are very strongly against animal cruelty and abuse.
  22. We never switch our heating on until it’s cold enough. Usually, the heating stays off entirely from April till November.
  23. We open windows during summer and try to avoid using air conditioners or fans if we can.
  24. Our hand dryers are Dyson Airblades which produce up to 83% less CO2 than other hand dryers.
  25. We monitor environmental advice from independent charities such as Greenpeace to learn of new ways to better the planet.

We do not claim to have everything perfect yet, but we are continually looking for new ways to cut out anything which can cause a negative effect on the environment. We take this approach very seriously.



We are a very proud member of Greenpeace and the work they do in protecting the planet.

How to Improve Your Practising

If you have been following our blog posts, you will know that the number one thing that will make a difference in your music education, whether you are 4 or 104, is practise.  We often get asked how someone can improve, or how to take your playing to the next level, and practise is always our answer.

The vast majority of our students have trouble practising- either because they find it boring or struggle to fit it into their busy days.  Here are some tips and tricks of how to fit practising into your (or your child’s) life…

Work it into your routine. Are you a morning person? Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier each day and use that time to play. If you’re more of a night owl, make it part of your evening routine, like brushing your teeth. We have some students who practice during their lunch breaks, or as a reward for finishing their homework.

Make it fun. Play games to work on your chords, or wait until the end of the practice session to play your favourite song. There are many websites and blog posts dedicated to making practicing more enjoyable, so a quick google is always worthwhile. You could also ask your teacher next time you’re in how they make it fun for themselves.

Reward yourself. Find some way to keep track of how often you practice (make a chart, put pennies in a jar, etc.) and when you reach different milestones reward yourself! You could get a new capo, or buy some fun new sheet music, or get a new shirt for your next open mic night.

Variety is the spice of life. Switch up what order you do your practising, which songs you play, and what rewards you give yourself. Changing little things during the practise sessions keeps it fresh and fun.

Book a gig. The thought of a live audience often helps with motivation. Our live music nights are great opportunities to show off your skills, and improve your practising in the weeks before!  Alternatively, find an open mic night and commit to a date you will be ready to play by.

Have You Heard…Canadian Edition

Our new series ‘Have you Heard…’ will showcase new or lesser known artists.  If you have any suggestions for artists to feature please feel free to comment or send us an email!  For the first edition of the series, our Creative Manager, Laura, will highlight some Canadian artists.  Being a Canadian herself, she is uniquely equipped for this job…

I’m sure you’ve all heard of lots of wonderful Canadian artists- Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Tragically Hip, The Band, Leonard Cohen…you might not have even known a lot of these people are Canadian.  I thought I would dig a little deeper into the Canadian music scene to highlight some artists you may or may not have heard of, but that I think deserve more attention on this side of the pond.

The Sheepdogs
Fun fact: after winning Rolling Stone’s ‘Choose The Cover’ competition in 2011, they became the first unsigned band to appear on the cover of the magazine.  This folk-rock band from Saskatchewan is worth a listen.

Great Lake Swimmers
They just released a fantastic new album, A Forest of Arms.  This song is off their 2007 album, Ongiara.

Hannah Georgas
A Vancouver-based artist who has been getting a lot of buzz recently.

Arcade Fire
A band with an impressive array of instruments that they take on tour (viola, accordion, glockenspiel, hurdy-gurdy, to name but a few).  I am confident that many of you know already listen to Arcade Fire- but if you don’t, you should!

City and Colour
This is the alias for Dallas Green, the guitarist of Alexisonfire (another great Canadian band).  Each of his albums go in a different musical direction, and he recently did a collaborative album with Pink called You + Me.  City and Colour is my favourite, so here are two songs.

The Strombo Show
This is not a band, but if you are interested in music, especially Canadian music, it is definitely a show you should be listening to.  It is available online here.

Recording Music At Home

Music technology has changed dramatically in the past 15 years. The days of having to go into the studio to record your demo have been replaced with a plethora of DAW’s (digital audio workstation). Home computers now have the strength to carry out significant musical tasks, such as recording multiple audio tracks at the same time. This has led to DAW’s being a key part of any budding musician’s tool kit. Below are the top three DAW’s currently on the market:

Cubase Pro 8 (£400)

  • From it’s humble beginnings on the Atari ST back in 1989, Cubase has come a long way in what it can offer
  • The layout is user friendly and it is easy to find your way about
  • Cubase is very useful if you are interested in working with MIDI (recording MIDI piano for example)
  • The wide range of new plug-ins are useful for composition and making each track sound clean and professional
  • Suitable for Mac and PC
  • Perfect for the musician looking to get started in recording

Pro Tools 12 (£600)

  • Pro Tools also started out back in 1989 as a software editor for a synth
  • The audio capabilities of Pro Tools are simply jaw dropping
  • Pro Tools is used in most of the major recording studios around the world
  • Fairly complicated to get to grips with, online courses are available for official qualifications
  • Not really suitable for beginners due to the complicated layout
  • Requires hardware such as the Fast Track Due audio interface which can be purchased with the software
  • Pro Tools is aimed more are producers rather than musicians

Reason 8 (£269)

  • Reason started out in 2000
  • There is a massive range of plugins & samples to individualise the software
  • Very easy to use
  • Suitable for musicians rather that producers
  • Lots of free online tutorials on their website
  • This is our favourite as it covers just about everything you could ever need, plus it is the most cost effective!

For more information on any of the above, please click the links on the name of each piece of software.

Edinburgh Music Summer School


We are pleased to announce we will be offering music camps at the School this summer!  Practice your instrument, form a band, write some hit songs, rehearse, record a demo, and perform a gig!  Spaces are very limited, so call to book your place now!


Course 1: Monday the 29th June to Friday the 3rd July 2015

Course 2: Monday the 6th July to the Friday the 10th July 2015

Course 3: Monday the 13th July to Friday the 17th July 2015

Course 4: Monday the 3rd August to Friday the 7th August 2015

Age: 7- 16
Time: 10:00- 15:00
Price: £175, including a packed lunch
Location: Morningside School of Music, 138 Comiston Road, Edinburgh

For more information, or to book a place, please call us at 0131 447 1117.

SummerSchool2013A.compressed-page-002These fun, fantastic courses are suitable for any young adult who has an interest in learning guitar, playing piano, working on drums, having singing tuition, mastering the bass or being a composer. The courses will be run by very experienced music professionals who are PVG registered, have NSPCC Child Protection training and British Red Cross First Aid training. The tutors include Professor Paul Boyd, who has worked alongside some of the biggest names in the music industry. Paul has also lectured in universities across the country and worked in primary and high school music education for over 17 years.

The Future of Online Music Streaming

The big news in the music industry this week is the announcement of Apple’s new streaming service, Music.  Launching at the end of this month, it will be Apple’s contribution to the already saturated online streaming market, competing with the likes of Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, Songza, and Amazon Prime Music.

There has been a lot of chat this week about what Apple’s new venture will mean for the future of music streaming.  The existing Apple customer base with a registered credit card will be able to join with one click- which will certainly boost the numbers of people streaming music in general.  It may also lower the current costs.  Apple Music will cost £6.50/month, as opposed to Spotify and Tidal, who currently both charge £9.99 for their basic packages (aside from Spotify’s free ad-supported streaming).

While lower costs are certainly always desirable for the consumer, it might not be the best option in regards to music streaming.  There is a growing demand in the industry for a higher profit margin per stream for the artists, but as the costs go down, the royalties are likely to follow.  The most famous example of opposition to the low royalties associated with streaming is when Taylor Swift pulled all of her music from Spotify at the end of last year.  Tidal, Jay Z’s latest business venture, was launched in an attempt to give artists an exclusive platform to launch their music, where they also receive more royalties.  The main criticism with this approach is that many artists today have little control over how their music is released, so Tidal’s premise is a bit of an empty promise.  More than a month after it’s release, it is also not getting much traffic, perfectly illustrated by Spotify’s CEO recently saying, ‘I would say that I have 99 problems but Jay Z is not one of them!’

Only time will tell which of the streaming services will come out on top.  Regardless, with online streaming becoming the norm for how we listen to music, the major concern for the industry now is figuring out how to adequately compensate all of the people behind the music, while still making it cost effective for the consumer.

Fighting Stage Fright

The biggest thing that stands in the way of the vast majority of musicians is stage fright.  The day of your show the butterflies start dancing in your stomach…then your appetite disappears…you begin to feel nauseous…and by the time you get onstage you are sweating profusely.

The first thing to realize is that everyone gets stage fright at some point.  I guarantee that every single one of your musical heroes have felt terrified before getting on stage.  The following are some proven tips and tricks to help you tame the butterflies.

Take deep breaths/warm up: Warming up is a great way to get rid of some of that nervous energy.  Do some shoulder and neck rolls, stretch your arms, go run around the building a few times- whatever you need to do.

Avoid caffeine: Unless you absolutely need a cup of coffee to function in the morning, try to avoid caffeine the day of a performance.  It will just make you more jittery and anxious!

Practise, practise, practise: If you can play the song in your sleep, you’ll feel less afraid that you might mess up.  Here are some tips to improve your practising.

Pretend to be excited: Give yourself a pep talk and try to act confident and excited- studies have shown it actually does make a difference.

Remember that it is okay to make mistakes: And if you act like it didn’t happen, the audience probably won’t even notice!

Realise why you are nervous: You are nervous because you want people to enjoy your performance and you want to do a good job.  It is actually good news that you’re nervous- you should care about how your performance goes!

Keep performing: It really does get easier every time.

Playing Open Mic Nights

If you have been following along, you’ll know that in our last few blog posts we have taught the basics of songwriting, how to improve your practising, and given some tips on overcoming stage fright.  That means you’re ready for your first open mic night!  We recommend open mics to any of our older students who are thinking about becoming professional musicians.  It is the perfect venue to become comfortable as a performer, try out some new songs, and hopefully get some great feedback.

Preparing beforehand:

Think about your song choice:  Open mics are a great place to try out new material, but if you are feeling really nervous it is nice to have a song that you know really well.  Often at open mics, you will get the opportunity to play two or three songs, so it is a good idea to think about how your songs compare to one another.  We recommend a mix of your own music and covers.  Try to play some unusual covers, or popular songs in a different way- it will be much more memorable than another version of ‘Wonderwall’.

Decide if you will bring friends or not:  You will be guaranteed an enthusiastic audience, but some people get a lot more nervous performing for people they know.  Figure out which type you are and plan accordingly.

Practise…practise some more…and when you think you are ready, practice again.

Arriving at the venue:

Sign up: Introduce yourself to the host and sign up for a slot.  It is a good idea to get there early, so you are guaranteed a good spot.

Get ready: Find somewhere to tune and warm-up before you go onstage.

On stage:

Take a moment to get situated once you get onstage: Don’t be afraid to take 15 seconds and check your tuning (quickly) and the mic, and take a deep breath before you begin.

Say hello: The audience wants to know who you are, so introduce yourself and tell them what you are going to play.  But keep it short and sweet- ultimately they are there to see you play, not chat.

DO NOT make excuses: The audience will then be looking for mistakes, rather than enjoying your performance.

If you make a mistake try to keep going: The audience will be a lot less likely to notice if you blow past a mistake, rather than stopping the song outright.  Broken string, dropped plectrum, messed up words…the show must go on.


Watch the other performances:  It is polite, and you will likely learn a lot from them.

Thank the host, the sound guy, the bar staff: Everyone remembers, and next time is willing to help out, a thoughtful person!

Make friends: Open mic nights are excellent places to make some like-minded friends, and therefore make the next night a lot more relaxed and enjoyable.

If you make a mistake: Remember that open mics are there to make you a better performer- learn from your mistake, then move onto the next performance!

There are many benefits to performing at open mic nights.  Keep it professional, have fun, and let us know how it goes!

Top Tips for Buying a Musical Instrument

Nobody wants to waste money on a guitar or saxophone if two weeks later it’s going to get shoved away in the loft (particularly relevant for parents looking to buy an instrument for sons or daughters). So, here is some practical advice which, if you follow, should see you make an informed decision about how much to spend, and a few helpful tips on where might be the best places to search.

  1. You don’t have to go crazy and re-mortgage the house, however, buying from a cheaper-end but still reputable brand can save you having to go out and buy another instrument a few months later when you find the first purchase just doesn’t perform to your satisfaction. If you are buying for a young musician, and they get in to the swing of practice, spending a little more may save another trip to the shop when they really take to their chosen instrument.
  2. Try and stay clear of buying musical instruments from pawn brokers or from the listings at the back of newspapers. Compare the price with a comparable instrument in a musical instrument shop and in many cases you could buy a brand new instrument cheaper. It is not the first time a client has come to Morningside Music School with a £150 second hand instrument bought from a well know, modern-day, High Street pawnbroker. They could have shopped online or taken advice at a local music shop and picked a superior instrument for under £100.
  3. Occasionally and especially near Christmas, supermarkets sell musical instruments. They are cheap, look great and most people think they would make great presents for a loved one starting up in music. More often than not, a quick check of the ‘feel’ and ‘quality’ will remind you of cheap toys. Here at Morningside School of Music, we haven’t seen a playable instrument from a supermarket yet.
  4. Don’t buy the first thing you come across, shop around, a better deal is never far away. Different retailers have different deals with the manufacturer or the distributor, so just because they are cheap with lots of items, doesn’t mean you won’t find cheaper elsewhere on the item you want. However, the old adage that states ‘You get what you pay for’ is often true with instruments: if you see one for sale that seems overly cheap, there is probably a reason why.
  5. It’s a fact! Online prices are cheaper than shop prices. Online warehouses don’t have the same overheads that the shops do, but beware, can you take it back if something goes wrong? We usually recommend you buy from a trusted source. Contact us to hear about the tried and tested (and now very trusted) stores we buy from. They won’t let you down on price or service.
  6. Just because someone you know says that an instrument is good, doesn’t mean that it’s suitable for you. This can be particularly relevant for guitars, it can much depend on the size of the guitar, the width of the neck, even the space between strings and the fretboard (known as the ‘action’) can feel better for one person than another. It’s your instrument and you’ll be playing with it for a long time (hopefully) so choose one you feel most comfortable with.
  7. If you’re buying for someone as a present, especially with guitars, it might be worth taking them with you to try out a few first – yes it might spoil the surprise, but unless you already know exactly what they want, it will save some nasty disappointments later on!

We are always happy to advise our customers on the best places to buy the right instrument for you, feel free to call us at Morningside School of Music on (0131) 447 1117.

If you are looking for an instrument or some equipment, why not speak to us first? We might be able to save you a lot of money and get you the instrument that is right for you.

Top Ten Guitar Tips

  1. I cannot emphasise this one enough. If you only choose one of these tips to follow and ignore the rest, make sure it’s this one you choose – ‘Practice, practice, practice!
  2. Get into the habit of tuning your guitar BEFORE you do anything each and every time you pick your guitar up’.  Nothing makes a guitarist sound worse than an out of tune guitar (and yes, even if it’s only slightly out, people will notice!)
  3. Don’t try running before you can walk’.  By this I mean get the guitar playing technique correct first before you try to play too quickly.  If it’s a fast piece you are learning, play it slowly and build up speed as you learn and practise it until you are playing it quickly and accurately.  Practise up AND downstrokes with your plectrum.  This may seem awkward at first, but is essential later for playing quickly.  For guitarists, the temptation is often to play faster than they are capable, which leads to ‘sloppy’ execution.  Each note should sound crisp and clear.  When the top guitarists play at blistering speed, each note is still played clearly and if you were to slow down the recording it would show that.  The same cannot be said for most amateurs!  Which leads me on to …
  4. Record yourself playing’ by whatever means possible.  Whether it be on a mobile phone, 4 track, tape recorder, computer software etc.  When you record yourself and listen back, you will hear exactly how your playing sounds to the listener and you will often realise it’s not as great as it sounded when you were actually playing it.  This also refers back to point 3 as playing too quickly leads to ‘fluffed’ notes and on a recording these will be highlighted.
  5. Learn to improvise’ by playing guitar along to your favourite tracks.  Try to deviate from whatever is on the recording and be confident to try new things.  You will be amazed at how many new things you will come up with and how much quicker your guitar playing will develop.  It’s also great fun!!!
  6. Have a jam!’.  Musicians enjoy nothing more than hooking up with other musos to generally make a noise!  It’s also a great time to develop your creative side.  Take turns playing backing/rythm whilst the other person takes the lead and vice versa.
  7. Replace your strings when they can no longer be wiped clean’.  It’s amazing how much a new set of strings can bring a new lease of life to a guitars sound. Always take care of your instrument and clean your hands before picking it up to play.
  8. Experiment with guitar effects and be creative’.  The top guitarists keep their sound interesting by using effects to enhance their sound.  It’s amazing how different a piece can sound simply by changing the effects being used.  Hendrix was a pioneer and always tinkering with sounds in the studio such as fuzz, Wah and distortion, he even played live with a plectrum between his teeth to pluck the strings.  The Edge of U2 has a trademark sound using a lot of ‘delay’ effects and Jimmy Page of Led Zep even played the guitar with a violin bow!!!
  9. Try and learn your guitar scales‘ to avoid repetition.  Advanced guitarist can look at modes, but don’t fall into the trap of getting bogged down.  Pick a mode that you really like and master it.  When improvising, you can then drop in and out of different scales and keep your playing interesting to the listener.
  10. Invest in private or group tuition’.  A professional teacher can enhance your playing by devising a learning schedule that will develop your ability quickly whilst keeping things fun.  They are a catalyst for you to become the rock god that you can be! Guitar lessons really do help a lot!Ok, I know it’s a top ten, but I’m repeating one for 11. as it’s important…

Chris Donnelly BA (Hons), is a guitar expert at Morningside School of Music and has vast intensive playing experience stretching over 20 years.