A fun piece with a catchy rhythm tossed back and forth between insturments. This piece include simple percussion rather than a drum set, and will get your audience tapping their feet or swaying their heads!
Suggested grades: 3-5
BA (Mus, Hons); ARCO; CertMusEd
The ACE Music Project, named after the primary school that my children attended - Ashford Church of England shcool - began with simple compositions suitable for beginners up to about grade 4 ABRSM. Later I began to add more advanced pieces suitable for secondary school and training orchestras of the Saturday morning music school type. Because of the wide range of ages and abilities that are typically found in these groups, it is very difficult to find suitable music. Either parts are too hard for the more junior players, or the more advanced players are given parts that are boring and too easy. So I compose for the people in front of me.

Of course, exporting these pieces to other groups is a challenge because you will have a different cohort. Nevertheless, I believe that these compositions are adaptable enough to be of use in a wide context. When children leave my groups and new ones join I re-arrange the parts to ensure that the pieces sound as good, no matter what combination of instruments I have in my band. This means that for some pieces I have different arrangements available.

The pieces are designed to be tuneful, playable, sometimes a little quirky, sometimes rhythmically challenging, and adaptable to as many situations as possible. Thanks to my knowledge of a wide range of insturments, (I play at least one instrument from every instrument family) I have written parts that avoid awkward fingerings and difficult notes as much as possible.

On this page you will find a growing selection of pieces of different levels. More will be added as I prepare them for distribution - and as I continue to compose for my groups. Currently I direct the Training Orchestra and the Chamber Group for the Richmond Music Trust; the orchestra is for children from about grades 2-6 and the Chamber Group grades 6-8.

You will find that in some of the pieces for beginner groups there are notes which are usually introduced at a higher grade than that suggested. In such cases the new notes are easily learnt (eg.
½ position Eb on the D string for violin at grade 1) and allow more interesting harmonies or melodies.

Many pieces are perfectly suitable for more advanced grades than those suggested. For example, I have given the Prelude, originally written for the primary school band, to my grade 2-6 orchestra where they have enjoyed making it sound really good, with clarity of articulation, acurate intonation and some vibrato in the strings. The pieces are listed approximately in order of difficulty, though, as stated earlier, many pieces contain parts for widely different levels - reflecting the real world of student instrumental groups.

The instrumentation shown in the sample page 1 scores here in most instances is the original one for the group of students that I had at the time. A note is made in the description where other arrangements are already availabe. Many can be easily adapted to suit other combinations, but if you require a more comprehensive re-working, please contact me and I will see what can be done. The audio files are computer playback - whilst they give you an idea, the articulation, balance, syncronisation and other aspects don't always work as well as I would like!

Whilst it is not up to me to evaluate my own work, I have been honoured by students, parents and fellow music teachers with their positive comments over the years. It is with this in mind that I offer these pieces, in the hope that more people can enjoy playing and teaching them.

As this is a large project to complete and I want to get it up and running, currently in order to purchase the compositions please contact me at my email address above. Prices range from £5 to £40, mostly depending on length. This is to download the score and parts, with permission to print as many parts as you require, but not to distribute to any other person or organisation. If you would prefer hard copies rather than downloading and printing your own, please ask for costs. Collections are also available, in hard copy only, at a cheaper rate than buying each piece seperately. In due course I will enable online purchase as with my drum transcriptions. Thanks for your patience!
Format and rationale
These compositions are generally based around a string section, plus any available wind. The string section doesn't necessarily have to be complete - for example, the second violin and viola parts are often the same or similar, especially in the shorter pieces.

A keyboard part is usually included so that missing instruments can be filled in and, perhaps in the early stages of learning, the group can be helped by a competent pianist keeping the rhythm tight. I have found that this is very often better than conducting in the early stages. However, for a concert I would like to suggest two things:
1. instead of using the piano - which, to be honest, doesn't blend in with an orchestra - an electronic keyboard with a string sound is recommended, and
2. if only one part is missing, rather than playing the whole keyboard part, this should be played as a single line with a suitable sound on an electronic keyboard.

The wind parts are mostly for woodwind. This is simply because the training orchestras and groups that I have directed have not generally included brass - there being brass bands taught separately. Having said that, many pieces do have brass parts as optional extras or in some cases more significant roles. This applies in particular to the easier pieces which were written for the primary school band, which had some brass players.

In the case of transposing instruments, unless the piece is for strings only, the Bb clarinet is always included. Saxophone parts in Bb and Eb are also provided in a few pieces, but since the tenor sax plays an octave lower and has a very different sound from the clarinet, it is not recommended that clarinet parts be taken by the tenor sax. When brass is used, F, Bb and Eb brass parts are provided.

Much of the music generally available which is intended for mixed music groups or incomplete orchestras has interchangeable concert and Bb parts and generic treble and bass clef parts. However, because I have always regarded the orchestration as fundamentally important to the music all my pieces have parts specifically written for specific instruments. So, for example, a Bb clarinet part will not be the same as a Bb brass part, and cello and basoon parts, though often similar, will have there own characteristics and ranges, and, for example, the bassoon part will more often play along with the other woodwind instruments rather than act as an aditional bass part. This also means that notes or patterns of notes which are difficult for beginner or intermediate players can be avoided, and that the natural range and timbre of each instrument can be utilised. I do realise, however, that bassoons and other 'rare' instruments are likely to only be available to the lucky few, so any important passages for such parts are always cued in other suitable parts.
A short piece with a simple striding tune and a rhythmic accompaniment.
Grades: pre grade 1-2        Duration: 47 secs
The Professor Goes to Town
A short piece in Rondo form (ABACA) with a quirky title!
The rhythmic A sections are contrasted by more lyrical B and C sections.
Grades 1-3        Duration: 1:14
Old Scaley (and his mate, Arpey)
A piece based on scales and arpeggios in G and related keys.
Grades 1-2        Duration: 1:04
A very short, ridiculous, slapstick piece guaranteed to make everybody laugh. The happless burglars just can't help making a noise and end up breaking some glass and scarpering! Originally for 2 saxophones, violin, cello, double bass and piano, but easily adaptable. Needs a pianist good at chromatic scales, though!
Grade 1-2.        Duration: 52 secs
Getting to School
The hurried tempo of this piece evokes a typical rush to get to school on time - familiar to most parents! This piece requires a piano accompaniment of about grade 5 - with a good RH wrist action for the repeated quaver chords!
Other parts range from grades 1-3.        Duration: 1:14
This is a stately piece with an expansive tune in the middle section.
Grades 2-3, with scope for a slightly more advanced 1st violinist.        Duration: 1:24
Essentialy a minuet with a ground bass, with a middle section in the tonic minor. The key to effective performance of this piece is in the Baroque-style articulation.
Grades 3-4 with optional easier parts for grades 1-2.        Duration: 1:39
Rock On
The first piece that I wrote to include a drum set. Combining rock style rhythms and chord progressions with classical tunes, this piece has a very wide appeal.
Suggested grades: 4-5
Jus' Chillin'
A fun calypso style piece but with a few twists! The upper strings enter in canon whilst the lower strings, drums and harp keep the beat. Then the woodwind enter and a variety of rhythms keep everybody on their toes!
Suggested grades: 3-4        Duration: 2:14
A fun piece with a catchy rhythm tossed back and forth between insturments. This piece includes simple percussion rather than a drum set, and will get your audience tapping their feet or swaying their heads!
Suggested grades: 3-5        Duration: 2:11
A stately piece with an sustained tune tune accompanied by a gentle repeated rhythmic ostinato. Whilst this piece is technically no more than grade 3, more advanced players will find it easier to achieve a better sound with the sustained tune and the forte opening and conclusion.
Suggested grades: 4-5        Duration: 2:10
Rock On
The first piece that I wrote to include a drum set. Combining rock style rhythms and chord progressions with classical tunes, this piece has a very wide appeal.
Suggested grades: 4-5        Duration: 4:29
East to West
One of my own favourites. The harmony and melodies evoke the wild west, perhaps in the style of Copland or Ives, but also Chinese or Japanese cultures, with parallel fiths and some pentatonic melodies. The middle section really gets going with some challenging syncopated rhythms and a driving rock drum groove before coming to a sudden halt, after which the calmer opening themes return.
Suggested grades: 4-7        Duration: 5:16
Calm / Not Calm
These two pieces were designed to be played as a pair, though each can also stand on its own. The story behind the title of Not Calm is that my wife knew I was writing a piece called Calm, but she passed by the computer as I was working on a contrasting piece and she said "That's not calm!" - and so it stuck!
will need good bow control in the strings and there is a short solo/duet opportunity in both woodwind and strings.
Not Calm
will benefit from a good drum set player, and contains accented rhthms, syncopation and stab chords. Definitely not calm!
Suggested grades: 4-7        Durations: Calm - 3:00, Not Calm - 1:53 @140bpm
 Calm - Score page 1
Overture 2-1-5
This piece starts in a sombre, brooding mood in D minor, perhaps reminiscent of Brahms. The quiet opening crescendos to a menacing fortissmo and staccatissimo figure; meanwhile the lower strings continue to hold a D pedal note. Then at last at bar 50 the D gives way to a G - a moment to relieve the tension that must be emphasised. As the stormy mood dies away, a lighter one takes over, and the overture finishes with the opening theme once again but in C major - the sun shines at last!
This piece includes an easy part for timpani.
Suggested grades: 4-7        Duration:
Winter Landscape
A chilling piece with some dissonance as the cold and desolate landscape unfolds. It requires careful counting and control of dynamics by the woodwind section and good intonation in the strings. Permiated by an insistent ostinato that runs throughout against a slow-moving 2-part imitative tune, this atmospheric piece is rewarding but needs to be played well for maximum effect.
Suggested grades: 4-7
This piece was written in homage to Edward Elgar. I wrote it after conducting his Serenade for Strings. I first introduced it to my primary school 'orchestra', which at the time consisted of a few string players of about grades 2-6. There are Violin 3 and Cello 2 parts which are easier to allow less advanced players to be included and the viola part can be played by violins. There is a short section in E major which can be omitted if necessary. There is also a version which includes woodwind instruments.
Suggested grades 4-8
BA (Mus, Hons); ARCO; CertMusEd