Five Note Philharmonic – Sarah Watts



I have so much to thank music for. Not just the obvious things like appreciating its power to relax me, change my mood and to conjure up life memories etc. Those things are important and powerful of course, and one should never underestimate the power of music, but for me, it was so much more.

I could probably say that music played a huge part in carving who I am. Because I was fortunate to have been encouraged by my parents and school to play an instrument…or two. Music gave me an identity, punctuated my week with exciting experiences, introduced me to friends, shaped my teenage social life, gave me a career, and even found me a husband.

This is probably why I feel so passionately about sharing this experience with others. I have written a lot of music, and I can honestly say that the aim behind most of it has been to make playing music enjoyable, accessible and inspiring. Some of the young people who have played my music may have only played three notes, but I wanted them to really enjoy playing them, and remember the experience.

Because of the “Wider opportunities” and “First Access” schemes many Hubs, music services and schools are now able to provide class instrumental lessons. This is wonderful, but the challenge has always been “How are we going to get these young instrumentalists to keep playing?”.

Often music comes to life when you play it with other people. Research has shown that those who join bands, orchestras ensembles and groups at a young age are more likely to continue playing their instrument. With this in mind, it’s really important that we as music educators offer these opportunities in the very early stages of learning.

My “Easy band book” and “Band in a book” have been very popular as a “grass roots” ensemble resources, but I wanted to do something better. It’s very difficult to write something for a beginner ensemble that is suitable for everyone. This is mainly because the instruments are often in different keys, and most teachers just don’t have time to arrange things specially.

I have recently written a new book called “Five note Philharmonic” where despite the “key issue”, each part only uses five notes. Where possible I have made sure that these are five of the easiest notes on the instrument. It’s wonderful offering an “Ensemble experience”, but it’s important to make sure that it’s a comfortable one that will build confidence rather than deflate it.

The book has ten short pieces in varying styles, all have a piano or CD accompaniment. I have also written an extra B flat part for a slightly more advanced player so that the melody line be played with a B flat or C instrument.

One of the strongest desires I have for anything I write, is for it to be useful as a resource for teachers. It is also very important to me that my music can provide the same “musical excitement” for somebody that gave me the inspiration to write it in the first place.

Sarah Watts

Why another recorder tutor?

Music Expo 2013 - Ready, Steady Recorder!

Music Education Expo 2013: KM’s Abbie Goldberg and Kevin Duncan with Martha Shrimpton

This week Sarah Watts talks a bit about her latest recorder tutor, Ready Steady Recorder, while we take a look at some of its offerings!

Red Hot Recorder has been immensely popular and much used- I hope it still will be, but eight years after its publication, I wanted to offer an alternative. Ready Steady Recorder is aimed at younger starters (ideally Year 2, but could be used for earlier years). It is colourful, has a larger font and moves a little slower– especially after G when many tutors speed up. The pieces (and the rhythm learning) are always reinforced by lyrics, and there is plenty of fun along the way with movement and humour. The book has the same ‘Feel good’ jazzy accompaniment, and the short pieces are repeated so they can be performed in a concert with singing, or just as recorder repertoire. There is a Grand Recorder March at the start of the book to inspire the student, and encourage them to move to the beat. An extravagant fanfare celebrates each new note learned, and everyone can ‘Take a bow’!

If that isn’t a good enough reason to purchase Ready Steady Recorder then here are 8 more!

It’s multi-purpose: from a song that will help children conquer any fear they might have of spiders, to a song that encourages exercise.

It comes with a good dose of magic: ‘Thoughts and dreams’, ‘Buttercups and butterflies’ and ‘Boating Lake Waltz’ are not only really magical, but have a really sophisticated sound that will make young players feel really grown up!

Includes lots of humour: It’s amazing how the note ‘A’ on a recorder fits the word ‘pong’ perfectly in the song ‘Smelly Cheese’.

I can’t imagine any young audience that wouldn’t want to dance to these songs as well…

…Equally I couldn’t imagine any adult/parent not wanting to give these tunes a go themselves. Especially those who played the recorder as a child. Trust me.

Even songs that use only one note manage to sound exciting!

It includes ‘Big band’ accompaniments: cue piano, xylophone, drums and cymbals adding extra ceremony and excitement to performance tracks to give star quality to young players !

My favourite ‘why not…?’ tip would have to be the one that suggests playing the recorder to your pet. I’m pleased to report that test subject ‘Buster’ (who’s been known to run from the hoover) was nonplussed (and I’m not nearly as capable a recorderist as those that will be using this super-duper book!)


With her impressively catchy songs and equally catchy titles- Sarah’s got recorder tutors down to a fine art. Ever upping the fun-factor, Sarah has created songs that children will be eager to learn and will want to play again and again. Here are pieces that somehow manage to stay simple whilst sounding advanced throughout. This book is also parent and teacher friendly- containing nothing that won’t be a joy to teach or to listen to!

Book Cover

Ready Steady Recorder is available from all good music shops. A full range of tutors by Sarah Watts is available from all good Music Shops or direct from Kevin Mayhew by phone (+44 (0)845 3881634) or website

Your KM Blogger is Sarah Sibley with fabulous support from Abbie Goldberg!

Music Education Expo 2013: Day One: An Overview

With my nose glued to an iPad for most of the day, I was nearly mown down by a (superb!) marching band but ushered swiftly out  of the way by a kind member of staff! Other notable moments included the tribalistic quality of what I assumed were clapping and rhythm exercises coming from the theatre but sounded more like Rhinegold’s inaugural rites! There was also a fab rendition of an Abba song from a young recorder group, not to mention MP Ed Vaizey’s talk and the savaging he received from a few disgruntled music teachers AND not forgetting the inspirational talk on Blogging for music teachers (Save time and money whilst raising the profile of your school!) by two queens of blogging Hanh Doan and Jackie Schneider…phew! Busy day!

Music Expo 2013 - Overview
Music Education Expo 2013

Hanh Doan and Jackie Schneider On Blogging

For the fact that one music teacher asked whether blogs were free to set up or not suggested that there were those in the audience without social media savvy and/or those too busy to look in to it– but enthusiastic about the prospect nonetheless! A glance at both Beaumont School and St Theresa’s School blog page shows YouTube clips, images of whiteboards with the day’s lesson notes on, reminders, announcements, homework and more! For inspiration on setting up your own blog visit:

You can also follow Jackie and Hanh on Twitter @jackieschneider and @myhanhdoan

Music Expo 2013
Percussion Play demonstrate to delighted spectators

Music Expo 2013 - Why Play the Recorder?
Sarah Watts with Kevin and Abbie from the KM team

Post By Sarah

Why play the recorder?

Ready, Steady Recorder! by Sarah Watts

Composer Sarah Watts has extended her repertoire of creative recorder tutors with her biggest tutor to date and to celebrate its Spring launch we thought we’d gather together some very good reasons to take up the recorder!

It’s arguably the most affordable instrument to take up (though some are available for upwards of a thousand pounds!). It’s good value for money too- lots of ‘bang for the buck’ as one music teacher put it.

Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen are just a few musicians who can play the recorder.

The descant recorder is a good stepping stone to playing other members of the recorder family (bass, tenor, treble (alto) and sopranino recorders) and it teaches skills that can be transferred to other wind instruments such as knowing how to cover holes and control your breathing.

It is small and light weight, which means it’s also easy to transport.

The recorder is an excellent starter instrument for all ages– very easy to make a sound on and a perfect instrument for teaching basic music theory.

The recorder’s simplistic design and readily available instruction books make it a perfect instrument for the masses.

In a school environment it is perhaps the only introduction to playing a musical instrument for a large group of children who would never otherwise get the opportunity.

The recorder is the instrument where most people start to foster their love of playing music.

It teaches coordination skills: When you play the recorder you’re breathing with your lungs, reading music with your eyes, playing notes and songs by moving your fingers all while sitting/standing up straight.

It improves social skills through group playing.

Lastly, it provides a source of joy, self-esteem and self-expression, to every single player…regardless of ability!

Posted by Sarah

Ready, Steady Recorder! is available for pre-order from the Kevin Mayhew website at:

For teachers- download a free sample pack here: