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  • Ariane Todes

Words and meaning


In my previous article I described why and how this strange time might be a chance for musicians to start writing. This isn’t just an exercise or therapy but might also be useful, so here are a few practical suggestions for what you could write:


1) Your biography for your website. This can be longer and more personal than your professional one used in programmes (which I describe here).


2) Articles about music: think ahead to future projects – this will be over eventually, and you’ll have concerts, projects and CDs to promote. Write about them. What have you discovered about the repertoire and the composer? What has inspired you? Pass your passion and knowledge on to audiences.

The same article can often be used across your website, your CD booklet, the venue’s marketing and programme notes. (NB I’m not suggesting your write musicological programme notes here – better to leave that to my music writer colleagues – but your personal take.)


3) If you’re a teacher, this is a good time to summarise your teaching philosophies, and who inspired them, on your website or social media.


4) Opinion pieces – is there anything about the music world that really winds you up, or that you think you could change if you were in charge? Write about it – start a conversation. If you write it well and get a good angle, one of the music magazines might even take it for print or online – they are hungry for good content (although they usually don’t want to pay for it).


5) If you work with other musicians or are about to, you could have a conversation with them about your project and edit it up into a nice two-way interview.


6) Who are the people who have made a difference to your musical life – your earliest teacher, your conservatoire professor, a musical hero who you played to or a mentor? We all know that the role of music education has been diminished and made precarious, and we can all make the case for it by whatever means we can, as well as appreciating the very people who gave us the possibility in the first place.

Write about them. But do it in very specific, thought-out and meaningful detail – don’t just skim the surface. Zoom in close to explain their strengths and philosophies, and tell anecdotes that illustrate precisely what you mean. Then draw back to give an overview and explain their impact. Make reader feel something about them.


7) How has music changed your life or what is one key thing that you taken from music into your whole life? This relates to my previous point. As musicians, we know the value of classical music and learning an instrument, not just in the concert hall but in our everyday lives, but not everyone does, so try to put that into words. Describe specific moments, realisations, actions, reactions, explanations, discoveries, painful moments, revelations. Don’t gush, exaggerate or over-emote; think, remember, pinpoint and describe. Then edit, edit, edit.



A proposal

If you’ve got this far, thank you and well done! As an appreciation, and as a way of trying to send some positive non-playing musical thoughts into the world, I hereby offer you to send me writing on the subjects of 6) or 7) and I will consider publishing them on Elbow Music*.


Here are the guidelines:

· Word count of 800 words maximum

· Topic as described in 6) and 7)

· Follow the style guidelines given above and here. I’ll be able to tell very quickly if you haven’t!

· Think of it being published, so take time and do it as well as you can – I don’t even want to see any responses within the next couple of days. Don’t send something you’ve already written.

· Make sure the basics are right: put it through the spell check and grammar app (although exceptions are sometimes allowed with the latter).

· Be positive and don’t libel anyone.

· Don’t try to sell yourself or any product (although I’m happy to link to your websites).

· Try to create something meaningful that might provide comfort, interest and distraction for other musicians (and maybe even non-musicians).

· Although the focus of Elbow Music is generally string music, I’m happy to accept other instruments!


I have no idea if there will be any interest in this idea, but let’s see where it takes us! It would be nice to compile and circulate some lovely inspiring stories about what we all do every day and why we do it.


* Small Print

If you send me anything you are giving me permission to edit it and publish it on Elbow Music. I don’t guarantee to publish everything or anything. I will do my best to read articles and give feedback where I have time (I’m working at the moment) and will try to respond in some way, at least. No money will change hands in any direction (unless it blows up into being a best-selling book!). If I publish your piece, it remains your copyright and you can publish it wherever else you want and ask for it to be taken down at any time. I might need to add to this small print as this project evolves.


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