Happy Holidays from BonaFideStudio

2018: A year of transition, new adventures and helping more and more clients…

We’re coming to the end of the year with the festive season beginning to hit full flow.
As we reflect on this past year, we are amazed as always at the pace of change around the world in general, and our own music life.


Change is everywhere and cannot be repressed, whether we like it or not. Both within us (sometimes imperceptibly ) and out in the world at large.

Meanwhile, BonaFideStudio has had its best-ever year, with more clients recorded than ever before, with some excellent results against all the odds. We are always here for you when you need us.  We work when you want to work, just give us a call.

Everything changes and nothing changes…

So, everything changes, and yet nothing changes. Christmas comes round once more, and before you know it, we will be singing Auld Lang Syne.

Next year we will be celebrating 20 wonderful years since we opened. Big milestones for us and you, our clients who made us.

And so, as the festive season is upon us, we reflect how short life truly is, and how it changes whether we approve or not.

So, embrace change and be kind to one another.

Farewell 2018, you’ve been… (you decide)




Small Business Saturday – A Very Merry Muswell

By building bridges we are hoping to improve our community, celebrate our diversity, encourage shopping local while promoting the rich history of Muswell Hill.

Join us for Lighting Tree Ceremony, Christmas Market, Song and Dance
on 1st of December 2pm-5pm at St James Square, Muswell Hill.


Deanna Bogdanovic, of the BonaFideStudio and Friends of St James Square, said “after the success of our Midsummer Muswell, we are really excited about A Very Merry Muswell – just the thing to get everyone in a festive mood!”

Guidance for parents of young piano students

Learning music should be fun to do but there are processes along the way that can seem like an uphill struggle, especially to a young beginner.  However,  perseverance through these processes at the start will give a student more freedom at the instrument and, therefore, more fun and a greater ability to express him or herself, which is why they come to the piano in the first place. After a number of years teaching it has been very apparent just how fundamental parental support is to the development of a student’s progress, not just with regards how far that student will go, but even whether they will get off the starting block or not.


Alexandra Westcott, BA

These notes are offered to parents to remind them that they can be hugely instrumental (excuse the pun) in harnessing their child’s enthusiasm for music.  Their support will encourage positive progress to emerge as a result of curiosity and fun as well as perseverance.  The home sessions and the learning process itself become a journey of discovery, and a young student’s goal to be able to play the piano is achieved a lot quicker than thoughtless time spent ‘going through the motions’.

I will say, firstly, that I hate the word ‘practice’.  A couple of the many dictionary definitions are ‘habitual performance’, and ‘repeated or systematic exercise’.  You cannot do either unless you KNOW what it is you are doing!  So a session at the piano is about LEARNING until such a time when KNOWING is reached.  Then follows playing, and perfecting, both with an always curious and enquiring mind. All time spent at the piano should have attention and concentration so as to incur clarity of the text and freedom of muscles;  unmindful drilling and repeated practice doesn’t make perfect, unless you can include perfect mistakes and a perfectly awful technique!  Engaging, absorbing and attentive study at the piano makes for thoughtful and expressive playing, takes a lot less time, and is a darn sight more interesting along the way!

And while all this sounds like hard work, it doesn’t have to be. On the contrary, getting involved  will add a fun and interactive element to what can sometimes be a struggle in the early stages when there is so much new material to absorb and digest.  I have a countless number of ‘games’ I play with my students (see link below) and I’m sure your child’s teacher will have their own (usually they are a fun way of learning notes/listening games/creative games) so include these in the sessions at home.  


A very young student will need help in managing their schedule so that they fit in their regular sessions at the instrument. And while this may sound obvious,  it doesn’t always happen.  There is no way with school/playtime/after school activities/supper/homework/friends/tv etc that a young child will have the discipline to put aside time for the piano. The number of students I have had over my 25 years of teaching who were prodigious and passionate enough to sit at the piano for hours on end on their own I can count on the fingers of one hand (and that doesn’t include the thumb!).  Having a parent help schedule the time, and gently discipline the child to keep to this schedule, can be an enormous benefit when there are so many other distractions.

How often?

This depends on the age of the child, their stage in learning, their own enthusiasm, their concentration span, and the quality of the time spent at the piano.  In the very early stages when the fundamentals are being absorbed, as long as there is an understanding of what is being learnt, then little and often is probably best. As things become more complex then a little more time is needed to reach a mental understanding of what is being learnt, and a correspondingly increasing amount of time is needed to physically absorb it both into the mind and into the fingers. Personally, I think it is important to have days off built into a schedule so there are guilt free non-piano days, rather than schedule practice every day and then ‘not get around to it’, but at the same time I know for some students it works to have it so ingrained into their routine, like cleaning their teeth, that they come to the piano without question and just get down to their work.  It works differently for different families so decide what is right for your and your child.

How Long?

The same constraints apply with regards age, standard, level of concentration etc. It will be different with each student. In any case though, allow for periods of ‘fiddling’ and games on top of the homework that a teacher sets, either within the practice session, or maybe in a second daily session. For instance, covering the set practice in the morning then leaving the pupil to do whatever takes their fancy in the evening – improvising, games, messing about finding tunes etc. Ideally when new technical habits are being formed then even the fiddling should be mindful, otherwise the good work undertaken in the set time gets undone as old habits take over when concentration is elsewhere. However, paramount is an enthusiasm and curiosity for the music and instrument so it is vital for a pupil to have time at the piano in ‘discovery’ mode! 

Offer Moral support

As a solo instrument it can be lonely and isolating for a young child in a room on their own when they are struggling with the early stages. Having the encouragement and close proximity of a parent can be a positive support to their experience, quite apart from the practical help that a parent can provide. 

Be Another pair of eyes and ears

The time at home is the time when technical habits are learned and ingrained,  A parent will need to go over the teacher’s notes, ensure that everything gets done and gets done well.  Ask the teacher for clarification at the end of the lesson if you don’t understand anything. 

There can be complicated and complex reasons why we do things, or don’t do things at the piano in a certain way, that a parent might understand but that a young child might not.  Plus, it is very hard to monitor yourself and how you do things at any age, let alone at 6 or 7.  Your child’s teacher will have given exercises during a lesson to help develop good fingers and technical skills. You should be able to ask as often as you like for demonstrations. As practice is about developing habits, short very focussed bursts at technique is better than long protracted sessions with concentration slipping.  Once you have understood what your child’s teacher is asking, do pay great attention to helping your child achieve it, with gentle encouragement, and helping them observe when they do things correctly as well  as incorrectly.  This is the only way good habits can be learned and engrained and a good technical foundation means that time won’t have to be spent later on correcting bad habits which themselves hold up a musical progression (i.e. tense fingers won’t have the necessary freedom for the expression, facility, velocity and sensitivity required by more advanced music).


Lastly, try to be a reminder of what the teacher wants, rather than a judge, as this will undermine their confidence and can dampen their desire completely. 

Encourage regular reading of new material. 

I have a number of activities that help with reading that I suggest students and parents do at home and I’m sure your teacher will too. I was very late to being a good reader but wow, the joy from being able to pick up a piece and make a fair crack of it is huge. Plus, being a good reader makes learning new music so much quicker and less painful!  Later on of course, (as if you need further encouragement to add in this skill to your offspring’s practice), it opens doors to joining bands/accompanying/duets etc etc. 


As I said before, do include games. If you need some inspiration you can find some here 


Make sure you include things to help with learning the notes on the piano, learning notes on the stave, listening (aural) awareness, memory, creativity and theory. 

Other supportive activities

Other things you can do to support your child’s musical life is to play a wide variety of music around the house, attend concerts (there are lots of concerts aimed specifically at children where they can play the instruments etc), check out the internet for interesting bits of information about composers they are studying or listen to fragments of other pieces by the same composer.  Write stories or draw pictures while listening to (any) music. Listen to tapes of stories of the great composers.

Notes to remember

Music is an expressive and communicative art so a student needs to feel comfortable with themselves, and allowing them an inquisitive mind and lively ear, and the freedom to translate their expressions to sounds, is vital in their growth as musicians.  It is challenging but necessary to encourage them without judgement so that they feel free to explore the colours and sounds of the instrument without feeling censored, but are guided in areas where there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ (i.e. note). Finally, I’m a great fan of rewards, but when extra motivation is needed make sure the rewards are for trying rather than for getting it ‘right’.  Sometimes the road to getting things right is rather long so boosts along the way can give the encouragement needed to continue.


Just to reiterate, after all these suggestions, this is about making music and learning the piano fun, as well as providing a solid technical and musical foundation.  Whether or not a student goes through the exam structure, or takes it to GCSE/A level, it is a skill and pleasure that is with them for life, so it seems worthwhile to offer them the best support we can.

Alexandra Westcott, BA

Piano teacher/Accompanist

Follow me on twitter: @MissAMWestcott

A Fellow of the ISM

Muswell Hill N10

07966 141944


Author:  ‘Piano Teaching as a Career’

“Very readable, clearly laid out, and should be in every piano teacher’s library”

Music Teacher Magazine 

buy from Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com

or Lulu.com

Pianist for Freefall Jazz

Contact: alexandrawestcott@yahoo.co.uk

Information for musicians: reducing the risk of tinnitus

Music and tinnitus have been unhappy bedfellows ever since the first time music was amplified, and the number of people suffering will increase and keep on increasing, whilst our ears get battered more and more by mp3 players, mobile phones, and speakers in our daily lives.cNever has there been a need for more research, so we can better understand the condition and therefore get closer to finding a cure.

earplugs61rY+DSraVL._SL1250_Musicians should protect their hearing whilst playing. There are various reasons for this – for example, the risk of hearing damage, post-exposure tinnitus and loudness discomfort.

Because of loud sound levels and frequent exposure to noise, musicians can develop hearing problems such as tinnitus and hearing loss. The advice which is given is sometimes along the following lines: “Give up your career or interest and find something quieter to do” or “Just keep playing and don’t let the tinnitus affect your life”, neither of which are particularly helpful.

However, it is usually possible to strike a balance between these two views. You can continue with your music by using the right kind of hearing protection, which reduces the sound levels to which you are exposed without unduly affecting your listening sound quality. Many musicians have taken this option, and it seems to be a sensible, practical way of dealing with the problem.

If you are an employed musician, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005), which implemented the EU Physical Agents Directive (Noise) in the UK, made employers responsible for the assessment, management and reduction of noise in the workplace, including the provision, where appropriate, of suitable hearing protection. The music and entertainment industry was allowed a three-year period before the Regulations became effective in 2008.

So any employed musician should now have access to advice, suitable hearing protection and/or other forms of noise reduction. But self-employed and amateur musicians also need help and advice!

The risk to hearing from noise at work is dependent on the sound intensity (acoustic power). The safe exposure limit is calculated from a combination of exposure time and sound intensity. Reducing the noise level by only three decibels would allow a doubling of the exposure time, but this is not feasible for performances as controlling playing time is not really a very effective way of managing a musician’s noise exposure.

Reducing the level of sound reaching the musician’s ear, whilst still providing a realistic listening environment, is the best way forward for most people. A suitably chosen and correctly fitted flat attenuation earplug can be an effective solution, maintaining musical fidelity. In some cases, screens and sound absorbing surfaces can also play a part in managing noise exposure.

Some people will develop permanent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) at moderate noise levels whilst others will not. Susceptibility to NIHL is predictable, so it is not possible to say whether an individual is at risk just by taking a hearing test. Saying “I have tough ears” is not a sensible approach to protecting your long-term hearing! And if you have NIHL, don’t say, “It’s too late for me”, it’s all the more important to protect your ears from even more damage and to try to avoid the onset of tinnitus.

A wide range of technical ear protection products are available. Effective earplugs will reduce the overall level of sound whilst maintaining an even balance across the sound spectrum. This means that you can still hear everything clearly, although the overall sound level is reduced. The greater the number of decibels (dBs) of attenuation by the ear plugs, the better overall protection they offer.

Whilst there are a number of generic earplugs available are aimed at musicians (and stocked by the BTA), customised earplugs may provide a higher level of protection as well as better fidelity of sound. They tend to be more expensive but should be looked upon as an investment.

A number of companies manufacture specialist hearing protectors and in-the-ear monitors for musicians. Essentially, musicians’ earplugs are either based upon an earplug incorporating a “tuned” mechanical filter set to provide a flat frequency response and some reduction in intensity, or a fusion of hearing protection and digital hearing aid technology. In the latter devices, the sound level at the ear may be controlled by a level-dependent amplifier and the frequency response of the system can be tailored to suit the wearer’s audiogram. These ear plugs may also be used by anyone who wishes to reduce the sound levels to which they are exposed without having muffled or distorted hearing.

A decent amplifier or instrument can cost a considerable amount, so spending a smaller sum protecting your hearing, without impeding your playing too much, seems a reasonable outlay.

If you wish to find out more about musicians’ earplugs the best option is to discuss your requirements with a qualified audiologist.

As the impact of noise or loud levels of sound on the ear is accumulative, do not forget that there are a variety of other sources of noise or loud sounds that may need to be taken into account when considering the level of noise to which you are exposed. Those who use firearms, motor cycles, power tools or other devices that produce loud levels of sound should protect their ears when doing so. These different types of sound exposure all require different types of protection. For example, musicians’ earplugs are not suitable for someone who wishes to use a shotgun. Again, if you have any doubts, please consult an audiologist.

by Eddy Temple-Morris

British Tinnitus Association

0800 018 0527

Tinnitus is the perception of noises in the head and/or ear which have no external source, it is often described as buzzing or ringing in the ears. The British Tinnitus Association’s vision is a world where no one suffers from tinnitus.


10 Ridiculous Songwriting Tips

IMG_7523Googling ‘songwriting tips’ will give you about 2 million results in 0.42 seconds. That’s a lot of tips.And y’know what? There’s a good chance a lot of them won’t work. Of course there’s always those songwriting exercises that always work—like recording cover songs or collaborating with a new songwriting partner. But These tips are the special ones. The ones that put you and your ideas first. The ones that open up some time to really focus, experiment and make your songs work.Writing songs is a personal process. It’s all about getting back into yourself to find that song gold.
Here’s 10 ridiculous songwriting exercises to get your songs on track that our chief producer Deanna loves.

1. Play 5 Radios at Once
You might wanna do this one when no one else is home. Or at least keep the volume low. It’ll definitely cause your family to ask if everything is ok. But it really works! Tom Waits famously uses this technique during his songwriting process. He turns a couple radios on and then listens for the interesting overlaps. You’ll find interesting progressions and melodies. Think of it like ear sampling.
This type of absurd composition is a form of aleatory music—It’s music where certain parts of the composition are left to chance. It’s the perfect storm for song inspiration. If it worked for Tom Waits it’s definitely worth trying. So turn on all those radios, roll the dice and listen for the interesting overlaps.

2. Look Out The Window For a Really Long Time
The small room that I make music in has a skylight in it. The view is quite limited—just a small blue square with the occasional cloud, bird or airplane. But I think I’ve learned more about my own process from that small blue square than any guide, walkthrough, or manual could ever teach me. It lets me think clearly. It doesn’t even need to be a window either. Just something silent to stare at. Like a tropical aquarium, or a nice piece of art. These days you have to actually rip yourself out of the hyper-fast distractions that are constantly there (computer, cellphone, etc.) to find some quite silent time. Once you do you’ll get into a way better space to write some songs.
Do you think Brian Wilson composed ‘Good Vibrations’ while he was replying to an email, ordering an Uber, checking his plays on SoundCloud and tweeting about the weather at the same time? I don’t think so.

3. Don’t Talk For The Entire Day. Just Listen.
Take a temporary oath of silence. Your songwriting will thank you. A whole day might be a bit much. Besides, you HAVE to talk to lay down that earth-shattering vocal of pure genius. But It’s no secret that silence is good for you. Even an hour of silence is more than enough time to reset your brain. Whether you know it or not, talking is a huge and complex task for your brain to carry out. Putting it aside for a little while will put you in the right place to write. And during all that silent time all those deep memories and feelings will have a clear path to the top of your mind. Y’know, all those thoughts that make great songs. So take a break from the chatting and try silence for awhile. Let your brain do the talking and find all the inspiration you need.

4. Set an Absurd Time Limit
Guess what? Diamonds by Rihanna was written by Sia in 14 minutes. She put the beat on and the lyrics just flowed. It has gone platinum 5 times in the US alone. Time is a hard scale to balance. Too much and you end up second guessing everything. Too little and you get nothing done. The solution? Set a time limit. Even better, set a time limit that’s way shorter than what you normally write in. Setting slim boundaries will help you focus on what matters, write more songs, and streamline your entire process. And the more you do it, the better you’ll get. Try it out and make your songs shine bright like a… gold brick?

5. Open Your Piano Roll. Grab the Pen Tool and MIDI Scribble
My favourite feeling in kindergarten was grabbing a handful of crayons and scribbling all at once. To be honest, I’m not sure why I stopped. Well, I guess I didn’t really stop necessarily. I Just do it in my DAW nowIf I’m stuck building a beat I often open my piano roll, load up an instrument, grab the pen tool and just start scribbling down notes. After I’m done I play it back and listen for the happy accidents. Most of the time it’s 90% crapolla. But that interesting 10% is super valuable for ideas. So grab your DAW and channel your inner 5 year old every now and then.

6. Write as Few Lyrics as Possible
Here’s a really good tip if you’re stuck: GET TO THE POINT. When it comes to songwriting simple is always effective. But it’s hard to pull off. You have to be ruthless with your approach. Just ask the Beatles. Their song ‘Love Me Do’ has exactly 19 unique words in it. But it’s still one of the most iconic songs of all time. Simple is a skill that every songwriter should master. It keeps your songs relatable, engaging and catchy. Who doesn’t like a good sing along?

7. Put a Lid On It
Infinity exists. The only proof you need is a blank DAW. There’s infinite VST plugins, infinite effects, infinite processing. But infinity isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes the best way to better your songwriting is to set a gear limit. Start with a strict list of what you’re gonna use. Limit your ideas to your gear list. Ideas will take shape much faster than having to constantly decide between a million options. It might sound weird but limitations can actually make you more creative. Because you have to work with what you’ve got and bend it to your sound. Plus keeping yourself limited will give you a deeper understanding of the tools you work with because you’ll have to push them all to the limit.

8. Cut Your Lyrics into a Million Pieces
Author William S. Burroughs created the cut-up technique to help with his own writing. Except he wasn’t writing songs. He was writing books. But his concept is super effective for songwriting as well. It’s pretty simple. Just write out a bunch of words that are on your mind, cut them out and rearrange them into ideas. It doesn’t even have to be words either. It can be chords, notes, melodies, pictures or anything else that works for you. David Bowie famously used this technique to write some of his biggest hits.

9. Set up A reward system
When Brian Wilson was struggling with his own songwriting—among other things—he was reportedly rewarded with cheeseburgers for every song he wrote. Brian’s system was pretty extreme. But the concept is really smart. Writing songs is tough. Reward yourself when you’re finished. If there’s a piece of gear that you’re eyeing, or a new studio toy you want, tell yourself that you have to write 5 songs before you even think about buying it. This will give you something to work towards beyond the satisfaction of being finished with a song—which is a pretty great reward in itself.

10. The Mozart Effect
No, I’m not about to tell you to listen to Mozart and then do what he did. That would be cheating right? But there is another reason to listen to Mozart. Listening to Mozart has been studied and proven to have a positive effect on your focus. It affects your ‘spatial-temporal reasoning.’ Which is basically a fancy word for concentration. Starting your session with a bit of Mozart will put your brain into high-gear. Perfect for pumping out some quality songs. Copying a few of his phrases and melodies can’t hurt either… Just make sure you make ’em your own!

Getting Stuck Happens
Songs don’t always flow. Sometimes you have to take drastic measures to make them work. So think outside the box and and get in touch with your best possible resource for writing songs:

(by Rory Seydel)


BonaFideStudio at Summer Festivals

We love being part of our North London Community by organising local Festivals or/and taking care of the performers, stage and sound. Come summer, London is awash with music festivals  with stages popping up all over the city.


This summer is especially handsome. All this glorious sunshine. If you’re not a fan of mud, camping and not being able to shower then our local Festivals are right up your street. All just short walk away…you get all the best parts of a festival and you can head home to your own bed after…excellent.

In the last few weeks we did 1) MidsummerMuswell on 23rd of June; 2) Fortitude on 7th of July and 3) Hornsey Music Festival also on 7th of July. If you missed it this year put it in your calendar for 2019! Enjoy few photos






MidSummer Muswell 2018

We are proud to be one of the main organisers of yet another MidSummer Muswell. Our studio chief Deanna Bogdanovic said: ‘As always BonaFideStudio is taking care of MidSummerMuswell sound, entertainment and general promotion and organising of this much loved annual event. Our stage is offering plethora of talented local acts: singers, bands, dancers and comedians. Join us for fun and frolics from 1pm-5pm at St James Square in Muswell Hill. Great free family day out with something of all age groups’


For list of acts click here

For stage order click here