Saturday, October 23, 2010

Music Lessons–a new approach

My talented 9 year old "aspie" nephew is nuts about about music. He's been going to piano lessons for a few years, and has perfect pitch as well as great rhythm.

I had an idea to start giving him music lessons in my studio, and approached a friend of mine (an adult with Asperger's) for suggestions on how best to go about it. She gave me some valuable advice:

1. Remove clutter/distractions. Since this was not possible in my studio, which is littered with cables, guitars, sheet music, microphones etc. I turned the keyboard around so that my nephew would be facing a wall when we worked.

2. Don't busk. Have clear goals. I sat my nephew down and explained the process. I told him that the song would take weeks, possibly months to complete. Every week I reinforced this, explaining the day's activity & outcome, and how the lesson fitted into the long term goal of completing the song.


Here's how the first song was put together

I chose a song (“These boots are made for walking”) which I new would be fairly simple to record.

Every week we programmed a bit of the song in my studio. Starting with the kick drum, then adding snare, hi-hat and tambourine. Then the bass intro, followed by the rest of the bass line bar by bar.

I made sure my nephew played everything in himself. We did it over and over until he got it right. (I did quantise the tracks, but since he played them so many times until he got them right, they didn’t require much correction).

I taught him how to copy and paste, so bits that were repeated didn't have to be played in again.

The only part played by me was the guitar part. But he operated the computer when I played the guitar: He armed a track and pushed record and stop. Then I got him to cut the guitar part where I’d made a mistake so that I could drop in and fix it.

His homework every week was to listen to the CD and prepare for the next lesson.

The last thing we recorded was vocals. He learned the lyrics so well that we managed to lay down vocals for whole song in about 30 minutes!


The song took a total of six, one hour sessions to complete.

I've added a bit of compression and some reverb to the vocals, and this is what the end product sounds like:

My nephew’s recording of “These Boots”

Next week we’ll start on another song. If all goes well I’ll post the second song here, once it is complete.


I'm also teaching him reading. We start every lesson with 15 minutes of clapping rhythms. I'm only concentrating on quarter note rhythms for the time being. As we progress I'll add smaller note values and eventually start working with pitch too.

If you'd like to hear the music I compose for kids, please visit:


  1. Very cool, dude! And super cool that you're putting out tips on teaching kids with Asperger's.

  2. great. respect. wonderful work.


  3. Adorable, and wonderful.

  4. Hi Graeme, congratulations, I am so impressed with what you're doing and I think you and Buddy are going to be very famous one day!It makes me realise how fortunate we are to have children like Buddy in our lives. They force us to stop and consider and not take things for granted. Your dedication to this project is awesome, thank you for that gift.
    love Weezie

  5. This is so great!! I can't wait to hear the next song!

  6. Fantastic!! Music is truly the universal language.

  7. I am so chuffed it turned out that well! You really have a talent for children's music -- not only for making music FOR children, but also making music WITH children. I played this to my business partner and every time there was a precocious shout or grunting tone, we giggled.

    From "a friend of [yours] (an adult with Asperger's)"...

  8. PS: To Weezie -- The world also needs autistic people to do what 'normal' people can't do. Albert Einstein became a great scholar in spite of as well as BECAUSE OF having Asperger's Syndrome, and I too have ended up where I am today both because of and in spite of being an aspie. People with Asperger's Syndrome can make a great contribution to the world through their specialised abilities, if given the right environment and support -- such as what Graeme is doing for Buddy.

  9. Correction, please: "such as that which Graeme is doing for Buddy".

    As a retired teacher, I think the song is wonderfully performed. I wish I could sing! I taught through the medium of drama and especially using short plays in verse, performed by young children.

  10. Buddie, you are amazing. Well done Graeme.

  11. How wonderful! Thanks for sharing this. I will share this with my sister in law who sings in a professional choir and has training in music. My autistic nephew has perfect pitch and is always banging away on their piano. I think this will be very helpful to them.

  12. This is awesome. Huge respect to you A-ABC :-)
    What planning, what dedication and what sensitivity.
    I absolutely love the result and have played and played this. My son (4yo) will adore it when I play it to him tomorrow. He too loves music and has already shown a real talent for rhythm and drumming.
    Congratulations! Look forward to the next song x