Rainbow Gelato

Well, hello humans. Here is some music that I made, and here are some thoughts about it, in easy to read dot points, because I’m tired.

  • It’s called Rainbow Gelato because it’s all cute pop happy times. “Gelato” is a nod to Melbourne speak (my adopted city); in Adelaide we say “gelati”
  • My favourite bit starts from 2:21
  • I’ve been working on this in dribs and drabs for almost a year
  • My hectic 2014 schedule meant that it spent most of the last 9 months neglected on my hard drive
  • I’m not happy with the cello and violin lines because the string timbres aren’t gelling with the electronic tones well
  • However, I’m pretty happy with the bass line and some of the beats
  • I need to improve/get more experience in creating timbres I like
  • I’ve decided to release it into the world anyway. I’m gonna move on and begin something new

Did you know that the flavour of rainbow ice cream is caramel?

Kew Cemetery

Several months ago, I drove past a long red brick wall, and caught glimpses of many old headstones on the other side. Even in that brief moment I could tell that the cemetery was something special, and I made up my mind to explore the space within the red walls.

Last week I went, with my camera in tow. But I wasn’t far within the walls before paranoia gripped me – maybe I shouldn’t be here? I exited quickly, but on my way out I saw a man walking along the cemetery path, with the relaxed air of one going on a late afternoon stroll. Then I felt silly. Surely public cemeteries should be enjoyed by the public?

Yesterday, my second chance came, quite unplanned. After finishing my first day at a new placement school, I got dropped off at a house that happened to be just across the road from Kew Cemetery. Walking along the footpath, I found a side gate in the red brick. I slipped inside. Kew Cemetery
Kew Cemetery
There were many beautiful memorials. The most recent that I could see date to the 1990s. My favourites were the very old and ornate sculptures and headstones. As I strolled along, I wondered at the dedication of the living, to erect works of art in memory of the dead. Surely such beautiful odes to memory should be appreciated and enjoyed.Kew CemeteryKew CemeteryThe last two photos are of a mysterious Victorian era memorial set on a hill not far from the main entrance. The name of the deceased is not inscribed anywhere. I did a quick internet search later, at home. It’s called the Springthorpe Memorial, and was built by John Springthorpe in honour of his beautiful young wife Annie, who died at the age of 30 giving birth to their fourth child. I’m not usually one for romance, but the tragic romance of this lovely memorial definitely had an impact.

All photos were taken and edited on iPhone using Afterglow.

On my own

On my ownThis is an image of Kyle I’ve had kicking around on my hard drive since our levitation shoot last year. At the time, it wasn’t one of my faves, but I came across it while I was poking around the other night, and something about it captured my imagination.

Aside from Kyle, the star of this image is Layer Masks. I discovered the wonderful world of Photoshop layer masks not long ago, and this one new skill, combined with a recent gravitation towards a darker, moodier aesthetic, resulted in the image above.

Hope you’re keeping warm, wherever in the world you are. It’s freezing cold where I am.

xx Michelle



Foliage-2I played tourist in my adopted town this weekend by visiting the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. It was a clear but overcast day, and the Gardens were overrun with picnickers. I took the opportunity to bring along my recently much neglected camera. It was relaxing to wander around taking snaps of greenery. Taking photos like these reminds me of the kind of photos I took when I first got my DSLR – simple, artless pictures that nevertheless gave me a lot of pleasure to create.
Foliage-1Foliage-3Foliage-5Foliage-4Foliage-6Foliage-7Foliage-11Foliage-9Foliage-13Foliage-12Foliage-8I spotted a wild PK amongst the bamboo grove!



Rise & Shine

Rise & Shine

So I realise the last three posts including this one have been all type related. Guess I’m sorry I’m not sorry! Fuelling my recent lettering obsession is the acquisition of some graph paper and a university assignment I’ve been procrastinating on. It’s due tomorrow night, so I’m gonna go to bed now in order to rise and shine with the early morn to crank this essay out.

But seriously though. Graph paper is the best.

Tips for AMEB Piano Exams

Hello hello!

Today I am here to share some tips for all you AMEB Piano exam candidates! These tips come from my own experiences as a piano examiner. I have compiled them as a reaction to common things I’ve seen in the exam room. They are tips that I give to my own students time and time again. If you are a parent or a teacher of an exam student, please share.

Know your technical work

It seems straightforward, but technical work is one important section of the exam which often doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. I can’t count the number of times a candidate has presented scales and arpeggios that were obviously hobbled together in the later stages of exam preparation. Often the repertoire will be miles ahead of the technical work. When this happens, you can be sure that the technical work will drag the resulting grade down.

Learning the technical work is not hard! It is certainly not harder than learning the pieces. So there should not be a great discrepancy between the repertoire and the technical work. Solution: get started on technical work EARLY in exam preparation. Pick a few scales and arpeggios to practice each day, and rotate them. Cramming usually does not work. Anyway, apart from comprising a significant chunk of your exam, technical work is crucial to developing musical knowledge and facility. I have briefly touched upon this here.


My motto when it comes to pedalling is “pedal with the ear, and not with the foot”. What this means is that it is your ear that decides how much sustaining pedal to use. The pedal markings in the score (if there are any) are not to be taken as gospel. Get used to listening and using your judgment as to how best to pedal. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

Play with musical involvement

This tip might be a little controversial, because musical involvement isn’t quantifiable. It’s the finishing touch. It requires fluency, taste and good performance practice. If you are playing with musical involvement then you have gone beyond hitting notes on a keyboard, you are making music. This is the finishing touch that we look for in A+ candidates.

General knowledge

Apart making sure you actually are prepared for this section – and it’s VERY easy to tell if you are not prepared – my main advice is demonstrate what you know. In the earlier grades, this means give all the information you can. Avoid this kind of exchange:

Examiner: Tell me about the time signature.
Student: It’s 4/4
Examiner: How many beats per bar?
Student: 4
Examiner: What kind of beats?

Instead, if you get asked about the time signature, your reply could be “It’s 4/4 time, which means there are 4 crotchet beats per bar. This is also called simple quadruple time”.

For students in the higher grades, keep talking. You will be asked much more general questions such as “what else did Beethoven compose?” You want this section of the exam to be an interesting discussion where you do most of the talking. If you really get stuck, don’t say “I don’t know”, instead, try something along the lines of “I’m not completely sure, but I think etc”…

Sight Reading

Practice sight reading as much as you can, it only takes a couple of minutes a day! In the exam room, if you make a mistake, don’t go back and fix it, by doing so you create another error. Just keep going. Most students sacrifice the rhythm in favour of pitch. It’s better to keep the rhythm going, even if you play some wrong notes, or leave some notes out. Think about the context in which you actually use sight reading, such as accompanying. If you were sight reading an accompaniment part the soloist would certainly not appreciate it if you stopped to fix errors. They rely on the continuity of the music. With that in mind, make sure that you don’t play too fast. Look at the section that seems hardest when determining what tempo you choose.


Sing and clap confidently, even if you’re unsure. Often we absorb the rhythm and clapping exercises better than we think. If you can’t remember the end, don’t just peter off lamely, make something up. Chances are you’ll be close to correct, and the result will be more musical than dwindling to a halt.

When singing, choose a syllable with an open vowel, such as “la” to sing. Humming is allowed, but I don’t recommend it because it doesn’t sound clear, and you want no confusion as to what pitch you are singing.

Have a positive attitude

It’s not as hard as you may think. Tell yourself positive things such as “I can do this”, “I’ve been working really hard”, “I’m going to try my hardest”. It might sound corny, but the more you make positive affirmations, the more you believe them. Some students tell themselves negative affirmations like “I know I’m going to make a mistake”. The problem with this is that part of your mind believes it, so that if or when a mistake happens, they feel like they were right all along. It’s far better to have a positive mindset. You’ll enjoy yourself much more, and that enjoyment will transmit through to the music.

But what if I do make a mistake?

Students, especially young ones, tend to believe that a “good” performance is one that has no mistakes. This is not true. Making mistakes doesn’t preclude a performance from being “good”. There is a big difference between errors that occur because of finger slips etc. and errors that come out of being unprepared. Examiners can tell the difference very easily. If you do make a mistake, the best thing to do is to cover it up neatly and don’t make a fuss. So either keep playing (don’t go back and correct it), or if you’ve really lost your place, go back to an earlier spot, or if you need to, apologise and go from the beginning. You have to use your judgment, and you develop this by performing, so perform as much as possible. This is a reason why examinations are beneficial, because they are a kind of performance practice. Mistakes happen to everybody – we’re human.

Do you agree/disagree, or have any tips of your own?

xx Michelle

Life in square format: Blue

blueTop left: I sleep on a mattress on the floor, because I haven’t bought a bed yet.
Top right: My local laundromat is somewhere I’ve spent a lot of time. Lots of hot yoga = lots of laundry.
Middle left: Blue chairs at the laundromat.
Middle right: “Beehive, Buildings”. Not sure why there’s a comma in the middle, or what it even refers to. This is near my place.
Bottom left: I came home one day to find this car blocking the entrance to the driveway. Turns out it was the bin guy, come to take out all the bins.
Bottom right: Wall adornment at my new place is just like my old place, except for the Totoro plushies in the reflection, those are my sisters ;)

xx Mish

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