In today’s guest blog we look at why Figurenotes has been so successful in additional needs settings. Iain Macleod works in Kaimes School, a wonderful specialist school in Edinburgh. They have had projects from Drake Music Scotland for many years, alongside their regular music lessons. Iain explains his reasoning for using Figurenotes in the classroom.

Arms hold and point to a Figurenotes score. Another set of hands play the xylophone using wooden beaters. There are Figurenotes stickers on the instrument.
A Drake Music Scotland Associate Musician with a pupil and support at Kaimes School

My name is Iain and I’m a music teacher. After starting my career as a peripatetic guitar teacher, I started teaching general music in primary schools in London. I qualified as a secondary music teacher in 2012, but have spent most of the time since working in Additional Needs settings.  

I first came across Figurenotes when I was working at a residential school where all the students had experienced significant early years trauma. This meant they had struggled with mainstream school because of challenging behaviour and were now in a more nurture-focused environment. All these kids were amazing as people and had bucket loads of energy and enthusiasm, but they also had very low self-esteem and would quickly give up on something if they felt they would get it wrong. Basically, they hated school and would go to extreme lengths to avoid ‘work’.  

I eventually realised that the less time I spent talking and explaining stuff, the better the lessons went! This is why Figurenotes was a huge hit with the students – they didn’t need any explanation as to how it worked. They could straight away just start following the music and playing on the keyboards! All I had to do was figure out easy versions of songs that they liked and print them off. Everyone was happy! Once they could play something they liked and had chosen, they were much more open to trying other activities and/or instruments. Engagement in music lessons was much better across the whole school. 

A man holds a Figurenotes score and points to it. We look over the shoulder of someone playing a glockenspiel with red beaters.
Drake Music Scotland musician, Tenzin, leads a session at Kaimes

I am now teaching in a school for ASD students, and they love Figurenotes too. I think it is the best thing for introducing notation and getting people playing straight away. I think if it was used in all schools (mainstream and specialist) a lot more people would be motivated to learn instruments and get involved with music.

Thanks for sharing, Iain. You can check out Iain’s music on his website.

If you have a story you’d like to share with us at Figurenotes, please email us at If you’d prefer a chat, we can set one up via 0131 659 4766.


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