Research and Publications


There has been some fascinating research into Figurenotes. We’ve highlighted just some of the studies here. If you know of any further research or publications, please let us know.

The impact of using FigureNotes for young children with developmental delay on developing social interactions and physical movements

Authors: Liza LeeHan-Ju HoXing-Dai LiaoYi-Xiang LiaoHung-Chi Chu

Abstract: Over the past 10 years, the research results of “Holistic Music Educational Approach for Young Children” (HMEAYC) have found that music is a good learning medium for improving the development of children with special needs. FigureNotes is a music teaching method that advocates the usage of music with visual graphics to promote the individual performance of pitches or rhythmic melody. It is obvious that HMEAYC and FigureNotes are both learning modes that expect learners to be able to achieve goal orientation through music expression. The purpose of the study was to explore the relationship between HMEAYC and FigureNotes for children’s learning behavior. A non-profit early intervention center in central Taiwan was used as a research site. There were 132 children with developmental delay aged 40-63 months selected as research subjects, and HMEAYC was combined with FiugreNotes for the curriculum design. It was a 16-week study, with 40 minute sessions once per week in a group setting. The research results showed that HMEAYC combined with the FigureNotes method can promote the development of the social interactions and the physical movements of children with developmental delay.


Applicability of an applied music notation system: A case study of Figurenotes

Author: Sanna Kivijärvi

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to examine the applicability of an applied music notation system, Figurenotes, by using the concept of educational method as theoretical lens. Figurenotes is examined through this lens at two levels: the micro level of music educational practice and the macro level of advancement of educational policies. The study is based on semi-structured interviews with experts in music education, special and general education, educational policy, music therapy, voluntary work, and music business as well as with students, clients, parents, and the developers of Figurenotes. The findings emphasise that the application of Figurenotes lowers the threshold for learning and teaching music, and is especially applicable in educational situations where the student’s cognitive load needs to be lessened. It is concluded that Figurenotes can be seen both as a pedagogical approach and as a method for advancing educational equity.


Figurenotes and Children with Autism: Using Reflective Practice in a Music Intervention

Author: Matthew Breaden

Abstract: Figurenotes is a simplified visual music notation system developed in Finland in the mid-1990s for people challenged by the abstract nature of conventional music notation. The system facilitates music reading and instrument playing, thus allowing active participation in music-making. The use of Figurenotes in both educational and therapeutic settings is now spreading to other countries. This thesis examines specifically the effectiveness and applicability of Figurenotes as a tool to facilitate music-making by children with autism in Australia, through the lens of a journey in reflective practice by the researcher-practitioner.

The study involved three phases: in the first phase, eight individual children aged 6 to 13 years with autism participated in eight weekly sessions; in the second phase, two school groups of children with autism participated in an eight-week phase, and finally the families of the initial eight individuals participated in an additional phase of four weekly sessions each. Sessions involved the use of Figurenotes in rhythmic and creative activities, participating in ensembles, and developing playing technique using digital keyboards and tuned percussion instruments. The action research methodological approach allowed flexibility in study design, incorporating cycles of reflecting, planning, acting, and observing within the three phases of the study. Data were obtained through video observation, interviews, and researcher notes on participants’ development. Case studies of selected participants were compared with outcomes for the cohort as a whole. Thematic analysis combined with observer ratings to enable the investigation of four key focus areas: music-making skills, social interaction, self-concept, and reflective practice.

Figurenotes was found to be an effective tool that allows children with autism to engage successfully in music-making independently, with peers, and with family members. The action research approach allowed novel interventions using Figurenotes which facilitated the development of participants’ music-making skills and also their creativity. Participation in musical interactions was found to be associated with improved social interactions with peers and family members. Development of music-making skills was also associated with improvements in participants’ self-concept through positive changes in participants’ self-perception of their competence. Additionally, action research was found in this study to be an effective methodology in facilitating reflective practice when working with children with autism. The multiple beneficial outcomes demonstrated in this research warrant the further use and development of Figurenotes, and point to the value of further research in the development of music-making skills and creativity in children with autism.

Greenmill Strings Project Report

A joint research project between East Ayrshire Council, Drake Music Scotland, and the RSAMD’s (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) Musicworks programme.

The programme was designed as a pilot programme to evaluate two different yet inter-related learning and teaching concepts:

  • Try out a full class approach to string tuition using Figurenotes notation and gauge its effectiveness in accelerating the process of learning to play and read music with larger groups
  • Work with educators and string teachers experienced in orchestral tuition with young people to develop an approach combining other proven methods with Figurenotes

Quotes taken from a follow up article in TES:

‘One Greenmill P3 class was taught using Figurenotes and the other using conventional notation. Six months later the benefits of the former were apparent, says Mr Gray. “The class using it were months ahead in their reading and understanding of rhythm. When it came to bowing they could immediately see how long a stroke should be from the shape of the note.

“We converted them to conventional notation in a 40-minute lesson, where I explained it was like different languages and from now on they would be using this new one. They’ve never looked back. So when it came to starting the P1s and P2s a few weeks ago, we had no hesitation in using it with them.

“When Paul first came to me and suggested trying Figurenotes with young children in the mainstream, I was very sceptical. But there is no doubt that it works.”‘

Encountering Disability in Music: Exploring Perceptions on Inclusive Music Education in Higher Music Education

Author: Melissa Bremmer

Abstract: This research study evaluated an Artist-in-Residence-project (AIR-project) at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, focusing on inclusive music education. For this project, the Conservatory invited the organization Drake Music Scotland to work with its students. The project’s aim was to provide students with practical skills regarding music technology, to discuss the social model of disability, and to play in an inclusive music ensemble with a musician with a severe physical disability. The perceived learning experiences of students, the experienced value of the project, and recommendations for its improvement were explored through online questionnaires with the students and online semistructured interviews with the AIR-project leader, the musician with a disability, and the two workshop leaders of Drake Music Scotland. Findings suggest that alongside learning practical skills regarding music technology, students changed or broadened their perceptions about people with disabilities and inclusive music-making in positive ways. Furthermore, participants valued that the project created a space in which “taking enough time” and “belonging” could be experienced; these values are important in inclusive music environments as they can empower musicians with disabilities. The main recommendation for similar projects was that students wanted to gain hands-on experience in inclusive music education.

My less able piano pupils are finding piano lessons much more joyful using stage 3 Figurenotes and I'm about to start using stage 1, 2 and 3 at primary school to teach recorder and keyboard.

Felicity Palmer

Figurenotes will allow me to bring more structured learning to the groups and give the young people access to music theory/learning/playing that they haven't had before.

Janet Butterworth, Support Practitioner
Thank you and keep up your good work, as the Figurenotes system has had a major impact on my teaching and learning.
I had a pupil who could not read notation due to Dyslexia. She managed to get an A in higher music with piano as her second instrument. She is now in 2nd year of Teacher Training. It is a fabulous way to learn and is such a confidence builder.
Anne Lawrence – Piano Teacher
Excellent notation system to support all learners.
Maria Kelly
We are impressed with how easy it is to make music with a lot of different instruments
Lorena Sanchis
  Excellent! It has worked wonders and the pupils love being able to understand rhythms, as in the past they have 'forgotten how the tune goes' and, therefore, had no success at home.
Elaine Moffat
The Figurenotes notation system is very quickly understood by children (as in, by the end of the first lesson), and brings the practical advantages of a music notation system. This combination makes initial progress in terms of the musical result very fast. Nothing gets kids playing and learning tunes in the beginning like Figurenotes.
Tom Ashe – Favela Brass
Nothing translates as easily as Figurenotes. It is just so obvious that it works!
Lucinda Mackworth-Young – Pianist

Figurenotes, starting simply for my ASN pupils, is very relatable and doable. The fact that I can make my own unique music and resources, and so can my pupils, is so valuable. Really enjoyed the training day. Extremely valuable for my pupils

ASN Teacher

Great to see that there is a useful resource to compliment me or others in delivering REAL music lessons. Really useful to see how Figurenotes can start basic and develop to full musical writing and composition.

Chloe Douglas – Primary Teacher
It's the tool I've been looking for for a long time
Isobel Burnie – Music Teacher
I'm so impressed with Figurenotes. Such a simple concept and so effective
Thomas Frost – Music Teacher
I haven't come across anything that comes close to it for inclusivity
Morven McKerrell – Music Teacher
The software is great! It means we can do the songs they really want to learn
Mo Malcolm-Gourley – Glasgow
A really valuable technique. Needs more exposure!
Lee Reynolds – Glyndebourne Youth Opera Musical Director
Figurenotes is by far the best thing for pupils with additional support needs
Karl Macrae – Let’s Mac Music
Figurenotes is giving us the opportunity to involve all children in music
Annona Thornton – Music Teacher
Figurenotes has broken down a huge barrier for me to enable teaching and learning to progress
Primary Teacher – Wemyss Bay Primary School
Figurenotes is giving us the opportunity to involve all children in music
Annona Thornton – Music Teacher
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