BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award Semi-Finalists Announced

BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award 2015The BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award 2015 semi-finalists have been announced. As usual we have a fantastic lineup of young musicians from all over the country. The finalists are:

Lucie Hendry – clarsach (Laurencekirk)
Ryan Young – fiddle (Cardross)
Claire Hastings – Scots song (Dumfries)
Heather Downie – clarsach (Dunblane)
Rhoda Naomi Welsh – voice / piano (Stornoway)
Grant McFarlane – accordion (Paisley)
Ainsley Hamill – voice (Helensburgh)
Louise Bichan – fiddle (Orkney)
Gemma Donald – fiddle (Shetland)
Alexander Levack – whistle /pipes (Maryburgh)
Suzanne Houston – piano (Golspie)
Seamus O’Baoighill – fiddle (Skye)

Each semi-finalist will perform for 10 minutes in Coulter Hall, Coulter, South Lanarkshire on October 4th. Their performance will be listened to by 5 music professional judges and 6 musicians will be chosen to go through to the finals at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival on Sunday 1st February.

Simon Thoumire, Creative Director of Hands Up for Trad says “As every year passes I’m always astounded by the amount of talented musicians we have in Scotland. This year is no different and the judges are going to have the hardest time ever trying to separate 6 musicians for the 2015 finals.”

If you would like to feature any of the semi-finalists in your media please contact us and we will pass their details on to you.

The BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award exists to encourage young musicians to keep their tradition alive and to maximise their musical potential by the pursuit of a career in traditional music. Each year the winner is provided with high profile performance opportunities and the necessary tools and advice they require to launch a career in traditional music.

The ‘Award’ takes the form of a competition which includes a fun residential weekend in October at Wiston Lodge, South Lanarkshire for 12 semi-finalists. The weekend includes workshops and advice on all aspects of working in the traditional music business plus a public concert with performances by the semi-finalists. From this concert, six finalists are chosen by a panel of judges to go forward to the grand final. This is held each January at a prestigious concert at Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow where one of the six is judged to be BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award winner for that year.

The competition is organised and run by Hands Up For Trad for BBC Radio Scotland. Hands Up for Trad are an organisation dedicated to increasing the profile and visibility of Scottish traditional music through information, education and advocacy.


This is the fifteenth year of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award.

A list of the previous winners can be seen here

Singer Robyn Stapleton (2014 winner) will be performing at the BBC Scotland Proms on the 13th September.

For more information contact Hands Up for Trad, Melville House, 70 Drymen Road, Bearsden, Glasgow G61 2RH 07775854572

How to make a website

One of the most important things you can do as a musician is have a website. Your website is your store front. Facebook and twitter are all well and good but they are trends and at sometime will disappear. Having a website will always be there with your music, biography, discography, news, techspecs etc. It also looks good to send promotors to your website when they are looking for information.

A few years ago you had to know lots of html code to make a website but while having some html knowledge helps you don’t need it nowadays. You can use WordPress (this site is wordpress) or Wix is also popular (check out or There are plenty of other options as well if you look.

As said above this is what all Hands Up for Trad websites are based on.
Wordpress offers you a backend database option which means that you have a backend of your website that controls what the public side looks like. It sounds complicated but is actually very easy. There are two kinds of WordPress – and The difference is that is a free service (Wix offer this as well) and your website is hosted on their servers. Your website domain would look like It is slightly limited in terms of plugins and widgets compared to is wordpress hosted on your own domain. To make this work you would go to a hosting company like and buy your preferred domain. You would then install wordpress on the domain. Again this sounds very complicated however hosting companies like Bluehost make this very easy. You just go to your control panel and install WordPress. In my opinion this is the better way to go as your website will have lots of functionality. You can download themes to make it look the way you want it, install plugins and widgets to make it do things you want it to.

Here is a tutorial made by Scottish firm Inner Ear. It’s very good and the same techniques work for a website as well. offers drag and drop functionality. Findlay Napier said when designing that he just dragged the widgets he wanted on to the page.

Whatever website type you choose the most important thing you can do is tell people about it. After you have written about yourself, uploaded some music etc you need to let people see it. This is where social media comes in handy. What I would do is write a blog post and then share it on FaceBook or Twitter or Tumbler or anything else current trying to get people to click on the links back to your website. When people visit your website you want to try and collect their email address. This way you don’t have to rely on them coming back to read your news. You can just send it to their inbox where they can click on the link and view your news, buy your music etc.

If you would like any more advice please get in touch.

How to make a video

Making a video of your music is a great idea! Uploading it to YouTube or Vimeo means instant worldwide visibility. This is where young people go to watch their music nowadays and you can’t afford to not be part of the crowd. There are people who can make videos for you and if you can afford it that is the best way to go forward. If you are just starting out and don’t have any cash you need to make one yourself.

So I’m often asked is it easy. Well to make a basic video it is especially if you are making a one camera video. Every computer has free video editing software nowadays – iMovie or Windows Movie Maker and there is a lot more than that.

All you have to do is to find a nice light space to record. Borrow a video camera or use your smartphone, record yourself / band (remember and play well!) and import the video on to your computer. Import it into your video editing programme, top and tail it with credits (your name, website, contact details), render it (usually exporting if from your software does this) and upload it to YouTube etc.

If you have more than one camera you might want to record a more complicated and original set up. That’s not difficult either. Just check the help files of your software and it will tell you what to do next!

Sometimes I will use audio software to ‘strip’ the audio of the video. I’ll then EQ it to make it sound nicer, compress it to make the same volume throughout, add reverb to make it sound bigger (depending on the room you have recorded in) and then normalise it to make it louder. I’ll then import this back into the video editing software and replace the audio already there with the new version.

Once your video is uploaded you can embed it into your website, put it on social media and let promotors see you performing. Brilliant! Instant promotion :-)

Don’t wait for other to make a video before you and get the gigs – just go for it you won’t regret it.

A videographer who works for Hands Up for Trad is Martin Forry of Check him out he does a great job.

Also we work with Bees Nees Media who film the Scots Trad Music Awards for MG ALBA. They offer many services and do a brilliant job.

Sample CD budget

Below is a link to a sample CD budget. I’ve populated it with figures. They are all realistic but you will notice at the bottom of the spreadsheet that there is still a deficit (ie you still don’t have enough money). Practise playing around with the figures – taking things out / finding cheaper options etc until you get a zero deficit.

What you have to do now is to put in your own financial figures (including income). When they are in play around with the figures until you have a budget that works for you. Any questions please get in touch.

How to make a CD?

20140618-113628-41788371.jpgThis is a question I’m often asked. It’s not difficult but you have to plan the process carefully. Usually the first thing I ask is “when would you like the CD to come out?” If you plan to bring out your CD in October lets work back from there.

October: CD release
Mid August: Send CD master to pressing plant / itunes etc
Start of August: Have CD mastered and CD cover / notes etc finalised
Mid/End of July: Mix album
Start of July: Record album in studio / home
June: Rehearse like mad to make sure your album is going to sound amazing
May: Make sure you are happy with your arrangements
April: Decide on material and book musicians / band mates / studio to play and record on album

I’ve written the first March task in capitals as it is really important. You need to know how much it is going to cost so you can decide on different recording options. If you haven’t drawn up a budget before here is a template.

So you have drawn up a budget and you now know how much making a CD will cost you. You now have a few options to think about.

Can you afford to make this CD?
If yes – brilliant – on you go!
If not then you need to start finding cheaper options. You could look at cheaper studios, taking less time in the studio, renting equipment yourself, use less musicians, ask your friends to play for less (or nothing) and make sure everyone gets a cut of CD profits on the gigs. You could also look for funding to help you with the costs of CD from Scottish Enterprise or Creative Scotland. You might also try Crowd funding or asking family for a loan against CD sales. There are lots of options so don’t give up when you first look at your budget. Have a look at out sample CD budget and try out your own figures.

When it comes to pressing your CDs there are lots of options out there however we recommend Birnam CD – a Scottish company who can find you great deals and ensure your CD project reaches a successful conclusion. Contact them when you are preparing your budget and get a cost for pressing 500, 1000, 2000 CDs (what you plan on pressing). One thing to remember is that CDs take up a lot of room in your house so don’t press to many more than you think you can sell!!!

When you have decided on the way forward you next need to book your recording space and simultaneously check that that your band / session musicians are free. When all this is in the diary comes the bits we really like doing – getting the material together and rehearsing until it sounds fantastic!

Running alongside all this rehearsing should be thoughts about marketing. Is my website good enough? Does it let the public know what kind of musician I am? How am I going to tell people about my CD? Am I going to put it on Spotify, iTunes etc? Do I want my CD in the shops? We’ll deal with some of these issues below.

Also you should be getting your CD designed at this point. I think it is best to use a designer rather than yourself for this project. They will understand the printing intricacies and you don’t have to worry about it! I would recommend 16k Design, Louise Bichan, Dave Milligan for great design. You might also want photos taken for the cover (and future promo). You will have to know the names of the tracks and any other text for the inside including recording credits, musicians, designer, track timings and an ALBUM TITLE! Also get a barcode as well. Your pressing company should be able to provide one for you.

Another thing worth doing at this point is applying for a MCPS AP1 license for your album. If you are recording other peoples music on your CD they have to be paid and MCPS will do this for you. Also your pressing company will not press your CD without this. Read more here.

So you are all rehearsed up and your first studio day has come. Remember and get there nice and early as it will take time to get set up. The engineer will get all your microphones set up / sounds etc before you can make your first recording. If you are playing with other musicians make sure you take time to feel comfortable with your earphone mixes so you can hear everybody. Don’t be scared to take your earphones off if it feels better or just have one on. You can also ask for reverb in your earphones if you want it to feel more like a gig more than a dry studio room.

When you are ready to go GO! Remember that first takes are not often the best and it takes a few goes to get into it. Also studios have a bad habit of audibly pointing out weaknesses in your arrangements. Don’t worry about this. Just fix it! You know how many recording days you have so try and work to a set amount of tracks a day. Remember to leave yourself time at the end of the recording days for making any changes etc.

After you have recorded it mixing time. If you have time it is good to take a few days off before going back into the studio so you can listen to rough mixes and decide how you would like the track to sound. Remember again to not spend too much time on each track unless you have a big budget.

When mixing is finished you need to get the album mastered. This process is all about making the final CD. The engineer will make sure the tracks are all the same volume, the correct gaps are in place between the tracks, track timings and the album is loud enough. Often people take the final mixes to another studio to master for a different perspective but again it all depends on budget.

So now you have a stereo master you need to send it away for pressing. Speak to your pressing company so they get it in the correct format. You also have to send your design files away at the same time.

Once you have sent your master away it will take a few weeks to come back to you as a complete product. There is nothing better than holding your finished CD! However you don’t want to hold it for too long. You need to get it to distributors to send to shops, website etc. The main Scottish distributors are Highlander Music and Gordon Duncan Distribution. UK distributors are Proper Distribution. I would be wary of singing an exclusive deal with anyone as they all sell to different areas of the market (but some of them will try to get you to do this). Get a pack together including a CD and some promo info including any gigs you might have and send it to them. Wait a week or two before phoning them to see how many they want. Please don’t be surprised if they say 5 (and you have 1000 sitting in your living room…)

You could also send your master for upload to iTunes, Spotify etc. This is not expensive to do and again there are many companies who will do this for you. I recommend ISA Music, a Scottish company who will do a good job for you.

You should also be thinking about tour dates/ record launch etc however here are a few other things I mentioned above.

Your website is your store front – the place where your fans will find out all about you. You need something that looks good and professional. This does not have to be expensive. It can be free if you are willing to do it yourself. All Hands Up for Trad websites use To run this you need to own your domain which you can buy from loads of companies which you can find with a simple search engine search. Personally I like Blue Host. You can also try which is free and works similarly to There is also Wix and many options out there that will give you free websites. Get your own domain though. You will have it for life and it is a good investment if you are a musician. I’ll write another tutorial on websites however you need to populate your website with a biog, CD info page and maybe a section where you can hear your music (using SoundCloud?). Also a contact page with an email and phone number so potential bookers can get in touch with you.

Telling people about your CD.
When you get your CD back you need to send it to radio stations and out for review. We all love a nice review and the publicity that comes off it. Getting reviews is difficult though as the print market is shrinking but there some great music journalists out there and it is worth sending it to them. (Remember though to watch your costs. Don’t bankrupt yourself sending out too many). We have list of reviewers that is available here Also do some research on your favourite radio stations and send them a CD. Try and find out the producers name and send CD direct to them. You can also check out Hands Up for Trad’s Folk Waves project.

Good luck with all this and if you need any more advice feel free to contact us.

Are you going to enter the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award? The closing date is approaching!

Robyn Stapleton - ColdstreamIt’s not long now until the closing date of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award! Friday 4th July is the closing date and you shouldn’t miss it. There are so many opportunities to be had by entering the competition. Our 2014 winner Robyn Stapleton is just back from Coldstream where she sang the Queen’s Baton over the Scottish border, the 2013 winner Paddy Callaghan has done lots of amazing things and the 2012 winner Rona Wilkie has still never stopped working.

If you are between 16 & 27 all you have to do is complete an application form– available via the BBC Radio Scotland’s website or call 0141 942 2616 and return it to the address provided along with a 10-minute recording of your playing, a short biography and paragraph explaining your commitment to a career in traditional music. Recordings must be sent to us on CD. Accompanists entering the award, eg guitarists or percussionists, may have a lead instrument on their recording. An adjudication panel will choose 12 semi-finalists based on their ability. All semi-finalists will be notified during the week beginning Monday 18th August 2014. The closing date for applications is Friday 4th July. The semi finals weekend is on Fri 3rd – Sun 5th Oct 2014.

Give it a go you will never look back!

Where the Tune Lives – a story by Becky Leach

fiddleI got this story sent to my inbox the other day and loved it. It’s by writer, fiddle player, fiddle teacher and community education worker from Edinburgh Becky Leach. Check out Becky’s other stories at

Where the Tune Lives

It was the tune that did it. I wouldn’t have said it if it weren’t for that tune.

It was a reel.   Not a long one, just eight bars to it, but you could start it off slow and then build up the speed till it changed shape, turning from one thing into another.

I’d learnt it a few weeks before, at the session at the pub. A session’s where you go and play tunes or sing songs with other people. I don’t know many of the tunes, so most of the time I just sit and listen. But sometimes I pick up my fiddle and have a go.

This one tune. It was the old man in the corner who played it. He said it was from Shetland, but he’d forgotten the name. I picked it up really quickly, it wasn’t hard, and I played it straight away when I got home. I couldn’t stop playing it after that, I liked it so much.

Which is how I found myself at the final band rehearsal before the fundraising concert, when Miss Drummond asked if I fancied doing a solo spot, saying… ‘okay’. It only took a few moments for me to feel a claw of panic in my stomach and realise what a phenomenally fucking stupid thing it was I’d just done. I’d never played in front of anyone before, not by myself. I was going to take it back, say I’d been joking, but Miss Drummond had already left the room.

I went out for my tea with the others from the band. When I got back to the hall, I looked for Miss Drummond, but the only sign of her was a piece of paper stuck up on the wall backstage: the set list. It had my name on it.


The voice came from behind me.

When I turned round, I came face to face with the old man from the pub, the one who played the tune. He was so close, I could see all the lines and wrinkles on his face, so many more of them than I’d ever noticed. His eyes, though. You wouldn’t expect eyes like that on someone his age: they were a light, bright blue. The thought passed through my head that I should have been scared at an old man I barely knew being up so close. But I wasn’t. Not exactly.

‘Worried you’ll mess it up’, he said, ‘forget the tune?’

I was going to deny it, I could hardly admit it, but before I could, he said ‘Don’t worry’, and he took hold of my fingers, clasped his own bony fingers around them and said,

‘The tune lives in yer fingers. You can’t forget it, cause it’s no just in yer brain, it’s in yer fingers, it lives there. No matter what, it’ll find its way out. It wants to be played. It wants to be heard.’


It was Miss Drummond. She was back. And just like that, the old man was gone.

‘You okay for tonight?’, she asked.


‘You sure?’

‘Aye, I’m.. I’m grand.’


And I wasn’t lying either. Because what he’d said was true. I knew it straight away, it just made sense. Some people would be awfy suspicious of him, but no me.

The band were on first. There are nine of us in the band: four fiddles, three guitars, an accordion and a saxophone. I looked out while we were playing at all the people in the audience.  Mum wasn’t there, she’d hoped to come but wasn’t well enough. But it was a nice, friendly audience all the same. They cheered when we finished. And no wonder, it was the best we’d ever played.

Twenty minutes later, I was about to go back onstage to do my spot and I was still buzzing. I got an introduction from Miss Drummond. I walked onstage, right up to the microphone and put my fiddle on my shoulder. I played. And the tune, it came alive as soon as I put bow to string. It was majestic. I was only going to play it three times, but after the third time it was begging for another go and I knew the audience wanted to hear more.

That’s what was supposed to happen, at least.

Instead, when I got to the microphone and started playing, it all sounded wrong. The noise coming out of my fiddle was weak and thin, anyone could tell from hearing that my fiddle was just a cheap one. Then, out of nowhere, my left hand started shaking and my fingers stumbled over the notes, as if they were pished.

I managed twice through the tune, then stopped and walked off. The audience clapped, but I knew they didn’t mean it. I put my fiddle in its case, and left out the back door before Miss Drummond could see me.

When I got home, I put my fiddle case under the bed, right under where I couldn’t see it. Then I put the kettle on, made two cups of tea, and took them through to the living room where Mum was sitting on the couch.

‘Aww, thanks Shona’, she said, ‘you’re a star. How did it go?’

‘Great,’ I said,   ‘really great’.

She smiled a smile that had a question in it, but then said, ‘Good. I’m glad.’

That was on the Saturday night. Sunday came and went and on Monday I was back at school.

The first time it happened was on the bus. I hate getting the bus to school, I walk if I can. But sometimes Mum needs help in the morning, and by the time I’ve made it out the house it’s too late to walk.

That morning, the bus was waiting at the traffic lights, just before the stop where the boys from the year above were huddled.   I wondered where they would sit. It probably wouldn’t make any difference, I was the only girl on the bus that morning. I knew what they’d say. It was the same every time, they weren’t exactly imaginative. I knew not to tell them to fuck off.   They’d only get worse if I did.

That was when I heard it. I thought someone was having a laugh. It was the tune.   They must have recorded it at the concert and now they were playing it back to have a go. I looked around the bus to see who it was. But there was no one there who was at the concert, and nobody else seemed to hear it. As I listened, I realised that it didn’t really sound like a recording after all, it just sounded like… the tune.

I had a weird feeling at that point, a crazy idea about where it might be coming from. I didn’t want to look down at my left hand. But I did, and saw that my fingers were playing out the tune on the edge of the seat. I tried to stop, but it was like they had a life of their own. I sat on them, but they continued to play, tapping against my thigh, and the tune was just as loud.

The lights turned to green and the bus came to the stop where the boys were waiting. But the doors didn’t open. The driver stared at them in disbelief. The boys were shouting but the driver just shrugged.   Then one of them started banging on the doors. The driver stuck his fingers up at them and drove off.

The tune stopped as soon as the bus started.   I took my left hand out from under my leg and stared at my fingers. They felt a bit tingly, like pins and needles, but I was able to move them again and they weren’t doing anything funny. When we came to the next stop the bus doors opened as usual, and did so at every stop after that.

The rest of the day was pretty normal, right up until last period. History with Mrs Young.

Lauren came to the school half way through third year. There were whispers about why she’d moved, but nobody really knew and she didn’t say. Mrs Young didn’t like Lauren. She looked at her like she was stupid and ignored her when she put her hand up.

That wasn’t even the half of it. Each class, while everyone was working, Mrs Young would walk round the room, peering down over shoulders at what was being written. She would spend just a few seconds at each desk, until she came to Lauren. She always stood just behind Lauren’s right shoulder, just out of her line of vision, and would remain there for close to a minute. It was a long minute for Lauren, who would freeze as the eyes of the class fell on her. Sometimes she would drop her pen. Sometimes it just sat motionless in her hand.

That Monday, Mrs Young was doing her usual round of the class. And when she got to Lauren, as usual, she stopped just behind her right shoulder. That’s when I heard the tune again. My fingers were tapping it out on the desk. I sat on them so no one would see them, but again the tune was just as loud.

I wasn’t the only one who heard it, this time. Mrs Young was no longer looking down over Lauren’s shoulder, but instead was staring around the classroom, looking for the source of the tune. She opened her mouth as if to speak but no sound came out. Her face paled and her pupils grew big and black. She looked at me, for just a moment, then spun on the spot and ran out of the classroom.

The whole class watched her go. Some stood up and peered down the corridor as she disappeared through the door at the end, others laughed, put their feet up and started chatting.   Lauren, though… she’d gone back to her work, she was writing away. I could only see the back of her head, I couldn’t see her face. I wondered what I’d see on it if I could.

That was no ordinary Monday, and not just because of the bus and Mrs Young. I’d been dreading that Monday for weeks, ever since they sent Mum the letter with the date and time for the assessment. 12 noon. Not in the morning, not quite in the afternoon. A strange in-between time that surely did not bode well. I said I’d go with her, I wanted to. But she said no. I had to go to school, she said. I knew it wasn’t just about school, I knew more than she thought.

I’d been dreading it for weeks. Walking home from school that day, inching closer and closer to the house, feeling a claw in my stomach and my heart banging away in my chest. She’d have been back for over an hour. She’d be in the living room, sitting on her usual spot on the sofa. She’d try to hide it, but it would be written on her face. Their assessment. Fit. For. Work.

I’d been dreading it for weeks. But that afternoon, coming home from school, it was different. I’d imagined myself walking home slowly, putting it off as much as possible. But on the day, I nearly ran home. It was in my fingers. The tune. It knew what to do.

I unlocked the front door and went straight through to the living room. She was sitting on the sofa. She smiled when she saw me, but it was there on her face.   The fingers on my left hand tingled.   This was it, the tune was going to fix it.

But no sound came out. Come on, I said to the tune.   I could feel my fingers starting to move of their own accord. But I must have been imagining it, cause when I looked down at them they were just hanging there at the end of my hand. Come on, I said.   But the tune just shook its head, gave a quiver, and left.   Leaving me and Mum, in the living room. Just the two of us. With that look on her face, and me not knowing what to do.

A few weeks later, I dug my fiddle out from under the bed. The strings were all flat and the pegs didn’t want to stay in place when I turned them, like it was in a huff, but I soon had it back in tune.   For the first time since I’d started playing, I was glad that I didn’t own my fiddle, that it was on loan from the school. That way, I wouldn’t have to think about selling it for the extra cash and the bailiffs couldn’t take it if they came round.

I started going back to the session as well, after a bit. It’s always there, every week at the same time. The old man hasn’t been back, though. He moved on to another place, the others said. For the summer.   He was always did, they said, he never stays for long.

I haven’t played the tune since then. I’m not sure I ever will. I’m not sure I could even remember it if I tried.

Robyn Stapleton sings in the Queen’s Baton to Scotland

RC-BlossomOn Saturday 14th June BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award 2014 winner Robyn Stapleton will sing in the Queen’s Baton as it arrives over the border into Coldstream. She will be singing Hands Up for Trad’s Here’s To All Our Common Wealth, a song written to be passed around Scotland by choirs as part of the Big Song Relay. I believe if you tune into the BBC on Saturday morning at 7.30am you will hear Robyn sing along with Innes Watson (guitar), Euan Burton (bass) and Fraser Stone (drums).

Now if you see yourself on the telly or making CD or people recognising you in the street (or in your living room) maybe you should consider entering the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award. You will have a great time, meet new friends, perform in front of brilliant crowd in Coulter and have an opportunity to make it through the final at Celtic Connections in February 2015. You can enter here! The closing date is Friday 4th July.

Schlides. New video from the Paddy Callaghan Trio.

Check out this brilliant video of the Paddy Callaghan Trio shot by Sean Corbett of Scorbett Films. It’s a great take on the typical trad music video. Lots of fun and great visuals and of course brilliant playing from the 2013 BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award winner Paddy Callaghan.

Remember and enter the 2014 BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award! A world of opportunities await you :-)