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What is the Apple Banana Carrot Method?

ABC Creative Music and the Apple Banana Carrot Method disproves the following myths:-

• You learn to be creative in music once you have learnt an instrument, learnt to read music, and learnt music theory. Creativity comes at the end!

• Teachers need to be not only musically trained but specially skilled in the practice of improvisation and composition to teach music creativity.

• There aren't enough teachers like this, or resources that actually work, to make music creativity available to all children.

• Music creativity is difficult and something only the most talented pupils can attempt.

• We need to focus first on the basics, which are providing instrumental tuition to children, getting them to learn to play instruments, and to read notated music.


Children can study music creativity from nursery (3 years old) through primary (5 to 11 years old) and instrumental classes (7 years to adult). This is possible and realistic.

Children can develop music creativity skills and enjoyment of performance from the age of 3 upwards, before they have learnt to read music or play an instrument.

These ideas can be taught by any teacher with the right support resources and training.

The benefits of music creativity are accessible to all children and teachers
not just a "talented few".

A music creativity strand enriches the relationship between teachers and pupils, and pupils and their instruments.

It creates a non-judgmental feeling of fun, ownership, and inclusion.

This is an advantage in helping children to learn basic instrumental skills.

"It provides the basics better".

Using the ABC Method you can implement:

  • a progressive creative music strategy that is accessible to all children
  • a program that runs from Nursery, through Primary and Instrumental Services
  • a plan that invests in the skills and confidence of your existing teachers, and shapes new resources to fit their needs

Our fantastic Senior Trainer Barbara Scott in the classroom (photo marc marnie)

(photo marc marnie)

Tell me more about the
Apple Banana Carrot Method ?

The Apple Banana Carrot Method

The Apple Banana Carrot Method has been developed in Scotland over the last 10 years by Cambridge University educated Doctors and Jazz Musicians Tom and Phil Bancroft . It is already being used in over 10 Local Authority areas in Scotland to allow non-specialist teachers to teach baseline music skills, and support creativity and performance in children from 3 years upwards.

The Apple Banana Carrot Method looks at the psychology of creativity for both teacher and pupil and produces original and effective techniques that make teaching music creativity and performance accessible to all children and teachers. This is a revolution in music education and it is being started in Scotland.

The Apple Banana Carrot Method :

  • is theory based, progressive, and aimed at children from 3 up
  • has been developed with the main goal of developing music creativity
  • genuinely addresses the real fears and anxieties of teachers about teaching
    - music (if they are not musically trained or confident)
    - music creativity (if they trained in music but not in teaching music creativity)
  • provides a seamless transition between Early Years and Primary music education and fulfils the creativity requirements in 5 -14.
  • is fun, visual, easy to use, and develops instrumental skills
  • is evolving, so resources will be tailored to fit the needs of your staff
The Apple Banana Carrot Method has been developed in Scotland by twin brothers.

Tom and Phil Bancroft are 2 of Scotland's leading Jazz musicians and educators, who both trained in Medicine at Cambridge University. Their contemporary jazz band Trio AAB is recognised as "the most complete mix of originality and invention" The Times, and their CDs have been made worldwide Jazz Albums of the year by the Guardian and BBC Radio 3 (see www.cabermusic.com). They have extensive teaching experience in schools, workshops, and with private students. Phil has taught saxophone, and improvisation at Napier University and the RSAMD. Tom has taught Jazz composition at Napier University, has been a creativity tutor on Distil (training leading professional traditional musicians) as well as being Musical Director for the Grampian Jazz School, and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland until 2003.

Tom won a prestigious Creative Scotland Award in 2004 and in 2007 won the BBC Jazz Award for Innovation.

See www.interrupto.com for more info.

They began developing the Apple Banana Carrot Method 10 years ago and have used the ideas in teaching students on all instruments and musical styles and from nursery to university levels .

"We are both jazz musicians and teachers, and did a lot of workshops and concerts in schools. This is important and valuable work but we began to feel frustrated that we were not leaving much behind for children or staff other than good memories . In some cases we felt we were actually de-skilling the staff in the schools we visited because we could improvise and they couldn't. We felt we could contribute something that made more of a permanent difference rather than just one great day.

So we set about developing simple and accessible techniques that addressed the psychological barriers holding back the teaching of music creativity: eg feeling I am not qualified to do or teach this, fear and anxiety of being put on the spot and sounding 'bad', being overloaded by the challenges of being creative while playing an instrument in front of an audience, the feeling that if I can't do this to a professional standard then I can't teach it.

We looked deeply at the process of music creativity, how it happens in the brain, and the reasons why your brain can overload and the process can become unpleasant and threatening. From this work we have developed simple, fun, and age-appropriate techniques that we have tested extensively in our own teaching and that really work"

Some of the central ideas in the Apple Banana Carrot Method are:

1) Use of Brain Resources (BR)

We believe everyone has the same amount of BR. They are used for:

• using concepts
• motor skills (conscious to unconscious)
• social factors (dealing with anxiety)
• creativity
• memory (conscious to unconscious)
• listening/singing/playing an instrument

Asking students to do too many tasks at once (eg be creative while playing an unfamiliar instrument) requires more brain resources than are available and causes 'Brain Overload in Public' BOIP. BOIP = Fear = BOIP. BOIP can be damaging and can even put people off performance and creativity for life.

2) Teach Concepts:

• Use Intermediate Achievable Steps (IAS)
• use the familiar to teach the new
• 'do' then 'name'
• learn through play/creativity

3) Teach Motor Skills

• conscious new movement becomes unconscious familiar movement and uses fewer brain resources
• use IAS to overcome challenges
• be repetitive

4) Support Creativity

• Create a Safe/Fun dynamic
• Teach an understanding of Form - use it to create phrases!
• Restrict choice
• Split performer/creator roles
• Remove the technical challenge
• Repetition 'Rules'!
• Organise Small things into Large things
• Repeat Back results of creativity
• Avoid BOIP

5) Enjoy Performance

• Role Play to create a feeling of performance
• Encourage applause
• Practice performance skills

Early Creativity

Is creativity appropriate for very young children. All parents know that their children are born creative. At nursery age, the challenge is to support children to develop and consolidate early creative skills, and to retain this creative exploratory outlook, as they enter into the social world and become self-conscious.

We see early creativity as:

• Contributing
• Imagining & pretending
• Making simple choices
• Learning to repeat things
• Combining simple elements into new things
• Enjoyment of performance

A flow chart describes how students are taken through a series of learning experiences to develop music creativity and organisational skills and a familiarity and confidence in performance before applying these skills to the technical challenge of using an instrument or pitch, scales and chords.
ABC Creative Music would very much welcome the opportunity to come and show you the resource packs based on the ABC method and explain the methods and resources in person.
Click on the image above to enlarge the flow chart.  

Click on Why ABC Creative Music graphic to see large version

Why choose ABC resources?