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How does one learn music arrangement?

2014 December 19
by Eric Ng

From Wikipedia ;

In music, an arrangement is a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work. It may differ from the original work by means of reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure.

To some, it might be totally cheem, to some, it might be something natural. Over the weeks I’ve been working with my team on creating an effective syallabus for music arrangement. I think it’s something worthwhile handing over to those who are interested to arrange their own music, as the task of putting instruments together, combining groove and harmony, layering and getting the right instrument, with the right chord out at the right time seems totally baffling to some.

However, it totally doesn’t need to be!

Especially in this day and age where technology has made music making much more accessible, enjoyable and most importantly, affordable to all. I, for one, who can’t read or write notes have benefitted greatly from technology. For things that I can’t communicate thru writing on paper, I can thru the aid of computers and music software to program what I hear in my head, ultimately getting the message out

When I 1st started, (ok, ‘uncle’ talk again), getting a good serious music arrangement set up will mean getting a keyboard, sound modules, a midi sequencer, a sampler plus a tape/ADAT/MD recorder, all of which will add up to almost 10 000SGD or more.

Nowadays, all that stuff is summarised to a computer, a USB music keyboard and a music software. If you want to sing into the comp, you can pick up a decent recording condensor mic at a fraction of the price compared to the past as well( I’d say from 80SGD onwards)

However, just like painting, having all the different colours readily at your finger tips all means nothing if you don’t know what to do with it. You can stack 20 different shades on the canvas and it can look like a complete mess or you can just use one color and create the ultimate masterpiece. All that takes experience.

And it’s from that experience of having arranged songs like those below, in which I’m working with my team, drawing to create the most straight forward way for those interested in music arrangements to quickly find their way to get started immediately. I believe being able to apply what you’ve been taught ASAP is the quickest and most fun way to improve yourself and take you to the next step, getting you closer to allowing others to hear what you envision.

Over the years, I’ve received so many requests from people interested in learning music arrangement. So if you are one of those, do look up FM Pop Music School on Facebook, “like” us if you haven’t done so already ( https://www.facebook.com/fmpopmusicsch?ref=br_tf ) and watch out for updates on when we’ll be launching this music arrangement course!

Meanwhile, here’s a tip, just go find a music software to install on your computer(as a Protools and Garageband user, that’s what I’d recommend), fiddle with it first for getting your hands dirty in the deed is the best way to get started on anything!

Enjoy!

Arrangements I’ve done over the years







A good pop song will never go out of style

2014 December 16
by Eric Ng

Have been reviving my personal music history recently thru vinyl, re collecting albums that I grew up with from bands like the Beatles to Elton John, to Poison, on to Nirvana and Oasis, fast forward to Ryan Adams, John Mayer etc. Actually it will probably be the 3rd time I’m buying most of these albums, from tape, to CD, to LP. The albums, the songs, those melodies have been firmly implanted in my musical core. At the same time, I’ve been catching up on what’s happening currently thru music streaming sites with their latest playlists, and enjoying the recent albums by EDM giants David Guetta and Tiesto as well.



Interesting enough, both of these mass appeal chart toppers albums have been getting more and more pop song oriented in their later releases. Especially with these 2 recent albums “Listen”(David Guetta) and “A Town called Paradise”(Tiesto) being very pop melody and arrangement centered, with guitars, pianos, great vocalists and more importantly including traditional song structures, 8 bar verses, huge choruses, middle eights etc that has been around before the Beatles even started.

Though what is termed as “good” songs will never ever be agreed upon with music being so subjective to tastes and sometimes, age. It’s like how I always say when I start our hit melody songwriting course, no matter what kind of arrangement(music style, genre) you want to wrap around it, it’s still the same shit, you can’t run too far from the melody/lyric form that appeals to the masses that people term, the hit song.

I’m glad throughout all these years of me discovering and later on making music, that good catchy pop songs will never go out of style!

金池 new single《好好过》>10 million listens within a week!?!

2014 December 11
by Eric Ng

Holleeeyyyy!!! When 小寒 shared this link a few days ago, I read it too fast and mistook as the song that we wrote together for 金池《好好过》crossed a million listens combined on music streaming sites within a week of release.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/ent/2014-12/05/c_127279355.htm

you can hear the song here.

http://music.sina.com.cn/yueku/i/2859340.html

However later on she told me it’s not one but TEN million?!?!

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(this is just the count for one of the many music streaming sites in China)

That’s insane!!!! Especially during times like these where there are so many new artists sprouting, so many songs being created, recorded and released all over the world. Honestly, as a songwriter, it’s quite a kick!

Kudos to the power of going viral in the internet age, and of course the teamwork of 金池 together with the production team!

I also realise in this day and age, its not easy to look at liner notes, or album credits in a CD sleeve, so I’ve listed the music production team behind the song here :)

《好好过》

演唱 Performed by:金池

作词 Lyrics:小寒

作曲/制作人/编曲/吉他/键盘/貝斯/和音编写 Melody/Producer/Arranger/Guitars/Bass/Keyboards/Backup Vocals Arrangement:黄韵仁 Eric Ng

鼓 Drums: Gary Gideon

和音 Backup Vocals : 金池

弦乐编写 String Arrangement:馮文甫 Bang Wenfu

弦乐 Strings section :中国国家交响乐团

錄音師/錄音室 Recording Engineer/Recording Studio : Glow, Mandric Tan, Tim Liew@Sound Farm Production Studio (鼓Drums),TC@Tweak Tone Labs, Leonard Fong@Resonance Audio(弦乐Strings),王辰@非凡耳錄音室 (人聲,和音Vocals, Backup Vocals)

混音 Mixing Engineer:沈文钏 Darren Sim @The Neater Dump Studio

母带处理 Mastering Engineer:Chris Gehringer@Sterling Sound NYC

I first worked with 金池 last year when we embarked on an insane mission to record 2-3 songs a day together with the other Voice of China finalists 吴莫愁,张玮 etc. Just like the rest of the Voice singers, 金池 is not just incredibly talented in singing but extremely hardworking, professional and focused, constantly putting fatigue aside admist recording and shooting, committing to get her songs, getting the takes right.

So I was glad she gave me a call somewhere in July this year when I was in the airport heading to LA. She shared with me that she’s looking for a big sounding ‘bala’ song to make a comeback as she hadn’t released anything in a while. I said “Sure! that’s what I do! =D”

I remembered humming the melody while I was in the plane drifting in and out of sleep to LAX and the melody was done before I even got there, afterwhich I set up a chat session for 金池 to discuss the lyrics direction with 小寒 as she wanted to get more involved in the lyrics direction this time. Before I even came back from the holiday, we already set up the vocal recording session dates in 北京.

Though the vocals for this song was done real quick, just like how our previous sessions had went, the cool thing is because she’s such an incredible live singer, we had a lot of room to find different ways of approaching the song and have multiple takes that worked. What we wanted to achieve in this song vocally was to not have your typical-yet-another-singer-with-great-technique-screaming-belting-how-great-she-is-performance. Instead we were focused on how to restrain from oversinging to let the emotion, the lyrical content and sincerity come through. For great singers, especially those from singing competitions backgrounds, this is not a simple task. But I can say 金池 managed to achieve just that. In my trip to 北京 this time, I heard good 口碑 from both music lovers and industry insiders, and now 10 million music streaming listens?! I’m so glad her hard work paid off!

And as this time, my 北京 trip was a very short one. Upon knowing I was there, 金池 rushed over from the airport before I left as she insisted she had to hand me her single in person. It’s humble, hardworking and sincere artists like these that makes our work such fun, inspiring us to outdo ourselves to make greater creations for them!

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My favourite faded fantasy (The power of the singer songwriter)

2014 November 30
by Eric Ng

Recently, Damien Rice, a singer-songwriter that I truly admire, teamed up with Rick Rubin, a legendary producer who’s had a string of producing timeless albums to release his new album, “My favourite faded fantasy” after an 8 year absence. This is such a cool pairing as these 2 guys are both make such strong statements while having an enigmatic presence shrouded in mystery in how and why they do what they do .


When I first chanced upon his album in 2002 while browsing in a CD store(anyone still remember how that feels like?), I was totally drawn into the nakedness, the stark presentation of his songs, with the music arrangement just barely there to allow the emotion to shine full force. And that inspired me to write a melody with that arrangement concept in mind which ended up as 人质 one of the biggest hit songs in my career.


On 1st listen of the new album, I felt that hmm, it doesn’t really sound that much different from what he was doing 8 years ago.

However right now I’m just hooked on the album, and that’s the power of the singer songwriter, even if the music style moving on might not be radically different. If you get it right the 1st time, that identity that you self created with your songs, your statements, is something that entirely formed and belongs to you. This is also the reason why Funkie Monkies is so passionate in grooming singer songwriters. And reflecting on my initial impression of this album, I also realise if it ain’t broken, there’s totally no need to fix it.

Finally I’d like to share one of the singles which has served as my soundtrack walking aimlessly in Taipei and Beijing in the past week. I’ve ordered the vinyl version of this album and I’m sure I’ll be drowning in it even more.


How did I learn the guitar?

2014 November 20
by Eric Ng

As some of you might know, I didn’t really take formal lessons for guitar playing and hence my lack of knowledge of reading/writing and music theory. So many always ask me, how did I manage to learn guitar?

I’d say the 1st key requirement to learning the guitar is. Interest, which leads to passion.

First of all, I’d like to say, guitar lessons are great, if my dad had supported me in taking guitar lessons I’d be so grateful then. However that didn’t happen. But I did have that interest, as I noticed the cool kids in school then were playing guitar. It didn’t look that difficult so my interest led me to just try copy everything that I listened to and liked. Aka my influences. And of coz, even the most technically efficient player will not be able to replicate a performance exactly note for note and feel, especially for a not very technical player like me, and hence that forms my personal style. Especially in age of Youtube, it’s so easy to pick things up. Listen to the stuff you like, and try to play along, if all else fails, I’m sure there is a link somewhere that will help you. And of course, if you can afford it, go take some lessons to reinforce and give a meaning to what you learn (thru music theory).

To end off, I shall list a few of my influences that led me to play the way I do today. Enjoy!

1. On playing leads.


This is the 1st lead guitar part I tried to play the moment I got my hands on a guitar. Because there is no other lead part more desirable to play, up till this day!

2. On playing riffs


Riffs are a series of notes, chord pattern or musical phrases that repeat thruout a song. And this is a MONSTER riff.

3. When I discovered that the acoustic guitar was cool.


4. When I realised that chords can be played like lead guitar, constantly moving, not sticking to one shape.


By this time I was starting to do gigs and moving into recording.

5. When I discovered travis picking that led to my 1st ‘hit song’ 纸飞机 with Sandy 林亿莲


6. When I discovered the wonders of layering guitars.

For electric guitars


For acoustic guitars


7. When delay became one of my favourite effects for electric guitar



8. When I realised the importance of heart and feel over technique


9. However a strong technique doesn’t hurt feel either


Of course there are many other guitar stuff that I listened to along the way like Steve Vai, Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith etc. But I’d say these particular few albums/songs sparked me to play in a certain way, by imitating wrongly, it turned into improvisation and that’s the way that people build up their sound. One thing in common about all these links that I just provided is that they all served to a great melody which also influenced my melody sense. I also realise that these songs are all very old hahaha, so for those starting out, I’m sure you have songs that you love. Learning the guitar thru material that you love will spark that passion and interest way more. So get out there and find your own influences! Enjoy!

FM Talent Team showcase at Switch by Timbre

2014 November 16
by Eric Ng

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On the 4th of Nov, Switch by Timbre housed our own FM Pop Music School’s Talent Team’s showcase, giving our Funkie team a platform to showcase their self written originals. These guys were mostly trainees from our “Career in Hit Songwriting course”. The team and we were greatly encouraged as they were received by a well attended turnout of music lovers hoping to catch hits of the future. This is a good sign that Singaporeans are recognising the talents we have and are willing to check out new singers and songwriters even if they are totally new faces.

More performances of new songs by the FM Talent team to come!

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Life is great on tour at…Resorts World Singapore!

2014 November 14
by Eric Ng

Last weekend we had 2 shows with 华健 at Resorts World in Singapore. Thanks to Rock Records Singapore and the Resorts World Team. What a load of fun it was! We had guided tours at Universal Studios and great food everyday, making me feel like a tourist right here at home. And the added bonus was Lyla could enjoy her 2nd stay cation. Here are some pics!

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Vinyl in Singapore. Alive and kicking!

2014 November 3
by Eric Ng

It all started with looking for a house warming gift for a friend, I wanted to get a vinyl player and a few LPs of his favourite band, the Beatles. So I started googling for shops in Sg selling vinyl and I discovered that hey! There are quite a few shops selling vinyl in Sg!

After reading up reviews I decided to visit Vinylicious Records at Parklane, Roxy Disc House and Red Point Record Warehouse at Playfair Road (which is actually walking distance from my old house in which I’ve stayed for about 6 years!?)

From my brief browsing times, I’d say Vinylicious and Roxy are great for new records and reissues. Vinylicious carried some nice Record Store Day limited edition presses in which I managed to get a limited to 10 000pcs Beatles RSD edition for a very reasonable price.
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And as for Roxy Disc House, after speaking to the shop assistant, I later realised that I used to frequent this store at it’s original location Roxy Square when I was a kid!

Enter Red Point Warehouse, and you’ve entered a time capsule. I brought Roy Li there and the boss recognised us and gladly allowed us to snap photos of their set up.

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Carrying used audio equipment and mostly used but well maintained records, I saw so many of the records I grew up with and more! With a library of 10 000 plus records, I managed to uncover so many bands and artists I never knew existed. My inspiration for making music is mostly sparked by discovering new and old music. For e.g…

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I think I’ll be spending many more hours at Red Point in future!

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Guess who really enjoyed herself combing thru vinyl? ;) We ended up buying her very 1st Walt Disney record which she chose herself!
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I’d say musicians who are currently in, or hope to enter the music industry in it’s current state have to be crazy, passionate, or both :) And that seems to be the general vibe when I browsed thru the vinyl stores. You can feel the love of music from the shop owners or assistants, plus they know their stuff. Especially with the high cost of rental in Singapore and with the space that stocking vinyl takes up. You really have to love what you do to set up shop here.

In a galaxy far far away where CD shops used to be everywhere. I was not really into vinyl that much. Even as a music producer, I’ve gotten used to the convenience of mp3s at the expense of frequencies lost to create a file that small. But nowadays when most of our music is streamed, or played thru mp3s, vinyl is more relevant than ever! If you are a music lover, line up a vinyl record be prepared to have your ears senses blown wide open.

So the title of a song that I used to listen to by Cinderalla, an old 80s hair metal band, “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”. really takes a different meaning when I listen a well recorded record thru a turntable. Guitars scream out in 3D, a nice Fender Rhodes can warm up a fireplace, vocalists sound like they’re right in front of you, bass guitars and kick drums lock up and live well in their well separated spaces etc. Even the old school Mando pop (I’m talking like 70s records) that Red Point was playing seemed to have a whole different life blasting thru their gigantic speaker hi fi set up. It’s as if we didn’t realise that modern music listening methods had slapped ear muffs on our heads.

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So yeah, a house warming gift has turned my vinyl interest in overdrive. Looking forward to get my own proper turntable set up soon!

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For those who wish to check out what you’ve been missing…

Vinylicious Records

35 Selegie Road
Parklane Shopping Mall
#01-22
Singapore 188307

Roxy Disc House

The Adelphi
1 Coleman Street #03-42
S179803

Red Point Record Warehouse

80 Playfair Road Kapo Factory Building Blk B #06-11
S367998

Warning : Combing thru stacks of vinyl can be tiring.

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Project Superstar 2014 Finals this Sunday!

2014 October 20
by Eric Ng

Yes, the finals of this year’s UPSS is this Sunday! It’s been a really quick competition this year as opposed to previous seasons. I’m quite excited about the line up for the final four as they all have very different styles so it’s gonna be interesting to watch.

I’ve also noticed that some have been quick to find any opportunity to slam those involved and the show itself etc. Who’s in, who’s out, who said what, the standard, this and that etc. I guess that all comes together with the package for those involved, as trolling is entertainment to some…

And as with all competitions, we all know the winners might not be the best achiever in the long term so I think to me, it’s more important that these contestants learned something during these few months, improved and further fuel their passion to pursue their love of music.

And I think they’ve all did.

So like it or not, Project Superstar 2014 Finals, this Sunday! Tune in to the fun!

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The Ngs staycation in MBS!

2014 October 16
by Eric Ng

Honestly, I used to hate this word staycation, coz I never understood why get a room right here in Sg when we all have homes! Till last weekend when my helper suddenly had to go home, we thought let’s go on a family holiday! And then suddenly we realised, whoops, Lyla doesn’t have a passport! haha. And so began our 1st staycation ever at Marina Bay Sands.

What a load of fun!!!

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Okay, probably the only thing about the MBS pool is that you can’t really swim in it coz there’s way too much people inside taking photos and using selfie sticks! =D (Us included hahah)
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Knocked out for the night.
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Guess who had the most fun during this staycation? Actually it’s all of us! So will we go on another staycation? Hell yeah! And it’s also a good warm up to when Lyla gets a passport and we really travel somewhere, like maybe Phuket?

Can’t wait!



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