成都. Besides the must go provinces of 北京 and 上海, the 3rd province that I visited in China was 成都. This was about 10 years ago in 2005. And it was to give a seminar at the 四川音乐学院流行音乐学院. So much has changed then in China and in the music industry. However one thing has not changed, I always get to meet many passionate music makers here and I always leave this place inspired!
Many of the top artists in China came from Cheng Du, these include Jane Zhang 张靓颖, Zhang Jie 张杰 and many more. It’s not surprising then that 四川音乐学院 is the biggest music university in the world, housing more than 10 000 students! The school spawned many singers who went far in many of the China singing competitions, with their most famous alumni being 李宇春.
Besides the music, what else is good in Chengdu?
The moment I hit Chengdu, I asked my friend to take me to a hot pot place. I was overjoyed when they actually had two different forms of my favourite food. Luncheon meat to dip in the 麻辣 goodness!!
At night, the teachers of the university brought me to 莲花府邸, it’s a live house situated at 锦里, (Cheng Du’s famous tourist spot) where many singers honed their chops.
This trip was also especially fun because other than performing with Wakin, I was invited to the university to give a 2 hour seminar (in Mandarin) to the students. More on that in part 2. I’ve gotta start packing for my trip to Macau tomorrow!
深圳! The last time we came here, I didn’t get to go out much as it was a shorter 3 day trip. This trip allowed us more time to explore!
We stayed right across 世界之窗, a Shen Zhen tourist spot with high lights of the world. Hmm, what I can say is, the photos look more fun than the place actually was haha.
New York City
I had a friend working as entertainment manager in a club so we went over to visit. When we reached there I heard this english EDM song blasting and upon closer listening I realised it was a live singer! After her set, I asked her which music university she graduated from. She replied “None, I used to work in the airport customs” and comedically did the patting action of checking travellers at the check in area.
China got talent!
The last show we played here, we performed at the stadium where they filmed the stadium shots for the movie “Shaolin Soccer”. This time we played a newer venue and we were amazed during the “lights out” segment of the show as there were so many people!!!
Shen Zhen was fun! On to Cheng Du!
Phuket being my favourite island, I wanted Lyla to share my enthusiasm for this beautiful island as well! Thankfully, Phuket has lots for kids to do! Here’s a few places I’d recommend.
Yeah yeah, that’s obvious, however there are actually beaches along the island of Phuket, some crowded, some to chill, some with stronger waves, some with quieter shores.
Though we stayed at Patong, we didn’t hang at the beach there as it’s too crowded with people. However, get into a car and drive within 10 minutes, you’ll arrive at Karon. The Karon shoreline is really wide, so beach goers can spread themselves out comfortably.
The waves here are stronger with the wide shoreline and you get the nice expanded view of the ocean. Lyla and I had a great time waiting for the waves to crash into us. However even if your kid is brave enough, do hang on tight as the undercurrent is strong!
For a nice quiet day by the beach with less adventurous currents, you can check out Paradise Beach, a private beach about 15 minutes away from Patong.
Or you can check out Laem Sing Beach, also about 15 minutes away from Patong, it’s a short walk down a hill before you get to a nice quiet shallow beach with a nice big wet sand area for you to build sand castles!
Our Duangjitt hotel had a nice big pool, Lyla totally enjoyed herself to wash off after her beach adventures.
2. Elephant Trekking
When I showed my friend a photo of elephant trekking in Phuket, he immediately mentioned that it’s cruel and that the camps tortured the elephants. So I decided to do some research and read that things have improved with some help from the Asian Elephant Foundation of Thailand – based in Bangkok, which started to supervise and control Phuket elephant camps in 1994.So the good news is nowadays, most Phuket elephant camps take good care of their animals. There are quite a few elephant camps in Phuket and we decided to take Lyla to the Kok Chang Elephant Camp. She was SUPER excited to see elephants as she’s been raving about elephants as her favourite elephant. She even brought an apple from the hotel and held it for 45 minutes till we finally saw the cool majestic beasts!
Of course when the elephant was just as excited to see the apple, it lifted it’s trunk to grab it. Lyla freaked out and threw the apple and ran away haha. The friendly staff picked it up and helped Lyla give her peace offering to the elephant.
And away we go!
And ever since that elephant ride, Lyla’s been pretending she’s a baby elephant every night, asking us to sit on her!
3. The Upside Down House
LJ googled and found out there’s this Upside Down house in Phuket so we drove there to take a look.
Before you enter the house, there are these whacky 3D looking photo backdrops for us to go crazy with!
And then we enter the house.
Lyla loved her new room!
4. Phuket Old Town Market
Again, with LJ’s extensive googling, we found out that part of Phuket Old Town is sealed off on Sundays and it becomes a huge colorful market with food, shopping and entertainers!
Guess who likes coconut ice cream?
Yeah, our 4 day 3 nights visit to Phuket itinerary was packed with fun filled activities, not forgetting to mention the great Thai food and Jung Ceylon shopping mall at Patong. If you are planning to bring your kid there, I’m sure you guys will have a blast!
Ahhhh…Phuket! My most favourite island in the world! We thought that it was time to share the joy with Lyla and decided to bring her there if she’d like it as much as us!
This was also to be first time that Lyla gets on a plane!
We were a little concerned as we always hear of horror stories of kids screaming their head off when they get on board due to the air pressure and other stuff. So Lj did a lot of homework on how to get kids to settle in for take off. Which included drinking water just before take off and giving her favourite special treats to keep her mouth busy so that she won’t get uncomfy with those pesky stuffed ears.
Thankfully together with her good friend, Halloween Doraemon, Lyla got thru the flight with no fuss at all!
Usually if it’s just LJ and me in Phuket, we’ll rent a motorbike to ride all over the island, but this time was special as Lyla was there. So I got myself a Toyota Fortuner SUV so we can get around. Thru recommendation from our friend Leonard, we got a good deal at World car rent. It was convenient and hassle free as you collect your car once you arrive at the airport. http://www.worldrentacarphuket.com
And with that, we’re in the land of smiles! Lyla immediately got into the culture and tickling the locals by giving Sawadees to everyone =D
Getting around Phuket is a breeze with a vehicle and an Iphone. We got ourself a family suite in the Duang Jitt resort, just a 5 minute walk from Patong Beach.
Though Patong is known as the most crowded and touristy part of Phuket, I always like to get a hotel there to stay for the convenience of the shops and the Jung Ceylon mall. And there’s of course, the rowdy pubs along Bangla road that parties on through the night! During the day I can always head out to the quieter beaches and other attractions in Phuket.
So what’s there for a cute kid to do in Phuket? Lots!!! We’re so glad that Lyla enjoys Phuket as much as us! Will share with what’s a kid to do in Phuket in Lyla hits Phuket part 2. Stay tuned!
Last week, for our music arrangement training class, I brought the class on an excursion to Analog Factory, a comfy recording studio with great sounding equipment!
Other than allowing them to check out what goes on in a proper recording studio set up. I always advise to musicians or songwriters who are interested to expand their musical visions, that learning how to play drums, or at least knowing how the various components work and interact greatly benefits the way we make music. Even when I’m playing a solo instrumentation with guitar, piano or humming along to melody, there is a rhythmic underlying what is performed.
Without a sense of groove, a melody or a piece of music comes out as a flat piece without life. For e.g. when I’m doing a guitar strumming track, I internally divide my pattern to a groove, with the lower strings acting as a kick drum and the higher strings playing the snare etc. Same goes for a comping piano track or humming a melody no matter if it’s a ballad or a fast track.
Hence the importance of incorporating the knowledge of rhythm even when we are using our harmonical instruments or even our human voice.
And what better way to learn rhythm than to understand the most popular rhythmic instrument in pop music, the drum set!
Taking turns to get hands onto the instrument itself allows the trainees to better understand what they’ve been hearing all their lives and also for them to better incorporate drums into their arrangement programming. And of course in all the other rhythmic requirements of their harmonic instruments and melodies!
So for those interested in improving your sense of groove, you can join us in our next music arrangement training or career in hit songwriting course, or just get on a drum set and hammer away!
ahhh Xiamen! The last time we came here was in 2011, and I had great memories of the place, the people and the culture. This time we were back, though so much has changed, but it was nice as well! In fact some parts of it reminded me of Hawaii, with the rows of greenery and palm trees!
However this time we didn’t have much time in the day, so we spent both nights at 海湾公园, it reminded me of a Boat Quay in Singapore but with better weather and a much bigger river!
Both nights we sat by the river at J.J Bar to enjoy the great weather and a rocking band!
On to the venue, there was a huge mountain view from the stage, it was by far the nicest view we had from the stage so far in this tour.
Weather so good that you can have a cuppa and chill to =D
In between soundcheck breaks, I was totally immersed in this month’s issue of Q, it had an article about Stargate, a songwriting team that wrote hits like “Fireworks”by Katy Perry, “Diamond” by Rihanna, “Sick” by Neyo etc. Totally inspiring
And it was the day of the gig
With the cooling winds and great view, I was thinking, it’s really a great privilege to be playing all these great venues!
More pics from the gig
Oh! And I went to KFC and saw they had these cute Halloween Doremon toys, so cute I decided to buy 6 of them =D 1 of them I gave to Anderson’s kid so I’m left with 5.
And so we headed back to Singapore.
From this (Xiamen)
Ho hum…no matter, next trip coming up very soon!
I always enjoyed going to Shanghai as it had the vibrant city vibe with the feeling that anything could happen. With Singapore going through some hazy times, I was even more happy this time in Shanghai as I managed to arrive to nice blue skies!
This time we were there to be part of the Simple Life Music Festival with Wakin. I totally dig the tagline/theme for this music festival which is “We are makers”. Hence the performers for this music festival had more freedom to explore their musicality and show off a different side of them. Hence one of the requests for was that we had to perform renditions of songs that’s not part of the artist’s regular shows. So I had the chance to muck around with some of Wakin’s classics and totally rearrange them to blend into the more musical vibe of the festival. It was definitely fun re arranging an open tuning version of his evergreen hit 花心, an oriental driving rock version of 寡婦村傳奇, a groovy shuffly version of 亲亲我的宝贝 and a chill laid back version of 漂洋过海来看你!
The line up for this year is diverse and impressive, including artists from Macy Gray to Mavis Hee! Others include Jolin, Sandy Lam and right before we went up was a long time no see friend!
Had a nice short and sweet catch up with Jing Ru swapping the joys of parenthood before we went up and play to the receptive audience!
And of course, with all these artists in town, there were also many touring band friends from Taiwan and Malaysia all staying in the same hotel. It was cool catching up with old friends and making new friends!
Here’s part of the Malaysian gang, which include my old touring drumming buddy Martin and to the right is John Thomas, a killer session drummer in KL whom I recorded in 2001 for Jing Ru’s song “Beautiful” when he was just 17!
More pics of the gig, photo credit to Bigworm Wang. Next stop, Xiamen!
Hawaii…I love islands, I love beaches, the sand and sea and Hawaii has always been one of those places that I’ve always heard about since I was young but have never been there.
So it was fate when my good friends Jessika and Gary decided to get married in paradise fashion in Waikiki and we were invited to witness this beautiful event!
Before that I was really busy on production and touring so I didn’t really have much time to research about the place right till the day we landed there.
The 1st few days were really fun playing with Jessika and family before she had to ge busy with the preparations.
As you might know, the ukelele is an instrument from Hawaii so we got a car to explore the island starting with the Koaloha ukelele factory!
It was really cool to have a tour of their factory where the friendly staff brought us around to see how a piece of wood from the Koa tree(a species that can only be found in Hawaii) is transformed by hand into a great sounding instrument. What I really liked is that as they are handmade, every instrument, even of the same model, sounds cool in their own unique way.
I also popped by the Ukelele site, which is a famous ukelele shop and spent a few hours with the staff, trying various Koaloha ukeleles of the same concert model and finally decided on this one!
There were many live venues along the beach in Waikiki but we ended up at the Hard Rock cafe almost every night! Aside from the super cool wall of guitars decor and the retro blues rock bands, the 5 dollar all night happy hour cocktails were a definite attraction for us as well!
I had a very fruitful trip to Hungry Ear Records where I picked up many of my favourite records at a great price! I couldn’t believe when I snatched a vinyl version of Bad English’s debut album, one of my favourite albums from the hair metal days, for 6USD!
The scenery in Hawaii, the famous huge crashing surfer waves and the beautiful skies made driving around the island such a treat!
Last but not least, the finale to our weeklong trip was the wedding. The afternoon was a beach wedding ceremony and it was really the stuff of dreams. Afterwhich we went to the hotel for a very nice cosy dinner gathering with friends and family coming up to share their stories with the couple. Of course, my way was thru song, with a surprise planned with the groom!
All in all, thanks to the bride and groom for this wonderful well deserved one week break in Hawaii!
Yes! Yesterday was the first day of our music arrangement training. Actually having done many music arrangements over the years, I’ve been asked to conduct music arrangement training classes for quite a while. However I was hesistant because just like our melody training courses, I wanted this not just be a course just for the sake of doing it, or for any other commercial considerations. I really wanted the trainee to go thru the course and equip themselves to be able to do their own music arrangements.
The reason why we felt this is the right time to start training in music arrangement is because the technology available now truly allows one to create professional sounding music arrangements with minimal, affordable hardware and software that comes with everything that covers from the recording aspects to having usable built in sounds. Gone are the days where in order to build music arrangements, you’d have to piece together various pieces of equipment such as sound modules with different sounds, a sequencer, samplers and what not. Nowadays it all comes incorporated into your software. With my frequent travelling schedule, I’ve managed to make full use of my transit, waiting around time by banging on my little portable keyboard, building arrangements, programming drums, synths etc literally on my lap.
As for those who are not sure what you need in order get started in doing music arrangements. Here is an essential list of what you need.
1. A computer
2. A multi track recording software aka DAW(Digital Audio Workstation). There are a variety of different software to choose from for e.g Garageband, Protools, Logic, Sonar etc)
3. A musical keyboard controller and/or a guitar(if you are a guitarist)
4. A microphone (if you plan on doing vocals or micing an acoustic guitar)
5. An audio interface (if you plan on plugging a guitar or a microphone that doesn’t have a USB interface)
6. A monitoring system (headphones or studio monitor speakers)
An example of a modern music arrangement set up is shown below, and this is what we provide our trainees with, to operate hands on in FM Pop Music School while we give them step by step instructions to build their very own music arrangements.
It’s also cool that all our trainees are also songwriters! Being able to multitask is an important advantage to survive in the current music industry. Plus, I feel that it’s important for a modern day music arranger to be able to understand the melody component of the song as well as the main role of pop music arrangement is to support and enhance the quality of the melody and hence increase the enjoyability of the song!
Now that the training has begun, I’m really excited as I do hope we can bring more music arrangers into the music industry, involving them in productions of our own or others, bringing us good results just like our past songwriting training graduates! It does bring me satisfaction when I see our trainees improve, get their works heard, or set up their own production teams or bands with fellow trainees they met thru our school. Afterall, that’s what this industry is all about. Teamwork!
太原, where is 太原? I’m not too sure actually, all I know is that it’s part of the 山西province. And where’s that? I’m not too sure either =D
But all I know is whenever we hit any part of China, we’ll see the usual suspects around every corner.
Fancy Starbucks mooncakes!
We played on a Thursday, which is uncommon, as our show is usually on a Saturday. However this Thursday was special as it was a public holiday.
The outdoor stadium was really packed and the crowd’s response was loud!
One of my favourite segments of every Hua Jian show is the part where he asks the crowd to sing along to his evergreen hit 花心. I feel grateful to experience 10s of 10000s of people united through a great pop song.
This is the reason why I’m always striving to write a good song!