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Work and Play. A Quick Getaway to Kuala Lumpur

2017 July 19
by Eric Ng

Just got back from very quick getaway to Kuala Lumpur, catching up with 阿管 and friends, and lots of great Malaysian food!

Actually I’ve known 阿管 since 2002. Time passes by in such a flash. We’ve went through so many ups and downs and yet we can still hang anytime and have a good laugh. It’s hard enough to retain true friends in the real world, let alone in the music industry.

The food! We only had a few meals in KL so we made sure we get our fix!

This is my all time fav “Onion Fried Chicken” at Wong Ah Wa at Bukit Bintang. It’s not even on the menu, and I always have to describe it to the waiter. It rocks!

Black Man Nasi Lemak

Kin Kin Ban Mian

Ok, this trip was not entirely a getaway. I went there to do some drum recording with old friend, session drummer John Thomas as well!

I always thought my first recording with him was in 2002 when I got him to record for 梁静茹’s tracks. He reminded me that it was actually earlier on where I engaged him for his first drum session for the Mandarin music scene for a few 羽泉 tracks!

Fast forward to 2017 where John is one of the top touring and session drummers for the Mandarin music industry. He balances up his passion for jazz by doing regular jazz club gigs and music festivals as well. This time we recorded him at Nomad studio, a recording studio he owns where he lays down his drum tracks.

Work and Play is always best when it’s combined. What a short and fun getaway!

How do you get started as a music arranger?

2017 July 14
by Eric Ng

Next week will be our first lesson for our music arrangement course! Teaching music arrangement and songwriting are actually very different though both elements are very important in making up a great hit song.

For the uninitiated, according to Wikipedia, this is what music arrangement means.

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. Arranging “involves adding compositional techniques, such as new thematic material for introductions, transitions, or modulations, and endings…. Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety”.

I’d say the last sentence sums it all. Music arrangement is dressing up an existing melody to turn it from a good song to a great one. As a pop music arranger, you plan the structure of the song to give the listener the fullest emotional experience. You choose instruments, you design where they appear throughout the song. It’s like you are a painter. Given a subject (melody + lyric) you combine the most suitable tones out of the different instruments you have to bring out the song.

So how do you get started as music arranger? Other than joining us in our 10 month basic music arrangement course, you should already get started on these

– Explore a DAW of your choice

A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is basically a software where you can record, combine and manipulate different instruments to create a music arrangement. There are many different DAWs in the market including Protools, Logic, Garageband, Abelton Live etc. I’d say they all can perform essentially the same functions in different styles of workflow. Find one that you feel comfortable in and start playing around with it.

– Notice when and how music instruments appear in hit songs

When does the acoustic guitar come out in the song? When does the drums come in? What is the bass doing? Is piano playing arpeggiated notes or comping chords?

A drum part filled with frantic rolls might sound good in a driving rock song but will kill the mood of a ballad. Till today I’m frequently listening out to all kinds of music to stay in touch of what works for different styles of music. It’s about building your own ‘taste library’ that will benefit you when you work on your own music arrangements.

– Starting observing how your favourite records sound

Music Arrangement is not just about adding some drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and you’re all set. A snare drum is not just a snare drum. A snare can sound fat, it can sound thin to blend in with a clap. It can be an acoustic snare, it can be a 808 drum machine sound. It can be drenched in reverb or dry in your face.

Play around with sounds

Nowadays most DAW comes together with sounds for you to create your own music arrangements. These are called soft synths. Guitars, Bass guitars and hardware keyboards/synths can add on to your palette of sounds as well. Play around with what you have and see which sounds you like and which you don’t. Music arrangement is not just about notes, it’s about how things sound as well. The best recordings have well planned instrumentation. These elements combine together to create a music backing with well balanced frequencies.

I’m always asked how do you start writing songs, or how do you start making music arrangements. And I always say, just start. That’s more important than anything. As for teaching music arrangement, we aim to provide you with information on the concepts of music arrangement, not really to teach them to use a software. That kind of information is really all over the internet. The concept and musical taste of a music arrangement is more valuable and important than learning how to use a DAW.

End of the day, it really boils down to interest, practice and hands on experience that will allow you to create great sounding and interesting music arrangements.

So if you have always been interested in music arrangement, go ahead and get a DAW and get started now! If you interested to learn the concepts of music arrangement and what goes behind a music arrangement with our well experienced lecturers, read on!

As a songwriter or a musician, we understand that when you are starting out, often you have no clue on how to begin creating an arrangement for the songs that you’ve composed, or even how to begin using the music software.
Our Music Arrangement courses takes you through the concepts of music arrangement, demystifying the basics using Apple Garageband starting with built in loops and moving on to building your arrangements from scratch using Protools -the leading music industry software found in most recording studios.
The 10 months syllabus, formulated by 黃韻仁 Eric Ng and Jim Lim 林倛玉, taught together with our highly qualified lecturers, caters to anyone interested in music arranging, no matter if you are guitar or keyboard based.

This music arrangement course will be beneficial to songwriters and musicians that would like to learn how to arrange songs using Garageband and Protools.
What you will learn in 10 months:
• Learn the concepts of music arrangement
• Gain awareness of the interaction between commonly used music instruments
• Understanding groove and harmony, the basic building blocks of music arrangement
• Building your own multi-instrument arrangements from scratch, track by track with guidance by our highly qualified and patient instructors
• Learn the basic concepts of polishing and mixing your tracks
Basic requirements:
• Basic knowledge of one of the following instruments, drums, bass, guitar or keyboard
Details:
Group Class Size: min. 5 max. 15 students
Commencement Date/Timing : 19th July 2017,Wednesdays, 7:30pm
Course Duration: 10 months, 40 weeks (40 lessons),
Course Frequency: : Once a week (1.5 hours per lesson)
* Trainees will be awarded a “Certificate of Participation” during their last class of their course (T&C applies).
As you will be trained using Apple computers with Garage-band, Protools software and a midi keyboard, it is advisable for you to have your own set up to hone your arrangements. However, we do provide Apple laptops during class usage at a first come first serve basis.
Email your enquiries and interest to admin@fmmusic.com.sg First come First Serve Basis. Limited Seats only.
#fmpopmusicsch #writethesonginyou

Wakin in 长沙

2017 July 14
by Eric Ng

This is not the 1st time I’ve been to Chang Sha, we were here 2 years ago, however I can’t remember much of it.

Having been in bigger cities for the last few shows in China, this is the first time in a while since I had to do a transit. With a flight timing at 3.25am! But it’s not that bad as I always sleep around this timing anyway.

Though this trip was very short, I had more time to have a better feel of Chang Sha. For one, I learned about this from the airport poster.

Lines of OFO bikes, I learned from my friends over here that there are currently 5-6 different bicycle rental companies doing this over here. I’m just wondering why the bikes here look more orderly and more well taken care of than those back home in Singapore.


The view from my hotel room, there’s a really stark contrast between the shining Wanda Plaza and the rest of the buildings next to it.

We’re here this time to perform for the Colours Music Festival, other performers include Zhao Chuan and Zhou Bi Chang. Unfortunately the weather was really bad when we got here. This is the first time we had to do a soundcheck at midnight in the pouring rain!

Fortunately, we were performing Day 2 of the festival. The clouds were still looming but there was no rain. Before the show I slipped out to have a quick walk along the river just outside our hotel. It sure looked pretty.


Show time. Understandably the crowd was less than expected as the ground was covered in mud and it looked like it was going to rain anytime. For any lesser artist, their mood might be dampened because of this. When we came on, Wakin thanked the crowd for turning up. That’s the mark of a great artist, you perform for those came, not for those who didn’t. We ended up having a great show as it was a smaller but very supportive audience. With that, our 30 minute slot flew by in a flash and I hopped on a plane back home.

Next stop, our last stop for this tour. Singapore.

Why grooming songwriters is really worth my time

2017 June 29
by Eric Ng

This marks the 11th year of FM Pop Music School. Last year we had a total blast organising the “20 Hits in 10 Hours” to celebrate 10 years of teaching and pushing new songwriters into the music industry.

I’m happy to report that the results from our trainees are getting better every year. It’s great to be able to realise what we dreamed off when we first started the school. To train and introduce the next generation of music makers into the music industry. Spot potential when we see it and share their works with you, the music fan.

I believe of the main reasons why we’ve attracted many trainees to pass through our doors is because we walk the talk, as we continue to work hard to stay relevant in the music industry. Xiaohan, Jim and I are still actively writing and producing music whether it’s for local or regional artists. In fact Xiaohan proudly remarked to me last week that in the span of an hour at a F&B outlet she heard 6 FM songs being aired there. These are the results of the hard work, emotions and passion created by the FM team of exclusive writers.

I enjoy teaching. I feel a great sense of satisfaction when FM can not only help the trainee improve but publish their songs or move them into the various parts of the music industry as well. One of these rewarding moments last year happened because a trainee came from class without submitting her homework. I gave her 30 minutes to write one on the spot with help from her course mate and she came up with this song.

Other assignments from our trainees include…

Ask any one of our trainees and you’ll hear that writing songs is the easy part. Conceptualising the demo, which includes producing, arranging it into a final polished, marketable demo is the tougher part. This is why we decided to push out the music arrangement course 2 years ago, for trainees to be able to have a better understanding of packaging a melody. It’s important as songwriters we at least have a basic understanding of music arrangement as it controls the final outcome and message of the song.

One common question I get is being confused on which path to choose. Learning songwriting or music arrangement? I’d say if you are a musician who has technical proficiency in either guitar or piano, music arrangement will be faster for you to catch. However if you have only a basic understanding of a music instrument, our songwriting course will allow you to understand melody and chords better which will in turn prepare you for taking the next step towards music arrangement.

I believe in leading by example so I’m always trying to write songs whenever I can. Last year I pitched out 50 over complete song demoes (Melody/Lyric/Arrangement/Vocalist/Production) in between touring, production, teaching and playing with my kid =D

Some of these songs written on my own and some with friends, FM exclusive writers. I will probably pitch out more this year, as just last week alone I wrote 10 songs over 3 days with some friends in Beijing.

I will say that I might not be as motivated if I don’t have a team of exclusive writers and friends just as passionate as me. Every month our writers pitch out more than 20 demoes to various record labels and artists all over the world.

With all these songs pitched, does that mean we sell all those songs last year? No! Only a fraction of the songs get sold. However I live for music and songwriting is my greatest love, I love creating something out of nothing and I’d say the same for our writers. Passion can take you a long way, the journey makes us grow and we happen to enjoy it.

So why is grooming songwriters is really worth my time? Apart from the satisfaction I get when I see trainees ecstatic when they achieve results. I find myself learning as well. I get to absorb the new ideas, influences, enthusiasm and energy of the new generation. This is especially so when I find a trainee who not only has potential but the drive as well. Surprisingly unknown to many, potential alone is just potential, it doesn’t further develop into results. Potential coupled with the right direction, discipline and drive…that will achieve wonders.

The commitments required of the songwriting, music arrangement or production component of the music industry is actually quite different from the performing artist component. There is room to branch into writing for different artists and productions from different countries, experimenting different music styles etc. With passion and discipline, even after you have scored a few hits by top artists around Asia, you are still be able to keep the day job or move into other areas of the music business. The sky’s the limit.

With that, I’m looking forward to our next batch of trainees for our upcoming songwriting and music arrangement courses!

Meanwhile I’ll write on…

Beijing Songwriting expedition!

2017 June 20
by Eric Ng

Just got back from Beijing. The main purpose of this trip was to record an artist but following the motto of Funkie Monkies being “Write the song in you”, I decided to do something different this time. I extended my stay, called up various friends from Beijing and had a three day songwriting expedition!

It turned out to be a super fun trip with me being able to check out and work in various different environment with various songwriters!

With Beijing being the centre of music industry in China, I watched in envy the nice recording studios abound.

And I love the fact that you can find cool recording studios sprouting everywhere with cooler looking frontages.

So I got together with 6 songwriters, some of whom are music producers, session musicians and from various indie bands in Beijing. We wrote in the usual recording studios, jamming studios, however my most memorable session was writing in a primary school classroom! The school is set in an ancient establishment and it looks like it’s steeped in history. The energy was really great writing in the classroom filled with cute drawings from the kids.

With that, 3 days down, we wrote 10 songs! What fun! I got such a kick out of this trip. Will definitely be back to do it again!

New Old Music

2017 June 14
by Eric Ng

Recently I have been listening to John Mayer’s new album “The search for everything” a lot. I’ve been telling everyone who hasn’t heard it to check it out. I describe it as “new-old music”. If you’ve checked it out and are born around the 70s or 80s you will know what I mean. It’s good old classic solid songwriting placed at the forefront. Even though he’s a mighty guitar shredder, it’s a great album with well planned arrangements and good songs with a mighty band.

I’m not sure if it’s because of this album, but I’ve since been rediscovering some “old-old” music and it’s never stops amazing me when I read the date of production of some of these classics. It’s really a different level from being able to perform something as opposed to actually creating them. When I hear greats like these, I sometimes wonder, hmm why are we still creating music when everything actually seems to have been done? Well, coz we enjoy it for one, another reason is because that’s how we discovered the greats ourselves. It’s one artist combining his or her different influences into one unique art and from there we, the fan dig deeper to discover where it came from and from there, enjoy even more music!

So here are some of the great works I have been rediscovering, where once upon a time, it was all about the song.

1. Carol King – Tapestry

Looking at the turnout of this concert. This 1971 album release is still as relevant and well loved as ever.

2. the Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time out

Though released in 1959, I only recently discovered this album. When listening to it, I really can’t imagine this recording was done in the 50s. The fidelity is amazing. I don’t usually listen to much jazz but what I like most about this album is that it showed me that jazz can be this simple, catchy and engaging.

3. Marvin Gaye – What’s going on

A 1971 release, I purchased the Hi Res recording of this album at 192/24 bit. The recording is so spacious, huge, nice and open. That melody of first verse of What’s going on, gotta be one of the best pop/soul moments.

4. Eagles – Desperado

One of my favourite songs in the John Mayer’s new album is “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me” the last song of the album.

When I heard the song, it immediately brought me back to the intro of this song. Not saying both songs sound the same, however the vibe is similar and I enjoy both songs.

I’d suggest grab a good pair of cans or speakers and find the highest resolution you can of these songs, plug in, close your eyes to shut off all distractions. And get lost in the world of great record production.

Wakin Melbourne 2017

2017 June 11
by Eric Ng

I was at Melbourne in December last year to catch Coldplay, so my favourite places in Melbourne are still fresh in my mind. Those places are probably quite different from everyone else. 2 of my top places to visit are JB Hifi, a chain of stores that carry all kinds of electronic equipment, however my main reason there is to buy loads and loads of CDs and DVDs at reasonable prices. The other is another chain of stores selling books named Book Grocer. They carry really cool music books at really cheap prices. I always visit the Lonsdale Street branch as it sells most of their books at $6, cheaper than the other branches.

We only had one free night in Melbourne this time, so I didn’t waste my time and headed to Cherry Bar at the ACDC Street to check out the local bands playing their originals.

The next day we were off to the show. I had 2 Singaporean musician friends Jeremy and Sanjeev who came by to check out our gig. This was Sanjeev’s first Mandarin Pop music concert.

Jeremy was too 客气 and gave Lyla and me super cool hats!

The show went well and I’m glad my friends really enjoyed the gig. There was even a marriage proposal from a fan to his girlfriend during the show.

This Australian stop of the tour has been a very nice catch up for friends and family. Next stop, Chang Sha!

Wakin 2017 Sydney

2017 June 11
by Eric Ng

The Wakin Tour hits Sydney! We landed and had a break for the first 2 days before our show. It felt more than a holiday than a show. It was a great chance for me to catch up with my cousins in Australia.

I now have 3 cousins residing in Australia and they seem super relaxed and enjoying their time there. Though I’m still not entirely used to the slower pace of life there but I’m sure given the chance to stay there I’ll enjoy it too.

Both my friend Sanjeev and my cousin recommended me to check out Frankie’s Pizza, a live house cum great pizza place in Sydney. It was very cool, had a great vibe and the sound was amazing! I was very impressed that the sound that the engineer got from the live band was just as punchy and well mixed as the music played by the DJ in between sets.

And very cool looking pinball machines too!

We performed at the Star Casino in Sydney. This is the second time I’ve performed at this pretty venue.

My cousins were there to catch the show, it’s always nice to look out in the crowd to see familiar faces.

And with that we head to our next stop. Melbourne!

Lyla is 4!

2017 May 20
by Eric Ng

Time flies! Lyla is 4! Every birthday is a fun filled family event, however this year is a little different as Lyla now goes to school! We had 2 parties, one for family and one with her new found friends in school.

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We had so much fun!

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And for party 2, We celebrated at my aunty’s house where I grew up with DIY party decorations!

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I don’t remember being this happy everyday when I was growing up. Lyla is sure one lucky girl!

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And of course, presents overload!!!

In a flash, this funny chickadee turns 4. Thank you for cracking us up everyday! =D

Da Nang and Hoi An Vietnam

2017 May 16
by Eric Ng

I’ve always loved seaside resorts so this time I decided to take a short getaway and check out Da Nang Vietnam for the first time. Previously, I’ve heard many nice things about Da Nang from my Vietnam friends. When I arrived it did live up to my expectations! Da Nang is such a laid back and pretty place. This is the view from my balcony.

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My mission this time was to have a nice retreat and try writing some songs. There’s something romantic about creating in a new environment. With surroundings like these, it was very hard not to be inspired.

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We had 3 days there and I managed to write 4 songs, but of course it was not all about songs. We also found some time to walk around Da Nang, which is mostly about quiet beaches with good and cheap massage places!

A 30 minute taxi ride will take you to Hoi Ann. Hoi Ann is a quaint laid back little town with many colourful French Colonial and wooden Chinese shophouses. Any photo you snap there will look like a postcard.

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We had really good food at the Morning Glory restaurant near the Hoi An river.

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Four songs and two nights later, I’m back in Singapore. Fully refreshed, looks like Da Nang will definitely be on my mind in future for a quick, affordable beach getaway!



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