Had a nice quick getaway to Bangkok last weekend. I’m sure many of us know Bangkok is the place to go for great food, shopping and night markets.
For me, Thailand is an inspiring place to catch live music. Being a pop music lover, I love watching the Thai local bands cover top Thai pop rock artists such as Bodyslam, Slot Machine, Big Ass etc. Though I don’t understand a word they are singing or bantering in between song breaks (which is rare as they are always charging ahead song after song, keeping the energy high) I am always inspired, electrified when I watch the local audience cheering their local club musicians on, singing loudly to their favourite local original hit songs. Of course, with a hint of “hmm, why can’t this happen in Singapore as well?”
Here are 3 of my favourite haunts in BKK. Check them out if you have the chance, you’ll find you don’t need to understand the words to have a great time!
1. Funky Villa – Thonglor Soi 10
This trip we were there every night! Every time we go there, it’s a different band and they are usually great. I’ve watched funky, to dancey to full on hard rocking bands there. And the great thing about the sets in these venues is that it always keeps you moving and there’s a high energy positive vibe that runs thru most of the songs. On one of the nights, I had a Thai friend Arthur who gave me real time translation to the meaning of the songs. “This song is about who’s heart has been broken before make some noise”, “This song is if you can dance even if you wear high heels”, “This song is about you liking someone else’s husband/wife” hahha, great stuff! The many times I have went to Funky Villa over the years, it’s always been packed. Even on Sundays! Watch out for the moment the DJ end her set and the crowd goes wild when the band takes stage.
2. Brick Bar – Khao San
Whenever we go to this place, we’re probably the only Singaporeans there. This place is PACKED every time we go, it’s so packed, that you’ll be lucky if you can get to sit on the staircase to peek at the band. Both times I went there, the band set up is huge for a pub band, 3 brass players, 1 guitarist, 1 bassist, one drummer, 2 singers and a keyboardist. The crowd is mainly made up of Thai University students and some of the backpackers who wandered in from Khao San road. This place has a great underground music venue vibe and I’ve never seen a sad face there. Everyone’s jumping around having a great time and if you come from Singapore, and watched cover bands over here. I’m sure you’ll have your eyes opened wide when the crowd sings along! Inspiring.
3. Muse – Thonglor Soi 10
Also at Thonglor, which is a bustling lifestyle district, Muse is a 5 minutes walk from Funky Villa. I’d say this place have more of a ‘club’ vibe, with a nice rooftop bar for you to chill. I once watched a band rock a 2 hour set without stopping, pounding thru hit after hit (again, just pure original Thai music). And of course the crowd knows and screams along to every song. Actually at all these places, most of the time, the singer of the band can just put down the mic and the crowd will sing it for him/her with much enthusiasm.
There you go! 3 of my fav Thai pop rock venues. Feel free to recommend me or share with me your fav live venues in Thailand! Rock on!
Nanjing, as part of my weight gain process at the start of the year, I didn’t really get to do much in Nanjing except eat, and eat!
These simple dishes are from 兰州拉面. They serve Halal food and you can find this restaurant name wherever you go in China!
I did go explore the night life and everyone seems to tell me that it all happens in Nanjing at the 1912 entertainment district. Hmm, after wandering around there for 2 nights, I felt that there were too many 拉客 dudes out there who hound you the moment you enter 1912. The 2nd night was not too bad at this Hard Rock Cafe looking place called “Blue Marlin”. Pity about the electronic drum set the drummer had to use as he was actually quite good.
The show went well and Hua Jian was very pleased that after this show he could have a well deserved long break into Chinese New Year. The crowd was as usual very enthusiastic and the arena sounded great.
This time, Weiwen, the very first friend I made in Taiwan back in 1998, joined us for backup vocals! Weiwen’s an accomplished songwriter/producer, most known for writing the karaoke anthem 你最珍贵!
The bit where the crowd do their ‘mobile phone light’ parade never gets old.
And so, our tour gets a break into CNY. Time to get cracking on more songs!
With our next batch of melody in songwriting trainees about to start, I thought I’d share some tips on creating melodies in songwriting.
Ahhh, melody in songwriting, my favourite part of music making. To be able to pluck a melody floating off the air being able to put it down to a recording is extremely satisfying. I will never ever forget that feeling I felt when I witnessed tens of thousands of people on stage, singing 纸飞机 along with Sandy Lam for the very first time. It was like “Wow…so this is what I’ve sacrificed my blood, sweat and tears for!!!”.
Fast forward 15 years later, I’m touring with Wakin, even when it’s not my own composition, watching so many people united by a simple pop melody still feels amazing beyond words.
And that’s why songwriting will always be my favourite part of music making.
No matter if you are a formally trained musician, or not, creating a melody, writing a tune to call your own might seem unfathomable or impossible to some.
Lemme tell you, the good news is, anyone can do it.
Entering our 10th year of training and inspiring songwriters to take their creativity to their next level, it’s always satisfying listening to the results of our trainees hard work during the graduation of our hit songwriting showcase. Some of our trainees have even taken it to the next level by join Funkie Monkies publishing hit songs of their own, releasing their own material, winning songwriting competitions or performing to full turn out local venues to supportive fans of made in Singapore compositions!
Xiaohan, Jim, me and our team of qualified lecturers who are able songwriters themselves, have gone thru so many batches of aspiring songwriters of different ages, from different backgrounds. Some of whom are already amazing musicians/vocalists when they start that first lesson, others whom can barely play an instrument or hold a note but are very driven to learn the craft of songwriting.
Ok, so where do I start? you might ask.
Shameless plug moment, you can always hit the link provided here
to find out how you can join our stable of songwriting goodness. However if you can’t wait and want to start RIGHT NOW. Here are some tips for you to get closer to your very own song.
1. Take the plunge
Nothing is perfect in this world, you can’t sit in front of your piano or guitar and craft a series of notes endlessly waiting for that perfect hit to come before you allow anyone to hear it. I’ll gladly admit that the very first song I ever composed was complete shite, it was just basically some random doodling of notes played out on my guitar. However I’m glad I put it out there and shared with whoever I met. However sharing is not all that matters, one still must…
2. Be open to feedback
Putting it out there, naturally, with them being bad songs. I had some polite remarks of “oh! good job! But err, it could be better”, and some direct slamming of my raw tunes. Even then, I was lucky to receive constructive feedback on how I can ammend certain parts to create a sense of structure in terms of pop songwriting. As with our songwriting course, most of the time, it is the trainee that’s churning out material for us and their fellow trainees to listen and brainstorm on how to improve it.
Without material to begin with, just listening to theories and techniques is like teaching you how to cook without having the ingredients to work with.
3. The hook
So you start writing and if you enjoy and hope to write pop songs. You definitely would have heard of this all important term along the way. If you haven’t, wikipedia says…
A hook is a musical idea, often a short riff, passage, or phrase, that is used in popular music to make a song appealing and to “catch the ear of the listener”. The term generally applies to popular music, especially rock music, R&B, hip hop, dance music, and pop.
A pop song is meant to be simple, it serves to allow even non musicians to sing and enjoy it. Those who have attempted to write before will realise that writing a catchy and simple hook that can attract a mass audience is not as easy as it seems. However it’s definitely not impossible and it all comes down to…
You write one, you share it, you listen, you learn, you move on and it goes on and on and on. I’d say that’s the route of almost every successful hit songwriter. 20 years of writing songs, I’m still writing every other day, some turn out great, some don’t, some end up on the charts, some never see the light of day.
Even if I write 300 songs and only 1 of them ends up as a hit, you know what? It’s practice and it’s worth it because I…
5. Try not to be too precious about it
You do have to spend energy to make a melody work, your mind drains your creative juices with all kinds of possibilities to make that combination of rhythm and notes unique, musical and catchy. However it might not always end that way, sometimes end of the day it just doesn’t happen. What then? I say throw it away, you can always start again and chase another idea. Creativity, writing a song sometimes might feel like a magic trick, but it’s not a one off process. Once you start tapping into that part of the brain, it will flow and it’s always refillable. So always be prepared to throw your ideas away and always…
6. Enjoy the journey
I know I’ve mentioned it many times. Being able to pluck a series of notes and rhythms out of air, using experience and past practice gained to sculpt and nail it into an enjoyable singable melody is sheer joy for me. I enjoy the process of writing songs and am grateful to have been able to do this. Songwriting greatly helped in opening up many other avenues of the music industry for me, allowing it to be a sustainable career all these years. I don’t think I would have been so driven and all this would have been possible if I didn’t enjoy it in the first place!
So here you go, 6 simple tips to get you started on writing your own melody. And yes, if all else fails, you can always hit the link right here!
to find out more =D. Good luck!
Always wanted to write songs that create a lasting impression on the listener? Learn how to compose songs that are required in the current pop music market, music theory concepts and how to go about structuring your song, getting the chance to work on projects that will be happening in the industry!
We will be launching our next Signature Basic Melody Composing. This course is catered for students who are interested in melody composing and wants to find out how to get started. The formulated syllabus designed by our
by Asia’s renowned songwriters/producers 黃韻仁 Eric Ng and Jim Lim 林倛玉 and handpicked FM instructors will enhance your melody composing abilities.
We believe that everyone can “Write the Song in You”.
What will be taught:
Song Structure, Basic Music Theory (Notes, Chords, Rhythm, etc), Music Genres, Music recording software setup, Music arrangement awareness..
Duration: 1½ hours || Class Size: 6-10 pax || No. of lessons: 12 lessons
Commencement Date: 22nd January 2016, 7:30pm
For interested parties, please send your interest to firstname.lastname@example.org
New applicants will receive a limited edition goodie bag! Certification of Participation will be awarded (*T&C applies)
Its first come first serve! See you soon!
Happy new year! The start of the year is always a time for me to….gain weight!
25th Dec Christmas
27th Dec my birthday
30th Dec Wedding anniversary
31st Dec and 1 Jan New year count down celebrations
8 January LJ’s birthday
And many other reasons for celebrations as we let loose towards the end of the old year into the new. And so, I’ll try to take the rest of the year to recuperate.
Time really speeds by really fast if you don’t pay attention, it seems 2015 ended really quick. I didn’t really spend too much time thinking about my new year resolutions, but now that the heavy eating and celebrations are over. I came up with these 3 simple points that I want to focus on this year!
1. Do what makes me happy
I think I’ve spent much of my life focusing on this resolution, however our lives are constantly changing so what makes us happy constantly shifts. So we should embrace it and make adjustments, for e.g. at this moment, going swimming with Lyla is extremely fun, so I’ll definitely do more of that!
2. Write more songs
I’ve been getting excited all kinds of music, buying old favourites on CD and vinyl while discovering new sounds. I wish to make full use of this very desirable point of time to easily experiencing music by making some myself!
3. Read more books
Knowledge is power, the end of 2015 was a nice laid back part of the year and I went to dig up and read books that I’ve bought previously but didn’t have a chance to read. Some of the more interesting books I’ve read recently are 1. Hitmaker: The Man and His Music by Tommy Mottola 2. Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer 3. The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook 4. Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind by Biz Stone.
The more I read, the more I got hooked and have ordered a few more books on the way! Yes…they are all about songwriting, music and/or creativity, and one thing I’m excited about is that most of these books about creativity affirms that being creative is not just something that a privileged few are born with, it’s something you can cultivate and unlock, that’s great news for aspiring creators out there and of course our students at FM Pop Music School.
Yep, that’s my 3 simple new year resolution goals for 2016. I’ll check in when this year ends and see how I did.
Have a great year everyone!
I am 40!
As a wise man once said on Instagram, 40 is great when you still look 28 =D
Yeah, I turned 40 yesterday! Thank you for all the nice warm wishes from you guys and the usual fun year end gatherings.
You know, when I was growing up, I tend to get along better with people younger than me than the ‘adults’. So when I got into the industry and got to know my mentors, I remembered thinking waaahhhh, those people are 40plus already!
And now today I’m 40! Ask me how does it feel?
With what I’ve experienced and learn over the last 40 years, it feels shiok!
Yes, of course, it’s not been all unicorns and rainbows, however that is what makes life great.
So what have I learnt?
First of all, if you asked me at age 20, I’d never expected 20 years later I’ll be still doing this, still learning, still having a ball and still excited by doing what I do. But one thing for sure, at 20, this felt like the only thing that I can do in life. It’s do this, or accept a miserable life. And I refused to accept a miserable life. Without this passion I wouldn’t have been so blindly optimistic and willing to…
I’ve accepted that our failures are what makes us learn and appreciate our achievements way more. If you ask me what were my major pitfalls, I might faintly remember a few but because this is my passion, I’ve chosen to forget them long ago and remember instead what I’ve learnt from them. At this point, I appreciate the shit I’ve hit because if life was so easy, I wouldn’t have pushed myself so hard, or study how to bounce back a little wiser. But I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere and with that I can only…
Thank my mentors, and my enemies
I’ve met many generous mentors who gave me lots of great advice whom I’ve learnt much from and I’ve met people who tried to sabotage or hurt me whom fortunately I escape unscathed. Like pitfalls, the small people are needed to appreciate your real friends even more. And even then…
You don’t need too many friends.
I was advised quite early on by a diva, that being in the entertainment industry that you get to make many friends but you won’t need that many of them. It’s true, I do get to meet people from all walks of life it’s easy to strike a conversation as not many people do what we do. That’s cool and all but you don’t really need too many real friends. Plus as we get older we also have more responsibilities, more commitments for e.g. having kids and family which I’d say is super fun when you have a family that cracks you up everyday like this…
And gave me a super pressie like this!
and custom made me a super power 40 year old Bday cake like this?
Hence as life goes on, you might not even get to meet these real friends regularly and hang in a kopitiam or club every other day like you used to. But when you run into shit, you know they’ve got your back and that’s the best part. However, do be prepared that, even with your most true friends…
And that’s perfectly fine, you’ve changed haven’t you? I’ve definitely changed, for better or worse, that’s best defined by ourselves. So let’s try not to be too bothered when others do coz we should just…
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
― Bernard M. Baruch
This is especially true as we are all unique characters. If we start to let what others say get in our head, who are we living for? Before I go on nagging like that 40 year old uncle, what’s most important is end of day…
I still believe in balance
Working hard is great and all. I’m especially lucky that my work is doing what I love and I get to earn money from it. But from the start I believed that life is not just about work and money, the balance of life between work, fun, family and friends is needed to keep me laughing and enjoying life. And as life went on, I experienced the fragility of life by friends and relatives disappearing around me . That further reinforces that hippy mentality that I rather be super happy than super anything else. So if tomorrow is the end of the world, I evaporate leaving happy vibes.
With that, I enter my 40s! Still feeling like a wide eyed boy experiencing the wonders of life everyday. If you were to ask me what part of my life would I have wanted to change, I’d say absolutely nothing. Everything happens for a reason, and that’s what makes life great!
Once again, thank you guys for making life great and making turning 40 so fun!
And anyway a wise man once said on Instagram…
Special thanks to Ashley and my godson Kiefer for helping me build my Christmas pressie while we were boozing and going crazy =D I wouldn’t have done it so nicely without them!
2015 passed by in such a hurry! I just barely got warmed up and we’re moving into the Christmas, NYE craziness. 2015 was also a year of great albums, so I thought I share my top 10 favourite albums of 2015.
10. Chvrches – The Clearest Blue
The phrasing of the synth hook reminds me of a Depeche Mode song, I think it’s ‘Just can’t get enough’. That’s probably why it’s so satisfying.
9. Justin Bieber, Diplo, Skrillex – Where are U now?
This collab really redeemed Justin Bieber to greatness
8. Alabama Shakes – Gimme All Your Love
Those 4 chord strums just reach out and grab your attention, nice long cool guitar solo too.
7. James Bay – Let it go
He’s only 25 this year, with songs like that, he’s got a long road ahead.
6. Noel Gallagher’s Highest Flying Birds – In the heat of the moment
Because when Lyla hears this song, she just can’t stop moving!
5. Ellie Goulding – Army
I didn’t really enjoy her latest album as much as Halcyon Days but the verse of this song is pop perfection.
4. Gary Clark Jr – Grinder
To me, he’s like the 2nd coming of Jimi Hendrix and that guitar tone…
3. Coldplay – Adventure of a Lifetime
Coldplay, the band that most musicians love to hate. With 3 sold out shows at Wembley Stadium for their 2016 tour, if I were them, I won’t really give a damn.
This song is weird, when I 1st heard it, I couldn’t get the chorus. However after hearing it multiple times, I’m satisfied enough with the groovy verse and the guitar hook as the chorus (just like every other EDM song)
2. The Weeknd – I can’t feel my face
Because it’s such a great song
1. Adele – Send My Love (To Your New Lover)
This is not just such a great song and album. This is a miracle as it just burst out, broke all records and gave a nice Christmas bonus to the music retail industry for 2015. I like it that apart from the 1st single “Hello”, the rest of the songs are not on any streaming services. If you wanna hear her album, buy it. Over 8 million sales can’t be wrong, and please get the CD if you will, to hear the nice guitar work in “Send My Love” in it’s full glory!
Genting. This is the 2nd time we’ve been here this year and we had a great time during the 1st show in January so I was excited to be back.
From the KL airport, midway before we reached Genting, the organisers were very kind to take us to a very tasty Tze Char restaurant called Chuan Kie and the food was really good! Malaysian food rocks!
I must say Resorts World is really working hard to reinvent Genting as I see so many new shops and restaurants popping up all over the place. My favs were the Ginormous steaks, Malaysian Bak Kut Teh and Ban Mian.
I used to come often to Genting with my parents when I was a kid and my sister and me used to go crazy there. Walking around this time I found that Genting is still a great place for a kid to go bonkers! I went back to the arcade and I spend quite a bit of time having super fun with a game called “Dark Escape 4D”. The game rocked! I guess you can never take the kid out of a musician =D
This being the 2nd show at the same place in one year, I suspected maybe the turn out will be lesser or the crowd might be less enthusiastic. I was totally wrong, the sing a long bits were deafening! Plus it was a full house noisy crazy crowd, we all had a great time performing this time.
Oh! I was very impressed with these 3 super well behaved cuties as I could clearly see from stage that they sat thru out the concert with their enthusiastic dad, enjoying every moment. The little lady aspires to be a professional musician so I gave her my backstage pass (she immediately strapped it on) so next time when she grows up she can give me hers!
Yeah, and that wraps up the Wakin《今天唱什麼》tour for 2015. It’s gonna be super fun times back at home for the year end craziness!
Macau always seems unreal as the casinos are built so extravagantly you feel like your stepping into fantasy land. And my cousin worked there for many years, right now he’s over at Hong Kong but it’s still a short ferry ride over so it’s always cool to return to Macau as we will catch up there. Macau was turning chilly this trip so he brought me to a local seafood hot pot which was yummy!
Macau never seems to sleep as the lights are always bright and the people are either partying or gambling. This time I brought along a new book about hit songwriters named “The Song Machine”. It’s all about the stories behind the songwriters and the business behind the pop hits that dominated the world from the 90s till today. It was that good that I decided to chill every night and finished it up over the weekend!
The venue this time was a new 1000plus seater called the Broadway theatre. It’s nice to play smaller venues as you can actually clearly see the faces of the audience. Actually to me, it really doesn’t matter how big or small the audience size is. I rather play to an appreciative audience of 10 than a nonchalant inattentive huge crowd (which I’ve done before as well) Wakin audiences always give a warm response so I appreciate every one of the gigs we’ve done so far!
Next stop and the last stop of the year. Genting!
As I’ve mentioned in the last post, during the last trip to 成都，I was invited to the 四川音乐学院流行音乐学院
to conduct a seminar. I had a great time sharing my 20 year music journey with the senior year pop music students. I also shared some simple tips, showing them how easy it is to start writing a pop song and summed it up with the reality of the current music industry, suggesting ways for them to stick out among the immense competition.
I gave the students 10 tips to survive in the music industry. Since I’ve thought long and hard about it, I’ve decided to share them here as well for you aspiring professional musicians!
1.定位 (Define your Positioning)
Before we can even work towards making music a career, we should know what is it that we actually want to achieve. In the music industry, there are so many avenues you can branch into, for e.g. music producer, artist, songwriter, mixing engineer, lecturer, live sound engineer, session musician, cover band musician and the list goes on and on. Though all music related, these different positions require vastly different set of skills. Getting a basic understanding of everything is fine, however once you find what is it exactly that is your calling, focus and build towards it.
2.厚脸皮 (Be thick skinned)
“It doesn’t hurt to ask”, what your parents or your teacher told you when you were young is gold. If you want to be noticed, to be appreciated, to learn more, to look for chances for the next step up, you get out there and ask, you communicate, you allow people to notice your passion/talent and chances are you will find someone who’ll be willing to share with you to answer your questions and more.
要成为一位专业创作人，制作人，音乐人，艺人等等，我觉得“人”那方面，比才华还更重要。It’s true, I’ve watched many very talented individuals who slipped thru the ranks due to lack of EQ (Emotional Quotient, not EQualisation).
With your thick skin, make use of all the channels and networks available to you. If you treat these networks or attending gatherings as a chore, it will show on your expression and you might as well not do it.
Understand this is part of the journey to reach your goal. And it’s also not just about trying to network and impress those more senior above you. It’s also about getting to know or giving a helping hand to your juniors as well. You will never know when that newcomer is going to be the next big thing tomorrow. Your graciousness might come in handy then.
Prepare for everything! Hone your chops, rehearse for everything, no matter if it’s for a huge gig, a small presentation for a handful of people or anything related to your goal, even if you haven’t clinched the deal yet. When it comes, you’ll be all ready.
Speaking about preparation, I mentioned to the students that I was actually nervous for this 2 hours long seminar as it had to be fully conducted in Mandarin, so I spent the last 2 weeks preparing, running this seminar to them in my head. For that, I was rewarded by a rousing round of applause!
6.团队 Build your team
Build on your strengths, compensate your shortfalls by working with others who’s strengths are your weaknesses. Not everyone will have the same goal as you, build your own team to accomplish your goals together.
Understand you are trying to enter an industry, it’s not just something you enjoy, it is a proper business. And as with any business, things like marketing, finance, professionalism apply. If you meet any rejections, try not to take it personally, use the feedback to your benefit.
8.你的歌，你的版权 Your song, your copyright
If you are a music creator, know your rights. I’ve heard too many horror stories of music composers who unknowingly give up their rights (music publishing) and settled for a one time payment, and some didn’t even get credited as composer in the end. Here’s a good example, the composers of Stairway to Heaven, the Led Zeppelin 70s hit have collected 550 million USD in past royalties, the Beach Boys music publishing was unknowingly sold off by their manager for 700 000USD, today, it’s valued at 4.5 million USD.
9. 野心 Ambition/Hunger
I’ve met or worked with many talented individuals, and it’s plain to see how the hungry ones progress leap and bounds over the laid back talented ones. No matter how good you are, there are a few million others better than you are. Unless you can show people how hard you are willing to work and how badly you want to reach your goal, otherwise they can always give the job to someone else who will.
10.享受过程 Enjoy the journey
Music is already not the most practical path to take in life, you have to at least enjoy taking this journey. In fact, taking this journey should be already part of your goal. If you don’t even enjoy this process, then you’ll be one jaded and depressed person.
Among the attendees during the seminar was 刘润洁 who performed 《情歌2》during this year’s 中国好歌曲. She came back from Beijing to 成都 just to catch Wakin’s gig. After the gig, she gave me a cute drawing of me which was very nice of her. To which I mentioned, hey! it looks more like Lyla instead of me =D
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!