I’ve been asked this question frequently, and I’d say to pick it up and start strumming a 4 chord song is really not that difficult as long as you take some time to practice it. I started playing guitar when I was 17 and that’s considered quite late to pick up an instrument however as I had not much friends then and not much of a social life, I had a lot of time to practice and play around it and started to do gigs within a year of mucking around.
That being said, to start pick up an instrument is easy, to master it, is another monster all together. Though I rely on guitar playing to make a living now. I still cherish the times where I can spend time just fooling around with it, playing stuff just for fun. And as I decided to reward myself during my birthday last year, I bought quite a few of my dream guitars and that has inspired me to actually start practicing guitar all over again. That’s something I haven’t been doing for many years =D
So I shall leave a few tips here for those who are thinking of picking up the guitar.
1. Find a good reason
Find yourself a good enough reason on why you want to learn the guitar. Typical reasons include impressing girls/guys, fitting in, realising your rock star dreams, impressing your friends or just a genuine love of music. No matter what the reason is, you have to feel strongly about it, otherwise I’d say don’t bother. You’ll be one of those who waste money on the instrument and leave it as furniture.
2. The instrument
Once you have a strong urge to want to pick up the instrument. Get one that doesn’t hurt you. Many tend to think that the guitar is meant to torture your fingers when you first start. True, you will have to build up calluses on your fingers for the notes to sound clearly on your fretboard, that takes a few months, however it’s not supposed to hurt that bad till you get turned off and don’t even enjoy it. When I first started playing the guitar, I started on an electric guitar. As electric guitar strings are softer and easier to press, I spent a lot of time playing around and enjoyed myself while discovering the instrument. Further on, about a year later, I decided to get myself an acoustic guitar and I got myself a crappy one. It hurt so much that I got turned off by it, it was only much later when I got myself a decent acoustic guitar that’s comfortable to hold and press that I started playing much more of it.
Nowadays there are a lot of choices for guitars out there that don’t neccessarily cost a lot to sound good and more importantly, are comfortable to play.
3. Open your ears and eyes
Listen to everything, and try to use your ears to disect them apart. I know with Youtube nowadays, it’s easy to just type “how to play XXXXX” and there’ll be 10000 people out there trying to teach you. That’s great, however being able to learn by ear improves your hearing, which will be essential when you start forming a band or group.
4. Listen out of your comfort zone
Some people like to rock, some prefer r&b, some just like to listen to tragic love songs. As a guitar player, I’d say all these different genres and styles have their own strengths to draw from to apply to guitar playing. So I’d listen to r&b to draw their grooves, the tragic love songs for the sense of melody and rock to make fun noise. And it doesn’t mean I’m only just listening to the guitar parts of those genres to draw their strengths into the guitar, you can try pick out the piano, drums or bass parts and apply them on guitar. That itself creates a different dimension and the sounds you make.
5. Learn another instrument
To further elaborate on that last point where you can pick out grooves or melodies from other instruments to guitar playing. Learning and understanding another instrument will instantly allow you to do that. I started my musical discovery by picking up the guitar, drums, bass and keyboard at the same time. I found that playing piano in a guitar way, or vice versa allows you to create different textures and grooves to make your playing more interesting to maintain your passion for the instrument. And I find understanding drums especially useful to tonal instruments like bass, keyboard or guitar as groove is important in modern music making.
To end off, all these are pointless if you don’t have a strong enough pushing factor for you to pick up a music instrument. But if you do, pick it up, you won’t regret it! 23 years on into playing the guitar, I’m still discovering and learning new things everyday. Coupled with the fact that this pushing factor turned into a career for me, that’s the biggest reward.
So, for those about to rock, I salute you!
We had a really fun showcase last Saturday at Hood as a graduation party for our trainees from the batch 2 of our Career in Hit Songwriting course.
During the showcase, we gladly announced the outstanding recent results we’ve had for our trainees penning songs for local, Taiwan and China artists, winning songwriting competitions (Lee Ting Hui for NUS XQRJ 心情溶剂 songwriting competition, Lee Chin Sin chosen among the Top 3 in the “Gift of Song” SG50 songwriting competition), performing successful songwriting showcases around Singapore, touring in Taiwan (Evoker), involving arrangement for 中国好歌曲 with me (Tan Kah Yong), involving with music productions, launching EP/Albums and of course our first ever “Best Lyrics” nomination for the 933 Singapore Hit Awards from a trainee by Kenny 邱峰泽.
We selected some of our graduates’ works to be performed during the showcase and what was nice was that we had friends of the trainees coming in to help each other with the performance including the Batch 1 graduates of our course resulting in a really kickass performance.
We were glad to see the full house crowd very receptive even though the performers were mostly fresh new faces and these songs are unfamiliar brand new potential hit songs. We’ve also observed similar turnouts and response to FM songwriter showcases recently. I’m very happy to see the FM team of writers really striking a chord to the local Mandarin music audiences, forming their own fan bases as songwriters. And I can see why as the songs are really good, with some that even brought tears to one’s eyes =D
After the Batch 2 graduates had a chance to perform their songs, we also had Chin Sin and Jin An from our batch one perform their own songs which included “These are the days”, one of the top 3 song in the SG50 “Gift of Song” national songwriting competition.
I must say throughout the showcase, I felt this overwhelming sense of pride of how far our trainees have came. They did exactly what we urged throughout the course, which is to treat songwriting as a vehicle to move to bigger things. Using the networks and friendships formed among their like minded trainees. The guys forged new production, songwriting teams and in some case form performance groups and bands just like we did when we 1st started. And in the case of our Batch 2, we even found ourselves a passionate writer who sidelines as a hilarious host =D Power to the Pew!
This team work will only strengthen their overall growth as a songwriter, musician and amplify their passion for music. And this group of new blood coming together to start their own army to face the music is exactly what makes me so happy as a teacher and continues to push our team to bring FM to greater heights.
Well done guys! We can’t wait for the next batch of potential melody and lyrics hit writers to come!!! (To be announced )
* Nicer showcase photos kindly provided by Anders Ong
Been thick busy having the time of my life running around at my latest playground, Leo Studio (look us up on FB at Leostudiosg). Running things through with my trusty team and putting myself in the position of the client who wishes to get nothing but the best of both sound and comfort to create the soundscape of their lives.
Thankfully, having visiting and renting recording studios for the last 20 years of my life. My experiences in the best and worst of them came in very handy!
And also thankfully, I’ve always been blessed to have good friends who’ll support me if the need arises. What better to test the recording studio than to get some of them in to come join me whack up a storm? So I called on Gary Gideon.
Gary is a renowned session drummer with touring and recording credits too numerous to mention. Among the acts that have been under his groove include Air Supply, A*Mei, Jacky Cheung, Jonathan Lee, Harvey Malaiholo (Indonesia) etc. He is also the very first session drummer I have ever recorded back the famed Form Studios back in the 90s(later renamed the Audioplex). He was cool then to save my ass by helping me write his own chart for the drum parts (as I can’t write or write music, I can only play it) and he’s still cool now to come onboard to whack some thunderous grooves so we can start discovering the sweet spots in Leo Studio!!
And of course, drums have to come with…bass. That’s where Clement readily jumped onboard. Apart from wearing that gold suit as the bassist for our band, the AMPs and jamming “Jit Pat Ban” with me in the local movie 12 Lotus. Clement Yang Xi is much more well known nowadays as a multi instrumentalist, multi music biz man (Hood, Guitar77, The Music Academy) and plays in multiple bands(Ugly in the Morning, Smells like last Friday)
And of course, helming the Leo Studio SSL Duality SE mixer is Frank Lee, Leo studio designer and renowned sound engineer who’s balanced the hits and worked with so many successful local and overseas artists. Stefanie Sun, JJ Lin, David Tao and the list goes on and on…
And what better day to do our test sessions than on Friday the 13? It was a fun crazy sounding day where we broke out all our stops, allowed ourselves to let all things that could go wrong, go wrong so that we can fix it right up for our clients to get the best out of Leo Studio for their dream session! So far, the visitors that we’ve invited over to the studio have been giving very positive and at times, overwhelmingly nice comments over this work of passion but we were very prepared to hear the bad ones as well so we can improve over time. Thankfully the sessions went very well, again with the help of many friends who decided to pop by to lend Frank and me a helping hand. You know who you are. Thanks guys!!!
Here are some more pics while Frank and me play around with the tracks. Will be posting up the session soon! Stay tuned!!!
I chanced upon this after I decided to search “Van Halen” on Youtube after listening to their classic album “1984″ on vinyl (that cute baby cover on the bottom left) which I bought from Melaka from Inverno Music at Mahkota Parade. (It sounds stunning by the way).
I can say I totally identify with the Youtube generation as I myself have a very short visual attention span. Which is why ever since I discovered music 20 over years ago, I rarely watch TV or even Youtube for more than 15minutes without moving away to do something else.
This video interview was 55minutes where Eddie Van Halen spoke at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on February 12th, in Washington D.C., about innovation as part of the national “What It Means To Be American” program in a sold-out event. This video contains no glam high production value filming, quick fancy angles, or cutaways etc. Just moving, inspiring, very real dialogue from a true living legend.
Now I know some of you might not know who Van Halen is but you have might heard of this song by Micheal Jackson called ‘Beat It’ and heard this crazy guitar solo in the interlude, or danced to the song “Jump” during some 80s Mambo gathering.
However if you are a inspiring musician/artist/songwriter or band. What you can draw from this interview has nothing with with Van Halen’s music.
Instead it digs deep into the ‘do or die’ mentality that I have always
respected and admired when I see musicians, new or experienced, willing to push so hard for their art no matter what environment they are from. Especially in some cases it borders on the basic essence of survival (and by that I don’t just mean not having internet access). I mentioned previously of Ed Sheeran running around homeless for 4 years. And in Eddie Van Halen’s case, where his family went for the American Dream, a family of musicians, immigrating over from Holland with 50 bucks in their pocket. And yet, he has made so many incredible innovations against all odds.
I was glued to what he said from beginning to end. All I kept repeating in my mind is…”Wow”. And especially if you are an electric guitarist, I think you’ll be “Super duper quadruple Wow”.
Having making music myself for almost 20 years as a career, I’m nowhere even close to what this man has accomplished. This interview really kicked me in the head to hurl myself way deeper than I already am into this passion of music making and hopefully be like him in future. Standing strong at 60 years old and still continuing to inspire three generations of musicians!
If you really really think music is what you want to for a living. I strongly urge you to watch this. Eddie Van Halen didn’t just live the American Dream, he lived the dream for everyone out there with an undying passion.
PS : Oh and speaking of passion I’ve almost completed the playground of my music making dreams. This truly has been a crazy journey of realising my passion for making music and hopefully allowing others to do the same. For those of you who’ve been following me, you might have heard me raving of Leo Studio. Do search, follow and like us on https://www.facebook.com/LeoStudioSG?ref=hl . I’ll be posting more dream pics and the story of Leo Studio soon =D
Yeah! For this CNY, we thought we wanted to give Lyla a treat and bring her out of Singapore for the 1st time ever! 1st up, the passport!! I made sure she had a great nice rebel photo for her passport and I think we achieved just that! =D
And with that, to Melaka we went! Road trip!!! complete with in-car IPad entertainment
She was super happy thru out the trip, refusing to sleep till it was absolutely knock out neccessary!
I’d say Melaka is great for kids, cause there’s much visual activity with the colours and sights
Ahhh the A Famosa, let me tell you a true story. During my secondary three History year end exam, my teacher decided to read one of our classmates essay submission (the exam topic was “Downfall of the Portuguese) to the class for our entertainment. And so it read “One day, Mr FAfejwhar (some random Portuguese sounding name) was walking on the A Famosa, suddenly he slipped on a banana skin and fell. Downfall of the Portuguese. The end.
Our class cracked the hell up! hahaha I still remember that guy’s name was Phillip.
And of course, there was chicken rice balls!!! There’s this place called Baba Fred at the Jonker area which we went twice cause it was so good!! And the service was good with no ridiculously long queues!
ahhh, the freshness of everything when we’re young, I think this was actually one major highlight for Lyla as she had so much fun running around the Holiday Inn’s lobby carpet =D
However, it was not all just super fun for Lyla as well, I discovered a very well stocked and knowledgeable staffed music shop, Inverno Music at Mahkota Parade! I was very pleased to find very good condition vinyl collectibles!
All in all, this Melaka trip was a huge success! It was such a nice and fulfilling experience for the Ng family, I’d definitely recommend Melaka to those with new families wanting a warm up to major future trips! Woo hoo!
Yay! 开工大吉！What a splendid break this CNY was! Maybe it’s to do with age or with more time spent away, CNY is getting more and more precious every year. This year has been especially nice to switching off from work and spending time with family and friends. Laughing at the same stories year after year, and contributing more to next year’s gathering.
Here’s some pics to share…Hope you enjoyed your CNY as well!
And on the 8th day we started work with a feast!
And after a well deserved break, we’re back to work full force! I’m really thankful work is fun, Kenny’s new album is gonna be exciting! We’ve already have tons of songs and ideas in our heads. 开工大吉！！
Wow this has been such a hectic year. I’m writing this from the plane from Shanghai (I’ve been here 5 times since the start of the year?!) heading back to Singapore as Kenny was invited to perform at a televised charity event on the eve of CNY. The event was organised by 玉佛襌寺, a famous temple in Shanghai. Well even though I missed my reunion dinner and my 1st day of CNY, I think being able to play a part to help people in need makes up for it Plus I got to experience my 1st all vegetarian reunion dinner. Music never fails to surprise me in the places it takes me. I shall say no more as you’ll read more about it very soon. I’d say it’s been an interesting and meaningful trip over the last 4 days!
Will be back on the 1st day and I’ll finally get to have a good switch off time with family for CNY! Woo hoo!
Have a great CNY 2015 everyone!
Yeah! It’s a wrap after 9mths plus of our Career in hit songwriting course! Just like the 1st batch, it’s with great satisfaction as I can hear our trainees all taking a step up from the songwriting skills and being more aware of not just the music but the industry as well. Of course I’m sure they’ve had many laughs along the way. During the course, I emphasised more than once, the importance of forming their own teams as music is really people coming together to make great works. And I’m sure thruout this course, they have forged their own valuable networks with like minded trainees. As with the previous batch, I’m also happy to plan to/have signed some of these trainees and involved them in our production work.
Pop music has always depended greatly on ‘the song’ and it’s really up to these guys now to carry on the torch to more great hits!
I’m on the road to Jia Xing, a place 1.5 hours drive from Shanghai to watch the episode in which I played music consultant for Hua Jian in his contestant’s battle round.
Having travelled this route for 5 times in the last 2 months, I’d say it’s very relaxing. Some people can’t stand travelling, but I for one don’t mind it. Especially that this route is very straight with not many cars, it allows much 放空 to be done. In Singapore, where everything is within reach, plus with the internet, what’s apps and what have yous. Everything can be accessed and done fast. However being in the creative field, I think it’s really nice when your mind is allowed time to wander, and to stretch. And especially in long rides like these, where I’m not the one driving, I can put on my headphones and really get into the music that I’m listening to. It’s a real treat for me I tell you.
With so much ‘noise’ happening around life, we tend to not be able to do just one thing at a time. And I cherish experiences like these.
In the plane on the way here, I managed to catch this show called ‘Whiplash’. For those who think they are passionate about music, I suggest you go catch this show. Some might think that it’s dramatised, but I don’t think so. I’ve managed to meet many people along my travels who are really willing to give anything for their art. Maybe after you watch this show, you might think…hmm, I might not want this so badly after all.
If you think, aiyah, this is just fiction, you can also go read up about a real life example about the singer songwriter of the moment, Ed Sheeran, on his life and him being homeless, sleeping in subways for 4 years and the many other sacrifices he made to end up being the 1st artist to perform solo, just him and his guitar at Wembley Stadium.
I know to many a parent, this kind of total uncertainty in life which has no proven formula or route to success, is totally daunting. But now me being a parent myself, having experienced starting something from nothing, I’ll trust my kid with her choices if she decides to move into a risky route in future as well.
Just as I thought when I was 20 years old, Don’t try don’t know. As a good friend in the corporate world told me that what I get to experience is something that most people won’t get. To which I said I know, and am grateful everyday for this. I know that even if one day this all fails, these experiences of trying my best, giving it all for passion, will make for beautiful memories in future.