=790= Word: Mentality

“It doesn’t make sense for this to be here and for this to come in here!”

What is a proper arrangement for something? What is the purpose that this note is here during this part of the song?

I understand different genres have different ways of approaching something. Perhaps, you know, to a portrait artist abstract art makes no sense. However, does that mean that abstract art means nothing?

I love how my art teacher always admits what he draws looks nothing like the actual person. We all know that it was amazing how he manage to draw something that looks so close to the actual figure, but he would be the first to admit that the proportions are off. This humility is really needed in the world of art and creativity.

Back in AVT, KL used to say that he can do amazing things with white noise. He claimed that he could make it sound like a snare drum. That has always intrigued me. I finally got down to making my own snare sound from noise. It was very interesting creating an instrument from noise. The snare sound is far from the sound of an actual snare. However, it is a sound that is very new and signature to me. As a drummer, I would want to play every note organically, however I realised that there really is value in supplimenting sound with other sounds. It will make the track fuller and more interesting. Overall, you are serving the music and not yourself.

If I were to carry the mentality of a drummer, I would never been able to create tracks of the standard I have for the production. To work within the limits we have, to bring the best quality we could. That was what we did.

Trust me when I say that we are aware of all the flaws in our songs. We are fully aware that strings don’t sound the way they should when we play the midi sounds on logic. In spite of that, we pushed ourselves. If it doesn’t sound good, we won’t put it in.

Do you seriously think that it is easy?

Music will continue to push itself to reach higher heights. We need to be more open minded about change. Hold our training close to our hearts, take note of what we learn, understand the heart behind it. When I first learn drums, my teacher told me not to drag my stick and let the stick bounce without hitting another note. Now that I have grown as a drummer, I know that by dragging the stick, I can create a sound that can create very nice texture and that can be used in the right context. A musician should know when something is used in context and when something isn’t. Different isn’t bad, different used properly is new.


=788= Word: Frustration

A semester in university is like cramping years of research and math and work into six months.

Perhaps something easier to understand is that it is like cramping 9 years of music grade exam prep into one semester. You are expected to have enough foundation to understand the content fast.

Is this really the best way to learn? There is no effort to make sure that you understand anything. Before you can digest something, you get squashed with more complicated information. Once you pass the module, you are “trained” in that area.

I must say that there are some exceptional lecturers here. Putting so much extra effort to help students to understand. Trying new things to help student know the subject better.

Oh is education really just like this? To rush through learning, to force feed information and make them do things that they are not prepared for?

Lord, I am trying so hard, why is it so difficult to learn?


=787= Reflections: QP27

I don’t really know where to begin. My production is over. Whoo!

I never thought that I would be so involved in hall. I thought that I would just join Jamband and spend the rest of my time relaxing and studying. Who knew I would spend so much time on this?

If JJ didn’t ask me to join, I probably wouldn’t have. I remember when I first entered I was honestly fine with either the role of music director or sound. I wasn’t much of a song writer though I would love to record and produce for people. When S asked me to choose between the two, I guess I wanted something more creative and new. I told him I wanted to be a MD. He then asked me to write a melody on the spot with the story of a breakup. I came up with the words, “I lost colour and flavour.”

I remember seeing their reaction to the melody I came up with. I have no idea why they reacted the way they did. Perhaps, they didn’t expect a drummer to be able to hold a note properly? HAHAHA.

Without expecting much, I managed to enter the role without knowing anyone except C, cause she performed with me for FUSE. JJ got into the role of sound, even though he wanted to do lights. HAHA stupid boy.

It has been a heck of a journey since then.

The MDs were the first among the portfolios to hear the script. I was expecting to write ballads and love songs, especially because of the interview test. When the script was revealed to us, it was nothing like that. It was much darker than I thought. I was excited of course, but I had no idea what I was going to write. In the team, all of us loves ballads with YQ, C and I into Mandopop and Christian music and N into Japanese Ballads. So we are challenged to write for a black mirror kind of play.

I remember thinking about the whole story. I had no clue how act 2 was going to play out, so the scene of the murder was the most interesting. I thought about how he would feel. I wrote out whatever thoughts he would have on a piece of paper and thought about it again and again. I came up with a few stuff, but I wasn’t pleased with it.

Then one night, after work, I watched this YouTube video on Goth music. The video had very interesting lines and it sounded like it could fit very well in the production. I then came up with quite a rock song. First of its kind.

I imagined the scene right after he killed the man. I imagined blood on his hand and him freaking out. The line was “What have I done, I’m not insane, the body is cold and I am not the same, everything I have done was for my family, I think it is too late now.”

Then I did this falsetto thing because it really felt pretty cool for the song. The best part was that they liked it! Whoo!

The next meeting we met up and we listened to the previous year’s production and all the songs. It was interesting. I liked that we were doing something with history. Looking at the previous production to learn from it. Heard some horror stories and we just hope not to repeat the same mistakes. They then took my song and sang it, it was very interesting. I never thought of my song anywhere else but right after the murder. However, a few of them thought that the song was about the character not caring about what others thought anymore.

I gave it some thought after that session and came up with the bridge, “nowhere to go, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.”

Then, they revealed the story to the whole of QP and I received my first song to write. I heard the 4 songs description and I immediately wanted the showing off wealth one. I thought about the story and I could imagine how the song would go. Of course it helped that S said imagine something like L would sing it.

Thankfully I got the song. I sat down and thought about it. I knew I wanted the song to be swing or shuffle. I just went with swing because swing felt more high class. HAHA. Helps that I like Michael Bublé too! 🙂

I thought of the scene and I could totally imagine the boss giving a tour of the house. I thought that the boss will be a person that would show off and say that he isn’t rich. Hence the title, “I’m not a rich guy.”

At first, S was concerned that it would be too Christmas carol like. I guess because of the way I programmed the drum beats. It really sounded too much like a Christmas carol. So I brought all my gear to hall. My cymbals and snare, my microphones and interface. I set up and recorded the drums for the song. After taking a few takes. I decided to make the drums a bit more modern as opposed to straight up swing. It would make the song move differently but I thought it was rather nice. I added half time and sextuplets. It was really cool.

I remember that C was really struggling with her coffeeshop scene. It was very difficult to fit a song there. We all tried to help. My only help was showing her how I think of music. I realised as a song writer, I can have quite an engineer way of thinking. I just basically do something. Then I see if I can make it sound different. So it was just an exercise to come up with something. She struggled so hard trying to make a song suitable for the scene. I mean a coffeeshop scene is rather difficult you know.

I remember the first time we heard N’s song and we were blown away. We gave our suggestions and thoughts. Of like it could get even crazier.

I remember YQ’s first song, he wrote a rather heartfelt song towards the mother. I felt the emotion and I really liked it. When asked for comments, I said I have none. HAHA. I mean sometimes you really like a song you know. It is something magical and raw. You don’t really want to spoil that. Nevertheless, there were changes and YQ came up with something totally different.

I remembered the first time I asked if YQ needed help with recording. It was a Monday and we for some reason canceled band practice. I asked if he needed help and he wanted it. I brought my interface, took a mic stand and mic from Jamband room to his room. We sat down and recorded the first version. I could feel the tension of his stress lift. Slowly he was less stressed about how to get the song out, but he was excited about how to make the song exactly what he wanted.

I remembered how much we did together. Learning how to sing as practice for V during recess week. Trying very hard to improve on what we already have.

Then we received the second act. I was away for my last drum lesson and they were discussing on which song to pick. Honestly, I didn’t know any of the scenes because I wasn’t there for script reading. So I picked the jail scene just because I already had a song. HAHA. I was the deal breaker to choose who get which song. So I thought about it and I chose YQ for the two wives duet and C for the ma song.

Nearing this time, I was really concerned that this musical doesn’t have a heartfelt moment. You know, a heartfelt song. It is important to have at least a bit of heart in a story you know. If not, it may feel rather alien. Hence, I wrote my second song to be quite a heart breaking song. With lines, “who would love someone like me?” The song was ‘destroyed’ by the destroyer of worlds YQ. AHAHAHA(KIDDING BRO, YOU KNOW WE LOVE YOU) He said that in this scene the character should be going crazy not pitying himself. I understood what he meant, but I had no idea how to redo the song.

C came up with a song that we all loved. We talked about wanting to put rap in and when we heard C’s song, I thought that it was very possible to put a rap in without it feeling awkward. It was first destroyed by YQ, (again, just joking bro! HAHA) but S told us they were changing the script quite a bit to make the character more of a bad person and that the song would fit very well. We heard the change and all agreed.

I remember not liking N’s judge song very much at the start because I didn’t think that it fit the scene. It sounded pretty psycho. Then during the holidays, something changed and I got it. I understood what the music was doing and I loved it.

So back to my jail scene song, gosh, it was a hard one to write. I thought that I had got the feeling nailed and now I had to rethink of another melody. I know that S did not reject the idea, but I agreed with YQ that it should be going crazy not pity. I had no clue how to write it. I tried thinking of other melodies but it did not fit. I even thought, hey why not just use my first song. It probably would fit better than the heartfelt one.

One day, my ex-cell leader’s grandfather passed away. The wake was near pioneer and I went to visit. She told me her story. She told me that her grandfather had been ill for a while and the family had been prepared for this. She told me she woke up and received the news at 5.53am and her time was stopped at that time.

Something in me spark. Time stop. Woah. I thought about how the character had a freak out over a minor/insignificant thing. Over the time of the clock. I imagined the scene after the killed, he looked at the clock. How could the time be 5.53? It was 10pm when he first got here. How could it be 5.53? How? Why? It can’t be!

That brought me to my song, 5.53. this song was a funny one. I had so many ideas for stanzas. At one point I had 5/6 different stanzas. It was really difficult to have it make sense and not be disjointed. I sat down with S and asked him more about the scene and how he should be feeling.

I thought about it quite a few times and I had this big ambition of trying to make it kinda like bohemian rhapsody. Then I had this idea of adding the bridge of my first song into this song. I thought about it and it was pretty cool!

I got C to help me record the keys. I recorded drums too, but the most common comment on my playing was “can you make it more irregular.”

It was quite difficult. As a drummer, I often need to simplify beats so that it won’t throw people off. I have to be the one playing regular so that others can play comfortably. Now when it is my turn to play irregular, it was tough.

Nevertheless, I tried quite a few things. I got out of the whole “I need to be the one that plays the drums” thinking and started to think of how I can program something to fit the music. YQ’s song, Xiao, was almost all programmed, because the song needed quite a harrowing touch. Which is really difficult to get from the drum set. Not only that, it needed double bass pedal for the last part. Which is really out of my repertoire. I began to see programming drums differently. It isn’t a shameful thing to program drums. The fact that I could perceive and know where and how to program is a skill.

For C’s song we settled on the song form and I recorded the drums. I took quite a few takes before settling on that particular take. I was even able to sneak in a sextuplet fill. I was really proud of the programmed drums for the rap parts. I remembered their reactions when they heard the version with programmed drums for the first time. It was very encouraging for me as a drummer.

The December holidays was very fun. We came together every week to sing k and to discuss how to improve the songs. The first song that got discussed was mine. It was absolutely tiring to change and edit so many things at once. I was so drained that day. However, I reached another problem, my drums were once again not enough to drive the song.  It was really difficult. I could play something that fits, but it is really difficult to get it to where I want it to be. Then S said that he expected that I would do a drum solo for one of my my songs. I was baffled, but I loved the idea. I mean I just got a free pass to do whatever I wanted. How fun is that! I did it up and had N to layer on top of it. It was very cool.

I remember the night on Sunday when we gathered in S’s room to listen to all the songs once through. I felt so nervous and yet excited. We came such a long way to reach the songs we created.

When we first shown our music to the whole of QP. We sat together and I did not dare to look at their reactions during my songs. Only looking at them when the song was over. We were thrilled that no one had any objections to our songs.

Then began our sessions every Tues to teach the cast our songs. Having someone else, other the 5 of us, sing our songs was a very funny feeling. Melodies I thought were very natural to sing weren’t necessarily the case for them. We were all excited to see how the cast interpreted our songs.

Then, finally the MDs came together to sharpen my 5.53 song. There were very nice touches like the single heartbeat between stanzas. YQ told me that I may need to think of alternatives for the drum solo. I thought about it for a very long time.

Drum solos are typically showing off technical abilities and speed. That was why it was very difficult to put it inside such an intense song. A drum solo needs an arc it needs to rise and drop and it needs to groove. Grooving is almost the last thing the song needs. How do I make a drum solo sound not happy? Even if I do make a drum solo, what is the purpose of this drum solo?

It took me a while, but I landed on an answer. I thought about N’s first song and how there was this revelation of the killer. I thought about it and decided that I could use the same sounds as the revelation to put it in my song to link it to his song, making the audience hear that he was the character that was being pulled into jail.

S heard my idea and we came up with a scene where the heartbeat increases in speed and he hears the voices of the casts and he freaks out and goes crazy then it goes into “nowhere to go, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.”

We recorded every cast member and the effect was quite cool. I found out how to make a bass drop sound, a sine wave sweeper. It was simple but it added so much. Adding N’s drum sound into my track really gave my song a whole lot more drive.

Tech runs were very tiring. We rehearsed again and again, full day tech runs had 3 rehearsals + debrief. It was quite draining. The MDs would all get really excited every time we hear our own song. We gave ideas on how to tweak the song to make it more comfortable as a singer to sing it. YQ added a wind sound, I added a few notes to transit better. It was very nice work.

A week before production, after supper, S and YQ showed us a track that they worked on. They combined lines from every single song that we did. It was very interesting. I had to sing some lines too. I have never been much of a singer, so it was quite a struggle. Once I got the file I had liberty to edit the voices anyway I liked. I did the usual stuff like EQ and Compress, but I added reverb and delay to make the track more hauntingly beautiful. This song was all done 4 days before production. How crazy was that?

S then produced the house music soundtrack. It was just a short piece that we looped many times to make it 30 minutes long. With that, every music track that you hear on the production was self produced by QP27.

It was impossible to mix in the control room with the windows closed. Absolutely impossible. Not only that, it was very difficult to monitor volume. We had 3 complains for volume during bump-in day. I was very concerned for the sound. Sure, I can lower, but even if you lower the volume, I would still want my music to sound full. Sure you could set it at a volume and not touch it again, but seriously? How are you going to match the singer’s intensity? It is way too difficult to mix. I then asked for the iPad to mix live behind the audience. It was more effective to mix this way. This way I was able to control the volume to make the tracks sound full even though they are soft. This also frees JJ to focus on his audio effects.

Everyone I invited loved the production. They did not expect that it was so good. Even my dad that seldom talks about music with me was talking about the storyline and music. It was a great experience. So sad that I probably won’t be able to join QP28 next year because of my overseas internship. Though, with the tops coming out from the current team. I am certain that they will try to be better than QP27. Haha I told YQ that if he recs me in, I will help him with stuff next year!

Watch out for the video guys, I am sure that you will enjoy the production.

To more! 🙂