You’re Invited to my CANDLE Listening Party!

You’re Invited to my CANDLE Listening Party!

11.07.2014 0 Comments

Hi Everyone! πŸ™‚

It’s been 2 years since my album Brand New release, and I’ve been working on some new songs for a new season. As you may know, I have begun to take a leap of faith in making a difference in the global Chinese music industry. This project is but just a small step on this new journey, and will culminate in a bilingual EP, “CANDLE”.

You’re invited to preview the songs, catch the vision and give to the project!
β€’ What: CANDLE Listening Party
β€’ When: 29th July 2014, 7.30pm (Doors open at 7:15pm)
β€’ Where: CT Hub, 2 Kallang Ave #10-17 (Hall A), Singapore 339407
β€’ How: Register at http://sarahcdw.eventbrite.com – Admission is free
Hope you’ll be there, spread the word! Looking forward to seeing you πŸ™‚
Love, Sarah <3

5 Things I’ve Learnt in 7 Weeks of Making YouTube Covers

5 Things I’ve Learnt in 7 Weeks of Making YouTube Covers

09.07.2014 0 Comments

Hi Everyone,

It’s been 7 weeks into the challenge and I would like to share somethings I’ve learnt, I hope it will help you too in your YouTube Journey!

1. Good Audio is a prerequisite for a Good Video
As a musician or singer, the quality of the audio needs to accurately represent what you can do. For other genres, this principle may not apply. In the example of η·΄ηΏ’ζ„›ζƒ…οΌŒwhich was mixed by Peter (my duet guest), I felt that his mixing skills really lent the song a quality that wouldn’t otherwise have had.

2. Current Songs Get More Hits
As exampled with the song Te Bie De Ren, this song received much more views that Ji De, which is a classic hit. Even my cover of Problem by Ariana Grande, which I did not really promote at all, more views than other videos that are not as current.

3. Collaborating with different artists is always fun
I’ve so far had the chance to collaborate with Peter Huang (Taipei) and Nathan Hartono – the latter is coming out tomorrow at 7.30pm, so watch out for it on my YouTube Channel πŸ™‚ Each time is an opportunity to learn from the other artist and exchange great ideas!

4. Frequency must match Quality
After having a chat with Niken, one of the online strategists for YouTube, we came to the conclusion that you should only put out videos as often as you can maintain the quality of the videos. Personally I had to put out two lower quality videos as I did not have access to a videographer while I was in Holland, and that was definitely not ideal. Once the quality of the videos you do deviate from what you normally do, viewers will be less incline to share and come back. Here’s one of the ones I did in Holland…

5. Videos must create value for viewers
I’ve realised that even if the video isn’t of a high quality, there must be an intrinsic value you are creating so that viewers are inclined to share it… In the case of the most successful video so far in this series, I noticed that no one had done a good cover of η·΄ηΏ’ζ„›ζƒ…: so doing an acoustic one could show how the song could be expressed differently from the original.

Have a comment or suggestion on how I can improve my videos? Leave a comment below or tweet me at @sarahcdw πŸ™‚

Okay, that’s all for now, in the meantime, SAVE THE DATE 29TH JULY 2014, a listening party for my bilingual EP is on the way!

Love,
Sarah

SGMUSOs: Why We Must Keep Going

SGMUSOs: Why We Must Keep Going

28.06.2014 0 Comments

Hi Everyone,

In light of the rather pessimistic article “What’s wrong with the local music scene?” – I thought I would instead share what personally keeps me going, and my thoughts on why we must keep going, as musicians, artists, creatives.

1. We must keep going because we believe can make a difference
Having spoken to some other artists, not necessarily from the music scene in Singapore, we are really in a strange cultural state. Being in our 49th year as a nation means we are babies compared to centuries old civilisations. We don’t have that cultural backbone to draw from. But that also means, that what we are doing in our respective creative fields can actually make a difference and enter the “canon” of Singaporean music.

Huzir Sulaiman taught me Playwriting – he is one such established practitioner in the theatre industry that is mentoring and grooming new playwrights. He told us, while we were still university students, that he really believes we could make an impact in the Singaporean theatre scene. And true to his words, those who stuck to playwriting and theatre have made a difference, such a Faith Ng, Joel Tan and Shiv Tandan. And they’re just one generation! Imagine the next?

So ultimately, the ones who have the talent, single-hearted passion and drive will stand out and press on. Even then, there are many who stay on for a while, but give up due to financial pressures. The rest enjoy making music but they are equally comfortable having other day jobs.

This principle is the same for any creative field! So you must believe and gain confidence that you can make a difference. Even in a small way. You are. Engage in the business of creating your art, and you seek critical affirmation by others (send your work to music critics, established producers, and media). Talent and passion is not enough. It is perseverance with talent and single-minded passion that bears real fruit.

Another good read… Eric Ng’s blog post on do you have faith in the music industry.. or?

2. We must keep improving ourselves: this is our personal responsibility.
As Singaporean musicians, have we taken a really critical look at ourselves to understand how we measure up to the internationals? Knowing that you are not perfect and constantly looking for ways to improve yourself, will inevitably help any artist career.

In technical skills, I took a series of private piano classes with pianist, music director-arranger Joel Nah to improve my skills so that I could at least play some songs on the piano on my own. I used to shy from the piano (despite having Grade 4/5) because I used to write jazzy tunes, and jazz was too hard for me, i though.

But now that I’m writing pop-soul music, playing the keys in performance is often empowering! And last time I’ve since progressed to play about half of my set on keyboards with the band. I also had the chance to learn from contra-tenor Peter Lee, who is based in Taipei these few months, and he figured out my vocal fatigue was from because I wasn’t breathing correctly! It was such revelation and relief that my technique was intact, but that my breathing could improve my singing a great deal.

Over the years, I have also picked up some best practices on managing a band (organizing rehearsals, set lists, etc) and I still continue to learn through informal meetings with other musicians, and working with them in real life settings, getting feedback from them. Many people don’t realise that soft skills with people is just as important as technical skills. So get the experience you need by working with as many people as you need to.

I have learnt from just these two examples, that self-improvement is key for any artist. It is important to always stay relevant and pick up skills that will help you to be a better person, performer and it keeps you humble, because you realise each time, when you’re learning from someone else, how limited your own knowledge is.

3. We must continue to support one another.
Although I haven’t been able to attend many of the ad-hoc sharing sessions, I must say that I felt such a great sense of community at last year’s Music Matter’s Academy. So many great artists all sitting in one room: TSW, Mark Bonafide, ShiGGa Shay, Bevlyn Khoo, Shabir… It made me proud that we have such amazing talents from our tiny Island. Someone commented that we’re the size of Dallas. But I’m certain that we have a much greater variety of artists across different genres, ages and ability than Dallas has! So let’s keep sharing each other’s work. Let’s cross-promote. Let’s collaborate. Let’s do more that will build up our community, not tear it down.

4. To keep going, sacrifices must be made β€” so, your purpose has to be clear.
The success stories that have come out from Singapore have made many sacrifices to be where they are. Thinking along the lines of the Chinese market, JJ, Stef and Tanya had to be based or are still based in Taipei. But they have paved the way for many other Singaporeans to make a difference in the larger Chinese music market!

The purpose you have in your heart must be clear. It would be different from person to person. But it must be set in your heart and all your actions should be founded on it. Your mission, your calling and your identity will be drawn from your innate purpose.

Now this doesn’t have to be a grandiose statement. Your purpose start as simple as: to make people happy through my music, by bringing people to their feet. But more on this in another blog post for the future, perhaps on Branding for an Artist, maybe.

Once your purpose is clear, then any sacrifices to be made can be judged against this purpose. Would this sacrifice bring me closer to fulfilling my purpose in music (and the arts)? Does it bring me innate satisfaction?

If the answer to either is no, then the sacrifice isn’t worthwhile. But if you keep giving yourself excuses and think you’ll have another opportunity, then you are deluding yourself to think that fulfilling you purpose comes naturally… it doesn’t. We have to fight the good fight and persevere.

And to those who do, a crown awaits.

(I leave you with my latest YouTube: Sam Smith’s Stay With Me – A Positive Acapella Version)

Briefing Your Music Arranger: 5 ‘Do’s and ‘Don’t’s

Briefing Your Music Arranger: 5 ‘Do’s and ‘Don’t’s

19.06.2014 0 Comments

Hi Everyone,

Today I’d like to share 5 Dos and Don’ts when briefing an arranger during the production process, as I’ve begun work on my latest bilingual EP project. This assumes that you are the songwriter-executive producer, and that the arranger is meant to flesh out your vision, not to give direction (that is more of a producer role, more on that in another post next time…) πŸ™‚

1. DO: Record a demo with a singer, at the very least
DON’T: Ask for an arranger to arrange untested material
BONUS: Try the song out in a live setting with a real band!

2. DO: Clearly discuss budget before the work begins
DON’T: Assume that just because the arranger happens to be your friend, he would do it for free or low pay
BONUS: The arranger decides to give you a demo version to make sure he’s the right person for the job, before actually charging you. Those kinds of arrangers are rare gems, but they may put you into a position where you feel obliged to move forward with the person even if the demo they submitted wasn’t really what you wanted.

3. DO: Have a clear set of references for different aspects of the song
DON’T: Expect the arranger to have a vision for the song
BONUS: When writing the song, have certain arrangement ideas in mind already!

4. DO: Give your arranger a lead vocal to work with after they submit the first draft
DON’T: Sing the lead vocal yourself if you are not a singer
BONUS: You happen to also be a singer

5. DO: Give your arranger a reasonable timeline
DON’T: Set a low budget, demand the arrangement be done in no time, and expect quality work
BONUS: Your hired arranger is an expert at doing things quick and good. Chances are though, that they come with a deserved premium.

Okay! Those are my two cents πŸ™‚ Please feel free to comment in the Disqus box or tweet me at @sarahcdw.

I leave you with one of my originals, ζˆ‘ιœ€θ¦δ½  I Need You, performed live in Taipei!

The Role of a Vocal Producer

The Role of a Vocal Producer

10.06.2014 0 Comments

Today, I would like to share about my experience recording with Taiwanese vocal producer, Paula Ma (who is known lovingly as “Xiao Fen Jie” by us), and what makes the vocal producer a really crucial part of the process, especially for my journey in the Chinese music industry. The premise of me collaborating with Xiao Fen Jie is because I am recording two new songs as part of my latest bilingual EP project.

1. A good vocal producer gives you constructive and honest feedback on your singing
You might ask your family and friends about your singing style, but face it, they’re not experts. A good and experienced vocal producer is able to tell you the strengths of your singing style, even if you are an equally experienced singer. We all have blind spots that we are not aware of, and sometimes we need an honest mirror to show us what we can improve on.

For Xiao Fen Jie, she shared with me that my style is unique, but I have the tendency to “oversing” i.e. sing too much in an engaged chest voice, that causes ear fatigue if used too much in a song.

2. A good vocal producer helps you identify technical issues in enunciation/ pronunciation and phrasing
In the Chinese pop market especially, where lyrics are extremely important and often reflect a much deeper level of imagery and meaning, accurate enunciation is key to having people understand what you are singing about. Especially because, in Chinese, that are many homophones (that is, words that have the same sound but different meanings). So the phrases and relationships between words become very important to place each word in the right context, thereby giving it meaning.

For me, I come with the background of having Singaporean accented Chinese, and what’s more, I don’t even come from a Chinese-speaking family! Xiao Fen Jie and I spent 7 hours the first day just doing one song’s lead vocal comp, spending most of it redoing lines that weren’t enunciated with the correct vowel or consonant sound. The Chinese language has much more sounds than the English language, I feel, with different vocal combinations e.g. the vowels in “xiao” and “liu” and “gou” “dian” do not have straight forward sounds, they are also very different from normal English vowels (which is also why some non-native Chinese speakers have the reverse problem of not being able to sing in English convincingly).

3. A good vocal producer allows you freedom, but also suggests new ideas to bring your song to the next level
Having also worked with Jim Lim of Funkie Monkies on two of my Chinese songs, he was able to suggest that I create certain lines with adlibs so that it would increase interest in a particular line, or to sing the line in a certain style or feeling so that it would bring out a particular part of my voice. I really appreciated his input on those things. On the other hand, both he and Xiao Fen Jie allowed me the freedom to explore vocal harmonies (I’m crazy about doing layers and stacks to create a very lush effect) and other little extra lines that expressed my own creativity.

4. A good vocal producer can make the difference between good and great
Often, we only see ourselves as ourselves. The ultimate role of a good vocal producer is to imagine your talents beyond your current capabilities and stretch you to reach that potential, challenge your self-doubt, and encourage your strengths. If you think you’re good already on your own, a good vocal producer could make that difference, and make you sound great.

Okay, enough two cents from me! I leave you with a video, Ji De, though no vocal producer on it, was one of the videos I shot after going to Taipei a few times.. So I believe my Chinese already improved here just by immersion in the environment, hahah.

Have a comment or question? Pleas use Disqus or else tweet me at @sarahcdw πŸ™‚

Till next time, all my love!
Sarah

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