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Sunday, 29 January 2012

Playing for Service Saturday & Sunday

Worship leading with Freda's team. Saturday night at Grace Assembly of God, Tanglin Road, Level 3 hall. Johan was leading the worship.

Service closing, people praying.

Sunday morning at the main chapel. Pastor was leading and playing accoustic guitar. Charles on electric guitar, Freda on 1st keys, myself on 2nd keys, Jeremy on Bass and Jonathan on Drums.

Pre-service, when people were slowly filling up...

Service starting, people standing up...

Closing, when Pastor Calvin Lee was praying
Its been almost a year since I last played in church. Last one was a live worship recording serviec for Grace Assembly's very own original worship album, More Like You (I think).

Music Used in Sean's Website


My buddy Sean Teo has requested to put my music on his professional website. This was just 2 days after I showed him my work-in-progress (from the previous post).

This is the second piece of music I am releasing for his website use. The first one was an slightly amended version of this piece of music from my previous posts: http://journeyintomusic.blogspot.com/2011/10/first-piece-with-ni-komplete-8.html

I am deeply honoured that Sean likes my work. He has always been very supportive of my music. I will update him with a more complete version once I am finished with it

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Practicing Worship songs for Johnson's Wedding

Peter (middle) and Johnson (right) at my house together, going through the songs at Johnson's wedding.

We spent time ironing out the flow and the chord, making sure we all knew how the sequence goes.

Christina was roped in to help with the vocals. ;)

Two more weeks to go!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

So You Would Come - v002 - work in progress

Spent the whole night finishing up the piano part and the strings, cellos, bass guitar and a bit of a rough drums part. It is still work in progress. I have 2 more songs to go for next week so I shouldn't spend too much time doing up any particular parts i suppose. This is so much like trying to finish up an exam paper!

Click here to listen on soundcloud.com

This is a cover of a song by Hillsong: So You Would Come. Here' the link of the original on Youtube.com.

I feel at this time the bass is too heavy.. I didn't spend a lot of time mixing the levels. The instruments only received a bit of panning. I was trying to use the Native Instruments scarbee bass. It sounded ok when I was working on it.

It was quite a pleasure using it. It's a Very nice instrument to play. Feels and sounds very human too! But a pity it rendered really very horribly with unexpected artifacts. Sound gets abruptly cur off before notes end.

Didn't have time to fix it so I replaced it with the bass from Kontakt 5 factory instrument collection.

I'll work on it more after the worship band practice tonight.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

FL Studio's Piano Roll

While hooking up my M-Audio Keystation Pro 88 to my laptop, and trying to iron-out my music-making workflow, I stumbled upon a big problem: I could not find the sustain pedal event being recorded into FL Studio!

I Googled "FL Studio sustain pedal events". One of the results that came out was this startling article from KeyboardMagazine: http://www.keyboardmag.com/article/on-a-roll-in-fl-studio/1885

The thing that so surprised me was that FL Studio does not record pedal events! The events get translated into note durations upon real-time recording. In other words you cannot record notes without sustain, then drop into recording again to "touch up" on a few sustains that you failed to record into the take the first time round.

To me that is a very frustrating thing. I was expecting the sustain to be recorded on controller #64, and graph-ed out on the editor in a manner that's very close to the velocity graph.

The reason why I have not realised this, was because during these few months working with FL Studio, I was mostly using my Korg Nanokey2. Thus I did not use any sustain pedals. I worked around it by holding the notes for the actual durations.

I am very used to working with sustain pedal information, since the days of Cakewalk 2.0. I have always used Cakewalk (and Sonar) with hardware MIDI instruments. Now that I've switched to mainly virtual instruments, I find Cakewalk Sonar to be a bit unwieldy when it comes to setting up virtual instrument tracks. Maybe I am not doing it right. We shall see...

This is not to say that FL Studio does not have its merits. I love the ease it interfaces with plugins, and how easy it is to route data from midi ports to instruments channels and even as a peripheral input signal on certain plugins (like Vocalizer). FL Studio also easily interfaces with my Keystation Pro 88's shuttle controls like play, record and rewind buttons. (I had to set the Keystation up as another M-Audio product, like the Axiom)

I also like the amount of expression the user has on FL Studio, especially the portamento and notes slides. This is especially useful for guitar leads and bass. However, that does not always work on all instruments, especially plugins that are not from Image-Line.

This changes things. This may totally put me off FL Studio. Like I said, FL Studio is fine, but I need more control over sustain that is especially useful for guitars and piano instruments. On top of that, I am trying to get myself to play more like a pianist, so I definitely need to work with sustain.

There is one other reason why I would be short-changing myself if I did not work with sustain MIDI messages. EastWest's Play sampler works with sustain messages. In the piano instrument there is a section for configuring how the player responds to sustain messages. Many piano instruments in the Quantum Leap Pianos have separate articulations for sustain and sustain pedal events.

Maybe I'll give Sonar another try after the wedding. For now I'll stick to working in FL Studio with my Nanokey2 (sounds ridiculous I know, but yes I sort of got used to the smaller sized keys and I am actually more productive using the Nanokey2)

Moving My Workspace

I've finally decided to move my workspace from a make-shift ironing board (yes you heard right!), to a proper desk, where I used to work before I went to London in 2011, when my desktop computer was still working.

So here is a comparison.

The move was in response to my wife urging me to get my stuff off her ironing board. (I was using it since early December, so that makes 2 months). Each time she needed to use the ironing board, I would have to shut down the externally powered hard-disk and my laptop, disconnect my cables, take away everything from the board. Then I would move the board out from against the wall, plug in the iron to the wall socket for her, so she can use it.

Johnson's getting married in 2 weeks time and Peter (Jamie's husband, that's what I always refer to him as) and I are supposed to play for worship. Peter will play the accoustic guitar, and I will probably be on the keyboard.

With 2 instruments, it probably isn't going to be the most immersive worship experience (technically speaking of course, not spiritually speaking, if you know what I mean).

So I was thinking of blessing him with the back-up of a full band. I've got my newly acquired professional-level samples, I think it's time to use them. This would involve, working overtime like crazy, to sequence about 3-4 worship songs.

The things that can go wrong, ranked from the most serious wasted effort to recoverable situations:
1) they (the couple) decide to change the song, after I am halfway into the sequencing
2) they decide to change the sequence to the song ("we want 2 choruses at the end instead of 1")
3) they decide to change the key to the song (techincally this can be quickly fixed with an not-so-elegant transpose to the notes)

I will go by faith and hope it works out!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Alan Belkin: What you need to know

Following up on the previous post, I came across another article on Alan Belkin's website.


Entitled, "What you need to know", this article is a good summary of the definition and functions of various  aspects and techniques of musical composition and orchestration. This also clarifies and disputes common misconceptions and assumptions made by students in composing and composers who may not have spent enough time studying these aspects to truly understand the usage of these techniques.

I am still trying to read up on what these things mean, so it is quite profound for me at this point.

Letter to a Young Composer

Picture taken from his website, www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Usagers/belkina/MonDepotPublic/e.index.html

For my benefit, Alvin has painstakingly gone searching for the syllabus of study that would bring a budding composer to a proficient level of composing for film and TV.

This is a letter from Alan Belkin to a young composer, stating the techniques that needed to be acquired before one can become an all-rounded composing professional.


According to wikipedia.org, Alan Belkin is a Canadian composer. He is also an organist, pianist and a teacher. He got his doctorate at Jilliard School in New York. Here is information about him on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Belkin

This letter was taken from his personal website, which has many other articles that talks about theory of music composition. Really rich in resources!


A Few Articles on Christian Music from ChristianityToday.com

I was searching for contemporary composition and found this article on christiantoday.com: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/june/varietyreligious.html (Lawrence R Mumford, 22-Jun-2011)

This article talks about the Christian music / contemporary Christian music or Worship songs of today.

In the article, there are 3 more links to music and songs in worship. I have not had the time to read these, but I will get around to doing that.

ChristianityToday.com - What Happened to Amazing Grace (Robert T. Coote, 8-Mar-2011)
ChristianityToday.com - Pop Goes the Worship (Mark Moring, 9-Mar-2011)

ChristianityToday.com - The Trajectory of Worship  (John Koessler, 11-Mar-2011)

ChristianityToday.com - The End of Worship Wars (Mark Galli, 11-Mar-2011)

This is the first time I've visited this Christian portal. This is certainly of interest to me, since I have been playing and exposed to worship music for about 15 years. I'll definitely check back on this site now and then!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Reminder: Always Leave the Office On Time!

Here's something a colleague sent me. For all of us workaholics out there!

Catch up with Alvin

Just had a long catch up over MSN with my VFX mentor Alvin Yap. He is another hardcore musician. Ever since he's picked up his flute and sax, with his multi-track software and mics set up on his computer, he's been recording and posting his practice sessions with amazing frequency and conscientiousness.

I think his enthusiasm rubbed off on me. Sort of made me guilty I havent done much with my experience and whatever skills are existing. That is part of the reason I started the Michael Bolton minus-one project with him. (Now its still not finished! Have to finish it soon!)

Now he's gotten his own orchestral virtual instruments and ready to compose some stuff on his own! 

This guy is always looking to improve himself. Facing challenges head on! He's gone on a 4-day Jazz course and now going to take up courses from Dave Conner, an established composer teaching private composing classes!

I feel the pressure! I'll try and make more music to better myself!

a-conversation-with-stephan-schmitt by BigBrainAudio.com

Where did the "Native" in "Native Instruments" come from?

This image is from BigBrainAudio.com site. All rights reserved.


This is a very long interview with Stephan Schmitt. It talks about almost everything under the sun, that shows us the humble beginnings of this wildly successful engineer and businessman. 

It is so amazing that he enjoys his work as much as making it a business. At the same time, it is helping to empower the industry with his tools that open up endless possibilities for us musicians today. 

The underlying philosophy behind his synths and tools is the goal to create instruments that are organic and alive, that respond to the musician's performance when played. This is very inspiring both as a composer using the sounds in compositions, or just as a player playing the instruments. 

This makes me see the instruments from NI in a different light, and makes me want to explore them further with different configurations.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

JHCompo Compeition

Alvin just informed me that there is this website that organises music composing competitions. This is happening weekly, on Tuesdays 5pm Pacific Time (8am Eastern Time).

This is the first time I am hearing of competitions like that. It is the music equivalent of speed modelling competitions and the 11-second-club, in the computer graphics world. In these competitions you are given a fixed time to finish work on a particular theme that gets released at the start of the compeition.

Similarly with JHCompo, a theme is assigned and composers have 2 hours to submit their works that best express their interpretation of the theme, and done to the best quality they can achieve in that time frame.

The next compeition is coming up, so I'll check it out and see how its conducted. It's gonna be fun!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Interview with Stephan Schmitt on Reaktor Skanner by Big Brain Audio


Recently I ran into this article that talks about the creator of the free Native Instruments Skanner, Stephan Schmitt.

The interview gives us a good glimpse into the mind of Stephan. The interview involves Stephan answering questions like: what inspired him to work on this synthesizer,the idea and technology behind Skanner, and suggestions as to how it can be used in the process of sound design. 

This is the first time I've come across bigbrainaudio.com, the company doing audio software training website. Its exciting and encouraging to know that there are folks doing training for audio software. I'll definitely go and check out their products and read the articles they post. These look to be updated regularly, so it is indeed an exciting place to visit now and again!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

My Search for a Used-Piano Buyer

My wife's family is moving out, and they are planning to sell the old-piano that they have owned for 25 years, seldom used.

Searching on Google, I went to take a look at the following sites:


Of all the listing and postings I went through, they converged on a few contacts:



Ace Piano Shop

Singapore Piano Shop


And the shop where they bought the piano from:

Pace iLok2 Review

I received an email from Amazon.com, inviting me to review my recent purchase of the Pace iLok 2 licensing USB dongle. 

After writing my review, I realised I could complete one of the steps because the controls to rate it were not visible. This happened both on Chrome and Firefox, so I gave up. 

Trying not to waste my completed review, I decided to post it on this blog.

Here's my review for my iLok 2 purchase on Amazon.com

I am a first-time user.

This device is really hassle free. I just needed to go into iLok.com to create an account for myself. Then I tie the authorisation of my licenses to my new iLok account, and it just worked. Using Windows7 64-bit, I did not need to install any kind of driver to get it working. It was truly plug-and-play.

The iLok 2 is very pleasing to hold and to look at. It is sleek, elegant and futuristic looking with with its curved edges and a brilliant blue strip of glowing light when plugged-in. The cap fits the body perfectly in a seamless curve.  

The only complain I have is that the cap can be very hard to remove. The surface is so curved, smooth, and seamless, I cannot wedge my finger nail between cap and body to pry them apart. There are also no areas I can get a good grip on, so I usually have to grip really hard on body and cap, then pull them apart. This usually ends up with one of my hands losing grip on either body or cap on the first or second try, before finally succeeding in getting the cap off.

It would also be a very nice touch if there was someway to tie the cap to the main body once it is opened. Maybe it could also be attached to the back of the body like a pen cap? The cap this small could easily be misplaced. 

All in all its really a nice piece of device that works hassle free, except for the very awkward experience of getting the cap off every single time.(Good thing I do not need to bring it around very much, thus I am relieved of capping and removing the cap every other day).

My Lag Problem with EastWest Virtual Instruments on FL Studio

I've just managed to fix a horrible lag issue when working with EastWest virtual instruments. 

After I fixed it, I created a video documenting the problem and how I solved it.

In the video I was using instruments from EastWest Quantum Leap Goliath. For all the work I've done on the piece to date, I was tolerating a 4 - 5 seconds freeze-up on the software whenever I do any record, playback or song position jump. It always happens. I've tried to reduce the number of tracks using EW virtual instruments, but the lag remained all the same.

I was thinking of posting the problem on the FLipside Forum, but then I gave it one last try, tweaking with the audio buffer settings. 

It worked, thank God! :)

Here's the video on Vimeo.com

A little background: I am using a Dell I7 XPS L502X, running Windows 7 64-bit and FL Studio. I am also using the Korg Nanokey2 (usb controller), and my audio hardware is the onboard Realtek audio chip on Dell's motherboard.

To fix the problem, I went into the audio options and tweaked the buffer values. I did 20ms on the buffer, and about 40% offset value, and it worked for me. Buffer values differ from machine to machine, so different computers would have their own optimal setting for these values.

Now it's like a dream come true. I am feeling so unreal, getting instantaneous response when clicking on the play and recording buttons. I am still recovering from my previous impression that EastWest instruments are processor intensive, slow and unresponsive. It was so bad, I am now taking a bit of time to recover and rid myself of that impression.

In the video I showed myself playing around with the values, and the audible results of over- and under- cranking the values. Hope it helps people with the same problem.

The Flipside Forum


A while ago I was looking for some information on EastWest virtual instruments, and I stumbled on this forum. It calls itself "The Unofficial FL Studio Forum" :)

As an FL Studio user, it's always great to have another place where I can get information for the software I use. 

I'm running into a problem which I will post the question in the forum. Hope I get some suggestions and answers there. In the next post, I'll describe the nature of the problem in more detail.