Aaron Xiang Hua as an already established name in the dance industry, has been a choreographer and professional dancer for more than 2 decades but for past few years he had added being a singer-songwriter to his professional career.
He is currently working closely with Flipside Productions' music director Hangi Tavakoli, and the two are preparing Aaron's second studio album to be released by end of this year.
Here is his first interview with FlipsidePM.
In one article previously, we covered a topic about “Speed-Songwriting”. But these three songwriting exercises from this topic are kind of different and they are designed to get you into the flow of writing without thinking.
Your best ideas come from the subconscious, and you can tap into this with regular practice. Remember to do these exercises quickly, spending three minutes on each in rapid fire succession. I set the timer on my handphone. Don’t judge or question ANYTHING you write down. This isn’t a test! The sole purpose is to train your creative thinking to respond on command. For me, personally, I found it more helpful to write with pen and paper, instead of typing. A lot of studies show that your brain responds differently when writing, as opposed to typing.
Most people think of songwriting process as something that would take weeks or even months. Sometimes, yes, the whole production process (including arrangement, recording and mixing) might take a long time but in fact, the songwriting itself is usually a quick process, simply because a song is the emotions, feelings and expressions of the writer about a specific topic in a specific period of time, right? So, all these feelings and expressions should be translated into a song before they are all gone! Then later the artist can go back to it and “polish” them and prepare them for a proper production!
Through the years that I am in this music industry I was lucky enough to meet countless number of talented musicians, composers and songwriters who have these great original material and then there is one huge problem most of them are facing and that's the fact that they mostly have absolutely no clue on what to do with this awesome piece of music in their hands! Well, just like anyone else most of these musicians want to earn enough money for a living from doing what they love to! Who doesn't right?
Why to sign a contract?
When a music label and an artiste or a band decide to start working together, either on project basis or for long term, doesn't matter, anyway they have to put all their agreement on black and while with signatures from both side! This is a must in this industry as most of the time the future situation is unknown and one or both party might change their mind(s) after a while based on the the upcoming results of their collaboration, so there is a must that everything be on paper to prevent any future problems!
Why to join a label?
There are a lot of talented people out there, dreaming of being a recording artiste. Some with their own music knowledge and access to enough equipments prefer to persuade their dream on their own, some prefer to keep independent and and just hire a seasonal music producer and promoter and get the job done. And then, there are the smarter ones, whom have a better understanding of how this industry work and try to join a production company.
The first 2 group are not doing anything wrong, but these days, even with all the social media and easy access to potential fans, still the old school way of going under an established label is working better, because of simple reason, those guys in labels had done this for many years and have enough experience to save you from wasting so much energy, time and money!
What is Copyright?
There are a lot of misunderstanding and misconception about how copyrights and royalty fees word in favour of musicians in the industry. As a short way of explaining, can say copyright fees are the the funds you are supposed to receive any time your music, composition, lyrics, etc, is being used, played or performed in any sort of public form.
Here I break down the copyrights in a simple way.
In general, we have 2 type of copyright regulations. One is "Reproduction Rights" and other one is "Performance Rights". Before we go through them, note that as the creator of a piece of music, you must register your work with the copyrights protection societies be get the benefits below.
I'm an Iranian producer based in Singapore. So basically my mother language is Persian and my daily using language is English. But interestingly, since I moved to Singapore I am producing mostly Chinese songs! Of course I still do work with my Iranian musician friends back in Iran and making Persian songs with them as well as the English language artistes in Singapore, but I realized it is strange for a lot of people that how come I am producing and even composing Chinese songs while I can't speak Chinese more than few daily-use words!
What is drums programming?
The whole process of the using MIDI notes to put a set of drums samples together and make a beat is called drums programming which can categorize it in realistic (also known as the acoustic) and unrealistic (aka electronic) beats, depending on what kind of music and what genre you're programming this beat for. I assume the names are pretty clear and don't need to mention which one is for which type of music. But you always can also combine the genres for example if your song is filled with synthesizers and other non organic sounds, you can try adding an acoustic drums beat and see how it works. Even sometimes if your main beat is all about electronic elements, you can blend some of acoustic drums elements and blend it in for certain drum instruments like high hats or cymbals, or also you can (for example) layer your electronic bass drum with an acoustic kick to add some of that organic feel to it.
When you are up to make an acoustic drums loop, you should consider certain "laws".
A lot of new artistes email or message me and ask how they can get signed in our record company or any other record companies. Well, the answer is pretty simple and short. Be Unique.
As a producer weekly I receive about 4 or 5 serious demos from independent artistes and bands who want to get signed or they ask for tips for improving their music career. But there is one common problem in most demos. “they all sound the same”. These days a lot of songwriters hear something on the radio or online play lists and think “oh this song is like this and that and became a mainstream, so I must do the same” but the reality is different, if you make the same song, it won’t be at mainstream anymore because that song already exists!
Recently Lya Ng 黄扬策's new music video "The Sea 海响" had been released and I was the producer of the song, and I found the releasing of the video as a good reason to talk a bit about the production process of this track.
This song was the first official collaboration between us and Lya. We had done some demos together for other artistes in the past but this song was the starter of putting Lya in front as the final vocalist and I must say I'm pretty happy we had made such a decision.
The whole idea of the song started with the strings! Initially I put some strings pad together and layered the same pad with some horns and again the same thing with some different horns and then another set of strings and this process was going on for a while! The pads are being played on a very soft leveling but there's a lot going on down there which gives that full yet not noisy feel to the song. I was making this Orchestra-like kind of feel but I wanted the song to be more laid towards the trip hop mood. Best thing to convert anything into trip hop? Shuffled, hard chopped, distorted drums loop!
1. Watch out those guitars
You got your vocals mixed very well but it doesn’t fit into your mix? Maybe that can be because of the guitar line. Always be careful when you have any guitar line(s) in your track as vocal and guitar frequencies (mostly between 1-3 kHz) can crash on each other and usually the guitar wins! There are quite a number of ways to avoid this problem.
One of the most common solutions is side-chaining the guitar as either the the frequencies between 1 to 3 kHz get heavily compressed when the vocal frequency is activated or set the side-chaining setting with an EQ to remove or minimize the same frequencies when the vocal tracks are sending signals to the chain.
Do NOT try just to keep your vocal louder or/and your guitar line softer just by playing with the volume faders! That doesn’t help at all and would just make your mix sound messy!