Monday, July 31, 2006

Hoping for respite

After days and weeks of practising, my fingers are developing more callus. The callus layers are drying up. I shall remind myself to put on some moisturiser. That may help soften the callus?

Returning from home after working more than 12 hours, I was hoping for some peace. Yet my dad was trying to convince me to go for some match-making tour group. I am not convinced. I have no interest to develop a relationship intentionally at this point in time. Furthermore, I think my dad does not know me well, I hate it when people breathe down my neck, and I tend to resist more.

Furthermore, I can't understand why my parents just can't get themselves hearing aid and have to turn the TV to such a loud volume. I need time to work on my music theory assignments.

12 hours at work, yet it did not seem to have helped to restore some sense of balance. I shall give it a bit more time. How much time can I bear to give?

My life needs some order and respite. Where can I find these?

Now, I don't feel like bothering about anything. I need a rest after I try to work out the answers to a few more of the questions from my music theory assignments. Good night folks.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

An acquired taste for solitude

It seems to be a good idea to spend the afternoon at the library. The library is generally a peaceful place to be at. I was there browsing an article this afternoon.

If I remember correctly, there was this idea that states that human beings have learnt from primitive times that in order to survive, one can never live alone for too long. Imagine the times when predators roam the Earth, and a human being would be so vulnerable to being attacked if he was alone. If that was the case, could we infer that if human beings were to feel lonely, the feeling could have been triggered by our primitive instinct for survival?

Then perhaps, when one is able to enjoy time alone, it was due to an acquired taste for solitude?

Some activities are better spent alone. For example, if I were to be working on my music assignments, I tend to find it easier if I could be given time alone to work on it. Otherwise, I may get distracted.

Solitude can sometimes be recharging. I don't know why, but the world seems to be getting noiser. My way to respond is to withdraw away from the noises. Solitude seems the most appropriate friend to befriend.

My friends, if I were to see you on the streets and I don't seem to greet you actively, it is likely because I need some moments of quietness and that I fear that unintentionally, my need for solitude might be intruded upon. If you would like to walk beside me, then, please be my quiet company. I will reciprocate with gratitude.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Not in Sync

What are these feelings telling me?
Am glad to be service
At the same time
Something seems to be bugging me
What hints are being dropped to me?

To take the suggestions,
Or not?
What is real,
What is not?

Life brings confusion
In its own sort
What can be trusted?
Our interpretation of what's going on?

Snapshots from my visit to the museum

I visited the National Museum of Singapore last weekend. Certain sections of this museum are now being opened to the members of the public. It should be opened by the end of this year.

Check my snapshots taken from the visit here: National Museum of Singapore.

I have tried accessing the website of the museum but I have difficulties so because I have difficulties downloading the required latest version of Macromedia Flash. If you managed to be able to view the website, please let me know what is on it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Feeling blue

Melancholy strikes
Is it a sense of loss?
Feeling out of balance
Hoping to seek comfort in the dark skies

The day past
What has been gained?
What has been lost?
Out of my level of wisdom
Too much for me to answer
Yet the feeling has thrown me
Out of momentum

Yet shredding away
Could be an inevitable part of life
Like a cycle
We start, we end

Feeling blue
But it should soon go away
I am tired
But I choose to stay up
In the arms of the night skies

Reflections after the exams

It is over.

I am having mixed feelings. There is a feeling of relief that the exams went fine (despite a number of hiccups). At the same time, I feel a sense of loss that something that I have been practising for these past few months is now over.

Special thanks to my mother for helping me with the logistics today. Million thanks to dear Emily for her most invaluable help with the piano accompaniment. Three cheers to Emily.

My deep appreciation to MJ for his patient and inspiring guidance. Thanks to GM, my orchestra's double bass tutor, who has helped to start me off with a few pointers at the earlier stages of my preparation. A thank you to the examiner for being patient with the relatively longer time it took for me to set up my instrument in the exams studio. The examinations stewards who were attending to me for the registration before my exams were also very helpful.

Some reflections after the exams:

1) I need to work a lot on sight-reading! This shall be the focus of my upcoming lessons with MJ.

2) My playing of scales and arpeggios has improved compared to the time when I was sitting for Grade 7 practical exams. I think I will still need to continue working on being more proficient in playing scales and arpeggios.

This afternoon, while waiting for my turn, I heard a young boy playing scales on the violin. I wish I could bow 7 notes in a bow with his kind of proficiency and beautiful tone, if not, better.

3) I think I should be able to pass the aural tests, yet I am considering if I should spend a bit more time improving my aural abilities.

4) I should give myself more time to rest my mind, if necessary, before I start playing. I think I felt pressured to start before I was ready, but at the same time, I was worried that I might take ages before I would feel ready to start. Anyway, hopefully, by trying to give myself enough time before starting, I won't be tempted to rush while playing.

If my assessment of my performance during the exams today is accurate, I think I should pass the exams.

Now, the goals for future practices are to improve my posture, my technique and sense of musicality. Of course, sight-reading skills.

In sets of four

I was tagged by Waterfall some time ago. Here's my attempt on this meme.

4 jobs you've had:
1) Social worker
2) Administrative assistant
3) Medical social worker
4) A student (Does this count?)

4 movies you could watch over & over:
Disclaimer: I hardly watch movies, and I don't think I can list four.

1) Finding Nemo
2) Billy Elliot
3) Music of the Heart
4) -

4 places you've lived:
I don't move much. I have been living in my current place of residence for about 26 years already. Before that, I heard that I live in a part of Singapore near the Newton Food Centre.
1) Singapore

4 TV shows you love to watch
I rarely watched TV shows nowadays, and I have no TV show that I feel is worthy to be named here.

4 places you've been on holiday:
1) Australia, Brisbane (I was there for a cultural exchange when I was only 13 years old)
2) Hong Kong (this was for an overseas performance)
3) UK, Scotland, Aberdeen (for the Aberdeen International Youth Festival)
4) UK, London

4 websites you visit daily
1) My own blog (I have links to my favourite blogs from there.)
2) (Because for some reasons, I can't seem to be able to use MSN successfully on my PC.)
3) (This is the home-page that I have set on my internet browser.)
4) My own webpage (Nothing fantastic in terms of design, but it contains a number of useful links that I would need for my work.)

4 of your favorite foods:
1) Dark chocolate
2) Sashimi
3) Organic vegetables and fruits (I seldom get to eat them, but these are yummy.)
4) Organic muesli, with fresh milk

4 places you'd rather be:
I can't think of four places that I would rather be, so you would see only three below.

1) A quiet home, with sound-proof rooms and air-conditioned facilities for me to practise regularly.
2) Aberdeen, enjoying the summer there. (though I heard that it is getting hot in Europe.)
3) Europe (I wish to tour Europe if resources permit.)
4) -

4 lucky people to tag:
I don't usually tag people, so if you like this meme, you may take up the tag on your own.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Darker clouds
Darker skies
The weather isn't fine
Let not the weather dampen the moods
Find peace and delight
In the simple things in life

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It is coming

In a few days time, I will be sitting for the ABRSM practical exams (double bass).

How strange my human mind could be. While it is feeling that a pass can be attainable, one part of it is feeling uncertain of how things may turn out that very day. Perhaps in the process of playing music, one gets to face one's psychological fears? When one becomes successful in facing these fears, while feelings of uncertainty may still lurk, these feelings no longer affect one?

The following are what I have identified as my fears for the approaching exams, and in the brackets next to these, I shall attempt to write down ways for me to overcome these:

  • The running notes in the 2nd movement of Marcello's sonata in g minor. (Stay calm and be steady with my tempo and play the quavers and the rests to full value. Those running notes are achievable, I just have to make sure I don't rush.)
  • Playing the diminished sevenths and the dominant sevenths scales. (Practice, to help the fingers remember the fingerings. Also, to play these scales on the piano again. This will help my ears be more aware of how these scales should sound.)
  • Worried whether the strings of the double bass may give way. (I hope this doesn't happen because that will be a very rare case. At the most, I have a spare set of strings, and I shall bring it along.)
  • Aural test. (This requires more practice, and I don't know whether I have enough time to cover everything. I shall just try to do whatever I can reasonably do. I am thinking of the possibility of taking up aural lessons for a short while, at a later stage.)
  • Being given challenging sight-reading pieces. (It is still more practice. But I guess the kind of sight-reading pieces that I get will be beyond my control. Practise a bit more.)
  • That I might get a stage fright trying to adjust to the conditions in the exams studio. (It may help that I try to get some warm-up on my instrument beforehand. I shall ask the examiner if I could play the scales and arpeggio section first, followed by my programme. Some reassurance and encouragement would help too.)
  • That I may sound too technical and not musical on that day. (My tutor has helped me quite a bit on ways to play musically. I have practised quite a fair bit, and I guess I have to learn to trust that the rest will take care of themselves. Sometimes, being too careful may lead one to sound too technical as well.)
Meantime, I shall hope that on that day, I will just play and enjoy the music, and not let the psychological fears affect me. I think I have to learn to have greater faith in myself?

What's up this Thursday: MOTIF

I found this on Emily's blog.

MOTIF: The Inagural Montage, is the first public concert put up by the students and alumni of the Music Elective Programme at Temasek JC and Temasek Academy.

Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio
Date: 27 July 2006
Time: 7.30pm
$15 per ticket, free seating

Reasons to catch this concert:
  • There are often pleasant surprises listening to concerts put up by young people. They seem to have interesting ways of interpretating certain works. Otherwise, they seem to inject some special kind of energy to the concert.
  • If you have read the programme, didn't you see that in this concert, you will hear a composition by our dear budding composer? If you can't figure who this composer is, please click here for revelation.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Teamwork - it's about working together

On my own, I can do many things. Yet there is just a limit to what I can do all on my own.

Secretly, I have a need to assert a sense of independence. At times, at the expense of forgetting that we are interdependent too. I am just learning, to accept that it is alright to ask for help from others at times. I have to learn to accept that there are simply certain things that I cannot do on my own.

With my recent practice schedules, it has been rare that I get to have meals with my friends. As such, it was a nice to look forward to having lunch with JY, even though I had initially fear that I may not have appetite due to stress from the upcoming exams. We had lunch at Shimbashi Soba. The soba there is good. While eating, I could see the soba master making soba noodles. A word of caution, the lunch sets are filling. The service there is good. The staff there helped to find a place to put up my "big baby", the double bass, so that I can have lunch with JY in peace.

Having lunch with a friend took my mind away from the exams for a while, and that was a good thing in itself. Otherwise, I think I would soon be found guilty to be fixated on the exams, won't I?

Special thanks to JY for helping me carrying my double bass stool which I needed for this afternoon's practice at the music studio. It would have been a great challenge if I had to carry my double bass and the stool all by myself at the same time. Not forgetting, I have a bagpack containing scores etc to carry on the shoulder. These are some of the times that I needed a hand.

When I was entering the lift, the passengers in the lift were so kind and patient to wait for me to carry my instrument into the lift.

The practice today was held at the studio where I will be having my exams. It was Tuesday, and for some reasons, the music school was quiet. I was quite disappointed that not a single other room will be available for booking on this Friday, but Emily told me I could find alternative spots to warm up before the exams.

Emily is fabulous. This afternoon, during the practice session, she gave me some tips to refine my fingerings for playing the excerpt from the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. That was helpful. So aside from being my dear piano accompanist, I think I owe her a big favour for being a critical, yet kind, ear to my playing. There are quite a lot of things to learn from her. Thanks a million, Emily.


Now, rosin does matter. MJ, the tutor, said that Carlsson rosin is better for dry environment. If you could guess, the exams studio that I will be playing in on Friday is a fairly dry one. Even the position where I face while playing matters. I needed to face one of the corners of the studio squarely, and then my playing would sound more resonating.

By the way, if I remember correctly, Emily said that this studio is quite good for folks taking double bass practical exams: My Inspiration Music School. Something for me to consider in the future.

Meantime, I have MJ to thank for helping me to prepare for the exams. He has much interesting ideas on how to play my programme. I am quite amazed at his sight-reading abilities. Today, he gave us insights to playing the double bass solo from the third movement of Mahler's First Symphony. He reminded me that sometimes, we can strive to play music for ourselves, and play in a manner that makes us feel comfortable. Sometimes, we don't have to stretch ourselves too hard to play good music. I guess I have learnt a lot about ways to approach life simply by learning to play music.

And I conclude here that while this post may seem scattered in its organisation, the many examples are to serve as reminder to myself that sometimes one does not have to be all alone. Teamwork can bring about synergy, that brings results beyond what one can do alone.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Hard to express

It is night-time
Everything should be fine
Yet the world in me is filled
With a melancholy hard to express

Savoured some moments of victory
As one grows stronger with the day
Yet a tinge of vulnerability
Being human one is

Walked farther
When the heart wishes to be near
The compass' needle is wavering
The direction is unclear

Seems so sure
Yet in reality uncertain
What does life bring?
Beyond one's wisdom could answer

Rosin works

I had lessons with MJ this evening. He shared with me how to play my programme more musically. He shared with me new perspective to practising the running notes. It did help.

MJ showed me the rosin that he uses. He rubbed some of it onto my double bass bow, and for some reasons, while the bow started out feeling too sticky at the beginning, the grip with the strinsg became much better after some playing. I did not have much chance to see what rosin he was using, but he said this rosin only needs to be applied about once a week.

Anyway, for those of you who would like to read more about bow care, here's a website by a Luthier based in Singapore. This webpage gives idea about bow-care and use of rosin:

Worthy for a read: Music is good

Pliable writes about how listening to music can make us feel better.

Check out his post: It's official - music is good for you.

This looks like a good topic for a thesis on the therapeutic effects of music.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Preparations and more

My preparations for the exams continue today.

I spent time practising Fugue from Weinberger's Schwanda, the Bagpiper and an excerpt from the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. To get the notes in-tuned was now easier with the earlier practices. Yet, the challenge was to play these two pieces musically, and observing all the written dynamics and required articulation.

My version of the excerpt from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony seemed not as "masculine" in its interpretation as yet. I was reading a book titled The Inner Game of Music by Barry Green, and I vaguely remembered that there was a section that suggests that one could role-play as an accomplished master.

The story goes as such: A student was asked to perform. He was told before the performance that he only needs to play as if he was an accomplished master. He was told that the audience will hear only the recording played by the master. However, the audience had actually heard the student's playing instead. Yet, the student's playing for that performance was much better than his usual. It sounded more musical. The appropriate dynamics, the appropriate articulation was used. Perhaps this story seems to suggest that being less self-conscious, and engaging in some form of role-playing may elicit one's best? When one learns to let go, one actually makes better music?

Anyway, today's practice also consisted of playing the Marcello's sonata and the Ridout's concerto.

Sight-reading was an important part of today's practice. I am feeling more at ease to sight-read in tenor and treble clefs now, as compared to a month ago. I guess this meant that I am making some progress afterall. I shall sight-read a different set of sight-reading exercises tomorrow. That should be more useful in training my sight-reading skills than to continue to sight-read the same set of exercises.

The evening was occupied with aural training and practices. There were visitors at home and I figured I shall not bombard their ears with non-stop playing on the double bass. Furthermore, I was fairly tired by the evening to practice.

I took a break in the late afternoon to make a visit to the National Museum of Singapore. Today was the last day of the exhibition, Scenic Eye, and I also wanted to catch a glimpse of the museum. It will be officially reopened in the later part of the year.

Preparations for the exams resumed in the evening. For this evening, I tried practising on identifying modulation. I studied some of the relevant sections from Ronald Smith's Aural Training in Practice, Grade 6 to 8. I was told that the practice of holding the tonic note audibly from the beginning of the piece and then "testing" the new tonic bass note with the old tonic bass note is considered unmusical and unreliable. Yet, this has been the method that I have been using, and it worked, most of the times.

According to Aural Training in Practice, one could listen out for and identify a modulation to the key of the dominant when one hears the aural effect of the sharpened fourth. Similarly, when one hears the flattened seventh, that is a signal for a modulation to the key of the subdominant. This sounds a challenge for the ears. I hope I still have time to learn to identify modulations the orthodox way. If not, I may have to stick to my previous method of holding the tonic note, just for the exams.

Thanks to Hilda's tips, I am more able to distinguish the V chord from V7 chord. Now I am trying to learn how to distinguish whether a chord is in root position, in first inversion or in second inversion. I don't seem to see much notes in the aural training book on how I could do so. Anyway, hopefully with more listening, I could be better at this.

I shall try to practise more hours these two days. I have taken leave from work these two days. The exams is on this Friday. MJ, my tutor, advised that I should just practise no more than one hour a day or two before the exams. He said having enough rest before the exams is also important.

At the same time, he encouraged me to practise three hours or so for tomorrow and Tuesday. He said I could try playing the programme, then spend time just going through the parts that I have difficulties with, afterwhich, I could play the selected works at a much slower tempo. I shall do so for my practices. In fact, I have started doing so when I practised the Marcello's sonata today.

Meantime, to end this update on my practices, I shall introduce you to a new blog that has been added to my listings of blogs. I came across this blog while visiting Emily's. It's Jason Heath's Bass Page. Jason is a double bass performer and teacher living in the Chicago area. I shall look forward to reading double bass related posts from his blog.

Lastly, please wish me all the best for my practices and exams. I would need some cheers and moral support. Thanks in advance.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Special delivery

This evening, I received a special delivery of chocolates from Europe, specially delivered by my friend, JY. Thank you, JY, for the chocolates.

This comes as a nice reward for me, after a long day at work on a Saturday. The better part was not the chocolate, but to see a friend safe and sound in Singapore.

I think I have worked too much that I am feeling too mentally drained to practise on the double bass. Maybe I shall get my ears to do some work by going through the aural exercises. I hope it will go well. The aural tests will make up 18/150 of the marks for the exams. Comparatively a small percentage, but it can make a big difference.

Friday, July 21, 2006

How to buy time?

Question of the day: How to buy time?

Yet time is a commodity that may not be easily bought. We can pay extra money to take a taxi instead of other public transport to save the time on the road. I can save time waiting in a taxi queue by calling for a taxi instead. Would the price be worth it at the end of the day?

Are there any other ways to buy time?

There seems so much to be done, yet time is not enough.

I had intended to practise this evening. It is now 11.55 p.m. and I have just got home from work about half-an-hour ago. I have no reason to complain, it was a personal choice to stay in office to work. My price to pay, yet with no regret. I could only try to tell myself that it was the best choice that I could make. It was, given the conditions. It would be difficult to focus on practising anyway if one's mind was elsewhere thinking that there're still things that I want to get done. Anyway, I would rather try to do as much as needed now than next week.

However, I must admit it was not easy at all to shake off that bugging guilt feeling that is telling me that I have missed at least an hour of practice today.

I should learn to gather that in order not to subject myself to circumstances that can take me away from the required practices, I should listen to one of my colleagues and stay away from office next week as much as possible. That way, there is no way to trigger that sense of duty and service. Then, I will have time alone with the double bass, to explore ways to make music that could touch a listener's heart? I could only hope that time will be kind on me to help me catch up on practising for aural, sight-reading, the exams programme and the scales.

Playing on the double bass can bring a lot of joy on a good practice day. Emily can testify to this.

Wish me all the best, please. I needed some help to shoo those butterflies in the stomach away. I shall take this chance to thank Misti for lending me a hand on this. I guess I have to learn to learn to trust that all shall work out. Still, it is practice and more practice. To do so, may time be on my side, please.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Practice, more practice

Yet another day that I have taken leave from work. Taking leave from work on a weekday helps me to catch up on practising.

Here's what I have done today:
1) Listening to the recording of Weinberger's Schwanda the Bagpiper, Fugue
2) Played all arpeggios in the Grade 6 - 8 syllabus
3) Played all Dominant Sevenths in the Grade 6 - 8 syllabus
4) Played all Diminished Sevenths in the Grade 6- 8 syllabus
5) Played some sight-reading pieces
6) Practised Marcello's Sonata in g minor

I need more work with playing the dimished Sevenths scales. I think my inner ears are still not aware intuitively how a dimished seventh scale should sound. The fingerings get challenging too.

I would need to put in more time to prepare for the aural test. I am trying to figure out how to help myself learn to sight-sing a piece of work that is in minor key. Today, I picked up and browsed Essential Ear Training for Today's Musician by Steve Prosser. It points me to the chromatic solfege syllables:

Do Di Re Ri Mi Fa Fi Sol Si La Li Ti Do Ti Te La Le Sol Se Fa Mi Me Re Ra Do

How do I apply this?

I think I would rather learn these to prepare for the sight-singing component:

The major scale: Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do
The harmonic minor scale: Do Re Mé Fa Sol Le Ti Do
The ascending melodic minor scale: Do Re Mé Fa Sol La Ti Do
The descending melodic minor scale: Do Te Le Sol Fa Mé Re Do

The brain in the gut?

With the date of the exams approaching, I am trying to learn to find ways to deal with the feeling of having butteflies in the stomach that comes every now and then. It is a psychological thing?

While trying to understand more about this phenomenon, I searched using Google for the key words: butterflies in the stomach. If you are interested, you might wish to read Sandra BLAKESLEE's article titled Complex and Hidden Brain in Gut Makes Bellyaches and Butterflies.

Inferring from the article, it appears that the exams is making me worried, and my central brain is prompted to release stress hormones that prepare the body to fight or flee. This in turn eventually lead to the feeling of having butterflies in the stomach?

Maybe the question for the day is: How to just take things easy, and not be too overwhelmed by the impending exams?

Come to think of it, playing music seems to expose one to face one's psychological barriers, and to learn to overcome them. Yesterday, I was playing a fairly challenging passage. I have played it before and have done it accurately. But yesterday, when faced with it again, somehow my mind perceived it as too difficult, and I ended up not being able to play it as good as I have used to. With some practice, I hope that the psychological barriers could be overcomed.

What's up now? HeritageFest 2006

What makes a person unique?

One may like to read Angela's post about the HeritageFest 2006.

For more information about the HeritageFest 2006, please check out

Anyway, if life seems bored and empty, do consider allowing the rich heritage of yours to enrich your life. Life is not all about doing and achieving, it is also about being who we are. That is why we are called human-beings.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Reasons to blog

I first started blogging about less than two years when I was too bored at home from a week of medical leave due to wisdom tooth removal surgery.

I did not imagine that I would consistently blog till today. Then again, perhaps blogging has a liberating power on myself. My preference is for introversion. I am not sure if this preference has made it seem easier for me to write about my thoughts and feelings than to verbalise them. Anyway, it was certainly much easier for me to write than to verbalise thoughts and feelings.

Even if I would wish to share my views with others, it just seems not as easy to articulate the views than to pen them down.

Time seems to suggest that blogging has become a medium of expression. A medium that allows others to gain access to some of my inner world. Blogging has also allowed me a chance to process my thoughts.

The supportive nature of my dear blogging community has also seemed to be one of the best reasons for me to continue blogging. Sometimes, unexpectedly, I would get insightful comments in response to my post. One then realises that one need not be alone. The synergy can be empowering at times. Having the power to delete unsolicited comments (not that I delete many) also helps assure me that I can have my own space in this boundless blogsphere. Thanks for the supportive bloggers who have travelled and stopped by here.

So here's a spontaneous piece of writing, in hope to lend ideas to others who are people of few words to consider blogging as a possible medium of their expression. Some songs, while short, will add much value to our life and simply need to be heard (in this case, read).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Humidity matters

This afternoon, I have the pleasure to rehearse Marcello's Sonata in g minor and the Ridout's Concerto for Double Bass and strings with Em, and MJ (the tutor) was around.

Things seem to work quite well between the accompanist and myself. We managed to work through some of the more tricky parts. It felt safe to play with Em because at some moments when I had missed a quarter of a beat, I could sense that she was listening out for me, to come in together.

Now, my mission is to familiarise myself with the playing of the running notes in the second movement of the Marcello's sonata. Hopefully I can play that passage confidently from memory soon. Next task is to count diligently for the last few passages of the Ridout's Concerto. I have found myself missing more than a beat at times! Only to realise after I have played the notes. Ok. Practice. More practice. 28 July 2006 is the exams day! I still have to continue work on sight-reading, scales and aural.

This post is titled Humidity Matters for a reason. Towards the end of the lesson, MJ gave an advice that it would be good for me to practise in an air conditioned room because the room that I was playing in was too humid. (The digital hygro thermometer's readings are now: 28.9 degrees Celsius, and 84% humidity.) His theory is that with such humid environment, it would take extra effort to move the hand up and down the fingerboard. (because there is more resistance, and more sweat?) Anyway, exams will be held in an air-conditioned room. (?)

This evening, I was at a music shop and so I took the chance to ask about humidity issues. The person at the shop showed me to what I remembered was a dehumidifier (it is not-for-sale), and advised me that the ideal humidity level to store musical instruments (strings instruments at least) is between 38% to 44%. Now, it seems that my home is very humid in comparison to the ideal humidity level. I live in a tropical country with humid and hot climate.

Now, my mind seems to have a preoccupation with humidity. At least for this evening.

It has indeed been a very humid day today.

Food Galore

I just have had a very filling lunch. I think the person at the Western food stall where I had bought my lunch from was too generous with the portion. I have a feeling that it is because she knows me. This stall is supposedly one of the better Western food stalls in the neighbourhood.

After having lunch at Botak Jones last Wednesday, it seems that it is hard to find Western food that can be on par with it. Emily writes about her lunch at Botak Jones here.

Now, in case anyone of you is hungry for more food, please check out for a post on Expedition Eateateat. In this post, you willget to join fellow travellers onboard Expedition H to check out the food from Hock Lam Street Beef Kway Teow, Jalan Kayu Roti Prata and Changi Village Nasi Lemak. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The center of attention

Yesterday was one of the rare occasions this month where I would be out of home. My dear husband, the double bass, has never seemed tired of me the past weeks. Months ago, he was a "neglected one". Now, he is a center of my attention.

Yesterday, other than watching the opera, The Marriage of Figaro, I attended a colleague's traditional wedding ceremony.

Today, time was spent practising sight-reading pieces. I could find myself a little more familiar reading notes written in tenor clef. More practice, and practice. I hope I could pass sight-reading. To pass each section, one needs to score about 66% at least.

I tried some aural tests. It was still a challenge to recognise the cadences even though I could make out the baseline. I was using my limited theory to make clever guesses of what the cadences could be. I have difficulties differentiating certain chords. For example: Chord V and Chord V7; Chord Ic and Chord V. Yes, the magic words are: Practice, Practice and Practice.

I also tried to practised Marcello's Sonata in g minor and Ridout's Concerto for double bass and strings. I experienced a little bit of improvement, but at times I still need work on the intonation and articulation.

Yesterday, I had spent time playing melodic minor scales and chromatic scales.

Trying to make sure that I don't bore myself or over-stretched myself from practising, I will take break in between the practices. Meantime, wish me luck.

Of choices and paths

I often wonder what lies ahead.

When I was young, there seemed to be an order in which things are to be done. Since I was a student for a large part of my early life, would it be presumptuous for me to say that the education system dictated what lies ahead?

To an ignorant child who is trying to understand the order of this world, won't it be easier to be guided by the paths that predecessors have crossed? As such, it seemed quite natural that after one has completed pre-school, one would proceed to primary education and then secondary education? Even though one gets to choose one's subject combinations in secondary school, what seemed to be difficult choices to make at those times were in fact simpler in comparison.

Yes, in comparison. Choices to make are now much more complex. The element of uncertainty can sometimes be beyond one's wisdom.

There is perhaps no such thing as a predestined path? With choices, there come outcomes. Predictable or not so predictable ones. I sometimes struggle over what to eat for a meal. When faced with more complex, larger choices to choose from, how would one make sense out of the complexities?

Would it help to learn from predecessors?

Would there be an internal compass that guides one on one's unique path? Maybe it is not a compass, but a North Star?

Starting to talk nonsense

It is less than 13 days to the exams.

I fear that the well-concealed doubts of whether I can pass the exams are now showing up. It seems like that most of the topics of my social conversations with others now revolve around the music practical exams?

Forgive me if I now don't seem to make sense. When you talk to me about the best chocolate in town, I fear that I might stray the topic away and talk about the exams.

This is an after-midnight post. I am not intoxicated. I just don't know how to make any sense.

A few hours ago, I watched the opera The Marriage of Figaro presented by the Singapore Lyric Opera. The casts sang fairly well tonight, in my opinion. The music written by Mozart, played by the Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra also kept me alert and entertained throughout the opera.

My mind felt fairly heavy by Act II. Somehow, there is a particular level of depth to this opera that I could not fully articulate. Behind the humour, the singing and the entertaining music, there seems to be an embedded meaning that is waiting to be deciphered. Yet, I can't seem to make sense now.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Feeling drained and low

Health appears declining.

I am feeling drained and tired much of the day. Sometimes I wish I could just disappear from the workplace and be practising. Yet, feeling so tired, I cannot help but want to ask for a good rest. As such, I shall give my break from practising today.

The headache has been striking from time to time. There were times that I just wish I could be at home resting. Actually, I had almost felt like fainting at times of the day.

Hope things will feel better soon. It may be just due to the time of the month.

Please forgive me if I don't seem to be paying attention to what is going on in the world outside me. I am conserving my energy to do just what needs to be done.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

This weekend

I am going to watch the Marriage of Figaro this coming weekend. You may check out this website for more details.

Is it the norm to feel under-prepared for an exam?

I met XM this evening, and I spoke about feeling under-prepared for the upcoming exam. He said it is normal to feel this way for no matter how hard we prepare for any exam, there is always likely to be something we can't be fully prepared for.

Food for thoughts.

I had thought that by practising for one more year for the Grade 8 music practical exam, I may then feel prepared to sit for the exam.

Today, I took leave from my work to practice.

I must be thankful that so far I don't have neighbours knocking at my door asking me to stop playing on the double bass (because of the noise level). I had started practising in the morning.


Lunch at Botak Jones

In the afternoon, I was with Em who has so kindly agreed to take time out to be my piano accompanist. We had lunch at Botak Jones. We ordered Caesar Salad, the Botak Burger and Chicken Gumbo. I agreed that lunch was very filling.

It was filling enough to last me for the rest of the day. I was surprised that I did not feel at all hungry even though I did not have time to take dinner tonight. No gastric pain has been triggered to signal to me that it was time to have dinner. Anyway, I eventually took a small bun at about 10 p.m..

(Special thanks to Emily for allowing me to link to her post.)

After lunch, it was time spent rehearsing the Marcello's Sonata in g minor and Ridout's Concerto for Double Bass and Strings with Em. Em shared with me fingerings for a particular sequence which should be more sound to use. I hope I can unlearn my previous fingerings and learn this set of fingerings soon enough. Exams is now less than 16 days away. I think I should be able to do this soon enough. This is much easier to accomplish than other things.

It is nice to hear how the piano parts and the double parts are related to one another, and how they interacted. I would have like it more if I weren't the one playing. I can easily think of how I would like the double bass to sound, yet it takes greater skills to deliver that sound through my playing.

I think I have a weak spot. That feeling of inadequacy would come and strike at moment and affect my own playing. Furthermore, the more I practice, the more I am aware that there are still areas that can be improved upon. The best that I could do is to try to practise to be easier on myself, accept the flaws in my playing and move on.

Both pieces sounded much more nicer with the piano. Even my mother (who might have been awfully familiar with the tunes from both the works by now) said so.

Late afternoon was double bass lesson with MJ. Sight-reading still needs lots of work. My playing of the four selected works can still be improved upon. He told me at the end of the lesson that he was feeling nervous for me given that the exam-date is drawing near.

I only hope that I could do well enough to secure a pass. Do my best, and leave the rest to the examiner, I suppose?

After the lesson, I rushed down for double bass sectionals held at the university. Sectionals with the double bass tutor, GM have never failed to enrich me. He seems to have a good skill to structure lessons in such a way that stretches the students' limits in a meaningful way.

As I did not practise much for the pieces that we were playing for sectionals, I ended up sight-reading for much of the sectionals. Sight-reading the orchestra works for the season seems so much easier than sight-reading Grade 8 sight-reading pieces. Then again, if not for the hours spent on practising for the Grade 8 exams, my sight-reading skills would not have improved by that little bit.

I end this post not attempting to answer the question that I have placed on the title of the post.

This isn't a useful question to think about at this point in time. More useful questions might be: How to improve my playing?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Special sounds on the double bass

It has been a tiring day at work. Anyway, I am glad that I have found time to practise on the double bass after work. Practising can be a source of stress-relief.

Alan Ridout's Concerto for Double Bass and Strings has made use of several interesting performance directives to produce special sounding effects on the double bass.

One of these is:

Sul ponticello: A glassy, metallic sound is produced when one plays very near the bridge.

And if you were to think that there were two players playing the double bass but you only saw one player, you might have been fooled by the double stops. Double stops can be found in this particular concerto. Wikipedia states that a double-stop "is the act of playing two notes simultaneously on a stringed instrument".

Another sound effect that you can hear in this concerto is when the double bassist produces harmonics by merely touching the strings lightly at the appropriate points on the strings. I used to have no clue on how to play the high-pitched harmonics, but thanks to MJ, I have learnt to do so. If you don't mind physics and would like to understand how harmonics are produced on stringed instruments, check this out:

This concerto is getting more and more interesting to play. I just hope my interpretation of it is considered musical enough.

Take a sip

Masala Tea.

Those readers who have been reading me since I have first started this blog might have seen the photos before. Meantime, enjoy the shades of brown that can be seen on the food from Little India here: Little India in shades of brown

Sunday, July 09, 2006

It's a rainy day

9 July 2006. The weather today has been a rainy one. I had wanted to go out for a walk, and the unfavourable weather condition just seemed to suggest that I might as well spend time practising on the double bass at home.

The practice earlier today included:

Some scales
The programme that I have selected for the exams

I also attempted a few sight-singing exercises.

I shall be encouraging to myself, and give myself a pat on the shoulder for a slight improvement in playing the sight-reading exercises.

Meantime, thank you for your encouragement that you have been giving along the way.

Sight reading woes

Usually, many of the music the double bass are written in bass clef. For the sight-reading exams, I am challenged with sight-reading scores written in tenor clef and treble clef.

What a test! It seems that the studies for playing in the higher positions have helped me to sightread in treble clef. But I am still feeling that I have a lot to catch up on sight-reading.

In the evening, I picked up Develop Sight Reading (for all Bass clef instruments) by Gaston Dufresne, edited by Roger Voisin. It contains several studies written in tenor clef. I tried practising it, and it is certainly a challenge for the mind to sight-read entirely in tenor clef. I could only hope that it would get me to the required sight-reading standard soon enough.


I don't know if I should be counting down to the exams. It is less than 20 days away.

In search of past memories: Capitol

Capitol Building. Singapore.

Lam Chun See has written a post on that writes about his memories and reflections of the Capitol Theatre.

I have often walked past what is now known as the Capitol Building. I am aware that adjacent to the Capitol Building is a building with a sign indicating Capitol Theatre. Yet, I do not recall having watched any movie in the Capitol Theatre. How were Capitol Building and Capitol Theatre related to each other?

I don't know. I could only infer from the photographs taken decades ago that Capitol Building might have been a part of the Capitol Theatre. (?) Have changes have been taking place so fast that the past tends to get easily forgotten?

Does anyone have any memory of the Capitol Theatre to share?

Meantime, check out this post by Chun See: Another one bites the dust

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Feelings of the day

Attempted to practise today, but the mood was not optimal for practice. The good thing perhaps is that I have played some studies, one of which consists of playing in the higher positions of the double bass.

Feeling kind of bleak. Where am I heading from here?

Feeling disoriented. How can things fall in place?

Feeling stuck. How do I catch up?

Feeling tired. How do I recharge?

Anyway, let's hope feelings are indeed momentary, like some people claim. That these shall pass.

Upcoming: Expedition H

From a trail that traces the origins of some of the popular local food to a trail that would lend one greater insights to the lesser known Chinese dialect groups (such as the Heng Hwa, Hockchew and Hainanese), Expedition H is a series of adventure trails for the heritage lovers.

An outreach event of the Singapore HeritageFest 2006, Expedition H has 9 different trails for the heritage lovers to choose from. Details can be found here:

- Overview
- Schedule for each trail
- Registration details

I might consider this if time permits.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The eight areas


Yesterday, I got myself Aural Time! written by David Turnbull. I was hoping to gain some insights on how I could discuss musical features in Test D of the Grade 8 music practical exams' aural section.

It was suggested that one can consider the above mentioned eight areas in the discussion. Aural Time! does give quite good insights for this section of the aural test. I like the examples and the possible subjects for discussion that it offers for Test D of the Grade 8 aural test.

I don't know if I am on the right track. I could only wish my will to play good music in the exams does not dwindle.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Missing this

For the past weeks, I have been spending most of the weekends mornings and afternoons practising. If given a choice, I would prefer to practise during the day than during the night. I found myself more productive in the day. In addition, I am more likely to risk being labelled as an inconsiderate neighbour if I were to play works such as the Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in the middle of the quiet night. I have no wish to be a noise producer at that time of the night since I myself dislike noises.

As a result of my preferred practising hours, I have been missing scenes like those that you see above.

Nowadays, if I were to go for a walk, it would usually be a stroll under the night skies.

The solution

Feeling stressed from trying to play the sight-reading pieces, I decided to try to play easier-to-play studies to help me improve my sense of rhythms and sight-reading skills.

Playing studies from B. Gale's Melodic Foundation Studies for the Double Bass seems to have helped me relieve some of the anxieties. This set of studies includes rhythmic studies, melodic studies and technical studies. I am still a way from achieving the standard required for the Grade 8 sight-reading component, but I know that by playing more studies, I will get closer.

Letting go of the outcome

I am feeling what might be described as having "butterflies in the stomach". The feelings of anxieties can get too strong and result in one being too worked up.

Reflecting, playing music requires one to learn to trust and to let go of the outcome. My hopes of passing the exams have at this time been a hindrance rather than a motivation. I have a feeling that I have to learn to let go of the outcome, enjoy the mere pleasure of music making. That is all. I have to learn to trust that every small but meaningful practice will lead me a step closer to the passing mark. There is no need to push or to strain oneself. Take a step at a time, and I can trust that I will be closer day by day.

Was there a time, when we try too hard to achieve something, and in the end, that hinders us from achieving an inspiring result? For example, I recall that when I try too hard not to make any mistake, I may end up with playing a piece of music too technically and plainly, failing to bring out any sense of musicality.

I have been making progresses over the past week. Somehow, I must learn to shake off the feeling of thinking that by pushing myself to achieve a pass, I will pass. It might be simpler to learn to trust that all I need is to take small incremental steps of improving my musicianship.

Right now, I am just writing away in the hope of relieving a nagging feeling of anxieties. As such, this post may seem haphazard.

Have the society taught us too much about striving towards the outcome that we have forgotten to trust that the process can also help take us nearer our goals?

With this, I only hope that I can learn to let go of the outcome, and have fun playing the music. Wish me all the best, please.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Today appears to be double bass day. I took time-off and leave from work today so as to practise on the double bass. There have been some improvements but I don't know if these improvements are good enough to help me pass the practical exams.

Except for the time taken to have my meals, travel between places and taking breaks during practices, most of my time today had been occupied with playing on the double bass. In the morning and early afternoon, I was practising on my own at home. In the late afternoon, I had double bass lessons. In the evening, orchestra rehearsal finally resume and I joined in. I must have had a double-bass playing marathon today?

The attempts to play the Grade 8 sight-read pieces today need much more work to reach a satisfactory level. I don't know if I could achieve the miracle of being competent with the sight-reading section by end of the month. Programme for the exams still need work upon.

I am feeling too tired to even give too much thought to the thoughts of feeling inadequate.

That reminds me, that when I feel inadequate, I found it helpful to read this:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous --

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small doesn't serve the world.

There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people

Won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.

It is not just in some of us: it is in everyone,

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously

Give other people permission to do the same.

Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love (New York: Harper Collins, 1992)

(taken from Zander R.S. and Zander B. (2000). The Art of Possibility. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press.)

What's listening?

In order to gain a better appreciation of Beethoven's music, I am now listening to Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Earlier, I was listening to Beethoven's Coriolan Overture.

Last week, I was trying to look at the syllabus for the aural test which is one of the components of the music practical exams.

One part of the test requires one to listen to music with understanding and to discuss about a given piece of music. If I am not wrong, the discussion will center around any of the musical features of a piece of music played by the examiner. I am able to differentiate if a piece of music is from the Classical, Romantic or Contemporary period. However, what else should one discuss for this component?

Past midnight post

I shall award myself with a workaholic award for the day. I stayed and worked in office till 11 p.m. and only got home slightly less than an hour ago.

Tomorrow, I shall have double bass lessons again. I experienced some improvements in my playing. Let's hope there will be more improvements with more practices.

Strangely, my left ring and index fingers were taking turns to give a nagging pain today. I have been careful in giving my fingers enough rest. I don't play more than an hour without taking at least a ten-minutes break thereafter. I keep my fingers crossed that the pain is not a sign of Rheumatoid Arthritis or any form of arthritis. Thank goodness that the pain is gone by now.

Meantime, I can afford to stay up till this hour because I need not report to work tomorrow. Good night folks.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Comfort for the feet

For yours truly who finds stress-relief from walking, over-walking may not be uncommon. During the past few weeks, my feet appear to be crying to be heard. They have been aching.

Deciding to be kind on my feet, I decided to get a pair of comfortable footwear to treat the feet. I ended up with a pair of sandals from the shop called Ergolab. The personnel from the shop used an instrument to examine my feet. I was told that my feet were high arched. Then he helped to select a pair of footwear according to my requirements. It felt fairly comfortable.

Let's hope my feet protest less from now.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Question 1170

This is the 1170 post on this blog.

I have no idea how to improve my sense of rhythms when it comes to playing sight-reading pieces. If the work is in common time, I could still manage with the rhythms. However, if the work is in time signatures such as 5/8, 6/8 or 9/8, I would find myself clueless whether I am playing in the right rhythms.

I wonder if my music theory teacher could help me on that. I shall remind myself to ask him on my upcoming lesson.

How does one train oneself up to be better in sight-reading?

Keep safe please

Is this a matter of being prone to accidents at certain parts of my body? Yesterday, while walking, I actually injured my right ankle. Now, it is slightly swollen. Last evening, it was hurting when I was on my bed. I must remind myself to keep safe.

Shorter and fewer posts might be expected this month of July.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Keep changing my mind

I sometimes find myself changing my mind very often. Is this a matter of indecisiveness? I would rather say that new information continue to surface and with this, the mind finds itself making changes to its previous decision.

This morning, I tried to play Weiberger's Fugue (from Schwanda the Bagpiper). It started out sounding rather awkward, but it proved to be much easier than Britten's Variation H from The Young Person' Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34.

As such, my choice for one of the examination pieces has changed from the Scherzo and Trio from Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 in C minor to Variation H from Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra to the Fugue from Weinberger's Schwanda the Bagpiper. Yesterday, I was even contemplating to play excerpts from Verdi's Otello, Act 4 because Emily told me it was easier than the work by Britten. It is indeed easier, but I could not find a way to relate to the music.

Eventually, I decided that I shall settle for the Fugue from Weinberger's Schwanda the Bagpiper. It is much easier, and would allow me to spend more time to work on the excerpts from Beethoven's Symphony no. 9 in D minor and the other components of the exams.

A good choice of programme that highlight one's strengths rather than one's weaknesses (my sense of rhythm still needs a lot of work upon) will help one win more credits during the upcoming exams. This is my current opinion.