Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Horse PhotoShoot: My 1-Day Excursion To Punggol End Horse Ranch !!

Hey guys, here we meet again ! 
So I've made my first trip to a horse ranch located at Punggol End, Singapore. It is definitely the first time ever I've been this close to horses and taken pictures with them !

I have to admit I've never been a fan of any sort of animals and can never imagine myself ever owning a cat or dog as pet (because I don't like the idea of having to clean up after pets or to have ANYTHING, anything at all interrupt me when I'm practicing my guitar/dance, reading or doing my day-to-day activities).
It's quite a different experience with horses though and I would consider horse-riding as a retirement plan.

Now let's check out my first photo from my horse-photoshoot !
Hahaha how often do you see a horse's eyes/expression caught on camera like that. I find the horse's cheeky expression totally adorable, especially when he seems to be imitating our humans' way of tilting our chin/face upwards and then peering down into the camera lens - a feeling of attitude and playfulness.

Joining in the posing fun, horses have more soul and awareness than we humans believe they do !

The furnishings of the rest of the horse ranch is full of really cute cottages with ranch-designs. Some say the cottages are for tourists to stay.

I personally love this next photo pretty much, because there I am rocking my super blonde hair !! Plus the bench design is really cool, creative and totally fits the theme of the horse ranch. And I just find the blend of colors in the photo really appealing.

Alright, me ACTING real demure here:

I have to confess, yet again, that I'm not a fan of tons of greens or greenery but I have to say I love this photo (Plus green is really rarely a predominant color in all or most of my existing photos.)

Now, how does it feel having a horse breathe down your neck ? When this following shot was taken, the only thing that was going through my mind is - Well, I can't see whatever the horse is doing behind me, what I'm betting on is that the horse doesn't just open his mouth wide and start chewing on my hair (even if it tasted delicious).

Well, something else happened though: The horse just fling-ed his head and hit me on my head oh yeah ! 

He must have learnt some moves from Pokemon. In extreme cases, just imagine a horse going wild right beside you and starts swinging his head in all directions at you, hitting your skull at every possible angle hahaha !! Alright, not funny.

Now, here's how the cottages I've been talking about look like from one side. And by the way, the plants are awesome, pardon me for the fact that I am not adequately equipped with plant-knowledge and I have no idea what those green tall things on my two sides are called.

And I made a trip to the forbidden forest. This is the first time ever that a forest ever looked so enchanting to me - other times I would either be too preoccupied with the amount of insects attacking me or really felt more afraid of the forest than amazed.

Well, I ACTED innocent and vulnerable once again hahaha !!
Do I look like a 'child' lost in the woods ? Would you come save me if you saw me ?

Alright since I was at the horse ranch, I couldn't miss out on certain props or architecture right ?

The lamp post would be a pretty fun thing to dance pole dance with, swing-ed around on and posed with ! How many points would you award me for this dance-y pose ? :D :D

And... I swear I couldn't miss out on the dustbins too ! How hilarious, plus the fact that I really do adore the overall ambience of the place, trees everywhere, fairytale pathways, cute cottages - total rustic feel. And yet again I surprised myself, because I've never loved nature or felt strongly attached to nature. In fact I usually felt a need to avoid the natural environment.

(Well I do not despise nature but it's just a fact that I appreciate man-made beauty, aka modern architecture so much that I can't help but become dumbfounded and utterly impressed every time I encounter structures that are the result of top designer-brains, the most creative people in the industry coupled with the perfect appearance of cutting edge modernity, sharp detailed technicalities and more.

So I ran around the horse ranch taking pictures with almost any and every 'thing' worth taking picture with, including this supposed 'vehicle'. I initially intended to step onto the platform right above the wheels for the picture but thought better of it as the platform does not have any support at all. I wouldn't want to destroy something the first time I visited a horse ranch hahaha !

A photo of me patting the horse - and I learnt from my photographer that the "white-zone", yes, the white-zone on the horse's face is available for petting. So I ventured on to try showing some care to the horse. Not an easy feat though, because he would come near me for a brief 1 to 2 seconds and then move away again. I guess the picture below shows otherwise :P :P hahaha because photographs really freeze the moment hehe.

Okay, I am just humoring myself as I include this seemingly unrelated picture. Since the horse ranch is near to the beach as it is at the edge of Singapore, I made a little detour to the gardens. I absolutely love how my hair looks in this picture.

Not to mention I was going all crazy hopping around so my hair was bouncing joyfully ! Alright not to sound all self-possessive or whatever, I love my hair !

So Chinese New Year is just around the corner, tomorrow is new year's eve. Frankly I'm looking forward much more to the opportunity I get sitting around relatives' places reading books because how otherwise would I make myself pick up my beloved books than when I am "obligatorily" stranded at relatives' homes without my laptop haha.

Also, a little secret for you guys. I just had a little reminiscing to past Chinese New Years and I can't help it but feel a bit freaked. Why, you ask. Well somehow CNY is a season that makes any "adult" feel obliged to give "advice" to any and everyone younger than themselves and they often resort to and expect me to be a happy audience of their long-winded stories of how me (an introvert) should behave and live life like them, the extroverts.

How ironic these adults never understood the fundamental differences in personality traits and types, and therefore expect any and everyone else to be a carbon copy of themselves and exhibit behavioral traits identical as their own. Well, I hope this year I wouldn't have to be subjected to a non-stop stream of "You should's" once again, but I think it will be tough luck.

Anyways, I still wish you guys a very blessed and Happy Chinese New Year !

On a more positive note, I've just finished recording my guitar arrangement for "Mr Saxobeat" (Alexandra Stan) just 3 days ago !! Well the music video and thus audio won't be up on my Youtube channel at least anytime soon though because I would like to focus my time into preparation for my upcoming Berklee audition (which still doesn't have a tentative date yet...) I will update you guys more very soon.

Alright, catch you guys again and take care :D
Love ya, 
Sapphire Ng <3 <3 <3

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Mystical World Of Guitar Feedback

Hello all ! I'm so glad to say that I had a freaking fun day learning about Guitar Feedback from my great teacher Az. Not to mention that I spent over an hour post-lesson self-imposing guitar feedback to my ears at loud volumes (that I usually do not play at) in my small bedroom.

Well an analogy that I love from my guitar lesson is, as my teacher said, "If you are afraid of heights, you go bungee jumping to counter that fear", so "If you are afraid of guitar feedback, go and create feedback". Hahaha it was a really eye-opening lesson and from today onwards, I will not see feedback the same way again. Well guitar greats such as Jimi Hendrix have manipulated feedback to their advantage during shows.

Firstly I have to lay out what gear I use and what tone settings I typically use that makes my guitar such a "victim" prone to feedback. I play a red semi-hollow Ibanez guitar that you guys probably seen and heard if you have been stalking my guitar videos. And semi-hollow guitars are just more prone to feedback than their solid body buddies.

Also I love high gain tone settings, I love it when my tone is edgy, fierce and dirty. And as my teacher said, the higher the gain, the more sensitive the pickup is to picking up information channeled from the amp. So the higher the gain, the easier you get feedback.

I use .011 flat-wounds strings on my 'jazz' guitar and that gives it a naturally more bassy sound. I have friends that used to tell me, as a joke, "Wow you can essentially replace the bassist by now" hahaha since when paired with certain settings I am amazed how bassy my guitar can sound. Given that, I tend to increase my treble beyond normal levels to compensate for that.

Essentially, the higher the Gain, Volume & (Treble) EQ, the higher the likely of occurrence of Feedback.

In an experiment today, my teacher took out his EQ pedal and we tried to find out at which frequencies my guitar feedback is occurring at. And so I learnt a new thing, feedback occurs at certain frequencies and if you cut those specific frequencies, you can reduce feedback. The idea is to find out which frequencies are the 'problematic' ones.

The feedback continued even if the 8k frequency range zone was reduced, thus it ain't what we are looking for. Then we found out that when the 4k range is boosted, the feedback became so much more intense, so the idea is to cut the 4k range frequencies which actually corresponds to the treble EQ. 

I do not know (yet) of any such similar smaller parameter breakdowns available in my GT-100, so all we can deal with is to have a "general" cut. Instead of only cutting the 4k range, I had to cut the entire treble range.

The rest of this post I would cover the other learning points from this Guitar Feedback lesson plus some of my past 'mistakes' when dealing with feedback. Today I finally found out WHY just a couple of months ago when I was running around switching to different amps in my music school, the feedback just wouldn't go away. Hahaha and it was definitely enlightening and fun to find out why.

The lesson started as my teacher mentioned that some players actually stuff 'something' into their semi-hollow guitars through the holes in the body in order to reduce feedback. Haha I haven't found out what material is supposed to be used, how effective would it actually be, the extent to which it will affect the tone of the guitar AND is there a technique to even 'stuff' some 'stuff' in the guitar because I suspect there is definitely a whole world of science and technicalities as to why 'it' has to be done 'this' way. Haha well, I don't think I would use this method...

Moving on, the lesson was fun as it was filled with us placing the guitar in various positions, facing the amp, away from the amp, a certain angle away from the amp to find out how the nature of feedback changes.

Before I forget I have to mention this: Today the patch settings had way higher gain than I actually used in school but when the guitar is placed directly in front of the amp, facing away from the amp it did not feedback, and mind you, the volume was put at super loud levels and my treble EQ is at 100 (maximum).

BUT in school, I had lower gain, same guitar and it feedback-ed alot when I sat in front of my amp and played (alright it's a crammed place with tons of people in the band room, so I just settled cosily in front of my amp hahaha !! Pretty amusing and fun now when I think of it since I just found out why I shouldn't sit in front of an amp !). So why did my guitar feedback in my school and not my teacher's place ?

Well, because my school had bigger amps hahah ! My teacher uses the super mini ZT amps for teaching and probably the information from the amp gets diverted to the sides instead of traveling around me to the front of the guitar and thus to the pickups. Now that's interesting :D (Alright for those of you who are tech geeks or physics experts, it would probably be common sense to you guys, but please pardon me haha as I lack knowledge in this field and totally couldn't figure out why certain things happen when they happened, all my mind was occupied with is the music haha ! Okay, enough of self-entertaining.)

Okay, in this lesson I learnt also that due to their individual construction/nature of certain effect pedals, some pedals are more prone to feedback as well such as the Fuzz Pedal. So, please do not panic when your Fuzz feedbacks, it is normal.

Another interesting concept my teacher pointed out was that "Distortion" used to be a 'problem' in the guitar world. Now that's something that's got to do with understanding the history of how these things came to be. But now "Distortion" has definitely become mainstream and loved by many. Actually tons of people or in fact everyone around me in my music school (including me) really thought that feedback is a 'problem', so I learnt today that it is a problem if you don't understand it, don't know why it occurs and if you don't know how to manipulate it.

Now I'm going to recount what happened when I had my intimate 1++hour session with guitar feedback this evening. I have a big Roland amp at home, plugged through my beloved multi-effects pedal. At the same settings, when my back is against the amp (at a distance) the feedback basically had a more constant quality in that it occurs in surges like tidal waves in the ocean, it swells in volume in a pretty constant manner, it is slower and has that sustain quality to it.

But at the same distance, when my guitar is actually facing the amp directly in front of the amp, oh my gosh ! The feedback becomes very very dynamic, it tells a very complicated story and the pitch of the feedback varies as well.

When less feedback occurs, I realized it tends to exist as "tails" to the existing sound, not invasive but noticeable at the end of the actual sound created from striking the guitar strings.

As I gradually increased my gain or treble, I noticed the feedback becoming a more and more dominant element in the entire sound. Instead of existing only as a 'tail' to the main sound, now it accompanies the entire sound.

Of course as I increased my gain to scary levels I would say, the feedback actually became louder than the actual sound signal generated from picking your guitar strings. And so this is when the sound gets really really disturbing.

As my teacher has shown as well, the nature of feedback actually reacts and corresponds to tampering on the fingerboard. Even with the guitar strings muted with 2 hands, at a feedback-friendly level of gain, treble and volume, the feedback actually assumes the pattern of slapping on the muted guitar strings.

Now on to the big reveal: I finally found out why I've gotten immediate humongous feedback no matter which amp I've tried in school the moment I switched on the amp. It is because I was hanging my guitar on my shoulder with my volume knob on to the fullest and my effect pedal's volume on to its normal level accompanied by high gain. The moment I on the amps, the guitar pickups come no more than a foot away from the amp speakers, thus the close proximity of the pickups and amp actually served as the final ingredient for the "Feedback Disaster" hahaha.

Thus my learning lesson would be that in future, I would have to either minimize the volume levels and then bring them up gradually after every equipment in the chain is on, or even lower the gain and then gradually bringing the gain back up again judging by the nature of the situation and most probably having to settle with a much lower gain level - because volumes are naturally set higher when the entire band is around (& everyone else plays really loud) as compared to solo home practice sessions.

I learnt a new name from my class: Nels Cline, a "pedal-geek" guitarist who plays with feedback a lot.

And here's a youtube video that I've been introduced to, to watch about guitar Feedback Techniques:

Not only so, I've found out that sometimes guitarists do not have to personally manipulate the change of patches during live shows as sound engineers would do the job for them. 

And as my guitar teacher said, the sound engineers could actually help you reduce the right range of frequencies if you encounter feedback (hahaha so if you invest in an awesome sound crew, you probably do not have to learn to control feedback using parameters such as gain, volume, treble EQ etc - Okay, just kidding.)

Alright guys, that's about it for this post.
See you again !

Take care & have fun,
Sapphire Ng

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Sapphire Ng | "Girl Gone Wild" Guitar Arrangement, Modeling & Dance (Madonna) [Video & Photos]

Guitarist, Dancer, Model: Sapphire Ng

Videographer/Photographer/Art Director: Mike S
MakeUp Artist/Hair: Sonia Hui

Post-production video-editing: Sapphire Ng


Behind-The-Scenes Photos:

Saturday, 4 January 2014