Monday, April 30, 2007

Bluntly Speaking 2

How are you going to spend your holidays?

Yes, I know. Unwind, relax, seat back, space out, daydream, do whatever you want to do, etc.

But what EXACTLY do you want to do?

Uh-huh, you can chill out, go out, watch movies, hang out, party, sleepover, stay up all night and all that...but don't tell me that's all you have for 100+ days. If so, that's very sad.

Honestly, if you don't really have any plans for the holidays, I can assure you that you won't really be doing and accomplishing much.

At the end of the day, ask yourself, "How can I effectively maximise my free time?"

To be frank, count the number of days in your holidays, remove 1/3 (that's for sleeping) and the remainder is what you have left. Not really that much, right?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Inevitable Holidays

Put it this way: Exams are inevitable, so are the holidays. Have we ever thought of this as well?

I'm kind of having mixed feelings this time, before I start my holidays tomorrow (after I finish my last paper in the morning).

One thing is that I'm glad that I can finally do what I really what to, but the other thing is that I fear I may not have planned adequately for the vacation period.

And for myself, bad planning means a great deal of inefficiency - wasted time, too much staring at the ceiling, too much slacking, etc. All this mean a rather wasted holiday.

On the other hand, I need space and time to unwind and catch up on my other hobbies and commitments without burning myself out.

So what I'll do is to spend the first few days coming up with a more concrete plan for the holidays, and also to purely relax and unwind.

Currently, the things I have in mind and have in store are (not in order of importance):
  1. learn more styles, techniques and tricks on the acoustic guitar
  2. try being a supporting/backup guitarist in my and my parents' cell
  3. pick up the bass guitar
  4. resume learning driving
  5. some personal graphic design project(s)
  6. jam sessions (many many!)
  7. varsity outreach programmes
  8. secondary school camp (logistics)
  9. varsity camp
  10. conference and mission trip to South Korea
  11. campus crusades' training for group leaders
  12. vacation to Australia to visit friends down there (hopefully)
  13. thoroughly tidying up the many shelves in my house
  14. doing my quiet time and worship in the park very early in the morning
  15. training and taking IPPT
  16. cycling around the estates
  17. teaching some of my cellmate(s) the guitar (but seriously, I don't know how to start)
  18. and all the usual chilling out, going out, movies, shopping, etc.

Yup. 102 days to do all these. It's really gonna be an experience.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Am almost there. 1 more paper to go.

Was practising for my song presentation this afternoon. To say the truth, "Holy is the Lord" isn't a difficult song to play. The key is in G major and the chords are easy to handle.

Am going to use that song....but the thing is, I'll be playing it differently this time.

In the past, I can just grab the guitar and the pick and hit it. Not really a big issue.

But for now, I'll be presenting the song without using the pick. Just the guitar and my fingers. I'm doing this because:
  • I can fingerpick, then strum
  • I can vary the dynamics
  • I can feel for the strings

The 3 above-mentioned points is (honestly) enough to shake the way I play that instrument. But it takes a lot of practice, patience and perseverance.

Simple to say, but not easy to press on with it.

They say musicians learn faster by seeing, hearing and watching other people play. VERY TRUE!

During the previous guitar lesson, one of the teachers screened a short segment of the Hillsongs "Mighty to Save" DVD. The song "None but Jesus" was shown. It had Darlene Zschech as the lead singer and Reuben Morgan as the acoustic guitarist - that's all.

The way Reuben played the guitar simply inspired me to take my playing to a higher level. There was just such a nice touch to his playing and it really set the mood and atmosphere right for the song.

Furthermore, Reuben was strumming with his fingers! Which is why I need to get that technique right. Also, my guitar teacher is 'pick-free' and his plays exceptionally well.

So much things to pick up and so many people to learn from. I know what I'm gonna do during the holidays...hee...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bluntly Speaking 1


It is a matter of discipline. It is a reflection of how important you place that particular meeting, gathering or event in your heart.

If you are late or going to be late, make an effort to inform the respective organisers about it, and apologise when you arrive. Don't even think of acting as if nothing happened when you arrive late.

If you are consistently late, examine yourself. Observe your tendencies and scrutinize the way you plan your schedule and time.

If you tend to dilly-dally, prepare in advance so that you have more time as buffer just in case anything unexpected pops up along the way.

By the way, don't expect others (who came earlier) to wait for you, to prepare a grand ceremony for your arrival, etc.

Instead, you should respect those who came on time. Respect them for making the effort to observe punctuality and be fair to them. So, blame no one if you miss out on any parts of the event.

Remember, it starts with us.

I do have severe tendencies to be late. I think I have set aside sufficient time to make my way there, but many times, I'm wrong.

Therefore, (like what I said), I prepare in advance, I wake up earlier, I allocate buffer time. I need to do all this so that not only we can start things on time, but we can also end it on time.

Let's be punctual, shall we?

Bluntly Speaking (Prologue)

For this category of posts, I shall speak from the bottom of my heart. I will be very straight to the point, so you don't have to read it if you don't want to.

I'm sorry if I may be a little too harsh or blunt with my words, but...nvm...

Fact is, there are certain issues bugging me which I need to address. And I will.

3 papers down, 3 more to go!

This morning's Computing paper wasn't as nerve-wrecking as I thought it was to be. Thank God for His comfort, reassurance and most of all, His wisdom.

I've never felt this confident in dealing with a paper of a subject which I can't really get a hang of. I was uncertain and definitely anxious about it at first.

A glance at the past year papers invokes unspeakable fear and stress in me.

"How am I going to handle these questions?" "What if this sort of stuff really come out?"

Fears, uncertainties, worries, concerns, etc. The whole band of emotional stress twisting my head in knots, including the apparent fatigue and exhaustion from lack of sleep.

But God overcame them all.

And lifted me high above my problems.

Those who soar on wings of eagles will realise that the size of their problems is not a matter of difficulty but of perception.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In the midst of the stress

My buddy and I will always do the countdown. So for today, it's 8 more days to the end of the exams.

Yes, I can't wait for the holidays to come. But before I go into the details of what I plan to do during those few months of break, I shall get a little serious now with certain issues.

During this period of examinations, I must really take a tough stance against procrastination and complancency. Even on the last day of the exams, I mustn't let my guard down. For a single weak point in the formation will lead to the collapse of the entire army.

This morning I took out my laptop and I got distracted. Wasted quite a bit of time surfing around instead of diligently pracitising my guitar playing and mentally preparing myself for the afternoon paper.

I'm not being harsh on myself. I'm being firm. And certain things cannot be compromised. Because after the exams, I have (somewhat) all the time in the world to do whatever I want, so for now, I'll concentrate on my exams.

Reality is, for certain things in life, we only have one shot at it - so give your best. Do whatever you want to do later.


I long to have another jamming session with the rest of my cell-mates after the exams.

In view of this, after evaluating our previous jamming session, I noted one major concern: the need for more dynamics.

  • giving more space during parts of the song
  • listening to one another
  • varying touch and volume
  • exercising variation in playing

In line with this (plus the guitar lessons I'm currently taking on in church), I have looked at my personal playing skills and I realised that there is a dire need for improvement.

Which is why I'm constantly on the look out for more ideas, techniques, tricks, advice, etc from various sources.

And to enhance our playing dynamics I'm spurred on to learn damping techniques, to sharpen my fingerplucking skills, and most of all to have pick-independence - to strum, pluck and do everything with my fingers only.

I have thought of picking up the bass guitar during the holidays too, but I'll see how it goes first. Still got way too much things to learn and do on the acoustic.


Will share more in the entries to come. Back to studying. God bless!

Monday, April 09, 2007


Yes...they are here. Mine's starting on the17th of April till the 27th.

The usual mugging will start soon. But the one thing different this time is that I will still devote time to practice my guitar playing.

The last semester I didn't touch that stringed-instrument for around 3 weeks plus and when I did pick it up after the exams were over, the feeling was terrible. (Not to say that I'm good or what, but) I felt so mediocre. I felt as if I've lost quite a bit of experience during the time of abstinence.

Like swimming or cycling, you can never forget how to play an instrument after putting it aside for some time. The issue is, will your playing skills be as proficient? Answer is no.

Therefore, I feel convicted that there is always a need to at least maintain my playing proficiency. When the exams are over, I will be experimenting new songs, new styles, new techniques, new genres, etc.

I'm always striving to find more things to do with that instrument. To learn new stuff so that there's always something to look out for.

Nothing wrong playing whatever you're familar with, but if you really want to improve, then you will have to step out of your comfort zone to experience something different - then, will you be able to take your playing to a higher level.

And yes, May's approaching, the month (last year) when I picked up the guitar and decided I wanted to learn how to play it. Will talk about the details in another entry.

For now, all the best for your exams. Will see you at the finish line. And will definitely need jamming sessions to release the pressure valve.

God bless!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

To take your playing to a higher level

One very important lesson I learnt from our church's guitar lesson:

If you want to be good at playing or doing a note/chord/song/solo/rift/particular technique/etc... it 1000 times.

If that's still not enough, do it 1000 more times. If not, add more 1000's till you are good/satisfied.

Practice makes perfect. And one thing which the instructor said to us is that there is bound to be pain and practice regardless of your playing competency or experience.

Fingers' gonna hurt and left palm's gonna get cramp. All these pain for the greater gain.


If you think you are very familiar with a song in the key of A, C, D, E or G, use the capo and get a different playing experience.

For the songs in Key G: Capo 2, play in F

For the songs in Key D: Capo 2, play in C; or Capo 3, play in B

Barre chords are good for you. They strengthen your muscles and barring finger. A little practice everyday makes a proficient player in the long run.

Experiment more. That's the fun and vibrance of music.