When I sing traditional Chinese folk songs I am transported to China and I am experiencing the stories from long ago that are told through the lyrics and music. And it brings me great joy to do that and to share it with others.
Even though the process of learning, recording, and editing the song “Jasmine” was challenging, it was also rewarding. When I first heard the He Fang adaptation, I was really surprised to hear how difficult the song was in comparison to the usual Jiangsu version that even children can easily learn. At first, I did not think I could learn it, but I was determined to learn and perform it as best as I could.
When singing traditional Chinese folk songs or any song it is important to connect with the other musicians in order to give the audiences an authentic performance of music that deserves respect. That is why I connected online with a pianist from Oregon and a guzheng player from China so they could record the accompaniment of the songs.
In order to create a music video with two other musicians in this time of COVID, I opted to record each musician and myself separately and then edit it all together as one cohesive performance.
To do this, I first emailed a PDF of the sheet music to each musician. I instructed the piano player to record first, and to include a click track at the beginning of the recording so the guzheng player would be able to time when to begin playing.
Both musicians simply used their smart phones with video and audio to record their music track. The guzheng player used headphones so the sound of the piano would not bleed into her recording.
After I received both recordings, I then synched both soundtracks together. This was still not easy to do, despite the click-track. Then I mixed the sound levels of the instruments, careful to not have the guzheng player overpower the sound level of the piano. Next, I added effects, such as compression, EQ, and a small amount of reverb.
With the background tracks edited and mixed, I was ready to begin recording the audio for my vocals. Made famous by Michael Jackson who used the Shure SM7B microphone to record his album “Thriller,” I used this same microphone to record my vocals. To do this, the Shure SM7B microphone was plugged into my dbx 286S mic preamp/processor in order to power the microphone, which was then fed into my Roland VS-1680 digital workstation to record, mix, and master.
Now that the audio was mixed and mastered, it was then time to video record myself singing to my vocal track. The equipment used was my new Canon XC10 4K camera, video lights, backdrop stand, and a backdrop with a garden theme that I had made and delivered from China.
With all my video equipment and set in place, I sang along with my recorded vocal track. As a former professional TV actor, I was careful not to overact, delivering a focused, authentic performance.
The process of video editing can now begin! The vision of the music video has always been to have all three musicians in the frame, playing in unison. Using video editing software called Pinnacle Studio, I used the split screen effect to have all three musicians appearing on the screen at the same time. Of course, arranging the timing of the video to have us all synched was the most difficult part. I made sure each strum of the guzheng was in synch with the sound-track.
Since the pianist and guzheng player just used their smart phones to record, I incorporated a technique called color correction in order for them to look their best.