2019 has been a rollercoaster of stuff.
On one hand, I travelled to 6 countries including Australia for the first time & finally saw kangaroos in real life. It was for the Perth Vegan Expo where Raw Chef Yin was presenting & I was the official assistant/photographer/book seller/videographer/social media person/food tester and Google Maps navigator.
(The countries were: UK, France, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau)
Performance highlights were performing with my trio (with Kevin Theseira on bass & Adil Johan on sax) at the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival. Thank you Peter, uncle Paul, Kevin, Yin & the HKIJF team for the awesome time. We also did a preview show at my fave coffee place, RAGE coffee in Bangsar which was a real treat. Then, came the two performances with my dad in Singapore. Poetry + guitar at The Arts House. Love that venue, one of my fave places that I’ve had the opportunity to perform several times over the years.
In relation to special gigs, Zee Avi invited me to perform as part of her first ever Zee Avi & Rakan-rakan show at ILHAM Gallery. I shared a video of one of the songs I played via a new series I started called Gitar Kembara. The whole idea is to gradually release various performance videos from my travels (including from the archive). The first two are up now, with one impromptu session on a Hong Kong rooftop and this one at Zee’s event.
Wow, that was a real treat.
200+ people in the audience and it was the first time in awhile that I played some solo acoustic fingerstyle guitar too. Talking about guitar, this year was the year I finally picked up my brand new Nick Benjamin acoustic guitar — a dream guitar that I first discovered when I met Eric Roche years and years ago. Even got to interview Nick & found out more about his whole guitar building process.
Met Derek Sivers again, this time in Oxford. Wow, so cool.
Derek founded the website CDBaby.com, wrote the book ‘Anything You Want’ and has spoken numerous times at TED & TEDx. His writing has inspired me tremendously over the years so today is a real treat to meet him again. I first met him in Singapore years ago when he was living there. That’s another story tho (for another time).
Met shred guitar maestro Ben Higgins in London. He is a genius. I absolutely love his educational material & his picking videos are among some of the best videos I’ve ever studied. His courses are here: https://www.benhigginsofficial.com/courses.php
Am I a YouTuber yet?
Besides shows and such, I was really into the idea of just making music — not performing for an audience but just playing with some of my friends. You can watch these videos, documenting these sessions on YouTube.
Relaxing Vibes is a series of 8 videos (including 1 unreleased one – still not sure if I wanna share that last one) with my friends Nazrin & Irena Taib. Nazrin released his 2nd EP, REVISIT recently which I reviewed here.
Irena is one of my former guitar students (and also my only ever SCHOLARSHIP STUDENT — which meant she studied with me tuition-free, as part of me giving back. Irena then went to Berklee, graduated and is now back in Kuala Lumpur busy composing music for films and also performing with her sister (The Impatient Sisters) and also as the guitarist for The Venopian Solitude.
Meeting up with Ian Lam, a fine guitarist who’s done the whole fingerstyle guitar thing, session guitar thing, teaching thing, gypsy jazz thing and is now even playing ukulele — was a cool hang with us playing some songs and having some really nice conversations.
I find that to be a highlight for me nowadays, just getting to talk with cool people who dig music in a deep way.
My jazz guitar student from Macau, Mars Hong was in town too! So in addition to an in person class, we also jammed twice (one after a lesson) and another just to make music together. Mars is deeply passionate about jazz & I always enjoy geeking out with him about the subtle nuances of harmony, reharmonization, picking, jazz lines and tone production. Good player & all around nice guy!
Collaborations also included some real high points, crossing styles with my first ever collaboration with Salammusik & Altimet on their song ‘Bangkit’. I’m grateful for this video, which is now 781,240 views on YouTube. You can hear my trusty Takamine EN-60c on this performance.
On a more eclectic note, I also collaborated with composer Goh Lee Kwang on a Hari Raya video. It was with kitchen tools + acoustic guitar.
Helping more musicians to level up their skills!
Talking about making stuff, I released like 14 different educational products this year. The target was at least one a month & I’m happy I ended up making more in the end.
2019 Guitar Success Bundle (COLLECTION)
This is a collection of eBooks & lesson packs that I released previously. Collected as a bundle, it’s intended to give guitarists a bunch of high quality exercises & etudes & material to practice.
How To Start Teaching Guitar Lessons
This was the first time I released something for guitar teachers & aspiring guitar teachers. The whole thing basically is to help guitarists find out how to make money teaching guitar. You identify your strengths, your income goals and your possible options to get there.
60 Beginner Jazz Guitar Licks
After making material mostly for intermediate & advanced jazz guitarists, this was my first eBook for beginners to jazz guitar.
60 Minor Pentatonic Jazz Guitar Licks
Taking a familiar scale but twisting it through all 12 keys. Lots of technical challenges for the dedicated guitarist looking to improve their skills.
Keepin’ It Real
A practical way of looking at music theory so you can actually apply what you know to REAL MUSIC and REAL MUSIC SITUATIONS.
The France Monologues + The Singapore Monologues
The most honest document of my best advice for serious musicians who want to make an artistic & financially viable music career. Lots of real world tips, observations and practical suggestions that I only could give now, after 23 years in music. To those who actually take notes, this volume could be worth more than some music college classes (and way more affordable too).
How to Solo over the Blues: The 4 Color Approach for Guitarists
A collection of selected videos that only my Patreon patrons received in the past. This instructional video shows you how I approach soloing over the blues. No fluff, just the stuff that works & that I use for shows, gigs, concerts & jamming.
Yummy Jazz Guitar Chords: Az Samad’s Creative Chord Control 101
Taking the best information I learned over 23 years and 4 degrees, this instructional video is my primer for anyone who wants to learn jazz guitar chords & actually use them. Lots of good material here!
Kelas Asas Gitar Neo Soul
The first time I made an instructional video in Malay! It was well received and it led me to making more videos in Malay. This one shares some of the best tips & licks & chords I learned from studying with Mateus Asato and studying the playing of players like Kerry Marshall. I’m pretty sure this is the first commercially released instructional Neo Soul guitar video in Malay.
Rahsia Jadi Hero Major Scales
The bestseller of the year for me! Recorded the videos for this in Hong Kong + Kuala Lumpur. This whole thing was completed & launched within 3 weeks. Very proud of this one & really happy that many people have benefitted from the video.
Beginner Guitar Lesson Superpack
For beginners, this collects almost everything I’ve made for beginner guitarists. The only thing missing is a step by step structure to go through this Superpack. Includes notes I made for my Berklee students in the Summer Guitar Sessions too.
Template Buat Bio Band Terbaik
Great bands have great band bios. Newer bands sometimes are lost on what to write. I am kind of obsessed about how to write bios and have written a lot of bios for different bands & projects over the years. If you’re applying for a music festival, this is quite important in addition to having good photos, having performance videos & of course being an amazing band worth hiring.
Panduan Band Baru
For new bands who want to be a step ahead of their peers. This saves your time & helps you avoid silly mistakes bands make ALL THE TIME. I know, I’ve made them & seen many bands lose gigs & break up because of these mistakes.
Cabaran Hero Major Scales
A follow-up & companion instructional video to Rahsia Jadi Hero Major Scales, this one is a 7-day challenge which gives a different bite size exercise (challenge) for you to practice everyday. All you need is 7 minutes every day! You can do it too. 🙂
Oh yeah gigs. Forgot to mention!
I played a wonderful duo gig with my jazz bro, saxophonist Julian Chan at No Black Tie. The Jazz Bromance played plugged in for about 3 to 4 songs before we experienced a blackout. The show went on though & we played completely acoustic for the rest. TWO SETS of pure acoustic jazz yeah! Great audience & fun night.
Here’s an old photo of us along with two bassists, AJ & Alda from 2003. Just because.
Video Game Music!
On another note (Eb), I wrote my first ever song(s) for a video game. It’s a rap song (well if you wanna be precise, it’s more like 3 rap songs because there are 3 levels to play, but I can’t tell you more than that yet. Anyhow, I’m a guest composer for this game, No Straight Roads and that’s coming out for PS4 and PC next year (2020). I’m really excited for that.
Did a Q&A session about it at this year’s first ever LEVEL UP PLAY. Here’s a piccie:
I’m waiting for you to quote the rap lyrics back at me when we meet. Yup, can’t wait.
Here’s a trailer with my name in it yay:
The trailer with my DK West song in it isn’t out yet. Stay tuned for that. 🙂
Oh yeah while we’re at it, the talk I did at LEVEL UP KL 2018 is online so you can hear me geek out about video game music for 53 minutes. It’s like taking a music composition lesson with me but you don’t have to pay coz it’s free here on YouTube.
And yeah, jamming jamming jamming in Hong Kong – I got to jam with my friend Hristo Vitchev on one of my fave Malay jazz tunes, Jauh Jauh. This was after my trio soundcheck.
On collaboration, I was very happy to be part of the M for Malaysia soundtrack. Here’s a pic via composer Rendra Zawawi (one of my former students, albeit briefly) of the recording session. Photos by Sebastian Ng.
The tracks I played on are here on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5xWn5B7w4AVCB3MPECLfyV
In terms of talks & guitar clinics, I did 4 in total this year including at UiTM Kilang Komposer, MSU – Music Transcending Time and a Bengkel Gitar Akustik at Rumah Seni Selangor. The other one was that DK West at LEVEL UP PLAY.
Social Media Things
I was super into Twitter this year, so much so that I made a whole blog post on that alone entitled: “Twitter for Musicians: How I used Twitter in 2019 to grow my audience (and how you can too in 2020)”
I learned a lot about how to tweet, connect with people and even got some viral tweets.
On other platforms, I still love Facebook the most (closing on 15k fans on my FB music page) and also Instagram. Towards the end of the year, I also began writing more on my Linkedin as well – mostly articles on guitar playing, practice and jazz guitar. My page (including the articles) are here: www.linkedin.com/in/azsamad
On podcasts, my main podcast, Music from A to Z hit 226 episodes. It’s less than what I targeted earlier during the year (I wanted to record & release 1,000 episodes) but I realised that I got busy and recorded way less when I was travelling. It was like 105 episodes released this year.
I also started a Malay version of the podcast called Cerita Muzik (11 episodes so far) which is more sporadic than the main English one. They are both on the same channel so you if you’re on Spotify, it’s all there.
As for new things, I started a Malay newsletter called #SuratMuzik It was inspired by a suggestion by Jose Rosado, a brilliant guy that I follow on Twitter. He told me to email once a week and start getting serious on the e-mail side of things. I did it & ended up writing every week from the time I started until yesterday, hitting 31 e-mails and now at 1,111 e-mail subscribers. It’s been a great way to connect with fans of my work and develop my discipline to write regularly.
Uncreative Fridays – my failure?
I reignited a series called Creative Fridays in 2018. It was an interview series that explored the musical influences of various musicians from all over the world.
The first season, Season 1: was published every week for 13 weeks, published from Feb 2012 to April 2012.
The second season, Season 2 in 2018, began on July 6 2018 and continued until December 7, 2018. Originally, I intended it to continue in 2019 with more interviews. I got busier and busier and in the end still have a series of unpublished interviews.
I felt guilty for not finishing those so am looking to see how to release them in 2020 since I still have them.
What I learned from that is that I realise I’m more likely to do projects in small bursts. Going on in 2020, I’m going to explore a VERY SHORT season based approach before the work burn-out happens.
Portrait of the artist as a reviewer
Did I mention I do reviews too?
This year, I wrote on this website:
and also 9 more on Mike’s Master Classes
which means I wrote 75 reviews in total… but I still have stuff in the backlog – which I apologise to those waiting. Gotta get to those…
I was interviewed on 4 different platforms: Print newspaper, Radio, Podcast & TV
Print: National Laureate A Samad Said and son Az reflect on the memories and wisdom that shaped their close relationship
Radio: Tay Cher Siang Interviewed me on City Plus FM
EP 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiVfhaf4fx0
EP 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKxltsJlNA4
Television: Lets Talk with Sharaad Kuttan (Episode 315)
Keep on Learning…
Read 55 books on various topics from music, business, copywriting, mindset, entrepreneurship, blogging and more.
Attended 4 different guitar/music clinics: Polyphia, Nick Johnston, Adieu Adyu and a Guitar Setup by John Lau Guitars (learned a lot in every single one!)
Went for some cool performances (these are some highlights):
- Mateus Asato (a private event – his trio performed). Great to catch him live again, so inspiring.
- Video Game Orchestra (and also did some behind the scenes videos + interviews/lesson video)
- Julian Moreen at Alexis – to catch my former student Andrew Cheng perform.
- CHON (what a great show)
- JUMERO & Darren Ashley album launch (such great musicians)
- Final Fantasy concert conducted by Arnie Roth (really happy to catch up with him)
- My jazz guitar student, Joe’s first jazz show
- Nadhira’s EP launch (really cool event with surround sound)
What do I meme when I meme
I made a grand total of 40 memes this year.
I compiled it into an eBook just to amuse myself. I even made a cover for fun.
Most of it is on my Instagram here: https://instagram.com/azsamad
And I think that’s it for 2019 highlights.
Things I learned:
- I can’t do everything
- Ride on the momentum, do stuff quickly and complete the project
- Have fun while doing stuff
- It’s important to enjoy the process
- Always test
- Ship version 0.1 quickly
- I didn’t release any new singles or EPs or albums this year. It was more on the educational stuff. So maybe new music?
- Write non-music books but more on the creative process or learning. I have 2 book drafts on this that ended up unreleased this year. Maybe 2020?
- I’ve never been to Japan. Would like to go to Japan.
- I want an Axe-Fx III and a Tim Henson signature guitar
- Thinking of doing more gear review videos like what I did with the Boss SY-1
- Would like to do more talks & panel discussions on music/music career/creativity
- Would like to subscribe to Ben Settle & Matt Furey’s paid newsletters (they are so good at what they do!)
- Travel more & eat more yummy food with Raw Chef Yin
- Coach or do consultations on social media/marketing + copywriting for musicians/creatives
- Release more instructional videos
- Maybe work on a limited time online course or subscription site
- Work on actually getting to go to NAMM in 2021 (I’ve never been!)
- Do more guitar clinics/talks (anyone want to hire me for this?)
I’m sure I have more ideas but this is it for now. Boy, that took longer to write than I thought. Thanks for reading!
TLDR: 2019 was more awesome now that I reflected on it. I am grateful for all the experiences.
Dec 31, 2019, 6:47 PM
PS – Thanks to everyone who made 2019 amazing. Special thanks to Yin who was there every single step of the way & my parents who have to hear me practice chromatic exercises and bebop lines all the time. You all the real MVP.