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Getting To Know Our Instructors - David Khor

If you have come for lessons at Ritmo Music Studio, you may know who some of our instructors are. But if you haven’t and you are considering learning music at Ritmo Music Studio, we have a get-to-know series interview with our instructors. Knowing who our instructors are and what makes them passionate about what they do, will help you decide on which musical instrument you want to pick up. It also gets you closer to our instructors and helps you enjoy your musical learning with us!

Interview with David Khor, our acoustic guitar teacher.

1. When did you find out that you are interested in music?

I don't think that there ever was a time when I found out that I was interested in music because it's been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember.

2. When did you start learning to play music? Which was the first musical instrument you learnt and why did you pick this instrument?

I started playing music on the piano sometime before I learnt to speak properly haha. I remember sitting at the piano, and my mom, who was a piano teacher, asked me if I could do the major scale… and I did 1-2 octaves of each key she asked, by experimenting and figuring out the appropriate keys to press by ear. Apparently, I had learnt the tones of the solfege because I was at all the piano lessons and practices that my mom had done before I was born. However, it wasn't as much a conscious choice as much as it was the most indestructible instrument around at that age - I also remember that my mom had a guitar, a trumpet, a harmonica, a violin, a dizi, several recorders - all of which had been weaponized over the years…

However, the first instrument I chose of my own volition, was the acoustic guitar, at 15. I heard an anime intro theme featuring the acoustic guitar on TvMobile, back in 2003-2004. Thinking back, it was just simple strumming of some sustained chords. But it sounded so lovely at that time, and that was what made me decide to choose the acoustic guitar as my primary instrument.

3. What made you pursue a music career?

I made the decision to pursue a music career (as compared to a conventional career) when I graduated from university simply because the career prospects were better. At that point in time, a fresh graduate from university with my degree was expected to earn around 2.3-2.5k a month; however, I was already earning more from music at that point in time.

4. Becoming a musician is one of the least travelled career paths in Singapore, what gave you the courage, and were there any obstacles?

In 2008, I started out not even knowing that musicians were entitled to pay for performances! My first two professional gigs (working with another musician, with a set-list) were duly remunerated with a pot of curry chicken each. However, there weren't many obstacles apart from the initial lack of knowledge on how the industry worked; my mom had been teaching music successfully for years when I decided to work as a musician.

5. Do you have another educationL background besides music? (such as Business Admin or Sports etc.)

Yes, I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.

5. What is your favourite genre of music? Which are your favourite songs and why?

My favourite genre of music changes every few months haha. I think it's because of being exposed to different song requests from various walks of life all the time. However, one song which has remained in my Spotify playlist for years is Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas. It reminds me to stay strong and persevere, no matter how bad the situation might be.

6. Are you a fan of any musicians? Why are you drawn to their music?

I particularly admire Jay Chou's creativity in song-writing, Tommy Emmanuel's technical skill on the acoustic guitar, JJ Lin's vocal skill and music arrangements, and Allie Soh's vocal tone. They're musicians from very different backgrounds, but they all do things that I can't do - for now.

7. How did you start teaching the acoustic guitar and ukulele at Ritmo Music Studio?

I happened to meet Jennifer a few years back at a primary school, and we got along well. When she asked if I would be keen to teach at Ritmo, it was only natural to agree!

8. Between the acoustic guitar and the piano, which one is your favourite?

Between the piano and acoustic guitar, I find that each instrument has its own unique strengths - the guitar can be strummed, can utilize string instrument techniques such as vibrato, harmonics, slides, and bends, whilst the piano has a wider range, a richer tone, and the ability to play more than six notes at any given time. I used to strongly prefer the guitar, because of the expression available to the instrument. However, now that it's my primary instrument for teaching and performances, I find myself playing the piano for leisure a lot more.

9. What would you say to a beginner who is torn between picking up the acoustic guitar or the piano?

I'd first show the beginner examples of professional musicians playing the instruments at a high end, in professional settings, to let them see what they can hope to achieve with their choice of instrument. Then, I'd advise them of the strengths and weaknesses of each instrument that they might not know about. A piano has a richer tone and wider range, but less expressivity than a guitar; a guitar's strings and chords are easily accessible, but it hurts to press them at the start. A guitar is a much more portable than a piano, but it's also vastly softer. A piano costs more. People expect classical pieces when a piano is played in a family-and-friends setting; they conversely expect strum-and-sing style playing for the guitar.

10. Any advice for aspiring musicians looking to take the same path as you did?

Most aspiring musicians nowadays are younger individuals, who believe that talent and passion alone will bring them gigs, a means of earning a living, and friends in high places. However, that's not the case; it's the fleeting beauty of youth and a temporary cultural relevance which has captivated the audience then and there. To derive 100% of your income from music, and still manage to afford a decent, sustainable lifestyle… you need to put in the work.

First and foremost, listen. To the songs, to the people making requests, to the fellow musicians on stage, or risk being left behind, out of time and place. And then, practice. Practice your note/chart reading, practice your hard skills like scales, vocal tone, and techniques, for the day you're put on stage and are surprised with an impromptu song request. Practice your social skills and graces, for the day you meet a Very Important Patron who truly appreciates your music and will reciprocate with a large amount of monetary support, and/or by sharing your music to his very extensive social circle.

11. Do you have any goals you wish to fulfill as a musician?

Right now, I'd like to have my live gigs back first haha. But in the long run, I'd like to be able to play more genres of music fluently. I'd like there to be more recognition (and administrative organization) for musicianship as a career in Singapore, and I also think that the general appreciation of music in the populace of Singapore could use a boost.

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