What's In... Ruth Ling's studio
Published on May 16, 2014 5:00 AM
Ruth Ling was four years old when she discovered the piano.
Now 33, she has composed music for Singapore's National Day Parade, toured with singers such as A-mei and Stephanie Sun and worked on many musicals including Fried Rice Paradise.
When Ling was four, her parents encouraged her to dabble in ballet, swimming, art and music, among other activities. She did not take to ballet and swimming, but quickly discovered her aptitude for music.
As a piano student at the Yamaha Music School, she was chosen to join its Junior Special Advanced Course for just a dozen students.
Her parents had never taken music lessons themselves but gave Ling their wholehearted support.
Her mother would sit with her while she practised. Meanwhile, her father encouraged her by buying equipment for her, helping to set up a computer and some sound modules.
While studying at Raffles Girls' Secondary and Raffles Junior College, Ling won several songwriting competitions.
After completing her A levels, she continued her studies at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston in the United States. This was where she truly came into her own.
"It opened me up to the world of American and Latin music and formed the roots of my musicality," she said.
There, she absorbed jazz, funk and Latin American music. No surprise then that she loves visiting Brazil, Colombia and Spain.
She said of Berklee: "The competition is truly friendly, and every musician I meet is like family. I still keep in touch with many of them."
She graduated summa cum laude, the highest honour achievable. After graduating, she paid the bills by doing pop music arrangements, building her reputation with each job.
Berklee also taught her the importance of making connections, so although she would rather spend a quiet night at home reading books or watching movies, she behaves like a "self-taught extrovert".
"Prior to college, I was fairly shy. I would never send out a demo or approach a producer for fear of rejection. In the US, I quickly picked up the Western approach of being bold and confident, and I think this has been an advantage to my music."
With a laugh, she added: "Studying overseas also made me work on an accent other than Singlish."
Ling had her big break in 2004 when TCR music station, a local event organiser specialising in Xinyao and Taiwanese folk songs, invited her to be a pianist at the Chong Feng Xinyao Concert, before asking her to become music director. Things snowballed from there and she became the assistant music director on Dick Lee's musical, Fried Rice Paradise, in the 2010 production.
Asked what she considers her proudest achievement to date, she names the 2010 National Day Parade segment for which she composed and arranged the music.
"I had the creative freedom to put together a six-minute segment involving 600 women as well as vocalists like Pat Chan and Vanessa Fernandez," she said.
"It was very meaningful, as the segment was about celebrating women and it was on a national platform."
In 2012, she worked with British musicians George Stiles and Anthony Drewe on the musical The Three Little Pigs. It proved very popular, playing in many countries and was adapted to Mandarin.
"This showed me that my music was of an international standard. Sometimes, we just need that motivation," she said.
Her most recent work was the music for the Singapore Repertory Theatre's play, The Merchant Of Venice, which runs till May 25.
She spent more than $1,000 on audio samples and loops to make sure she could produce music that felt just right for the play, she said.
"It is unlike anything I have composed. The intense emotions within the play coupled with the director's vision of setting the play in modern-day Singapore, makes me feel like I'm writing a soundtrack for our lives today," she said.
"To be able to experience the music that I've composed in conjunction with a world-class creative team is something I don't take for granted."
She launched her independent record label, Red Roof Records, in October 2012. She said she did so to help the music industry in Singapore to mature.
"Red Roof Records is in its infant stages but the vision for the company is to produce quality pop hits of tomorrow. I want to pair great songs with great singers and great marketing."
This article was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on May 14, 2014.
WHO: Ruth Ling, 33, is a Singapore musician and composer who has toured with stars such as A-mei and Stefanie Sun. She has worked on musicals and plays including The Three Little Pigs, Twelfth Night and Othello. She started her own recording label, Red Roof Records, in 2012.
HER STUDIO: Located near Holland Village, it was started in February last year. It can fit up to six people comfortably and is good for band rehearsals or teaching sessions.
APPLE MACBOOK PRO
I use ProTools for everything.
It's the audio software that most professional studios use. I have two MacBook Pros; I use the other one when I travel.
SHADOW HILLS INDUSTRIES EQUINOX
This recording console cost $6,000. It gives beautiful sound and was made by a boutique designer in the US.
FOCAL PROFESSIONAL SM9
These are my main speakers. They cost about $8,000 per pair and sound amazing.
These were my main speakers before the Focal SM9s. I used them for a long time and they are very good for their price.