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Jamming studios level up with recording services, performances

Jamming studios are more than just a sound-proofed space for musicians to practise - they now also offer recording services and performance venues

Jamming studios around Singapore are a boon for the many hobbyist and amateur musicians here.

After all, how many can afford to crank up the volume from the comfort of their own homes without incurring the ire of the neighbours?

And while many studios have opened and closed over the past few decades, it is estimated that there are more than 30 of these commercial jamming studios in operation all over Singapore.

Recognising that many musicians here want to do more than just jam, many of the studios here have also evolved and offer recording services and, more recently, their space as performance venues.

Take the month-old The Music Parlour in Peninsula Shopping Centre, billed as a place for musicians here to play and hang out.

 

A far cry from the utilitarian studio, the place offers more than just a sound-proofed space for amateur and professional musicians to practise.

With its spiffy design and cosy atmosphere, the place offers three studios which can be opened up to become one large rehearsal or gig space.

Since its opening in February, the place has already hosted not just jams but also intimate gigs by acclaimed Singapore musicians such as singer-songwriters Charlie Lim and Dru Chen.

Acts such as jazz outfit The Society have also recorded there.

Owners Jaye Foo, 24, and Justin Mendoza, 26, are musicians themselves and envision the place as a "musical haven" for musicians and bands, as well as music fans.

Says Mr Foo: "It's important for us that The Music Parlour is not just a jamming studio. We want to create a place where musicians and music lovers can come together, hang out and enjoy music."

Another popular spot for musicians to jam here is Lithe Paralogue, which is now on hiatus.

It closed its space in Kampong Glam recently and owners Tarmizee Taksen, 31, and Anvea Chieu, 30, are still scouting for a new place to reopen the studio.

But since its beginnings in 2009, the place had used its space for rehearsals, recordings, gigs and as a venue for boutique music museum the Museum of Independent Music, Singapore.

It has also branched out into the record company business and runs Lithe Records, an independent record label with releases by home-grown indie bands such as Forests and sub:shaman.

Another popular jamming studio in town, Live AMP Studios in Chinatown Plaza, is also offering more than just rehearsal space.

Its owners, amateur musicians and brothers Roland Diano, 38, and Ernest Diano, 40, organise occasional gigs for its customers at local pubs and clubs.

For regular customer Joe Tan, who plays bass in funk-rock band Twelve, the studio, which has its beginnings in 2010, stands out from the rest because of its "good vibes".

"The people there are always friendly and attentive to our needs. Plus the location is central and the equipment here is great," says the 34-year-old, who holds a day job as a recruiter.

Then there are the old-school favourites such as Wee Lee Music Centre in Geylang.

Despite being a no-frills jamming studio which offers only rehearsal rooms and equipment rental, the place has been a favourite of amateur and professional musicians since it opened its doors in 1990.

Wee Lee is run by Mr Sam Ng, 49, and is a branch of another old favourite, BMC Music Centre, opened by his father Ng Seng Keow in 1983.

While he has seen many of his contemporaries close, Ng junior says his business has survived because of loyal customers.

These include part-time singer Nor Ah Shikah, 45, who has jammed there almost every week for the past two decades.

One of the two singers in the quintet Vibes, which play pop, rock and Top 40s music, she says one of the biggest factors in choosing Wee Lee is its location right next to Aljunied MRT station.

More importantly, her band members have become so used to the amplifiers and other equipment in Wee Lee that they find it awkward to practise in other studios.

"They have all the old models that we need.

"Our guitarist, for example, is very particular about the type of amplifier he wants and Wee Lee has it.

"When we go to the newer studios, they tend to have all these new models that we're not used to."

Tucked in a corner of Parklane Shopping Mall in Selegie Road at the edge of town is another long-lasting jamming institution, TNT Music Productions, which opened in 1989.

Many notable veteran bands in the alternative music scene have honed their skills there and owner K.K. Wong, known affectionately as Ah Boy, remembers fondly musicians such as Leslie Low from The Observatory and Humpback Oak and Pann Lim from Concave Scream jamming there in their school uniforms back in the early 1990s.

Bands such as LC93, made up of veteran musicians from the Singapore hardcore scene, still jam there weekly.

TNT is known also for its recording and gig equipment rental services.

Mr Wong, 53, has built up such a solid reputation with the TNT brand that he has received several offers over the years to buy his business.

"I don't want to sell TNT because I am worried that the new owners might be too commercially driven and money-minded that they sacrifice quality and provide equipment that doesn't sound good.

"I don't want to spoil the name."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2016, with the headline 'Crank up the volume'. Print Edition | Subscribe