Sound On - Phoebe Lee - Post Image-min

Sound On – Episode 3: Phoebe Lee

In Episode 3 of Sound On we chat with one of our favourites, Miss Phoebe Lee. Phoebe has played such a key role in the development of Sneaky Keys. Working closely with Anika to create the music and apply it to our Sneaky Music way of teaching.

If you want to catch it on the run, get it wherever you get your podcasts.

 

Phoebe:

You play piano, then you have to take the exams. It’s not just got that.

Anika:

Yes. It’s because it’s got that classical history, so it sort of sways that way.

Phoebe:

Yeah.

Anika:

And there’s a lot of old school teachers that I think are very, for lack of a better word, snobby.

Phoebe:

Yeah.

Anika:

Nice.

Anika:

Welcome to Sound On, episode four, with Phoebe Lee.

Phoebe:

Yay.

Anika:

Phoebe has been a massive part of Sneaky Keys and part of the whole process of how we evolved and how we transitioned and rebranded last year. And so, to introduce Phoebe, Phoebe is a composer and a producer and all around wizard. So yeah, without making you embarrassed, I just wanted to talk about… Well, we’ve got a few things we can talk about today. Your experience with music and then what drew you to composing and arranging and producing. And then also, I guess, how we met and then how we came up with the whole Sneaky Keys evolution.

Phoebe:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anika:

So I guess we’ll dive back into early, young Phoebe days. And what was your earliest experience with music instrument and what drew you to it, I suppose?

Phoebe:

Okay. So I started taking classical piano lessons, private lessons actually, because piano is always the first instrument people would go to, especially in Asian country.

Anika:

Yep. [inaudible 00:01:51] you grew up in Malaysia.

Phoebe:

Yeah, in Malaysia. So, I never liked any of my private lessons because I didn’t like the idea of it’s all about exams, it’s all about certificates because, “Oh, today I’m going to lessons. What am I going to do? Practice the piano pieces, those three pieces.” I remember very well. So, and then, so my piano lessons when I was a kid, had been on and off for a while and I knew that deep down in my heart that I’m passionate in music, but at the time nobody told me that music is more than just taking exams.

Anika:

Yeah. You’ve got a disconnect with what you wanted to do and what was available.

Phoebe:

Yeah.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

So I didn’t know there was music production, there was audio engineering. I just thought, if you want to take music, you have to go through the exams. So nobody tell me that.

Anika:

Yep.

Phoebe:

And then, until I went to college after high school, and then I found out that, wow, music, there’s another world in music. And that’s how I was introduced to a music production.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

And then, I was in love with it. Like when we first started using the DAW, the composing software, I was like, “Wow. How come nobody told me that when I was a kid?” That was so much fun. So yeah. And then, when I first got the software and then just played around with the MIDI, piano track and just come up with simple chords, come with melody. And that’s how I started the composting side. And then, yeah. And then I go deeper and deeper and I learn more stuff by myself. And then, yeah. And then just ended up-

Anika:

Yeah, it is, it’s a process of discovery, self discovery as well. And I guess, you just have to start at some point and I guess, having access to those tools, then it opened up a whole new world of your music knowledge, applying that to build layers and create sounds. And then from there, each time you would be challenging yourself to try and do a different style or that sort of thing, and including vocals as well.

Phoebe:

Yeah.

Anika:

Yeah. Yeah. Very cool. And then, so you were living in Boston. Do you think that was a real light bulb moment, where your world opened up with music?

Phoebe:

Yeah, a hundred percent. When I went to Berkeley in Boston, that’s where I started to get to meet new people and then collaboration, this and that. It was so much fun, that I wish I could do that when I was a kid.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

Yeah.

Anika:

Yeah. It’s sad that it’s reserved for that college level.

Phoebe:

Yeah. Exactly, that’s not fair.

Anika:

Yeah. I think that’s why we want to do that here as well, is giving kids 10 to 12 years old, early exposure to garage band or something easy to get into that’s free, because then it’s more than just learn this song for the sake of learning this song. Even though they get to do lots of fun songs more than not doing exam songs, but rather than just learning to read the sheet music, it’s like, “Okay, let’s apply that knowledge.” And they’re doing lots of different chords and understanding how they relate to each other and then building drum tracks and that sort of thing, to open it up, so it’s not so heavy piano.

Phoebe:

Yes.

Anika:

It’s like, “Okay, I can use the piano to make all these things, with the mini keyboard.” But yeah, I think… And seeing the kids respond so well to that, it confirms that they actually want to do this, they actually want to learn how to create their own music, because they aspire to be like the people they hear on radio or wherever else they’re listening really.

Phoebe:

Yeah.

Anika:

But yeah, okay. And then, so with that, obviously you’ve gone into doing some teaching and what drew you to passing on that knowledge? Or do you think it was the fact that you didn’t have that exposure to that learning style when you were younger?

Phoebe:

Yeah, definitely. It’s because of my childhood experience, because I want the kids to know that there’s another world that’s not just exams. You could do so many things.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

So yeah. I just want to pass on my knowledge to the kids when they are young and not just find it out when they go to college.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

Yeah.

Anika:

And usually it’s then, at the later end, trying to just figure it out for themselves.

Phoebe:

Yes.

Anika:

Yeah. Where you can guide them a bit more now and… Yeah. Make it really fun.

Phoebe:

[inaudible 00:06:40].

Anika:

Yeah. That’s cool. And so, where do you want to take your music now, into the future, post-grad? Obviously you started doing some TV projects as well.

Phoebe:

TV… Yeah. So, post-grad, I currently don’t have any plans yet for post-graduate, but more like developing my own music productions, like my reputation in the music industry.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

And also, I want to still be able to teach because I really want to pass on the knowledge that I have, that I learned from college.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

Yeah. So, yeah.

Anika:

Yeah. I think there’s something with musicians, that we like to share our knowledge. It’s like part of the storytelling aspect of music and you want to share the joy with other people and take away the burden of trying to figure it out for themselves. Obviously there’s an element of that, you always need to explore and do it in your own time, but to pass on the wisdom and the little cheat sheets on how to save time, I think is a big thing.

Anika:

That actually reminds me of when I was learning, when I was younger and it also was a private setting and very dull and boring, with a little old lady. Bless her heart, she was lovely, but I just didn’t have that connection. And always felt like piano in particular, was a solo venture and a bit of a disconnect.

Anika:

But when I was older, when I left high school and I was still playing, that was my real experimental phase of trying to learn things for myself and little cheat sheets of, well, first of all, learning chords was something I was never shown. It was always just read each individual note.

Anika:

And then, not learning the relationship between chords and playing in a certain key and jamming with other musicians, I was always so lost. Like, “Oh yeah, cool. Where do I go next? Which notes are in that?” And so that was all very trial and error. Whereas now I’m so passionate about teaching the kids that early, because I felt so lost when I was 18, 19 trying to play with other musicians. So I’m trying to avoid that pain for them in a way. And I think that’s a really good… I think something important for most teachers, is that they just keep doing the same thing that has been done. And it really frustrates me. I think that we need to keep challenging the norms. And if you’ve learned something, that’s going to save people a lot of time and heartache, why would you not share it?

Phoebe:

Share. Exactly.

Anika:

And little tricks around certain things. You don’t find them out until later in life.

Phoebe:

Yes. And also, I want the kids to know that piano… I want them to like piano, because when I was a kid, I hated piano, because I would get slapped on my hand if I play a wrong note. But I want the kids now, to know that to learn piano. Piano, it can be a tool for you to compose music, for you to do other stuff. It’s not just about piano. If you learn piano, you get to do cool songs, you get to do this, get to do that. So I want to change that mindset, that piano is not just about, “Okay, you play piano, then you have to take the exams.”

Anika:

Yes.

Phoebe:

It’s not just about that.

Anika:

It’s because it’s got that classical history, so it sort of sways that way.

Phoebe:

Yeah.

Anika:

And there’s a lot of old school teachers that I think are very, for lack of a better word, snobby, and you have to do it that said old school way, where it’s like, I think we’re a younger generation coming through, being like, “Well why?”

Phoebe:

Why?

Anika:

We didn’t enjoy it. And how many people would you talk to as adults say, “Oh, I did exam… Up to grade eight or whatever, and then I dropped out because it was so stressful and I hated it and I don’t play piano anymore. So sad.” I’m like, “Yeah, that is so sad. You’ve got burnt out and you hated what the material you were playing and now you don’t play piano. That’s the worst outcome ever.” So why do people against learning songs that people want to enjoy and they’re then happy to share it with other people and they’re going to play for the rest of their life. I think, win. That’s great.

Phoebe:

Yes.

Anika:

And like you’re saying though, back to your point, it’s not just piano because plug in a MIDI keyboard and if people don’t know what a MIDI keyboard is, it looks like a piano. It’s a mini piano that you can then plug into your laptop and use all the different sounds. So you can play drums on the MIDI keyboard and you can play guitar. All the layers. I mean, essentially all the Sneaky Keys songs, you were able to make them out of a MIDI keyboard and people don’t realize that. They think that you still have to record live instruments. I mean, obviously that’s nice if you have that luxury and you have a recording studio and all the people that can play all those parts, but essentially if you know to play piano and you know the theory and you understand it, you can then create a whole song.

Phoebe:

Whole song. Yeah. Keyboard is more than just notes, it could be a drum, it could be percussion.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

Yeah. There’s so many things that can be triggered via the keyboard.

Anika:

Yeah. Laptop and a MIDI keyboard and off you go. And maybe a mic to make it a bit jazzy. Add some vocals in.

Phoebe:

Definitely. Yeah.

Anika:

Oh, that’s good. What do you think is a stand out moment… This is a hard question. What do you think was your best aha moment or most rewarding moment, teaching?

Phoebe:

Oh wow. That moment. No, actually I have one in my mind. I remember when the first time I was doing recording for the kids at Sneaky Keys, oh my gosh, that was so much fun. Because-

Anika:

Oh, [inaudible 00:12:20] good vibes.

Phoebe:

Yeah. The reaction, when I first set up the mic and then they put on their headphones, they were like, “Oh, I can hear myself.” That’s so apt, because I’ve recorded so many people, but they’re all adults. And they’re like, “Okay.”

Anika:

Yeah, the excitement’s gone.

Phoebe:

They can’t take advantage of that.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

But when the kids first approached those equipments, the technology, they would be like, “That is so cool.”

Anika:

I can hear my voice. Yeah.

Phoebe:

It kind of reminds me of like, oh, I forgot how fun did it.

Anika:

Yes.

Phoebe:

And then the kids kind of remind me the most important elements of music is to have fun.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

Yeah. So I think that that’s my aha moment, is I want to keep teaching.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

Yeah.

Anika:

I remember that day, because you had four kids around the one mic and they didn’t realize how sensitive the mic is as well. So they’re like popping and right up into it. I’m like, “Just take a step back. It’s okay, it can pick it up.” But they’re like, “I can hear my [inaudible 00:13:20].” “Yes, yes. Calm down.”

Anika:

But it was so good. You’re right. That energy, you feed off that and you want to then give them more, because it’s like, yeah, that is so special, that is something new and it’s not something they’re exposed to every day. So, to give them a little teaser of what they could do. And then obviously, then you went and produced the track and they got to hear it maybe the next week or the week after. And they were like, “That’s us singing? We’re in that track?” “Yeah, that’s you.” And it was just so seamless for them to go from recording and then, the next class, they get to hear it back and it was all polished.

Phoebe:

Yeah.

Anika:

That’s a surreal moment. And I think…

Phoebe:

I can never forget it.

Anika:

Yeah.

Phoebe:

Yeah.

Anika:

And who knows, I hope they still remember that. We’re the ones holding on to it. No, I’m sure that’s a very standout moment because it’s different.

Anika:

All right, so there’s one more thing we need to talk about, and that is the Sneaky Keys dance, or theme song. The classic. This was one of the first songs I think that we had you make, pretty early on, because we needed a theme song to pump the kids up at the beginning of the class and put a dance to it.

Phoebe:

Yep.

Anika:

And the vibe was, we want superhero vibe, influence from a couple of TV shows-

Phoebe:

Ghostbusters.

Anika:

Ghostbusters, a bit of PJ Masks maybe, with the drums and then the suspense and not too long. So it had to be quick. So obviously, we got that brief done and you nailed it. And then came the time to execute and teach the kids how to dance. And I’m not a fantastic dancer. I can do a good two-step, but yeah, we kind of froze a little bit when it came to teaching the class, and the dance fell flat a little bit, but…

Anika:

But then we revised thankfully, and we went with the superhero version. And now we hear that the kids teach the dance to each other on the school bus. So, they spread the word for us, which is great. So we nailed it in the end.

Anika:

But for old times sake, since you’re sadly leaving and going back to Malaysia, but Sneaky Keys dance will live on forever, as will the other tracks. So I think we’re going to have to do a Sneaky Keys dance at the end of this, to embarrass ourselves one more time.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Recent Posts

Scroll to Top