How do I become...: A composer and producer?

by Suzieana Uda Nagu (New Straits Times, 29 Oct 2006)

You do not need to know how to read musical notes to write songs. Just ask composer and producer Audi Mok.

"I never had any formal music education and I cannot read music," says Mok, who has written and produced hit songs for local music industry’s heavyweights such as Ning Baizura, Ferhad, Jaclyn Victor, Vince Chong, Zahid and Radhi from OAG.

Even without music education, Mok has been composing songs since he was in school. At 18, one of his songs was selected for the solo album of the late Seha or Norsehah Abu Bakar, former lead singer of ‘80s group Freedom.

Writing songs fulfilled Mok but he never saw it as a potential career.

After finishing secondary school, he went to the United States to do business studies and worked for a software development company in Malaysia upon his return.

After three years, he left the company to set up his own business in the information technology field.

"But work was boring me to death so I started writing music again for fun," he says.

Soon, one of the songs Mok wrote for Ferhad entitled Pernah became a chart-topper. That and other events which followed made Mok realise that making music truly made him happy.

"After Pernah, I was fortunate to have the support of Ahmad Izham Omar (then Positive Tone managing director) who gave me opportunities to showcase my talent. We did remixes for Innuendo and I also worked with (then upcoming) artistes such as Reefa.

"The experience boosted my confidence and gave me a sense of what the market needed. I also saw the areas in the industry which needed variety. From there, I became more active and involved in the music business," says Mok, who recently wrote the original songs for Suki, Faizal and Alif, the three finalists of reality talent show One in A Million.

To Mok, knowledge of music is not the be all and end all of making good music. He believes that his lack of formal music education is an advantage and not a handicap.

For one, it has made him more open to unconventional ways of making music.

"I have had other (composers) tell me that I cannot use this or that chord. To me, music is all about the melody. It is not a technical process and we should not let knowledge of music limit our creativity," he says.

Mok does not play any particular musical instrument so he creates his music using a computer.

"Technology has helped me transform my ideas into music. These days, people can create an entire album using computers. I think now is a liberating time for anyone to express themselves musically," he adds.

As a composer, Mok requires a lot of patience and creativity.

"It is a challenge to convince people to like your work. So, I have to keep my music as well as my personality interesting.

"As for being a producer, you have to be a ‘people person’. This is important because you want the experience of working with an artiste to be pleasant. If you do things wrongly, the artiste may not want to work with you again," says Mok, explaining that a producer is the person who arranges songs submitted by a composer and puts the final touches to an album.

Mok believes in understanding the personality of the artiste he is working with.

"It is not just about identifying their vocal ranges. Composers and producers must know the singer’s personal style in order to write songs that fit their characters. Songs that best suit the singer tend to do better on the charts."

Mok advises budding songwriters and producers eager to break into the music industry to have a clear idea of what their brand of music is.

"To make it in the music scene, your product must be different and outstanding. So ask yourself these questions: why do you think you are a good composer and will it be easy for you to sell another ballad in this industry?

"Starting out is always tough, so never give up."

* Audi Mok welcomes questions from budding songwriters and producers. He can be contacted at audimok@yahoo.com

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