Dance Upon The Moon Tonight, updated (a tribute to 月亮代表我的心)

Some months ago (years ago?) I started to record English versions of my favorite Chinese pop and love songs. They weren’t very good. So I stopped.

Since then I’ve been learning how to play an instrument and sing at the same time. And have tried to improve my singing voice. So I’m starting to share again.

The English lyrics are written by yours truly, they’re heavily inspired by the original. Nothing in the performance is edited or produced. More songs to come!

Dance Upon The Moon Tonight
Original: 月亮代表我的心 by 邓丽君

You ask how much I long for you
If what we have is true
All I want is you
All you need is to
Watch the moon shine bright tonight

You ask how much I long for you
If what we have is true
My heart longs for you
Your heart knows it’s true
Watch the moon shine bright tonight

The way you looked at night
Stole my heart with just a glance
The way your hand touched mine
As the moon lit our first dance

You ask how much I long for you
If what we have is true
Wait for starry skies
Sway beneath the light
Dance upon the moon tonight

See the starry skies
Sway beneath the light
Dance upon the moon tonight

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Strawberry Wine: music and memory and what’s awesome about country

When I hear Strawberry Wine I think about my first girlfriend. It wasn’t “our song”, but it was my song about her. The first love of my life, we had one of those cliche teen romances, furious and full and blind. The song came to resemble our story. Its verses and chords carried memories of longing and heartbreak and nostalgia.

I hadn’t heard it in years, because no one in LA or SF willingly listens to country. But a book I’m reading, Writing Better Lyrics [Kindle], cites Strawberry Wine as an example of great songwriting. And then everything came rushing back. Hope you like it. It’s why country music rocks my listening socks. It’s pure. No genre tells a better story.

Lyrics

He was working through college
On my grandpa’s farm
I was thirsting for knowledge
And he had a car
Yeah, I was caught somewhere between a woman and a child
One restless summer we found love growing wild
On the banks of the river on a well-beaten path
It’s funny how those memories they last

Like strawberry wine and seventeen
The hot July moon saw everything
My first taste of love, oh bittersweet
The green on the vine
Like strawberry wine

I still remember
When thirty was old
My biggest fear was September
When he had to go
A few cards and letters and one long distance call
We drifted away like the leaves in the fall
But year after year I come back to this place
Just to remember the taste

Of strawberry wine and seventeen
The hot July moon saw everything
My first taste of love, oh bittersweet
The green on the vine
Like strawberry wine

The fields have grown over now
Years since they’ve seen a plow
There’s nothing time hasn’t touched
Is it really him or the loss of my innocence
I’ve been missing so much
Yeah

Strawberry wine and seventeen
The hot July moon saw everything
My first taste of love, oh bittersweet
And green on the vine
Like strawberry wine
And seventeen
The hot July moon saw everything
My first taste of love, oh bittersweet
The green on the vine
Like strawberry wine
Strawberry wine
Strawberry wine

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Cupid, an English version of 情非得已 by Harlem Yu

Song three, week four: Cupid, an English interpretation of Harlem Yu’s Qing Fei De Yi. In Chinese it’s called 情非得已 and it’s a classic, a theme song of Meteor Garden which is like a Taiwanese version of Friends meets 90210.

I’m aiming for 52 songs in 52 weeks, inspired by ZHU. This is song 3. Song one was Fairy Tale and song two was Dance Upon The Moon. Here are improved versions of those two.

Cupid

Here are both the English and Chinglish versions

In general my voice is sounding better, but it’s still a longggg way from where I want it to be. After next week’s song, I’m going to start playing instruments as well, and start YouTube too!

The Chinglish version:

The English only version

English lyrics

I can’t wipe this goofy smile off my face
Got a feeling even work can’t erase
Every text from you
Helps get me through
A job that’s out of Office Space

I check my phone it’s not even 10:15
But all I can do is stare at my screen
Cause when the work day ends, I get to see you again
Haven’t felt like this since I was sixteen

Chorus

Oh Cupid’s really done a number on me
She hit me with the feels that I can’t fight
Just when I thought I could do as I please
She’s got me hanging on your every reply

Oh Cupid’s really done a number on me
Went and shot me like a bad cliche
Just when I was used to being free
Love’s got me so numb I can’t feel my face

For details on how I create the songs, read my Fairy Tale post.

Thanks for listening! I’m doing this one-song-a-week thing because of what I’ve learned starting startups: you’ll never be 100% happy with your product, and it’s good to be a little embarrassed of what you share, because it pushes you to improve. Plus, music is just such a social medium, it’s meant to be experienced together. And I hope others will be inspired to create their own unique interpretations of these awesome songs.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Trying to improve, a little each day: Fairy Tale and Dance Upon The Moon

Here are new, and hopefully somewhat better, versions of Fairy Tale and Dance Upon The Moon. Later this week I’ll release the third song, tentatively called Cupid.

Fairy Tale, version 2

Dance Upon The Moon Tonight, version 2

How to sing better

I’m trying to improve my voice. To sing better. The biggest obstacles to becoming a better singer, from teachers and listeners and my own judgment (often the harshest), are nasality and staying on pitch.

Nasality is simpler to understand, for me. I speak nasally, and after 30 years it’s become quite the natural behavior, a bit of a stubborn habit. A technique I’m using to reduce nasal singing comes from this Reddit thread: pinch your nostrils while singing and notice when there is air pressure against your nostrils/nasal passage. Change your sound to avoid this pressure. The pressure comes from air trying to get into your nasal passage and produce a nasal sound. Of course, you need to open your nasal passageway to clearly pronounce the letters n, m, and ng (as in sin, mom, and sing). This is why when you have a stuffy nose, it can be so hard to say “I’m not sounding like myself now”. It’s the n’s and m’s and ng’s. But you don’t need an open nasal cavity to make a clear sound for other consonants, or any vowel.

The guilty party is the soft palate. You lower your soft palate to open the nasal passage and allow air to flow in to pronounce n, m, and ng. But a lowered soft palate is also the culprit for producing that Fran Drescher sound. So if you’re singing the word “mom”, you need to learn to lower your soft palate to pronounce the “m”, then quickly raise it to get a clean, non-nasal “o” sound. This is my layman’s understanding of the mechanism. There are other variables at play, but this is the big one. In singing pedagogy and vocal science there is a lot of misinformation and half-truths. Even the truths themselves aren’t so long-established or universal. As the old saying goes, it’s not what you don’t know, it’s what you know that ain’t so…

The second problem is staying on pitch. At first blush this may seem simpler than nasality. After all, a pitch is a note, and to stay on pitch is to sing the proper note. But on closer inspection this is a thorny problem. A trickier one – for me – than nasality. With nasal singing there is a primary culprit, and a straightforward fix (raise the soft palate, create resonance in your head and away from your nasal cavity). But pitch is more complicated. First, it’s not just about hitting a note. Take for example the notes F and F-sharp (alternately expressed as G-flat). You would think, being off-pitch means you’re singing an F instead of an F-sharp, or a G-flat instead of a G. But on closer inspection, as I recently learned, there are 100 degrees of difference between the F and the F-sharp, and then again between the F-sharp and the G. Each degree is called a cent. If you intend to sing G and you’re off by a few cents, the human ear won’t notice the difference. But let’s say you intend to sing a G and you’re 20 cents too low. You’re only 20% of the way down to a G-flat, but you’ll sound, in singing parlance, flat. So you must train your ear to recognize these small, fractional differences between notes. And train your voice to hit the pitch bullseye that it intends. This is what makes clear singing so beautiful and pleasing, because the appreciative listener recognizes that subtle perfection, even if they can’t express or imitate it. This is also what makes it so diabolical, so imprecise. Like art.

And there’s more. Beyond just hitting a note within the proper cents-range-bullseye, several variables affect whether you get there and whether you can sustain the note. If your muscles are tight, you might reach past the note. If you don’t have proper breath support, you might sound flat. And throw into the mix issues like resonance space (are you trying to produce the sound in your chest or your head or a mix), the note’s duration, how the note ends or transitions to another note, and whether you sing the note with vibrato or without. Fun fun.

This isn’t an excuse. I just thought it helpful to explain – as much for myself as any reader – what I’ve learned in the singing journey and where my priorities lie.

Ultimately, I’m enjoying it. And I intend to keep practicing, keep improving, keep sharing. And thanks to everyone who’s been listening and commenting and sharing ideas and songs. I will continue to sing the same songs over and over and, if they sound better, to publish them as a record of progress. Sorta like how software gets better: fix bugs, release, add features, release, fix more bugs, etc.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Dance Upon The Moon, an English version of 月亮代表我的心 by 邓丽君

Song two, week two: Dance Upon The Moon, an English interpretation of Theresa Teng’s The Moon Represents My Heart. In Chinese it’s called 月亮代表我的心 by 邓丽君.

In my mind’s ear I can still hear it being played by my parents on long car rides back when cassette tapes were still popular. An oldie and all-time classic. Heck, even Bon Jovi covered it!

I’m trying for 52 songs in 52 weeks, inspired by ZHU. This is song 2. Song one was Fairy Tale.

Dance Upon The Moon

Here are both the English and the Chinglish (part Chinese, part English) versions

I think it sounds better than week 1’s Fairy Tale, but still pitchy (not using any pitch correction software, despite being almost too tempted). Lots to work on. And I’m not even performing on piano yet! (although this will come in week 4 or 5)

The Chinglish version:

I think this one sounds better, and it’s also a semi-tone higher

The English only version

English lyrics

You ask how much I long for you
If what we have is true
All I want is you
All you need is to
Watch the moon shine bright tonight

You ask how much I long for you
If what we have is true
My heart longs for you
Your heart knows the truth
Watch the moon shine bright tonight~

The way you looked at night
Stole my heart with just a glance
The way your hand touched mine
As the moon lit our first dance

You ask how much I long for you
If what we have is true
Wait for starry skies
Sway beneath the light
Dance upon the moon tonight

For details on how I create the tracks, read my Fairy Tale post.

Thanks for listening! Feedback is always appreciated and I appreciate those who have reached out with thoughts or questions or offers to help. I’m doing this one-song-a-week thing because of what I’ve learned starting startups: you’ll never be 100% happy with your product, and it’s good to be a little embarrassed of what you share, because it pushes you to improve. Plus, music is just such a social medium, it’s meant to be shared and experienced together.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.