Guitarists of Singapore (GOS) - Bernard Ng




How did you get acquainted with guitar playing?


Do you believe in destiny? We had to indicate CCA preferences back in Secondary 1 and it was compulsory to choose a musical group. So I put down Guitar Ensemble as my LAST choice and viola! that's what I got.


Intimidated by the hefty price tag of the guitar, I approached the teacher-in-charge to withdraw from the CCA. The only thing I got was a dressing-down. And so I stayed put. But it didn't take too long for me to fall head over heels for the beautiful instrument.


Describe your first experience playing on a guitar.


The first time I laid hands on a guitar, I thought it felt pretty intuitive. That plucking the strings produced sounds and pressing on each fret gave a different pitch. So I attempted to play the melodies of some of the songs I knew as the instructor went round the classroom to tune every student’s guitars.


What is the best thing about being a guitarist?


Having a soul mate who would stick by you (literally) and be close at heart (literally again!) through the myriad of seasons in life. 


Describe your most memorable guitar-related incident.


Once in JC, I accidentally gripped a bunsen-burner-heated test tube and my index (fretting) finger became blistered across. And I was due to play in a concert that was one week away. So I burst the blister and continued practising but the skin peeled off exposing the red and raw flesh. Thankfully by the day of the concert, the flesh had dried up sufficiently that I could play with only moderate pain.


How many guitars do you currently own?


Three. Asahi classical/ Walden D570 dreadnought/ Maestro SA-3 medium jumbo. I inherited two more from my wife: Yamaha CG-150SA classical and Sul-g ukulele.


First guitar: Russell classical, bought in 1995 for $150.


Favourite guitar brand/ model: Yamaha L16 Series! These guitars are handcrafted, full-solid with Engelmann Spruce top, Rosewood back and side maple binding, gold tuners and price tag of below S$1000. They sound lush with rich overtones, playability is great, in my opinion, has the best value in the market.


Favourite guitarist: Igor Presnyakov. So much soul in his playing.


First song you learned to play on guitar: A Japanese folk song with a very simple melody. The title totally escapes me now but has a 'flower' in it. The first song that I worked really hard at was 陈汉玮, 蔡礼莲 - 关怀方式.


Song you love to play most on guitar: If by Bread. The chords are relatively simple; the plucking pattern is pretty standard (p m i a m i a m); but it sounds so oh-so-elegant when played! In the mid-90s, this song was like the anthem for guitarists in Anglican High School.


Most difficult song you have played on guitar: I don't have one in particular but my nemeses are songs with loose rhythms e.g. Jazz or swing. Being a left-dominant, my brain craves patterns and structure so such songs absolutely unnerves me.


Tips for aspiring guitarists: When faced with any playing difficulties, be it changing chords, new plucking/ strumming pattern, running notes, one trick that works for me is to play it with the tempo exaggeratedly slow. Repeat until the brain builds muscle memory.


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