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  • mademyownco

Song - 体谅/Empathy

This project is a little bit different - I had some reflections on the topic of empathy, and then got inspired by a musical documentary, "The Songs We Sang" to express it via a song.

The tricky thing is - I don't have a music background. I learnt the recorder in primary school (like all other kids), and enjoy karaoke. That was the extent of my music experience :D

So here's a short record of how to write a song without a proper music background (not many photos because the project is a bit more intangible):

1) Write the lyrics: the most feasible entry point for me was to start with lyrics (also a great way to express my reflections). Because I didn't have a melody in mind yet, I just had to go with my instincts on the rhythm, so it felt kind of like writing a poem

2) Figure out the melody / tune: I just looked at the words, and tried to sing them out. Might be my karaoke experience (and love for sappy chinese ballads), somehow it kinda just works out. I recorded myself singing it, because I didn't know the notes I was singing :D

3) Figure out the accompanying chords: even though the tune is enough to sing the song, I wanted to make it more "real", but having accompanying background music. Super grateful to Nicholine who helped me put the chords together based on all my scrappy material documenting what I came up with:

My attempts to write down the notes of the song - didn't know what notes they were, but I could count the sequence of the keys on the keyboard when I roughly try to figure out and play the melody. Thanks Nicholine for processing this <3

4) Learn how to play the chords: apparently the keyboard / piano is one of the easiest instruments to play chords on. I originally started with the ukulele, but switched later on when I realized how challenging it was to master playing the ukulele properly (my fingers were so painful from trying to press the strings + seemed too large and kept accidentally pressing multiple strings oops)

Initial attempt with ukulele

After lots of practice, managed to cobble together a little video:


Verse 1


How can I face my conscience


I have witnessed too many imperfections in this decision


Your brazenness,


All that you’ve done has really disappointed me


The love I gave to you,


you didn’t see me through


You thought you were indulging me


But that freedom you gave, it didn’t really mean that much to me



Why don’t you see the intentions


That I had for you


The love that we both shared


Is crumbling, falling through


Just take a look from where I stand


Perhaps it might change how things will end


If we can turn back time


I hope the enemy is clear


It’s not you, but the situation threatening what we hold dear

Verse 2


The incident has passed


Perfection wasn’t the outcome I had asked


You staying out of the matter


Was the best way for you to help make things better


The heart and soul I poured in —


It’s as if you’ve never even seen


Letting you wait at home for me


And when everything ends, we’ll be safe and free

Repeat chorus

If you're interested in my reflections that led to me writing this song, you can read them here.

The song can refer to many different contexts - what comes to mind for you when you listen to it?


Details of project

Duration: It's difficult to put a time to this, but the part that took the longest was probably getting the music translated to chords and trying to play it. I wrote the lyrics in one night (because I was so inspired, so it just spilled out of me), and sang out the tune another night.

Price: Not possible to put a price tag to this project (and Nicholine's precious time helping me with the chords). But for some parts like the ukulele, and the keyboard (I bought a foldable one, it's super space-saving, but unfortunately you can hear some plasticky sounds when playing on the plastic keys oops. Nevertheless, still very good for what I needed + space-saving!). I used Splice to create the video, and that's a free software on my phone.

Level of "fun": 4/5

I personally really enjoyed this project, because it was a really different & refreshing medium, and also a way to be able to express my feelings and thoughts. As much as it's less "tangible" compared to the other objects I've made, it's also something "real" I can carry along with me all the time (e.g. break into song any moment I want :D), so it was really fun to put together the lyrics and the music to make it real. I also enjoyed putting the video together - it was tedious, but I love sappy chinese ballads, so it was fun trying to come up with a video for one!

Level of difficulty: 3.5/5

I was told that anyone can write a song, and I guess that is true (I've come up with short random songs about my husband while we were on holiday haha). But to try to put something together and with + playing accompanying chords without a music background, that was the tricky bit for me. I didn't even do the chords myself. And if you throw in translating the lyrics and putting together the video - it's a bit of a challenge having to use such different skills to make it happen.


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