Saturday, January 26, 2013

Guitar Empire makes the New Straits Times in the Business Times section!

After years of hard work, the company Mama Treble Clef Studio and Guitar Empire are making their name in the Malaysian musical instruments industry. We are honored to be featured in the New Straits Times in the Business Times section; featuring company director and multi-instrumentalist Eizaz Azhar, who is arguably one of the youngest self-made businessmen in the music industry at the age of 26.

We thank our loyal supporters, students, customers, friends and family for we would have never made it without your support. Always looking for the next big thing, we will not let you down!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

BroXCute (Harimau Malaya band) Live MTV Shooting!

We've come back with a new recording studio and recording equipment! We brought the local Malaysian pop-punk band, BroXCute for a live recording and music video production. The band BroXCute shot to internet fame through their song "Harimau Malaya" (the name of the Malaysian football team - translated to "Malaysia Tigers). They've recorded several songs before, but this is their first time producing a live MTV for the band.

The studio is located at Guitar Empire, Lot 3-101, 3rd Floor, Endah Parade, Kuala Lumpur and you can contact them at 03-95432201. Attached are some photos of the band in the studio; stay tuned for the video production, coming soon! This is their original recording...

With our President 5-piece Drumkit

Sound engineer Eizhan Azhar hard at work

Guitars used for the recording session - Fender Stratocaster and Shredder electric guitars

Frontman of BroXCute, Shah with his trademark Harimau Malaya shirt!

Guitarist, bassist, drummer and singer... full band shot

Multi-instrumentalist Eizaz Azhar filling in for the rhythm guitar player


Saturday, September 22, 2012

How To Start A Business

“Looking for independent, confident individual willing to take on the world single-handedly. Any age, any gender, no experience required. Must be very motivated, strict yet flexible, outspoken yet reserved, and above all willing to work without pay at your own expense for several months at the bare minimum. Job scope vague and must be able to juggle accounts, human resource, sales, public relations, personal life and have money left over to repeat routine over and over again.”
I admit that it is a rather off-putting ad which wouldn’t receive any calls – but while it isn’t the world’s greatest job advert, that’s really what it is when you run your own business.  Undoubtedly one of the manliest ways to make a living, rest assured this isn’t for the faint of heart (and faint of work)!

Registering A CompanyIt is possible to operate a business without a company, address and/or venue, such as a home-operated business. But having a company to put it all under makes accounts and cashflow much easier to manage as it isn’t mixed up under your personal savings account. To do this you need to pay a visit to the Malaysian Registrar of Companies (Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia) to pick a name and legally register it.
There are generally two types of companies that can be registered; a private limited company (Sendirian Berhad) and a sole proprietorship (commonly - and wrongly, I believe - known as an “enterprise”), both with advantages and disadvantages. A Sendirian Berhad company is a properly licensed legal entity, with paid-up capital and subdivision of shares among the owners. As a separate legal entity, the company’s debts are separated from the owners’ debts – which means the company is only liable to pay back a maximum value of paid-up capital should it fall into debt, therefore protecting personal assets of the owner. As a sole proprietorship/partnership, the name and company is basically an extension of the owners and any liabilities are borne by the owners’ personal assets directly - and should the owner pass away the business is no longer valid unless in the case of a partnership (under the impression that the partner(s) survives).
On the other hand, starting up a sole proprietorship is much simpler and economical – the registration cost , which is basically all you need to own the name, would cost you only RM95 should you do it yourself, which I would highly recommend to get familiar with the system. There are no tax audits (all done in-house), no company secretary to sign legal documents, no resolutions or AGMs (annual general meetings) to call for and as such, a vast majority of businesses out there are sole proprietorships. Bear in mind that this requires a lot of trust should other partners be involved as there is no law and/or legal agreement regarding shares and ownership – the form only lists down the name of the partners and nothing more!

Naming Your CompanyYes, it’s just a name, that’s true but there are certain words that cannot be used as a company name unless under specific orders from a government body supporting it. For example, the word “King” is disallowed as it is associated with royalty – a good example is why the parent company of Sushi King in Malaysia is called “Sushi Kin Sdn Bhd”, intentionally missing the letter “g” at the end. Any name associated with a political party is also disallowed – which means “UMNO Photo Printing” and “Nasi Kandar Pakatan Rakyat “ are out of the picture. Anything to do with the corporate definition of securities (“Securities Trading”, “Stock Market”, “Bursa Saham”) are also unusable so check with the Registrar before you go about designing that logo and font that took weeks to perfect only to find out that the name cannot be used.
Another issue with a name, this time for practicalities’ sake – is that one must be able to spell and write down the company name with ease. The name “Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck Sandwiches”, as interesting and memorable a tribute to the great physicist as it may seem, is a nightmare for our local Malaysians to spell and write down. All someone has to do is to miss a letter in it for a cheque to bounce, taking up precious time and throwing a wrench in your banking movement. But say you like the name “Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck Sandwiches” and want to keep it (you must really REALLY like this name) it is always possible to trademark it and run it under a parent company, as with the case of Sushi King.

Actually Running The CompanyHundreds upon thousands of books and articles have been written with regards to running a business, and like this article, there are hundreds of thousands more to come. While the basics of running a business remain (i.e. proper balancing of cashflow, profit vs loss, stock checking, etc) each business is unique; methods that may work for others might not work for you and vice versa. It’s all about experimenting and taking a risk – but above all, the one word that should always be in the mind of a businessman is consistency. Consistent opening hours, consistent stocks and products, consistent salesmen and consistent operating hours will result in consistent cashflow and income. Consistent headaches as well, mind you but it’s all part and parcel of the game.
There you have it! In a nutshell, this is how most businesses start up; in upcoming articles I hope to write about more business strategies and out-of-the box thinking for company growth and capital gain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, an attorney from the Max Planck Foundation is here to see me...!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Menteri Belia dan Sukan Dato' Sri Shabery Cheek learns Saxophone

Hi guys! Eizaz here with a new tale for all of you - this was definitely one of the more interesting stories I have to tell throughout my teaching career. As a teacher, I encounter students from all walks of life; from the race car driver and stuntman, to factory workers, doctors and the vice CEO of a bank - and today I have one such interesting story to share! I taught the Malaysian Minister of Youth & Sports, Dato' Sri Shabery Cheek to play the saxophone, along with some photos. Together with this is a tutorial for beginner players and is basically how I start off every student. Due to the honorable Minister's extremely busy schedule I was only able to run through a one-hour crash course with him and somehow he caught up as you will see at the end of this article!

Back to basics; I usually start off teaching students how to assemble the saxophone and its parts. I cover the reed, mouthpiece, ligature, neck and strap as well as proper positioning of the hands and fingers. I would suggest students to start off with the alto saxophone first, which is arguably the least resistant saxophone to begin learning on as compared with the soprano which requires a firm, well-trained embouchure and the tenor/baritone which are larger and more cumbersome to move around and balance.

Next I will usually go cover the topic of breathing and breath support by having the student play just the neck and mouthpiece with the reed attached. This allows me to correct any improper positions in embouchure as well as to get the student blowing smoothly and in a consistent manner. I will also go through basic breathing exercises to induce the use of the diaphragm muscle which must be trained to support the lungs in order to attain a consistent flow of air.

Once the student gets the hang of blowing the neck and mouthpiece, I will introduce the entire instrument and proper finger positioning. Neck strap position is of great importance and the student must be able to let the horn's weight rest completely on the strap instead of supporting it with the thumb.

Getting closer to the end of the crash course; playing the first few notes and a scale on the saxophone. I will introduce the notes B, A and G as well as the proper finger positioning for the keys. In the rare case the student learns quickly I proceed to the D major scale and introduction of the octave key.

Once the student is comfortable with the weight and position of the saxophone, he/she can then freely move around and look cool while at it! It is important to be able to move without feeling restricted and treat the instrument as an extension of your body. Smile and look good!

This is the end result of our crash course! Dato' Sri Shabery Cheek was able to play a scale and proved himself to be a very quick learner and student of the instrument - trust me, to pick up a new instrument isn't easy even for seasoned musicians. We hope that the Minister of Youth & Sports will serve as an inspiration for the younger generation and that if he can do it, they can too!

Malaysia Boleh!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mama Treble Clef has just been announced as a new distributor of Boulder Creek Guitars and Riptide Ukuleles! The Boulder Creek name represents the best in price and quality and have the feel and sound of guitars costing twice the price.

Boulder Creek Guitars has restarted the stalled evolution of the acoustic guitar. Ever since the “X” bracing system was patented 150 years ago, the status quo has reigned supreme. Boulder Creek Guitars believes that there is a better way to brace a guitar. That is why we have developed the exclusive Suspended Bracing System or “SBS” (patent pending). The “SBS” is a suspended bracing system and the first of its kind within the industry. It focuses on freeing the soundboard and allowing more vibration to produce a better tone and more sustain. The system works by utilizing aluminum tone bars that not only make the construction of the bracing system more durable but also allows the top to be free from the constrictions of the standard X bracing system.

The X bracing system was patented in the 1850’s and has been the industry standard since that time. If you stop and think about it, how many other technologies from the pre-civil war era remain in use? The answer, not many. While others have been happy to remain in this rut, Boulder Creek Guitars believes that relying on convention has hurt the industry and that it is time for a change.

The “SBS” system utilizes the best of the X bracing system with new technology, giving the player the best of both worlds.

When the “SBS” bracing system is incorporated with the new Boulder Creek “Solitaire” design, the sustain and tone quality are even more prevalent. By not cutting a large hole in the front soundboard of the guitar, the soundboard area is increased and the top vibrates more evenly and greater sustain is achieved. By relocating the soundhole on the top of the guitar, the player hears the deep rich tones that come from the inside chamber of the guitar. Since low frequencies are omni directional, the lows are heard all around the guitar. Mids and high frequencies that come from the front of the guitar are also increased. All in all, a totally new way for a totally new sound from an acoustic guitar.

Boulder Creek Guitars
The Evolution of the Acoustic Guitar

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Beginner Guitar Guide by Eizaz Azhar

Being Manly 101: Playing a Manly Instrument - Guitar
Let’s face it; one time or another, there will be a moment in which your Guitar Hero skills won’t cut it anymore. Be it a housewarming party or a bar with a live band, it is inevitable that you will have to call upon your musical skills and play a guitar – like it or hate it, the instrument is here to stay so put down that controller and we’ll have you strumming something by the end of this article which will guide you from start to end; purchasing your first guitar to brands and chords and songs... And yes, it does get you the attention of the girls (as with everything else in the Manly 101 series).

#1: Buying A Guitar
This is a very important part of the article as most people have no idea where to start when they get around to purchasing their first instrument. To begin, there a few types of guitars out there, namely acoustic, classical, electric and bass. Arguably the most popular guitar out there, this article will focus on the acoustic guitar due to its low price and ability to be heard in almost any situation (although the techniques mentioned here remain the same regardless of guitar type). Putting aside that beat-up old heap of junk that resembles an extinct Grecian instrument – sans the value - on your flatmate’s couch, I would recommend getting your own instrument at one point or another. In this way, not only will you get familiar with your instrument, but it will also be available for you to play at any moment to practice, or strum a few chords.
As far as brands are concerned, as of recent the variety of brands on the market are nothing short of overwhelming. Some famous brands are Taylor, Martin, Yamaha, Gibson and Fender but expect them to cost a bomb, especially if they’re made in Europe, Japan or the USA! Anyway, everything is fair game from RM150 to RM15,000 – it all depends on how much your budget is for an instrument. My suggestion as a teacher is to get a relatively inexpensive guitar, but not to the extent that it compromises touch (the way it responds to your fingers) and ease of playing; I would personally set a budget of around RM300-500 for a serious beginner instrument.
Don’t get too hung up on brands as around this price range, all guitars – even the branded ones are mass-produced in China, so there really isn’t much to be picky about (which means a few barely noticable dings and knocks, imperfect finishes, etc are inevitable). Bear in mind that within this range, branded guitars will usually cost more, but will not necessarily be better than an unbranded guitar at the same price. Listen to the sound of the guitar; hold it; feel how it handles in your hands. And don’t have an unrealistic expectation of a RM300 guitar to look, feel and play like something ten times its price – you get what you pay for!

#2: Playing The Guitar
Now that you have a guitar, let’s learn the basics. You can play it standing or sitting down; if you stand you will need a guitar strap to sling it around your shoulder. You can see my position, both standing and sitting in these photos.

As you can see, when I sit down with the guitar I balance it on my leg which is crossed over. This enables me to balance the guitar and even with my hands off, it will stay in its position. As for the standing position, I generally have the guitar higher than usual – the closer it is to your chest, the easier it will be to handle and play. No I don’t understand how you can play the guitar as low as Green Day and not suffer from back problems...!

Anyway, we are going to learn three positions on the guitar fretboard, called chords in this article; G, C and D. Hopefully this makes sense to you.

These are the finger positions for the chords above, which can be used to play many, many songs. The black dots represent your fingers on the guitar, while the hollow dots refer to open strings (no fingers touching), and no symbol means the string is not played. We take for example, the song “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton; it starts with a G, D, C, D that repeats throughout the song with minimal changes. I can’t possibly elaborate everything all at once and it wouldn’t make sense anyway, so here’s a video that I made to help you out. This video is basically a guide to the guitar and its parts, to augment this article – it should get you up and playing in no time! Yes this was made a long time ago – no comments on the hairstyle please...

#3: Performing On Stage
Being on stage isn’t as simple as it sounds like. It’s a lot of pressure and everyone has their eyes on you – but part of being manly is taking up the challenge! Being on stage is a whole different thing altogether; it takes a lot of practice, knowing your stuff and more than anything else, preparation. Practice a song until you can get it right, by memory, and get it into your system. Meaning you can pull it off at any moment, on any other guitar, upon any number of an audience. It’s a real test of nerves and confidence, but the goal of playing an instrument is to ultimately to share your music and be appreciated by others. Just for laughs – and I did get some – this is a video of me busking by the roadside in China before I got chased away by the military police.

Above all, please remember that it’s just music; the world won’t end if you play a wrong note or make a mistake. Nobody dies – you aren’t piloting a commercial airliner for heaven’s sake! Go out there, have fun and play your heart out. Enjoy the moment and bask in the glory – do it well and you’re the man of the moment!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hello everyone! Eizaz here, and this is the end result of all our hard work over the past couple of months. Everything is finally complete; all teaching rooms, offices, stage, jamming studio and recording studio all under one roof. I'll allow the pictures to do the talking!

The Mama Treble Clef board of directors and the new premises. Finally we have a photo - it's about time!

This is the interior of the store, our selection of electric guitars, amplifiers and keyboards, From Fender to Ibanez, Gibson and ESP, we've got them all!

Our bass selection encompasses entry-level basses from RM400 to professional-grade instruments costing thousands of dollars. Our in-house repairman and luthier ensures quality control throughout.

The higher range of guitars and basses go here. We carry American Stratocasters, Mexican Stratocasters, Music Man, Japanese Ibanez Prestige and the new Ibanez Premium range. We've also got a selection of Taylor acoustic guitars so check them out!

This is the new recording studio and a wicked, kicking set of drums and cymbals. We will lease the studio out for practice at RM50 per hour, and recording rates from RM100 per hour, including mixing and some minor engineering. Full miking for the drumkit and a killer room to boot!

This is a photo of yours truly at his drumkit. I've been playing for years and years on the same Tama drumkit before we moved here and I finally have a proper drumkit with proper cymbals, pedals and hardware. There is much to add on to the kit, like a cowbell and percussion but after years of waiting I finally have something proper! For comparison's sake this is what the drumkit (and player) looked like around 4 years back.

More photos of us in the studio.

And this is a photo of my partners and their lovely daughter. We've gone through so much in the past few years and I am very grateful to have met them along the way. Through thick and thin (man, when it was thin, it was THIN) we've somehow managed to reach the next level of development together. There's more to come from the team so stay tuned and please drop by - you are all invited for the grand opening!