New Band, an app launched by Chinese pop singer-songwriter Hu Yanbin, helps youngsters get closer to their music dreams. Chen Nan reports.
For Xiao Tong, a 25-year-old Beijing-based IT office worker, his hobby is singing. He often goes to karaoke outlets and sings at home as a way to entertain himself and to relax.
A month ago, he started using New Band, an app offering lessons on singing and playing music instruments.
"I do not want to become a professional singer, but I want to improve my singing. My main focus is breath control," says Xiao. "I have never taken music classes before. But it is very convenient to learn through an app. I just open it and download the material. It is as easy as ordering food.
"I also want to learn how different instruments work in a song. That's my future plan."
New Band is the brainchild of Chinese pop singer-songwriter Hu Yanbin.
Since it was launched in January 2015, the app, which features more than 240 training videos, has been downloaded 2 million times. More than 200,000 people take classes through the app daily, according to Hu.
Hu has also expanded the online music training program to three schools in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen in Guangdong province.
"I want to build a music training app, which, like the Chinese learning English, is open to everyone, despite differences of age and education. The internet brings people together despite distance," says Hu.
The 33-year-old Shanghai native has been recognized for his talent ever since he released his debut album, Wen Wu Shuang Quan, in 2002. The album, which included Hu's songwriting works, such as The Monk and Telling Me, gained instant success, and won him "best new artist" awards in China that year.
So far, Hu has released nine studio albums, featuring a variety of music styles, from R&B and rock to folk.
Music is my life. It makes me happy. It is a message I hope to carry to more peopleHu Yanbin, singer-songwriter
"Music is my life. It makes me happy. It is a message I hope to carry to more people."
The online training program is based on a popular song, which is divided into five parts - singing, bass, guitar, piano and drum. Students can choose classes based on their interests.
For the app, Hu invited his friends - pop singers, guitarists and drummers - to work on a part of the song for the videos.
The download for each class costs between 1 and 18 yuan (14 US cents and US$2.6).
Hu has a plan for users of online apps and schools.
"New Band app users are beginners, while those who want to further improve their music studies can go to our schools," says Hu.
Beijing-based pop singer-songwriter Yuan Yawei, also known as Tia Ray, recorded four videos for the app, including the 1990s hit, Dedication of Love, and her song, Love Can Fly, which she released in 2013.
Besides singing, she also gives instructions about producing sounds and breath control.
"This is the first time I am teaching music. The approach is to teach using a particular song, so it is accessible to people without a music background. The app is simple and fun," says Yuan.
In addition to releasing his own albums, Hu also writes and produces albums for other pop singers, such as Taiwan singers Wilber Pan and Elva Hsiao.
In 2011, Hu took a year's break to study music production in the United States. His transition from a singer-songwriter to a music educator was driven by his dream of discovering new talent.
Hu's music training school collaborates with the record company Wonderful Music and Mai Live, a live performance tour program initiated by Damai, one of the largest entertainment ticketing websites in China.
In early December, 30 students from the training school performed in Shanghai.
"Like the name of the school, New Band, our long-term goal is to go in-depth into touring, branding and promotion," says Hu.
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