The two were year-six students from Qi'an Academy of Music. The guy was Thomas and had asked Fang Zhao for help after class. The girl was Cheng Lan; with a short bob and a straight fringe, she seemed the more lively of the two.
According to them, the coming Tuesday was Cheng Lan's birthday, but since they had a full day of lessons and all sorts of assignments then, they could not make time. Thus, the celebration had been brought forth to today, when their friends were all free, and they had come over after school to celebrate.
They had booked a private room a short distance away. The others had not arrived yet, and Thomas and Cheng Lan had just gotten here. As they had been about to go to their private room, they had seen Fang Zhao as they were passing and came over to greet him.
Seeing Fang Zhao so conscientiously taking down notes, the two on the verge of graduating felt a little guilty. Compared to Fang Zhao, they were just squandering their time!
"So much pressure!" Thomas sighed. "It's rare to find the time to come out and enjoy."
For year-six university students, the better the university, the stricter the requirements for graduating. As Qi'an Academy of Music was Yanzhou's best music academy, the graduating requirements were even more stringent.
Students that had consistently outstanding grades and a solid foundation would be starting to find internships at companies instead of worrying about all sorts of graduation evaluations. However, those like Thomas who did not normally work hard would have to put in a lot more time and effort in a bid to save their grades, at least to beautify their results for this crucial year, which would make it easier to get a job after graduating.
Thomas's eyes were on the electric guitar hanging on the wall. As he thought of something, he paused and asked Fang Zhao, "Senior, how much do you know about ancient instruments? Aren't you good at creating music of the symphonic style? Although the instruments used by the band are not ancient instruments, they were developed from them. I heard that you are well-versed in that; have you come into contact with a few of these ancient instruments?"
"Ancient instruments?" Fang Zhao nodded. "I do know some."
The "ancient instruments" he mentioned were what people of the New Era called instruments that were from before the Period of Destruction. They were also called "old-fashioned instruments" or "old-style instruments." However, for academic people, "old-fashioned" and "old-style" were not terms that they wished to hear or see, as they seemed degrading toward art. Thus, the term "ancient instruments" was used.
"What do you wish to know?" Fang Zhao asked.
Thomas gave a mischievous giggle and sat down on the sofa, rubbing his hands together before raising one and pointing at the electric guitar hanging on the wall. "That one. I have it from a reliable source that, in the final exams, among the questions tested will be one on an electric guitar. However, throughout our six years of university life, we simply have not had a single lesson concerning the ancient electric guitar."
"Right, right, right!" Cheng Lan also joined in the laughter and politely poured a cup of tea for Fang Zhao. "Actually, Senior, we picked this place so that we could see the electric guitar up close. Everyone knows that ancient instruments, even if they are replicas, are more expensive, especially those in the electric guitar category. It is almost impossible to get one for less than $10,000. As for good imitations or those made from better materials, they cost much more. It's totally something that us poor students can never afford. The one here at Space is an imitation of an electric guitar, and not New Era versions that have evolved. As a pure ancient instrument, it is a high-grade manufactured one. That's why we wished to come over and... study it."
Fang Zhao could understand Thomas and Cheng Lan's point of view. The 100 years of the Period of Destruction were like a break in history. No matter how many videos and electronic records and various other methods preserved information from that time, there was a limit to how much ancient instruments could be preserved. In the New Era, archaeology teams were continuously making new discoveries, but ancient instruments were rare. During that extraordinary time, instruments were not considered important, and not much effort had been made to conserve them. That was why there were very few instructional videos regarding instruments and why the prices of instruments from the Old Era could be jacked up. It was only during times of peace that such things were of use.
Instructional videos from the Old Era were not as high quality as those of the New Era, and there were not a lot. They weren't perfect either. People from the music industry that had survived the Period of Destruction were even fewer. Even if they had survived, after 100 years of struggle, they might not necessarily have still remembered their knowledge and techniques. Not everyone was like Fang Zhao, who could simulate an orchestra playing in his head.
For other stuff, Fang Zhao might be less knowledgeable, but regarding ancient instruments, the two had asked the right person.
"What aspects of the electric guitar do you guys want to know about?" Fang Zhao asked.
"Not much, we just want to clarify how it's supposed to be used." Thomas was scared Fang Zhao would find him troublesome, so he hurriedly said, "The testing criteria will probably not be so detailed regarding ancient instruments. After all, how it works will definitely not be tested, so Senior can just explain a little on its usage."
Instruments used by New Era symphonic orchestras might produce the same tones as ancient instruments, but the shapes differed greatly. After hundreds of years of development and technological advancements as well as changing materials, the shapes of instruments had changed. Ultimately, instruments had to be easier to operate and convenient to carry; otherwise they would be replaced by the increasingly perfect electronic instruments and would truly become "antiques."
Nowadays, many students from music academies only needed to use a music keyboard to produce music. Along with some downloaded source material, they could simulate all the sounds they wished to produce. This was cheap and practical, and there was no need to learn various instrumental techniques.
In comparison, the Old Era's electric guitar was just too hard for these students! Luckily, all they needed to understand to pass the exam was some theory and how it operated. If they were required to learn ancient electric guitar techniques, these students would not be willing.
Cheng Lan also echoed Thomas. "It's true. We bought a few instructional videos and watched people using it, but it feels too difficult. There were a lot of points that were hard to understand. Senior, could you explain a little to us?"
"I remember there being a lot of instructional videos online," Fang Zhao said.
From Fang Zhao's memory, he knew that the original owner of his body had tackled the exams by using free videos and materials from the school's library and had banked on his good memory and a little luck to score highly.
Thomas grimaced. "Those are actually not reliable at all. We can only view a lot, but after that, we need to summarize them ourselves." This was the reason they felt so pressured. It was a lot of work!
Those free videos were difficult to understand, and the person explaining probably did not understand it well. As for those genuine authoritative instructional videos, those cost a large sum. Even after spending so much money, one would not necessarily obtain the information they wished to, and the videos might not be completely accurate. A few years ago, someone had verified with a few reputable musicians and ancient instrument researchers and found out that there were two grave errors in the instructional videos.
Although the musician had refunded the money back to buyers, many students had already answered wrongly during the examinations and lost marks. It was too late for regrets. Therefore, generally speaking, examination topics on ancient instruments were extremely easy to lose marks on.
In the past centuries, there had been people who'd managed to figure out ancient instruments such as the electric guitar, but afterward, they had not publicly released the knowledge that they had spent a hard time researching. The only ones that could get such information were their disciples or the later generations that took over. Other students had no way of understanding it. This was the norm in the industry and the reason why Xue Jing so appreciated Fang Zhao's sharing of his various techniques and knowledge when he had helped compile "New Voices in Symphonic Composition."
Fang Zhao nodded. He understood where the two were coming from. "You might not necessarily remember if I only use words. How about this, take the the electric guitar off the wall and I will give you a little demonstration."
"Demo... Demonstration?" Thomas stared blankly then happily got up to retrieve it.
As he took it down from the wall, Thomas was very cautious. He was afraid to knock it against anything. Even if it was just an ornament here, if there was any damage, it would be recorded and they would have to pay before leaving.
The cost of the electric guitar in his hands was estimated to be in at least the six digits. The owner of the place had money and loved these sorts of instruments. Even if it was an ornament, he would not use one of shoddy quality.
As he handed over the electric guitar, Thomas's hands were shaking. He confirmed Fang Zhao was holding it before slowly releasing his grip.
"Senior, please be careful. This thing is really expensive." Thomas then remembered, Fang Zhao doesn't lack money! Even if it was not publicly announced, they could still estimate how much Fang Zhao had earned from the copyrights of his previous works.
Since Fang Zhao was rich, Thomas and Cheng Lan's confidence increased, and they were no longer as hesitant as before. They curiously felt the electric guitar. In the past, whenever they came here, they would be afraid of touching the electric guitar in case they damaged it. What little money they had was enough for them to enjoy a little, but if they were to compensate, they would really vomit blood.
"Senior, we will pay for your expenses here!" Cheng Lan was very happy today. Regardless of whether Fang Zhao could teach them what they wanted, they wanted to pay for him, since he was willing to help them.
"You don't have pay for me." After Fang Zhao had received the electric guitar from Thomas, he went on. "Bring the others out as well."
Thomas was puzzled. "Others? What others are there? Isn't there only one guitar?"
Cheng Lan elbowed him. "Blockhead, what was the point of watching the instructional videos? There is still the amplifier, audio cable, effects pedal, and the other equipment!"
"Oh! Right, right! There is other equipment. Oh, my stupid brain! Senior, you just wait here. I'll go find them."
Thomas and Cheng Lan found a cabinet on the wall that seemed to have some ornaments. Pressing a button on it, the cabinet automatically opened.
Thomas looked at Cheng Lan. "This big one is an amplifier... right?"
"If I remember correctly." Cheng Lan looked at Fang Zhao, and seeing his nod of approval, she smiled. She had not remembered wrong.
"I know that's an audio cable, but what about this? What are these for?" Thomas looked at a lump of objects and flipped them over to take a look, but he remained stunned. "There isn't even a manual here."
This time, Cheng Lan had no idea either. Had this been mentioned in the materials she had memorized before? The video she had watched two days ago had not mentioned this.
"Those are effects pedals," Fang Zhao told them.
"Effects pedal? All of... these? This is different from what we saw in the videos. The video we watched only had one effects pedal, and it did not look like this. I think it was called something like a composite effects pedal."
"Mmhm, that's for beginners. These here are individual effects pedals," Fang Zhao explained.
"Oh. Understood." Thomas brought everything over and prepared to assemble the equipment.
"Wait!" Cheng Lan stopped Thomas and asked Fang Zhao, "Senior, can I record the whole process? I won't remember it just observing once."
Fang Zhao did not mind. "Sure."
"Thank you, Senior!" Cheng Lan shot a glance at Thomas. "Be more serious, I'm about to start recording."
"Remember to get my face in the video." Thomas took the audio cable, paused, and turned toward Fang Zhao. "Senior, how do you connect this? Don't get up. Just sit there and give me the instructions. I will handle it."
Fang Zhao did not decline. Letting Thomas personally assemble it would make him remember better, so he sat on the sofa and instructed, "Place the amplifier between the guitar and audio cable. Attach the guitar's cable to the input of the effects pedal. After that, attach the effects pedal's output to the input of the amplifier..."
Thomas followed Fang Zhao instructions and connected them step by step. He used to feel that ancient instruments were troublesome, the equipment was complicated, and using one was complex, but now, after having a hands-on lesson, he felt somewhat accomplished. Actually, it was not that difficult after all! Just connecting them together, how simple!
Something so simple was made complicated by people online!
Cheng Lan stood at the side, recording the entire scene down, including Fang Zhao's explanations of every effects pedal: "distortion pedal," "compression pedal," "tuner pedal," "looper pedal..."
As Thomas was connecting the effects pedals, he picked up one part and saw the words printed on it, "Wah-wah? What is this?"
"Wah pedal," Fang Zhao replied.
"Wah sounds? You mean the 'waahohhwaooahh' sounds?" Thomas's face was full of surprise. "That is an electronic tone!? I actually did not know!"
They normally used the downloaded "wah" sounds on the musical keyboard. he had never known it was the tone of an ancient electric guitar! If this was a multiple choice question, he would have just made a wild guess.
After setting up, Fang Zhao explained while he demonstrated. Thomas sat obediently at the side, listened attentively, and changed the effects pedals when Fang Zhao requested.
In the middle, Fang Zhao also let Thomas and Cheng Lan voice their views and raise questions.
"Senior, the part you just mentioned is different from the reference video we watched," Cheng Lan said.
"Listen to mine."
"...Yes," Cheng Lan answered.
Thomas was more inclined to believe Fang Zhao. "That's why I said the reference video we bought surely had errors. If we had really memorized from the video, we would have lost marks when the time came! Not only was his explanation bad, how did that lazy-ass teacher obtain his professional qualifications? Surely there must be something shady going on!"
Cheng Lan interrupted Thomas's grumbling. "Doesn't matter whether its shady or not, just hurry up and listen to Senior. I am still recording." She was still waiting for more of Fang Zhao's explanations and demonstrations. A while ago, she had only had the mentality of having a try and seeing what little knowledge they could gain from Fang Zhao. Little had they known that Fang Zhao would give them too big of a surprise! A comprehensive explanation! It included all the basics regarding an electric guitar. In any case, it was more than sufficient for them to tackle the examinations!
This was just a reference book taking human form!
If this was shared in the class chat group, the class—no, all the students in Qi'an Academy of Music that needed knowledge on the ancient electric guitar—would be ecstatic!how an electric guitar sounds like, kind of like a higher-pitched lightsaber