Meet Ian Chang: Drummer, Composer, Producer… Journeyman (Video)

+ This exclusive lesson is presented courtesy of Soundfly’s newest course, Ian Chang: Warped Rhythms & Abstract Beats. Sign up and learn to craft compelling beats and daring rhythms with Son Lux’s Ian Chang.

Ian Chang’s musical journey began in Hong Kong when he started taking piano lessons at the age of six. He picked up the drums a few years later, drawn to an instrument that allowed him to practice anywhere on anything.

Quickly, he became the kid who was always tapping on desks, tables, windows — anything he could find.

In his youth, he studied classical percussion, before getting into classic rock and pop in high school. Throughout that time, he continued working on his piano skills and also learned to play guitar.

Ian studied jazz drumming in college, working with Tony Moreno for the entire four years (who himself studied with John Coltrane’s drummer, Elvin Jones). Tony taught him how to think about rhythm conceptually — focusing on things like polyrhythms, displacing the beat, and bringing emotion to a groove. He was a big influence on Ian, and you might hear his name referenced a few times in Ian’s course.

While living in New York, Ian’s career started to take off and he threw himself into every opportunity that came his way. At one point, he was playing six nights a week — gaining a reputation as a creative and reliable performer and collaborator.

From there, he joined several artists for national and international tours, including Moses Sumney, Matthew Dear, Landlady, and of course, Son Lux. He spent much of that decade on tour. 

“That was a really wild time in my life. I think at one point, I probably had like eleven different bands’ sets of music in my head… And I was playing in New York probably four to six nights a week, at different clubs. That was kind of like an exploration phase, figuring out who I am and what really spoke to me musically.”

— Ian Chang on living in NYC

Ian joined forces with Ryan Lott and Rafiq Bhatia in 2015, becoming a full-time member of the band Son Lux. Ryan describes him as one of his “musical soulmates.” Ian’s role may have started primarily on the drums, but over time, he’s become more of a writer and composer as well. Most recently, that played out when Son Lux collectively created the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning film Everything Everywhere All At Oncefor which they were nominated for two Oscars. 

In 2020, Ian released his full-length solo album Belonging, which includes a collaboration with Blonde Redhead’s Kazu and has received strong critical praise. These days, his touring schedule may have slowed slightly, but he’s still one of the busiest musicians you’ll meet, with new albums, film scores, tours, and more on the go.

Listen to some of Ian’s top tracks, both solo and with various collaborators, here:  

These days, Ian has been focusing more on the production side of things, which he continues to approach from a drummer’s perspective. He uses a drum system called Sensory Percussion — which is made by the company, Sunhouse.

These tools allow him to use drums to trigger all sorts of interesting sounds in a DAW. They allow him to write melodies, chords, effects, and more using a drum kit as a controller. We’ll see this in action toward the end of the course.

Your Sound Is a Spectrum — Own It in Full.

Deepen your learning on Soundfly with creative, contemporary courses on songwriting, mixing, production, composing, synths, beat making, and more by artists like KieferKimbraCom TruiseJlinRyan Lott, RJD2, and the brand new Ian Chang: Warped Rhythms & Abstract Beats.

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