• Edmund (Co-Founder Travelclef)

A visit to our music instruments factory in China


Hey everyone!

This is my first blog post here on our website. 😁

Recently, I took a trip to China (end April 2018) to visit a few of our music instruments manufacturers.

I thought it'll be interesting to "bring" all of you on a visit too - to have a look at the manufacturing process of our instruments.

As much as we strive to spread the joy of music through our uniquely crafted music workshops, we also strive to bring the best music instruments to our customers/students. It's a trip I had to take to ensure the quality of our instruments are being met.

I visited a total of 3 factories - one which manufactures our flexi-piano and flexi-drums, one which manufactures our premium ukuleles and one which manufactures our foldable Cajon.

So let's go and have a look!

1. Flexi Piano & Flexi Drums factory

The first factory I went to is the factory which manufactures our flexi piano and flexi drums.

As some of you may know, we created the flexi piano starter kit to help people self-learn the piano at home, even if they do not have the space/resources to own a real piano yet. We know that there are many adults who have always wanted to learn the piano when they were younger but didn't have the chance to, perhaps due to financial reasons or the lack of time to commit.

When we first launched our keyboard workshop, we could only hold up to maximum 14 people per class and the slot gets filled up almost immediately each time we open a new slot.

Because of this, we decided to put together the flexi piano starter kit so more people can learn the piano from home without having to travel down to our venue! That's why it comes the roll up piano, and a 40 min, step-by-step video tutorial of me teaching how to play basic chords and get started on the piano.

I have to say this though: the flexi piano is not meant to replace a real piano. The touch is different due to it being made of silicone and thus flexible. The purpose is to really help people kickstart the journey of playing piano (especially those who are not ready to commit to buying a real piano yet). With the 4 chords I teach in the video tutorial, it is enough to help anyone sing and play along with simple songs (like happy birthday!)

(Recently, we also put together the flexi drums starter kit, because we realise many people have always wanted to play the drums. But having to own a drum set takes up a lot of space, and it is not cheap too. Therefore, a solution would be to own a portable one first!)

Upon reaching our flexi piano factory, I managed to have a look at the production line.

A shot of me talking to the factory production manager:

Here is the station where they assemble the electronics to the silicone keys:

Below, you can see the speakers of the flexi drum set being inspected before being attached to it. Both our flexi piano and flexi drums have a loudspeaker attached, thus, able to bring and play it anywhere.

Even though our manufacturer does quality checks on each and every single flexi piano, when our flexi piano arrives in Singapore, we do conduct our own quality checks again, on each and every single one. Our customer satisfaction means a lot to us, thus, we want to minimise the chances of a customer getting a product with defects. We did a post to show how we conduct quality checks on our flexi piano too.

I spent a total of 2 hours here, touring the whole plant and also spoke to the boss of the company as well. Most importantly, I gave the feedback of the common defects we encounter so as to reduce the defect rate in future orders.

Giving my feedback to them in the President's room:

While leaving the factory, I saw a cute doggie. 😍

2. Alegria Ukulele Factory

Alegria is our brand of Ukulele. Do you know what Alegria means? (not referring to the coffee machine we see outside!)

It means joy in Spanish. As our mission is to spread the joy of learning music, we named in Alegria. Because other than experiencing the fun of playing music, we want them to literally hold on to joy!

The next day after visiting our flexi piano factory, I took a 1 hour drive up to the next city to visit our Ukulele factory.

For the past 6 years, we have worked with many different manufacturers but it wasn't always smooth working with them. We finally found one that manufactures premium Ukuleles with high quality standards.

Here's a shot of me at the Ukulele factory:

You can see me holding on the the top of a Ukulele. The shape of the Ukulele are being put together first (as you can see the curved piece of the table) before adding the top on it.

Currently, our highest range of Ukulele is our Alegria UK68C Concert Sized Ukulele. It is made of solid acacia top, with gloss finish and gold knobs. It also comes with EQ! If you are wondering where to buy a Ukulele in Singapore, you know where to go next. 🤣(it also currently retails in Yamaha Plaza Singapura for $268)

Anyway, for me to list out all the stages of manufacturing a ukulele would probably be quite technical and boring. So I'll just show some parts of it - in this short video clip below, you can see how the lacquer are being sprayed on the the Ukulele. This is one of the final stages to complete, before letting it dry and they can proceed to fix up the strings and the tuning knobs.

Some more shots I took at the factory:

A shot of me again, asking a lot of questions regarding the way they control quality:

(Ok, I know I look as if I'm demanding something from the boss of the factory. What a hostile posture! But I'm really not.. Was just asking questions hehe)

It was a good visit to our ukulele factory, because I've learnt that they have advanced their manufacturing capabilities and have raised their manufacturing standards. This gives me a peace of mind because I know our students and customers are getting the best value and quality for what they purchase!

(By the way, we will be releasing a high end Ukulele model soon! A full solid Acacia Ukulele and it just sounds amazing. Wait for it!)

After a visit to the Ukulele factory, I actually met a few other factories in that area to learn more about the way they operate.

Went for dinner right after, yummzzz! Crispy duck skin. Shiok!

3. Entzucken Foldable Cajon factory

I think I tried to squeeze too many visits in this trip. I went to a total of 4 cities in 5 days! On the third day morning, my good friend in China drove me (8 hours drive!!) up to Fuzhou. This was to visit our foldable cajon manufacturer. Our foldable cajon is very popular amongst percussionists due to its portability and superb tonal qualities.

Upon arriving at the factory, I was excited to first check out our current order of the foldable cajon.

Upon learning about the processes of manufacturing these instruments (especially the Uke and Cajon), I'm amazed at the amount of work and "waiting time" to manufacture them. The main reason for the waiting time has got to do with the wood.

In this room is where all the raw wood materials are stored, up to 6 months to a year to completely dry them before they can be used to manufacture the cajon.

In this video below, you can see some of our completed foldable cajon and also some of them in the process of being assembled:

After checking out our products, I spent another hour or so touring the whole plant (as they manufacture guitars too). As usual, I gave my feedback on little details on how we can better design our Cajons so that our end consumers get to maximise their enjoyment of playing our instrument without compromising on quality.

We proceeded to have some good food after the tour. And I have to show this picture, it's one of the best fish slices I've ever had!! Looking at it is making me hungry as I'm typing this now.

Conclusion:

All in all, this 4 day trip was a fruitful and important one. The main takeaway is that I've managed to establish good communications with our suppliers and have aligned with all of them our expectations when manufacturing our instruments. This way, we can continue to ensure our participants get quality instruments while they enjoy the pleasure of making music.

As we continue our mission of spreading the joy of playing music, we hope to have many of you play our instruments or join our music workshops!

I hope this blogpost is an interesting one for you. Leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts!


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