Ling Shien's music studies began on piano at the age of five. Her formal training in western music continued at the Music Conservatory in Aix-en-Provence. She started playing Arabic music shortly after meeting Mark in Southern California in 1979. Having already started playing recorder, a much more portable instrument than a piano to bring along while traveling, Ling Shien switched over to the nai to more accurately play Arabic music.
She has studied Arabic and Turkish disciplines at the source in Cairo and Istanbul. Her interest in folkloric music led Ling Shien to pick up the mizmar (Arabic oboe), zumara (an ancient form of the clarinet), and kawala (a folkloric flute). She has added accordion as well to allow Helm to better represent the music of the Turkish Roman, the Balkans, and convey the atmosphere of the Golden Age of Egyptian compositions of the 20th century.
Ling Shien is the primary composer of Helm's original music and lead vocalist .Ling Shien is the primary composer of Helm's original music. The songs convey both the life and soul of the folkloric and the accuracy of the classical so well that they are virtually indistinguishable from native compositions.
Ling Shien has contributed articles to the Gilded Serpent: Making Music in Turkey, Ling Shien Demonstrates Quarter Tone (1/4 Tone) Accordion, India, Helm’s Musical Adventure (part 1), Tribal Roma, Helm’s Musical Adventures (part 2), and Europe, Helm’s Musical Adventure’s (part 3).