Ling Shien's music studies began with the 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.
Ling Shien has studied Arabic and Turkish disciplines "at the source" in Cairo and Istanbul. Her interest in folkloric music led her to pick up the mizmar (Arabic oboe), zumara (an ancient form of clarinet), and kawala ( an Upper Egyptian reed flute). She has added accordion as well to allow her 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. Her songs convey both the life and soul of folkloric music with the accuracy of the classical so well, they are virtually indistinguishable from native compositions. In collaboration with Carolena Nereccio, Ling Shien and Mark recorded an instructional CD,Raqset al Sajat, which provides a tool for dancers and musicians who want to deepen their understanding of Middle Eastern rhythms. Ling Shien uses it as part of the source material for her cymbal workshops.
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).