Since 2005 I've been a composer-sound designer active in the video game, anime, film and web design industries. I'm also the moderator for the Music and Sound forum and enjoy long walks on the beach. Check out www.madsenstudios.com to hear samples of my work, see my credits listing and check out quotes from peers and clients.
Member TitleModerator - Music and Sound
Age102 years old
BirthdayMay 6, 1912
Everything and anything related to audio in video games.
If you don't say there is nothing to do for untrained/ungifted "ear" , that's ok but if there are tips we can benefit and you can also benefit because we may stop or reduce asking wrong or stupid questions, I'd like to hear them.
While I value folks wanting to know what makes good versus bad music, it really comes down to what serves the game (and its players) the best. Some of the more concrete aspects about if a piece of music is good or bad relate to production:
- is it distorting due to clipping out?
- is it drastically softer or louder than any other cues or sounds in the game? (Could be either an implementation or production issue)
- is it set to the wrong sampling/bit rate so that it causes a bad listening experience (like the time a programmer downsampled my MP3s to 56kbps which made it sound horrible). This is the trade off between audio footprint/performance and sound quality.
These are just a few and it's much easier to define good versus bad here. These are less subjective than other criteria of a good song. A repetitive melody? Poor voicings? Less than steller sounding samples/fonts? Simple rhythms? These could be great or bad. They could add to your game or take away. These are things that a trained ear may pick up but the casual player may not even notice. So my advice to others wanting to know if the music/audio they're putting in their games is "good enough" - playtest it with a decent pool of people. If you feel the game has matched your vision for the narrative and you feel the player's getting the experience you set out to create - and 75% of your players are screaming that they hate the music - you're good!
What we need to get away from is the expectation that complex music automatically equals good music. Or that orchestral music automatically means higher quality. Especially in the arena of game audio.
This is the hard thing about art (music, visual art, writing, etc) because so much of it is subjective. What some may consider bad, others might really enjoy. So while things which are more concrete, like coding, are more black and white (like if the game is crashing, that's obivously not working) music is more of a grey area. This is also the challenging (and exciting!) part of being a composer in this industry. Each time I work with a new client, I view it as a puzzle - trying to figure out what works best for them and their game while remaining true to myself. It can be quite fun when it's working well!
I'm just going to say this outright - take what Matt Milne says with a grain of salt guys. This is the same guy who claimed to have narrowly missed scoring Harry Potter 7 several years ago on this site (along with many other outlandish claims):
Another thing to consider is the whole concept of "breaking into" or "making it" the industry. When I first started in 2005 I thought I would have "made it" when X happened. Then it would happen and I still felt the drive - still felt like I hadn't "made it" yet. So then my target changed to Y and so on. Breaking into the industry has never been easier, especially with the mobile market and it's low bar of entry. Nearly 150 projects and nine years later I still feel like I'm trying to make it. I've had some success and feel I'm a part of the industry, sure, but I'm always striving for that next goal. That next hurdle. And that's not a bad thing!
Like any decent artist, I avoid trying to look like one. I don't go to events or join organisations, because I'm not trying to pretend to belong.
Matt does things his own way - that's for sure. For some, attending events and organizations is crucial while it doesn't work for others. My advice - give all (or most) avenues a shot and see what pays off for you.
I listened to a few of your tracks and, honestly, I was surprised that you're struggling so much with confidence because you produce good work! Perhaps you're looking at this the wrong way. Nobody wants to work with a jerk and being egotistical is a massive turn off. Try to strike a balance between being humble and approachable while having confidence that you can deliver. I'd look for some projects that are already after the kind of music you can do really well organically. I'm talking about the type of music you'd write on a free Saturday afternoon just for fun. Something that already deeply aligns with your passions and talents. Once you've scored a few games that you're proud of - and can show off to other clients - I think you'll start to feel better about your own work.
Pops and clicks are usually related to looping points not being set to zero crossings. See if your DAW has a loop tuner and if it doesn't, buy one. They're usually very cheap.
Then you want to make your starting and ending points match, preferably over the X axis. And like the others have mentioned - a change in pitch, texture or amount of reverb on only one side of the loop can make it feel lopsided instead of even.
I had always thought I could take most any style/genre, and with some research, make a passable imitation of it for a client.
If a client came to me asking for something I'm not good or experienced in, like hip hop/rap, then I'd refer them to someone who I feel could match their needs. One of the biggest mistakes I see young(er) composers make is try to write/produce every single kind of style/genre out there. Know your limits. Continue to keep learning and stretching yes, but realize and captalize on your strengths.
The music sounds pretty good! The MIDI saxophone had me cringing but that's mostly because I'm a saxophonist myself. When you can, consider hiring live soloist for key spots in your music. It really helps raises the overall production value!
I think he was using a Nueman and it was positioned above her. I should've taken a picture of it but didn't. I had a total of four sessions, each about two hours or so long and then one final 5 hour session with just the engineer. He has fantastic gear and plugs. I've got quite a bit of studio envy!
Sure, the price for each musician ranged from $40 to $60 bucks an hour. Several of them had minimums, so even if I only used them for 2 hours, I had to pay for three hours of studio time. That's to make sure it's worth their while with travel and learning the music, etc. One musician had a clause where it was either $100 per tune to learn or $50 bucks per hour in the studio, whichever was greater.
Also my only critique is there is a sharp audible intake of breath at 13 seconds on the flute track in town theme.
Yeah, I'm aware of the breath. I guess it's a matter of opinion but in an environment where so much of the music we hear is over produced and super clean, I liked having that human element mixed in the song. It's also why I didn't go back and over produce everything else in the tracks. Of course there was some production but mainly we were trying to simply enhance the performances already captured.
For all three tunes, I hired live musicians to cover the violins, flute, guitars and percussion. Everything else was done by me as well as composing the music. This is mainly for my personal enjoyment and it proved to be a very useful and educational process. I'd highly recommend anyone hire live musicians and a studio at least one to learn what it's all about. Enjoy!
Quite harsh but thank you for it. I started little less than year ago my journey with music and every constructive critique is really important to me.
I didn't feel I was really that harsh. I was critical but any time I leave critical feedback my aim is to make it constructive. To give several points or goals you can work towards to improve the piece. And, like with any critique, it's one person's opinion so always take that with a grain of salt. You're most welcome - I think you're definitely on the right path.
I understand that checking other covers is important but I don't want them to influence my work too much (which is unavoidable I think especially since I'm new to music).
I can see what you mean. As I said before, look for ways you can put a cool twist on a song while retaining it's core essence. The biggest issue for me was the odd tempo/rhythmic changes during the turn around sections which I don't recall from the original or any cover I've heard of the piece. It felt out of place to me.
I really like the approach you're taking - doing remixes are a great way to get your feet wet and learn how a solid song is constructed and produced. Of the three examples, I'd only played Castlevania 2 and was pretty excited to hear your take on Bloody Tears. Unfortunately, the slower tempo approach and instrumentation/production left me disppointed, frankly. I felt the core energy and almost angst of the original was completely removed in your remix. Also watch your string patch attack - it's often late compared to the piano and other instruments.
You also have some odd tempo fluctuations happening, when that turn around happens, like at around 1:10 or so. I get what you're going after - at least I think I do - but for me it just didn't work. What I'd recommend is looking over various covers of this very famous tune and see how you can change things while keeping the core of the song intact.