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How do you break in with a PhD?

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My friend is a PhD in Music Theory and Composition with an instrumental focus on woodwinds, specifically bassoon (though he is more than proficient in drums and many other instruments.) He graduates in 2 weeks and is a bit jaded by the classic music industry. How would he go about breaking in to the gaming industry with his classical composition background? Send demo music to studios? I tried to help him look for a job listing at some company sites, but they never seem to want composers. Does that indicate that original music composition is not needed? What other skills might he want to acquire in order to work in the music side of game development? What's the best way to find musical-oriented jobs at game studios?

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He'll need to be able to do digital foley work if he wants to be hired in games for music. No one is ever just hired to play an instrument or compose music.

Audio designers basically do:
music composition
asset integration
create sounds for weapons, spells, & all other SFX items (footsteps, etc, etc)

Basically he needs to be comfortable with Pro Tools, mixing sound assets, digital composition (i.e. layers of tracks that can be programmatically layered as action intensifies or whatever)

-me

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I talked to him about your suggestions and he said he's not familiar with digital foley work, asset integration, Pro Tools, mixing sound assets... He has done digital composition though on a program called "Finale". He checked out some videos about Pro Tools and it looks like something he thinks he can pick up.

Do you have any recommendation for learning foley work or asset mixing/integration? They don't seem to teach that at the University here. Is there an online resource about it that he might benefit from reading?

Thanks for your advice Palidine, he has been pretty down about his degree choice lately (options are limited, especially due to the economic woes), and I think this is cheering him up and giving him things to work toward again.

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Hey.

Speaking within Australia, most internal positions seem to be more geared towards audio editting, sound design (sound effect asset creation), voice over talent hiring, dialogue recording, audio integration and they usually say on the job description "music knowledge a plus"

Most composers are hired externally on a per job basis, as a contracter. He might want to think about working for himself and doing this.

In the West I believe this is most common. Japan seems to have more full time composers within the game studios

I would recommend he reads the book "The Complete Guide to Game Audio"

It doesn't give much info on sound design or mixing techniques etc, but that book gives a wealth of information on how the industry runs & finding work :D Sounds like it might be just what he needs.

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Quite a few studios don't actually have their own audio departments anymore. Instead they outsource their music requirements to music production companies. If you have a look in the back of a few industry specific magazines such as gamedevmag, develop or MCV (these are UK ones there must be others) there is usually quite a large section featuring game specific music services.

If he is really serious about getting into the music side of game development he might be better off making a few contacts and starting out on his own.

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The first thing to realize with the game industry is that a PhD in music means almost nothing. Like others have pointed out already in this thread, there are so many other factors that go into game audio that a PhD doesn't cover. That is unless you get a PhD that has an emphasis in music technology (and even then there are gaps). The PhD will help with music creation, but not with anything else required for an in-house position (and sometimes freelance positions as well).

While I'm sure he can write outstanding music, there are many things he needs to do to prove himself before landing an in-house position.

1) Set up a website with a demo reel of music he's created.

2) Learn audio engine platforms, like Wwise, Fmod and Miles.

3) Know how to create full musical scores (in a variety of orchestrations and styles) on a computer using only VST plug-ins. Being a PhD student means he probably has alot of experience working with live musicians. Unless you're working on a major AAA title, you'll probably be tasked with making music of the music yourself. Does he know how to do this?

3a) Sub-point of number 3. Does he know how to create looping music? Does he know how to create dynamic music? Does he understand that writing music for a concert is linear while music for games isn't.

4) There are audio jobs but many of the companies only have a few audio guys on staff. My company, for example, is about 125 people strong and there are two audio nerds...I mean staff. :)

5) Understand that foley creation differs VASTLY from music creation. He'll need to spend a good bit of time learning this. It also seems that he has very little audio production experience which could be a major problem. Finale is not a good program to use for music creation in video games. At least it certainly isn't a standard. It's great for notation, terrible for music production.

If he's serious about this, there are many tech requirements that he simply doesn't know yet. But he can learn them!

Sorry, I don't mean to be a downer but I want to be upfront with him about the tech skills required to land a video game gig. If he wants to write music and doesn't have a tech background, then I think writing for film would be a much better fit for him. He'll still have to learn a good DAW program as well as get some decent samples (I suggest Project SAM, East West and VSL) and learn how to produce really well. Otherwise it will just not sound professional when compared with other composers already versed with this tech and gear.

Thanks,

Nate

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