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I would like to start exploring the music and sound side of games, but I don't know quite where to start; it seems like there's as much (possibly more) to music and sound as any other area of game development. I have downloaded a trial version of Finale Song Writer and started playing around with it, but I wanted to get some advice to see where I should be concentrating efforts as an aspiring composer/sound designer. Thanks for any input. -AJ

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...it seems like there's as much (possibly more) to music and sound as any other area of game development.


AMEN!! I'm really glad to hear you say that... or type it. Too often sound, for whatever reason(s), gets slated as being "easy" and "fast" by those that don't know anything about it. It's not. But that's a conversation for another day...

:)

I have a few questions for you because you don't give too much personal info and that can drastically change the advice I'd give you.

1) Do you already do music outside of game audio? Can you play any instruments? Do you know how to read music or tab? Have you tried writing music before?

2) Have you ever messed around with audio production before? (Recording your own music or sound effects just for fun) Do you know what the different basic audio FX do? (Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Delay, Dist. etc)

3) Are you sure you want to tackle sound design and music at the same time? Many of us pros started with one, got good at it then started learning the other at a later time. Personally, I studied music for roughly 20 years (all of the school, college and grad school years plus a few years outside of those periods) before I started messing around with sound design. To take on both at the same time, particularly if somewhat new to both areas may be a bit much. I'd suggest focusing on one at a time.

So, write back and I (along with the forum) will start giving you some advice! Glad to have you here.

Thanks,

Nate

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Original post by nsmadsen
Quote:
...it seems like there's as much (possibly more) to music and sound as any other area of game development.


AMEN!! I'm really glad to hear you say that... or type it. Too often sound, for whatever reason(s), gets slated as being "easy" and "fast" by those that don't know anything about it. It's not. But that's a conversation for another day...

:)

I have a few questions for you because you don't give too much personal info and that can drastically change the advice I'd give you.

1) Do you already do music outside of game audio? Can you play any instruments? Do you know how to read music or tab? Have you tried writing music before?


Between junior high and high school I played three different instruments (trumpet, TC baritone, and french horn), I dabbled with guitar and I continure to play my trumpet now and again. I do know how to read music and this is my first attempt at trying to write music.

Quote:
2) Have you ever messed around with audio production before? (Recording your own music or sound effects just for fun) Do you know what the different basic audio FX do? (Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Delay, Dist. etc)


I have never done anything with audio production and I am not very familiar with the audio FX.

Quote:
3) Are you sure you want to tackle sound design and music at the same time? Many of us pros started with one, got good at it then started learning the other at a later time. Personally, I studied music for roughly 20 years (all of the school, college and grad school years plus a few years outside of those periods) before I started messing around with sound design. To take on both at the same time, particularly if somewhat new to both areas may be a bit much. I'd suggest focusing on one at a time.


I wasn't planning on trying both at the same time. I am very interested in both them, but I feel like sound design might be funner than composition, while composition would be more rewarding because it's no small feat to write an entire score.

Quote:
So, write back and I (along with the forum) will start giving you some advice! Glad to have you here.

Thanks,

Nate


Thanks for the quick response and I look forward to learning a lot about game audio.

-AJ

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Ok, I'll give advice on music since you already have a program that will do that, know how to play a few instruments and can read it.

1) Know that video game music can be anything. Every once in a while it seems that someone get's all bent out of shape saying that game music has to be X or Y. It doesn't. Sure there are musical approaches that work better from game to game. You should start playing a ton of video games and seeing what soundtracks affect you positively or negatively. Take note of how and why the soundtrack does this (if you can). Expand this to all mediums: TV, film, cartoon, radio promos, etc. Listen, listen, listen. The more music you surround yourself with, the better.

2) Start writing. If you want to land some projects, even free ones, you'll probably need to have a demo of some sort put together. Client want to know what they're buying before they spend their money/time/energy.

3) Get feedback from others. I don't think you'll have any issues with this! You're already seeking advice from others which is great. As you get more music put together, share it with the forum. Most folks are very helpful here and will do their best to give you their input and some kind of constructive criticism.

4) Samples. One thing you discover very quickly is that working with MIDI alone is pretty limiting in many ways. I have Finale, but I don't have the Song Writer version of it. It comes with 128 sounds, but you'll find that only goes so far. Especially if you're wanting to write in a variety of styles and orchestrations. So as you learn more, you'll probably find yourself wanting to get better, more realistic sounds. There are TONS of avenues to pick from and I (or others here) can help you pick through which will be right for your needs and budget.

5) Testing it out. One cool approach is to replace existing music with your own. I don't know if you have access to any video games that are open source and would enable you to do this, but it could be a cool approach. When I'm working on a new level, I often have the level loaded up in front of me while I write. It really helps to see the environment and feel the pacing of the level (enemies, obstacles, climate etc). Placing your music on top of it is a good way to see if you're on the right track or not before going through the implementation part of everything.

6) Speaking of implementation: this is where video game music differs from just about every other media. Some games are easy- you give them an MP3 or WAV and go about your merry way. Some are much more complex. (This is even more so for sound design.) Right now focus on being able to create good music. Music that people would want to hear while playing a game. Music that a client would want to offer payment to use. We'll get to the implementation part in more detail later. I just wanted to plant that seed that audio implementation can go much deeper than some realize. One thing that would be good to get used to is writing music that loops.

7) Basic audio production: Even with writing music, you'll need to have some idea of how to do audio production. The core, more basic tip I can give you is to not get in a habit of peaking your meters (or dB output) too high. Not sure if Finale Song Writer has meters in it's interface but here's an example of what I'm talking about:

Meters

It's very common to have the meters colored green when the dB output is in a "safe" range. When a meter turns red that means it's reached or surpassed the 0 dB range.

The biggest mistake I see young composers make is to not understand enough about audio production. I even had one say "Hey, I'm not wanting to be a producer! Why should I care!?" He, and every one in the same situation, should care because unless you have all of your material professionally mastered, then you ARE the producer for all of your music. The only other solution would be to hire live musicians for all of your project's final recordings. Most folks, including me, cannot afford this so the task and responsibility of producing the audio well falls on us.

Each of the subjects can get really, really deep. I started messing around with audio in 2000 and for five years I just did it for myself. Over that time I learned many things by just doing it. I'd mix out a song only to later realize that the levels were way too high and speakers were crackling. Other times I'd learn that I made the mix too muddy by having way too much in the lower frequencies. Audio is learned best by getting your hands and your ears dirty. So experiment! And share with others so you can learn what you're doing well and what you need to work on. I think that's enough to digest for right now.

Nate

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Wow, thank you for that incredibly informative advice. I will definitely take that on board and start getting down to business. I also just downloaded the trial for FL Studio, so I'll be playing around with that a bit. It seems like it would be more suited to something you would expect in a game. From what I have done so far in Song Writer I am getting results that sound more like classical music than anything I've ever heard in a game. I'm not saying you can't make game music with Song Writer (as you said, game music can be anything), it just feels like with all the crazy effects and generators available in FL Studio it will produce results more typical of what you would expect in a game. Thanks again for all the info and I will post back soon after I learn some things about my software and have something for y'all to critique.

-AJ

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