JoshCzoski

Overworld theme - interested in some feedback and questions

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One question I have for this track that is whether it sounds like it loops in a good place - it may be a bit jarring and need a better segue. The arrangement (like most of my work) can be kind of nuanced, so balance in harmonies can be something that can have me spending time considering - I wonder about the dynamic contrast a little.

Note: I DID read the sticky posts ;) like the one about whether a track is appropriate for a game. I'm considering it, but may have some useful general questions (not necessarily about this track per se).

I wrote a couple of compositions (where I've squeezed in the time) for portfolio purposes. This one was written as a demonstration of music for overworld exploration. I turned on the old Ocarina of Time and galloped around Hyrule field a bit to this track and I thought it sounded all right with it. That's basically what I was aiming for.

One question I have - using this track as an example - is, realistically, how fast might I be expected to write a track like this? Quite frankly, I can tell that a lot of composers for games (and this is not particularly a criticism), especially for smaller projects, use pretty simple orchestrations and are not taking the time to do some careful work with the midi controls, basically everything that's entailed in making a nuanced/realistic performance out of virtual instruments. Again I'm sure that's fine for many purposes as I think it comes across as a style of its own sometimes, kind of "video gamey."

So my concern is just practical here. I spent a lot of time thinking about rates and asked on another forum and got a TON of lectures like "they're not paying you for your time but for your musicianship," basically saying that (apparently) it's industry standard to charge per minute of music. I'm also a programmer, in which it IS industry standard, from all that I've heard, to charge per the amount of time the programmer actually spends on a project (I'm doing freelance with that and that's how I charge). My own (albeit limited) experience with composing is that a minute of music can vary WILDLY depending on what sort of arrangement is going on.

To that end I can also see something like this being a bit out of place on (say) some game made for mobile ;) . I've been in the realm of virtual orchestras for a while and learning all that's entailed in putting those projects together and done a lot of learning. In general I'm trying to ascertain my "readiness" for going into business.

What sort of portfolio should be prepared as a game composer? I wrote a menu theme for a game before, I wrote another town theme (hadn't had one before that), and there's this, and I have some other work that is/was background music for other game experiences. Most of what I write is very, very melodic and very very "present." I THINK it can have a place as background music - not unheard of for the kind of music that grabs attention also to be background music, with Michael Giacchino's "Medal of Honor" soundtracks coming to mind - but maybe I need some more background-ish music too, works that sound more out of the way. What do you think?

Hopefully my explanation gives the gist of what I'm trying to figure out, which basically amounts to understanding what's between me and being ready to put myself out there for whatever game gig I might be fortunate enough to work on and where I should think of heading from here.

Thanks!

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One question I have - using this track as an example - is, realistically, how fast might I be expected to write a track like this? Quite frankly, I can tell that a lot of composers for games (and this is not particularly a criticism), especially for smaller projects, use pretty simple orchestrations and are not taking the time to do some careful work with the midi controls, basically everything that's entailed in making a nuanced/realistic performance out of virtual instruments. Again I'm sure that's fine for many purposes as I think it comes across as a style of its own sometimes, kind of "video gamey."

Completely disagree with your assessment. Many of the wonderful games  I've enjoyed have had stellar soundtracks. With very effective and realistic mock ups of orchestras. And to be honest... you're kinda coming off a bit rude by making such a statement. 

Not all games need a full orchestral score. I've played several games recently that went in the opposite direction and the music was refreshing, original and helped enhance the game. And even with the games that DO go for a full orchestral score - is the music going to be dynamic? How does the music support the game's sound design and VO/narration? Sometimes less is better when you consider an interactive medium like a video game. 

But back to your question - how fast should a VG composer be expected to compose? I've seen deadlines as short as 3-4 hours. 

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So my concern is just practical here. I spent a lot of time thinking about rates and asked on another forum and got a TON of lectures like "they're not paying you for your time but for your musicianship," basically saying that (apparently) it's industry standard to charge per minute of music. I'm also a programmer, in which it IS industry standard, from all that I've heard, to charge per the amount of time the programmer actually spends on a project (I'm doing freelance with that and that's how I charge). My own (albeit limited) experience with composing is that a minute of music can vary WILDLY depending on what sort of arrangement is going on.

If you want to charge per hour, that's fine. I know plenty of audio pros that do that. Others prefer charging by the asset. My advice is to try one method and if it works for you - great. Use that! But if it doesn't, then consider the other approach. There's not really a right or wrong way. 

Quote

What sort of portfolio should be prepared as a game composer? I wrote a menu theme for a game before, I wrote another town theme (hadn't had one before that), and there's this, and I have some other work that is/was background music for other game experiences. Most of what I write is very, very melodic and very very "present." I THINK it can have a place as background music - not unheard of for the kind of music that grabs attention also to be background music, with Michael Giacchino's "Medal of Honor" soundtracks coming to mind - but maybe I need some more background-ish music too, works that sound more out of the way. What do you think?

I would pick a few styles that you feel best represent you and your passion(s) and then showcase those. In other words, if you want to be an orchestral composer who's known for themes and sweeping melodies, then go in that direction. I wouldn't try and do too many genres and styles because very few people can be awesome at all of them. 

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Yikes I think you completely misunderstood what I was saying, and I really hope you might my reconsider your interpretation, though I also hope you'll pardon me for the way I came across. I can't understate how much I COMPLETELY agree with what you're saying about games either having very wonderfully-done virtual orchestras OR other styles like chiptunes or any other electronic sounds all across the spectrum OR just generally more basic orchestral sounds than something like EWQL and they are all valid. :)

Also, I'm a HUGE fan of game music that is not at all orchestral, from 8-bit to 16-bit and I absolutely love the styles as well as how they compliment the games they go with - can't understate my lifelong enthusiasm for that, so I think that was very misunderstood. I often listen to SNES Knights of the Round while working lately; somehow I just love it and find that one a bit underrated and forgotten. ;) 

The only thing I seem to be having a very, very hard time conveying when I'm asking questions about timeframe is that I find it rather inescapable that some kinds of work takes a lot longer than others to do - I have simply had a very, very hard time getting answers for it. I've written pretty quick works that I'll totally stand behind - as well as works of others too, as I hope goes without saying - that I would consider (and see no harm or offense in saying) were a lot simpler to put together and therefore MUCH faster to get ready than - for example - the musical piece that I put up.

So part of my question - if you'll excuse me for repeating myself - is, what's considered reasonable for putting together something like what I posted here? It was not quick for me. And definitely not as quick as some of my own works that I'd consider "simpler" to put together - however it's considered proper (and not "rude") for me to put it, a work like the one I posted definitely has a lot more to it and (for me) therefore takes more time to complete. So I'm considering, how concerned should I be about trying to get "faster" at it and weigh the need for considering timing - a real concern. Or maybe I need a different approach, etc. The point of my question had to do with my competence for getting something ready in a reasonable timeframe. I'm actually still rather new to composing with all of the features between VSTS and just DAWs in general and I still struggle for getting used to it. I mean no disrespect.

Thank you for the answers you gave, though. I hope that clarifies my intentions a bit better as I seem to struggle to successfully ask clearly what I thought to be a very important question without coming across as rude (apparently not succeeding in both counts) in some way, so maybe you can help me with that if I managed to make myself clear this time.  Does my question make better sense? Again, please pardon me as I've struggled to get an answer. I suppose what I should have done is go on the EWQL forums as they work with this exact software all the time, but I thought I should ask people who are actually in the business.

Edited by JoshCzoski

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Oh, to further clarify, I might get an answer like "well you may have to prioritize if you're under the gun with your arrangements" and "sometimes you might run out of time for micromanaging velocities and some midi controls as that takes extra time," OR, you just plain have to practice and get faster if you're not able to do a work like that faster than "x" amount of time when the situation truly calls for it.

These are just thoughts that I toss around. ;)

You mentioned a deadline of 3-4 hours, for example. I couldn't write the theme I posted here in that short amount of time - not even close to being able to do that, but I can write what I personally find to be less complicated approaches in timeframes like that (just depending on what it is or needs to be). So, the practicality of writing music certain ways and/or just working on my speed is what I'm considering. Thanks!

Edited by JoshCzoski

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I'm sorry for misunderstanding you! 

So part of my question - if you'll excuse me for repeating myself - is, what's considered reasonable for putting together something like what I posted here?

I could produce a track like you've written in about 2 days. I don't know if that is faster/slower/on pace with you but that's about the length of time it would take me. I did a 3 minute track recently that took me 3 days and that was with requests for changes and tweaks from the client. So that ate up some of the time as well. That track is right here: 

I was working with a quite defined brief from the client so I didn't have free reign to go in some of the other directions I would've preferred. Another track I did in 1 day was:

This track was for a game's promo/video and had VO literally all over it. What I'm sharing is the music only version, of course. 

No worries on the confusion. :) Working with only text can sometimes be an issue. 

Oh and for the record, your piece is LOVELY. Very wonderfully done! 

One more example - this is a trailer I wrote in 7 hours for FUNimation. 

You can hear just how much VO there is and some sound design as well. 

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nsmadsen,

Ah perfect, thank you! That's very very helpful information! (just the kind I was looking for) And thanks for sharing those tracks.

It's making me think that I may need to work on getting a BIT faster but it seems in the realm of doable - a lot of my slowness comes from running into technical problems working with the DAW, as well as some general inexperience with it (trying to figure out exactly what's bugging me about something in my composition). Right now I'm in a very big project in large part for my learning/practices.

Since we're on the same page about that, is it possible that I could ask for your thoughts about how to do rates? I mean, maybe I should first concern myself with making sure I have a stable workflow and making a portfolio, but if I were to jump in, I do wonder what would be reasonable to charge by hour of work or minute of music from my current position. I  haven't worked with a client in this field before (just did a little music at a start-up very briefly).

Thanks again! ;)

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Sure thing - glad it helped! 

Re: rates

I've always charged by asset delivered, with the exception to a few projects which wanted an hourly rate. The reason why I didn't like hourly rates is because it created more work for me in keeping time sheets and reporting them to the client. And it also didn't define the total project cost for the client either. Example: If I nailed something then it might be cheaper for the client but if it takes many revisions and such, then it could end up being more expensive for the client. 

I've found that clients like knowing the exact amount they'll spend on a project. And yes, it does put some risk back on my plate but a large majority of the time, this hasn't been an issue for me. I've been able to deliver audio that the client is happy with. But please note - I do have a revision cap clause in my contract. This is because I once had a client want endless revisions just to see what I'd come up with. The client had no real goal - they were just curious. Ended up costing me a ton of effort, time and ultimately, money. So now I cap things at 3 full revisions. After that, there's an extra cost factored in. 

Hope that helps!

Nate

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Nate:

Wonderful, thank you so much! I feel like I may have very nearly as much in the way of tips to feel confident for getting started. (I was just remembering a tip you made earlier about putting a "watermark" over a track). Your methods sound very reasonable to me. I kind of envisioned doing something like that, like getting a feel for what a client wants and then coming up with a price per project.

I had noticed on your YouTube page that you were doing music and overall sound design for some anime trailers. I appreciate that last example also - looks like a great package, and it's making me consider doing some personal exercises like give myself a limited amount of time to come up with something for that sort of need. I've seen some composers write their work over existing movies as demonstrations too.

Thanks for the compliment! :) At the moment I'm a bit in a playground with composing, with very very limited experience writing for occasions so far, so your work on the trailer is also particularly interesting to me - no sound design experience beyond music, however.

Cheers,

Josh

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