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Michael Aganier

How does one communicates his needs to a composer?

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I need music for a project. I've been listening to a lot of royalty free online music and assembled a little collection, but they're lacking two important things. First, they don't sound like they are part of one soundtrack because some tunes differ too much from one another.  Second, most of them don't match the theme of my game exactly like I want it to.

I know the first problem is fixed by hiring a composer that will make the whole soundtrack fit together. The question of this topic is for the second problem. I have the idea of what I want the music to sound like, but I can only express it in very general terms.

How does a non-music person communicates what he wants his music to be like? Do I try to find music that sounds like what I want and let the composer write the soundtrack from that? Do I ask the composer for previews and choose what to keep? Do I let the composer make his own vision of what would be the best music for my game? What happens when your client doesn't like the music you made for him?

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Short answer: reference tracks. Give your composer a handful of tracks or artists that are in the style you want. Feel free to add any comments you feel relevant. (e.g. "I want a track like this one, but a little faster, and with no violins".)

When working with a freelance artist or composer, there is always the risk that they will work hard on your project and still produce something that you don't like. You can reduce this risk by agreeing to check the work early, e.g. via previews like you said, and offer direction based on what you see.

Some freelancers might agree to a contract where, if you choose not to use the final product, they get to keep the product (and sell it elsewhere) and you pay a reduced fee (because you didn't get the product, but you still had work done for you).

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A composer's goal is to match your vision, not their own. Therefore a good composer will ask you a whole lot of questions.

Of course, as  composers are human, and as they need to add to your idea to merge it into music, there may be losses in communication. So you should gather as many drafts as soon as possible. 

Besides, I might be looking for a project to work on ;)

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Lots of good info in the first two responses!

Reference tracks (with good notes) are an absolute must unless you've hired a composer because you know his/her "signature sound" and want that sound for your game. A good collaborator will be able to ask you the right questions to suss out why you chose your reference tracks.

After sharing the tracks and talking over what aspects are part of your vision, I've had success producing a ~10 minute musical collage of different ideas and sounds that I think would work for the project. It's a good way to quickly get a broad scope of musical ideas for review and to avoid sinking too much time into work that will get rejected.

Good luck!

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Yup, reference tracks. And talk to me more about what you want the player to be feeling. Show me as many pictures and videos of the game and world you're creating. Tell me your story then I'll translate that into music and audio! 

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As said many times here, reference tracks -> early demos -> feedback on demos -> corrections -> ... -> and we have ideal track that fits the game like a glove :)

Even non-musical people are able to give feedback which smart composer understands and converts into sound. The two don't have to speak the same language, but it always requires lot of questions to clarify, to build kind of dictionary.  

"music is too loud" often means there is too much happening in the music and it distracts attention from the gameplay
"music is too fast" often means piano syncopation is not needed here
"sounds too cosmic" often means that you should remove all those lush reverbs from the loop you are making for children puzzle game
"sounds too comic" often means that accordion was wrong choice for the thriller game :)   

etc... you got the idea. So even if you say "it should sound more orange" smart composer will understand what you mean after a couple of questions.

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On 12/4/2017 at 2:05 AM, Michael Aganier said:

How does a non-music person communicates what he wants his music to be like? Do I try to find music that sounds like what I want and let the composer write the soundtrack from that? Do I ask the composer for previews and choose what to keep? Do I let the composer make his own vision of what would be the best music for my game? What happens when your client doesn't like the music you made for him?

I forgot the name of this awesome site but if you type in freelance music producers or hire a music producer, you'll find it. Fiverr has some serious talent too. After you find someone, just tell them "Must sound like Hans Zimmer" and you're good to go ;)

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14 hours ago, Eric LeClair said:

I forgot the name of this awesome site but if you type in freelance music producers or hire a music producer, you'll find it. Fiverr has some serious talent too. After you find someone, just tell them "Must sound like Hans Zimmer" and you're good to go

Riddles time! :)

I typed and got upwork :)  Well, I work there for two years and I agree that sometimes customers refer to Zimmer, but more often they operate with references on YouTube ("it's the closest example of what I am looking for"), or refer to existing games ("I am looking for sometimes similar to Mass Effect OST")

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