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Composition Software Guidance Needed

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#1 Cliffunk   Members   


Posted 17 May 2012 - 09:27 PM

Well Iv'e poked around the internet and the forum and really didn't find what I am looking for. You guys seem like a good cummunity so I will go ahead and ask.

First off I'm a utter greenhorn in creating video game music. I am however a musician with some compositional experience but past the pen and paper I'm completely lost. With that being said I need some guidance in what software/hardware I need to not write music but create it for a game. Being a poor college student I have a tight budget so for now cheap is a must.

Now here is the situation. My brother is making an rpg through C# and XNA. He is hoping to get this posted to Xbox live indie games and obviously he needs music which is where I come in. So I need to be able to create music for him in the style of retro rpgs from say the NES or SNES. Also any tips for composing game music would be welcomed since I'm sure it is an entirely different beast from writing for big band or combo Jazz.


#2 bschmidt1962   Members   


Posted 18 May 2012 - 09:43 AM

there's a style of music called "chiptunes" that's sort of popular. As the name implies, it's music inspired by the videogames of the 80's (where sound "chips" created the music).
if you do a google search for chiptunes VST, you'll see lots of VST plugins, that will let you create the 'sound' (synth timbres) of old videogames.

I presume you have some sort of sequencer you're familiar with, and also presume it supports VST's. So using a "chiptunes" VST will get you the right timbres (which are mainly square/triangle/saw waves or noise). If you're asking "what sequencer and computer should I get", there's a ton of opinions on that all over the web :), so I'll focus on the "game" side of your question..

To get the right 'sound' you need to compose 'correctly'. By that I mean that you have write they way the chip composers did in those days. You need to limit your polyphony-- songs from video games generally used only a handful of voices (2-4). So if you create music with lush, 12 note chords, it won't sound "retro".

A very common technique used in NES is using one voice, but for 2 lines--with a single 'voice' alternating between a bass line and a melody, It's a VERY iconic "NES" type style for game music. If you listen here (
) you'll notice that when a 'bass' note plays, there are no 'melody' notes playing.

One thing to note is that the SNES sound is very different from the NES sound, so you need to figure out which you want :)... what I described above is the NES sound. The SNES sound is characterized by somewhat bigger polyphony (6-8 voices), and different timbres. SNES games don't use square/triangle/saw waves forthe most part. Rather they use very short looping samples.

Hope that helps! keep us posted

Brian Schmidt
GameSoundCon Oct 24/25 2012

Brian Schmidt

Executive Director, GameSoundCon:

GameSoundCon 2016:September  27-28, Los Angeles, CA



Founder, Brian Schmidt Studios, LLC

Music Composition & Sound Design

Audio Technology Consultant

#3 Cliffunk   Members   


Posted 19 May 2012 - 08:13 PM

Thanks for the help. The information is very useful. So me and my brother decided that we are go to use SNES style music and I have gone back and closely listened to music from my favorite games of that era.

I think I had more issue with the sequencer part of my question. Getting a start into the whole process of making game music got me overwhelmed. However after doing a lot more digging I found a tutorial to get me started. Currently I am trying Reaper and successfully made a six bar midi ditty. I'm also learning a lot more about VSTs.

Thanks again for the help.

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