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Are there jobs you can't do?

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#1 GXW   Members   


Posted 06 July 2012 - 05:37 AM

I'm just starting to get into composing, and I've hooked up with a few amateur developers to make games recently, with no money involved, just doing it in our spare time and putting it out there, just for experience. One developer I joined recently asked me for a particular genre of music, which I can do fine, but when we got talking, they said they wanted another completely unrelated genre of music, which I don't really know anything about. I've immersed myself in the genre, listening a lot to the particular pieces they've suggested to me, studied several websites on writing in that genre, but I think what it comes down to is: I simply am not versed in that style of music, nor can I play it very well on any instrument. I've spent several days and come up with half ideas that I'm not happy with. I'm loath to give up, but I'm not sure what else to do. Does anyone else have any experience of this kind of situation?

#2 nsmadsen   Moderators   


Posted 06 July 2012 - 08:05 AM


First off, don't beat yourself up about this. It's impossible for one person to be able to do every kind of music available! Or at least do it well. (Side note: those that say they can are often full of BS anyway.) What I'd do, if I were in this situation, is "subcontract" out to another composer than is well versed in this style. Especially since this is an unpaid project, it shouldn't be too much of a legal/cost issue to add in another guy. Perhaps you guys could even collaborate some and you'll learn a bit about this new style?

In my own work I have a guitar guy I subcontract out work to all of the time because I'm just not very good at guitar. I'll write the entire track and do a mock up of the guitar parts, get initial approvel from the client then have him record live guitar to that track, mix it all in and deliver it to the client. It's worked very well. I also have trumpet and violin players I can hire for similar situations. Try to expand your network to fill up your pallete with various live players. Myself, I play all of the saxophones and piano.

I have a great colleague who doesn't do jazz so a few times he's hired me to write jazz music for projects he's one. In most cases I get credited but in the past I've also done a few ghost writing jobs - where no credit is officially given but I was paid.

Edited by nsmadsen, 06 July 2012 - 08:09 AM.

Nathan Madsen
Nate (AT) MadsenStudios (DOT) Com
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios

Cedar Falls, IA

#3 Moritz P.G. Katz   Members   


Posted 06 July 2012 - 08:26 AM


Yea, I agree with Nathan!
Networking is fun and profitable.

Another thought: Just recently, I went to a 3-day GameMusic MasterClass with Chris Hülsbeck (Turrican, Star Wars: Rebel Strike, Great Giana Sisters) and Michael Stöckemann (CEO of label Sound of Games) - and this question also came up.

Their answer was something like: "90% of the jobs probably just aren't for you, that's the way we approach these things. Be it for financial or for creative reasons. And that is actually quite reassuring: if you get turned down, it just wasn't your job. There are many good projects out there and some of them need exactly your music - rather do less jobs and do them right."

I think that makes a lot of sense. If you feel a job is going to be a constant fight that will eventually wear you out, maybe you should just reject it. There's no shame in that!
On the contrary, if you do it in a friendly and professional way, the client may even be impressed and tell his peers about that composer guy who doesn't take on just any job.


Check out my Music/Sound Design Reel on moritzpgkatz.de

#4 Tom Sloper   Moderators   


Posted 06 July 2012 - 11:54 AM

they wanted another completely unrelated genre of music, which I don't really know anything about.
I'm loath to give up, but I'm not sure what else to do.

You have to be forthright and up front about what services you can and cannot provide.
The thread
Sound teams vs. the One-man Operation

also applies, a little.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#5 GXW   Members   


Posted 07 July 2012 - 11:14 AM

Hey, thanks for the advice guys. It seems like most careers, networking is the key, something I've never been too good at. That thread about working in a team is very interesting too.

#6 CBledsoejr   Members   


Posted 07 July 2012 - 07:47 PM

This is rough for a lot of people and I can absolutely relate. Along with what some of the others are saying, you definitely need to be forward about your services and what you CAN do. However, I got into the habit of never saying "No" so I got into a few frustrating situations where it was actually more work for me because I was simply not well versed in said area of music. However, I do know what I am good at, so it's important to be able to say "Hey, I've never written pirate music before. Why don't I try a mock-up and we'll go from there?" Sometimes that's the best way. I grew up on metal guitar but sometimes I do pop, country, electronic, orchestral.... anything. But if someone asked me to write urban hip-hop I'd just refer them to someone else or subcontract a friend who is better at it (Because I'm terrible in that genre, as well as others). I mean, if someone asked me to write traditional Chinese I would have no clue where to start, so in that situation it might be best to find another solution than "Maybe I'll just research it and see what comes of it..." (Cause I've done that too, haha...)

Anyway, I wouldn't get bummed out about it. But I'd push through and use it as a learning experience. I never knew I could write children's music until someone asked me to and I said "Yes" so sometimes the best way to know what you're good at is to continuously learn, grow, and perfecting the art of creating music! Hint: You'll never perfect it! Best of luck on the rest of the project

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