Paul Dubrovsky

How to Compose Music for Video Games and Be the Best Player in the Niche

Music for Video Games

The video game industry is gaining momentum every day. According to Newzoo, the market volume was nearly $180 billion in 2020 and that number continues to grow. As technology expands and consumer demand grows, new horizons are opening up not only for developers, designers and programmers, but also for musicians. What video game is complete without music?

If you have experience in composing music, advanced music-creating skills, and the ability to storytelling through the music, you can become a video game composer. To do this, you need to know a few simple tricks that will help you to understand how to compose music for video games and become an expert in this amazing genre.

So, below are the most important tips for composing video game music. Let’s start.

Understanding of basic music theory

Just as with DJs, a video game music composer needs to know the specifics of his/her audience, and like composers for films, it is necessary to “feel” the plot. Arranger skills and the use of technology to convey sound effects and apply tones will only help.

Feel comfortable with your digital audio workstation. In order to compose music for video games, you should be proficient in a digital audio workstation (DAW) such as Logic, Pro Tools, Cubase, or Digital Performer, however, you do not need to have the skills and collaboration with professional recording studios. Since you will most likely only be sending scanned WAV files to developers, you do not need to compose with the game developer’s proprietary software.

Expand your professional network

Interacting with gamers, programmers and game designers will help you not only to expand your network of potential employers, but also gain a comprehensive vision of the field.

Set realistic goals for yourself

Don’t set yourself the task of writing long tracks for a game bestseller at once. Experiment with different beat combinations, gradually lengthening the track length, and with different genres. For example, try first with a light baby games for beginners, instead of compose Indie video game music.

Treat the game like a movie / TV show

Every gamer knows that every episode of the game is equal to an episode of a TV series or a movie. They contain all the components of the script, the main characters, their experiences and tasks. Think about how the music affects the perception of the film and try to recreate these impressions.

Play games yourself

Unlike traditional movie scoring, in video game scoring you will be creating interactive music. Therefore, you will want to experience the full range of emotions that the user encounters while playing the game. Already from the point of view of the user, you can see where the musical accompaniment is lacking, and where it is excessive, and you can also evaluate the success and harmony of the selected melody.

composing video game music

Explore the classics

Explore the works of famous video game composers. This is just as important as studying the classics of literature or pop music. Nobuo Uematsu, Koji Kondo and Yuzo Koshiro, Hans Zimmer are brilliant examples to study.

Key skills required for video game music production

First of all, it is creativity and passion. This is true for any fields, but especially for art.
Music for games is a dynamic field, so you should always keep up to date with the latest trends. To do this, you can use thematic channels in social networks, subscribe to reputable bloggers and experts.

How to survive in a highly competitive environment and how to stand out?

Merely providing a bunch of full-length tracks probably won’t get you too much attention; music takes time to listen to, and the sound engineer may well have only a few minutes for your show video.
First impressions matter, so to make an immediate impression on your music, provide a short, effective demo with relevant examples. You can post your work as an example in your portfolio or in the feed on social networks, or even establish partnerships with influencers.

What are the main pitfalls composers should consider when working with video games?

Composers must be aware of all the technical limitations and capabilities of the platform they are developing for. As mentioned above, the game composer should not be limited to music only, he/she should learn the basic subtleties of development, design and script ideas. This will help to avoid misunderstandings and anticipate possible difficulties in the perception of the audience.

Whether composing a track listing from pre-recorded songs or composing completely new pieces of music using musical instruments in a recording studio, when creating a soundtrack, you need to think about the overall experience of the players.

Think about how they will play, how many screens they will play, whether they are wearing headphones or not, whether the lights are on or off.

For example, if the action takes place in the wilderness, consider imitating the sound of crickets, while in the wilderness you might want to reproduce the sound of the wind.

The goal of your sonic “expedition” is to create something that can be vividly imagined without any visual aids. So that the players close their eyes and can see the game simply through the music.

Create tension and intrigue

Let’s take another example of watching movies. Do you remember how you did not notice how several hours passed while watching the film, how you felt that the heroes were as if nearby?

Bring this technique into the game, and you’ll get the same effect. When watching a movie, people usually set aside two or so hours a day to sit down and watch. In the case of the game, you can enter and leave the room, pause and restart, accidentally put the controller down and leave it in your hands for several days. But if you create tension with the soundtrack, users are unlikely to be able to come off.

Align the results

Developers and producers will have their own ideas of how the game should ultimately sound. Therefore, you should keep in touch with them often and make sure that all aspects of the game’s design, including music, work in harmony. Even if everything is perfect in your opinion, flaws may be noticeable from the outside, so before publishing your work to a wide audience, test on your colleagues is composed piece a good one.

Find your sound

Just as a singer finds a genre that suits his voice, it is important for a composer to find his own sound. Understand, what kind of music (for example, fantasy), what instruments work well, what keys in composing music for video games you enjoy, all the technical elements associated with composing music, and your listening satisfaction combined with the playing process – all of these are key to successful performance, advancement and growth, high remuneration and protection from burnout.

Conclusion

Now you know that it is a very realistic dream and challenge to start composing video game music. Start learning about trends and keep developing your skills. Fire up your console and play different games. Pay close attention to the soundtracks and background sound elements, maybe you will learn something new. Perhaps this is how you even get inspired to write your first piece.

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