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									Professional Game Music Creation
Tips & Avoiding Common Mistakes

             Aaron Walz
         Walz Music & Sound
       Game Audio Alliance, LLC
Avoid Pitfalls

• I Get Emails and Demos all the Time
• I Also Made a Lot of Mistakes I Learned From
• I Hear Them in Released Games




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Be in Control of Your Sound!

•   Dynamics
•   EQ
•   Effects
•   Textures




                               3
Know What You are Doing!

• Orchestration
• Theory
• Technique




                           4
 Make Games, Developers, & Yourself Successful

• MUSIC = HUGE part of the game experience

• Is your music boring or fun, annoying or beautiful?

• FUN + BEAUTIFUL + ENGAGING + ARTISTIC =
   –   Players More Immersed
   –   Players Want to Play Again
   –   Better Game Reviews, Press, Awards
   –   More Downloads and Sales Charts
   –   More Purchases & Player Retention
   –   SUCCESSFUL GAME
   –   SUCCESSFUL CLIENTS
   –   MORE JOBS LATER!


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  Don’t Make Boring, “Ho Hum” Melodies
• Make something that sticks with the player and
  becomes deliciously addictive and keeps you up late
  humming, like coffee!

• Use My Famous “Secret Lyrics Trick”

• 12 Tone Row

• Limitations (range, scale, leaps)

• Is it Singable? Playable?

• Will You Remember It Tomorrow?


                                                        6
  Don’t Emulate a Mezzo Forte Ensemble
• Default 100 velocity & volume at all times = non-musical
   – inept orchestras, amateur choruses, lousy bands
   – Timbre of instruments changes with velocities
   – Use Controller drawing for velocities and volume, randomize

• Vary the texture & instrumentation
   – Quiet sections inspire tenderness
   – Loud sections excite
   – Give player full gamut of emotions




      • (Unto the Breach, Battle Theme)



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Don’t Forget Pan: Location, Location, Location…
• Panning
  –   Don’t leave it all in the middle!
  –   ALSO - Don’t hard pan things unless for a specific reason
  –   For orchestral instruments, use Paul Gilreath’s book
  –   SOME INSTRUMENTS ARE ALREADY PANNED




• Randomize tracks (Raccoon Jump - Spring Night)
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Know Your Orchestra – Don’t Write Impossible Things
    –   Insert natural breaths into wind lines
    –   Proper keys and string crossing
    –   Ranges of instruments (Guide to MIDI Orchestration)
    –   Natural timbres and volumes and uses of ranges




                                                              9
  Careful of Bad Loops (I’ll Tell You Over and Over)


• Keep the texture thin at the end of loop usually works
   – OR… Make sure start and end have same texture!


• A Natural musical fadeout (rests)
   – (Conquest - Evil March)

• Make Harmonic sense (ii, V, I, etc…)

• Use short multiple loops

• Formats – MP3’s can ruin looping
   – Compose for this limitation when you have to



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    Be Playful & Inventive, Engaging & Surprising
      (So Much Music is Boring and Uncreative)

•   Several sections and moods – include a BRIDGE
•   Vary each theme repetition slightly, hidden reward
•   Change keys (modulation) and unexpectedly
•   Find and exploit the magic in every moment
•   Think out of tempo
•   Grand pause, fermata
•   Phrase through rests
•   Unexpected accents
•   Put some SFX in music
     – (Backyard Bounce)




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  Don’t Be a Compositional Stereotype


• Vary from 4/4 and 3/4
   – (Aveyond 3 Battle)


• Mix / Change Meter & Tempo

• C Major Again? Really?

• Use Unexpected Instruments

• Tell a Unique Story




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 But Lo! Men Have Become the Tools of their Tools
              (Henry David Thoreau)

• Don’t always use the same tools!
   – NES Sounds Plugin
      • (Pixel Whirled - Ocean)

   – Native Instruments FM8
      • (Robots Track)

• Use another sequencer

• Use another sample library

• Use another input method

• Change order of writing

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 Speaking of Tools… DON’T OVERUSE LOOPS


• PLEASE Don’t overuse loops
   – Especially percussion and drums
      • Learn patterns and make your own


• Don’t ignore loops either
   – Great to study
      • Great to start with (MIDI etc)
          – Guitar strums, etc can be useful




                                               14
 Everyone’s a Teacher: Learning from Others


• Don’t miss opportunities to learn from music
   – Heard music in a club – captured bass / drums / rhythm
      • (Colorball Theme)

• Play other games
   – What works?
   – What doesn’t?

• Spotify is your friend

• Play in a musical group

• Study with someone better than you


                                                              15
Be Efficient and Sustainable

• Don’t throw things away
   – Keep rejected pieces


• Use Templates
   – (Ravenwood, Wonder Village, Dino Life)




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Don’t Overuse Effects & Use the Right Ones

• Try “Delay” rather than reverb for your tracks
   – Unless you like or want audio oatmeal


• Don’t “Normalize” or Overcompress your music
   – Listen with all SFX in that area of the game


• However, do PLAY with all effects your DAW offers




                                                      17
“EEK!”Q Disaster Zone

• Don’t “add” to emphasize a frequency region
   – Subtract from other areas (SUBTRACTIVE EQ’ing)
      • Your highs are making my ears bleed
      • Your lows are breaking my house
      • Your mix sounds like an old radio submerged in water
         – Use headphones, multiple sound systems and devices




                                                                18
 Miss Calm Muni Kate Shun
• Make sure you are on the same page with developer
   – Ask questions and don’t assume
      • Get examples from other games and songs


• Robots Game – Make it sound like robots!
   – It’s no “Small Wonder” that I didn’t get it right at first
      • (Mystery Clip)




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And Most Importantly…

• Put love, time, thought, energy into making music

• Review your work later with fresh ears and mind

• Know your limitations but believe in yourself

• Research, study, learn, listen

• Make mistakes!

• Learn from mistakes!

• Have FUN!

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