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Inside the Mind of a Composer

Why was that musical decision made? Where did that unique instrument choice come from? Read through the questions & thoughts I have while composing a piece of music for a hypothetical game situation.

Kole Hicks, Blogger

February 11, 2011

2 Min Read

"If I were playing a fictitious/high-fantasy game as the great explorer “Marco Polo” while he wandered through the borderlands of Mongolia/Northern China on a foggy night… what would that sound like?"

This is the question I challenged myself with when completing my articles on "Mixing as Part of the Music Composition Process" for Shockwave-Sound.com.  In Part 1 I go through the process of asking myself questions and then try to answer them before a single note has been written.  Essentially setting the foundation so that when it's time to write/record it will be much easier to focus on the ideas/emotions most important to the piece and more easily isolate/identify any issues that arise.  In Part 2, we go through the actual decisions made for the final piece of music and discuss why some original ideas were kept intact when others may have been altered or dropped entirely.

While I'm not Nobuo Uematsu, Chance Thomas, Jack Wall, Duncan Watt, or any other great AAA game Composer, we all share one thing in common.  We want and try as hard as possible to create the best music possible for whatever game we're working on.  To do this we often have to "step" into the mind of not only the player, but the game's character(s) and even the other developers!  This is because the more we learn about and become aware of everything that factors into the creation/distribution of the game, the better chance we have of creating a score that strikes true both on an emotional and technical level.

If you've just hired a Composer to work on your game, being aware of how some of us think and what questions we ask ourselves will not only make both of our jobs easier... the end result will be the benefactor.  The same applies to every position (Artist, Sound Designer, Programmer, etc.), however I'll list a few questions I ask myself (and the audio lead) every time I begin to write music for a new game.

1. What is the overall Theme/Goal of the game?

2. What Genre(s) does this game fall into and what platform is it being made for?

3. Who are the most important characters/places in the game?

4. How interactive should this score be?

5. What should the music say?  Does it emphasize the primary message, hint towards a second, or perhaps have it's own separate one?

... Plus many more.

Answering these questions yourself before hiring a Composer will absolutely make him/her grateful for the confidence and clarity in your vision for the music.  Thanks for reading and I hope this blog entry (plus reading through the articles linked above) is beneficial for you!

**If you'd like to hear the music I created for the "Marco Polo" question, click HERE.

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