Valparaíso, Chile
carlos.ibanez@criticalfailure-studio.com

Writing music for a project… Where Do I Start?

Writing music for a project… Where Do I Start?

One of the things I don’t like about writing music is the early process, It’s me alone in my room staring at a clean sheet of paper that somehow stares back at me.
What key do I write on?, What type of melody shoud I make?, Should I brew another cup of coffee? (quick answer: don’t know, not sure, yes)
After a couple of projects in films and videogames I’ve found a process that seems to work for me, let me share it with you.

Purpose/References

First talk to the development team about the function of the music that should be playing, what type of feelings should it speak of, references, genres, etc.  All of that is valuable information so that you can get an idea of what your music will sound like.

Concepts/Feelings

After compiling that information I translate it into key concepts/feelings. For example: – mystery, eagerness, trouble, action, speed, etc.

Concepts to Music

Now comes the hard/fun part. Translating those concepts into musical phrases, chords, structures. A way of doing this is using “Hevner’s mood wheel”, it helps to understand how the structure of different musical stimuli is interpreted by us as moods. After some practice it is incredible how much information your music can deliver.

Is it good?/Gut feeling

The director/game designers should always have the last word about deciding if a music is true to a character/level/gameplay or not. Sometimes it’s hard for them to evaluate how appropriate your music actually is. When faced with that type of problem just let them know they should be guided by their guts, they know better than anyone how the personality of the music should be, they will feel it.

If they are not sure about it, make another track. The music (in videogames and films) should always be at the service of the pictures, so it’s really important to do it as best as possible.

I hope this “guide” is useful in some way, feel free to share your writing methods.

Until next time, Rodrigo.

Small Preview
This is an early version of the Mage Theme, our protagonist that is looking for answers, and a way out of the forest.
Purpose: The purpose of the track was to represent the mage’s personality. Someone thats smart, curious, kind and thinks he knows quite a bit more than what he actually does know.
Also we can’t forget that he’s lost. So the track should express that.
Concepts: 
lost, tension, personal journey. Overall feel: neither sad nor happy, a state that needs changing.
Feedback: Nino: “After hearing the song I tried to find a simple way to describe it, it’s sad. I dug myself (mentally) into the ambient of the game and I think it fits really well how the mage is and feels beign lost in the forest…I feel this music shows how the mage truly is…”

The feedback brought another assignment: “… maybe we could create a melody that shows him being brilliant and happy, the way he shows himself to others”

It’s still pre-production so probably this music wont be in the game (at least in the state it is right now). There is no mixing/mastering, excuse the not so good sound.

 

 

 

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