Game Music Jobs: Your Music Composition Process!

Welcome to Game Music Jobs!

Today’s Tenet of Occupational Professionalism is, Oh, that’s right, we finished those topics last week. Hmmm- what else could a composer need to know about music writing?

Well, you twisted my arm- we’ll discuss the compositional process.

Are you like a Michael Jackson who heard his famous song, ‘Billie Jean,’ in his head while driving a car that caught fire? Or, maybe you are like Dianne Warren, who practically lives in her apartment studio with an old dusty piano? Or a Steven Tyler who wrote the lyrics to ‘Dream On’ (and left them in the cab) in a taxi on the way to band rehearsal. Perhaps a Uematsu, who waits till the last minute to complete his compositions for the Final Fantasy game series. The uniqueness of other artists compositional processes has always interested me. I would recommend listening to Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ demos on YouTube to get a better idea of how he structured and developed his songs. Some people procrastinate until time becomes like a ruthless thug holding a gun to their heads to complete their projects, while others need sunsets or like Beethoven, long walks in nature to find inspiration.  If someone had a gun to my head, I would find my inspiration as soon as I possibly could.  Just a thought.

There are mainly two types of composers- those who go to their instrument to become inspired and those who hear music in their heads first. And within these two, there are four common processes composers go through. We will cover the phases listed below that may help you to refine your habits.  

The Inspiration Phase 

You just stepped on the crowded train, and the summer hit of the year just started playing in your head. You don’t want to forget that basic melody, do you? No, so you sheepishly take your phone out in front of strangers and begin to beatbox into your phone while looking like a basket case. Inspiration can come anywhere and at any time, and this is often the most vulnerable phase of your process. You could forget the song or get it wrong somehow; I always recommend having a recorder on your person. This is probably why Dianne Warren felt uneasy being away from her studio- I guess she thought she would miss a song and why Michael Jackson frequently kept a recorder with him. Gratefully, you have a phone that can record audio, but I can’t do anything about the old lady calling Homeland Security because of your erratic behavior.  

The Sketch Phase

This is an important part of your process; congratulations, you have gone from brain fart to art. Game artists, whether they be musicians or model makers, do basically the same job- one is creative sonically and the other visually. Remember how I mentioned in my previous essay, how music is also an actor on-screen too? Well, I did say it. They both begin with a basic outline of what the character is supposed to be. Both artists must start with abstractions and process their works into something concrete. This is the phase where you create basic chords and song structures such as AAB, AABA, ABC and EIEIO, and so on.

The Refinement Phase:

 You have most of your chord progressions and melody and song structure down. Your song is now a veteran who made it through the minefields of distraction, and now hey, does that drum sound right to you, or is it just me? Is your harmony too dissonant or too jejune for the type of song you are writing? Does the feeling of the music match the scene you’re composing it for? This is the time to ask yourself a myriad of questions about the direction and quality of your music. Why does it or doesn’t it fit the scene, and how can I improve it? Why does the music seem to be out of sync at a certain point? And why have you not subscribed to our Game Music Jobs Channel? Hey, you thought the shilling was over at the beginning. No, not by a long shot! Well, all these questions and more need to be answered before you enter your last phase.

The Finish (Master): 

Your horns are spot on, and the strings are a peculiar masterpiece, and after all your hard work, it may be time to let the songs go. 

Your songs have grown up and must go to professionals to become the masters. Don’t cry for them, much like today’s high school graduates leaving home for the first time, they’ll be back. Unless you have the means to master your music by yourself, I would recommend getting a fresh ear, a professional mastering engineer to put the finishing touches on your work. Professional mastering engineers know how to adjust frequencies so they will sound great when played on a multitude of mediums. Especially, game music which is heard on everything from high-end speakers to your grandma’s flip phone. Just make sure it is done right! Ok? 

The idea is to use your uniqueness to power your process. Now, I don’t mean to adopt procrastination as a practice- all that might do is power your rump out onto the street.  

I mean, use your unique style and good planning to temper your peculiar gift. Do what works for you. Some strange people require a messy environment to be creative- I guess so they can make enough money and roaches to carry them home.

As in other essays, I recommend moderation in your approach to your unique process. The last thing you want to be remembered as is an awkward hermit who wrote music in his apartment until he became a bad smell. In that case, your lifestyle would overshadow your songwriting prowess. You don’t want this- you always want your talents to be at the forefront of people’s minds.

I will end with this proverb: Lives of men and songs are both born of diverse circumstances, but you determine the key- major or minor.

Don’t become a bad smell in your apartment, keep learning and always B#.  I am Munchman with Game Music Jobs!


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