The first step to create a good score for a game is to conceptualise the music. Music conceptualisation can be compared to sketching the blueprint for a building. Before you get into the details of how to decorate the rooms of the building, you need to decide how many floors there are, the size of each floor and the number of rooms. Similarly, music conceptualisation is necessary to set the stylistic, creative and functional goals of the music before the composer starts working on the actual notes. Consider conceptualisation as a high-level music planning activity.
In this post I’m going to analyse the pros and cons of some of the strategies available to get music for video games, and help you decide which might be the best for you.
We all know that music is particularly important for video games. A soundtrack sets the overall tone of the game and it shapes the experience of a player without them really noticing it. Music can also provide clues about the situation the player is in and make a game stand out from the crowd. Think of the Skyrim main theme for example… you probably just need the initial three drum hits to recognise the game. That’s great branding!
This week, I had the opportunity to see a unique musical act in Mannheim, Germany. Specifically, the one-man show put together by up-and-coming jazz phenom, Jacob Collier. Jacob Collier, for those that don’t know, gained notoriety through his creation of multi-part YouTube videos for which he not only composes original and creative arrangements of classic songs, but also plays every instrument in the mix. His style is characterised by extensive use of vocal layering/a cappella arrangements, versatile and extensive re-harmonisations, polyrhythms and metric modulations, all rooted in jazz/funk style inspired by the hit composers of previous decades (Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Michael Jackson, the Beatles, etc.).