Music Making Advice

Discussion in 'Game Design, Development And Publishing' started by HATER, Nov 12, 2019.

  1. HATER

    HATER Member

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    Anyone have advice for making video game music for a platformer? The only thing I understand about making music, as a novice, is that you need a good beat. But besides a really short drum beat, I have no idea on what to do to make a song that doesn't get annoying in a few seconds. Any advice and tips?
     
  2. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    I'm much of a music neophyte myself (I've made this thing and this thing, for a few examples of my skills) but I've picked up a bunch of advice through the years.
    • Learn about music scales, first of all, so you get notes that don't disharmonize with each other. Two really basic scales are "all the white keys" and "all the black keys".
    • Notes that are 3 and 5 steps away (in the scale) harmonize and are the basis of most common chords, they're called "thirds" and "fifths". C-E-G is the basic chord of the C scale, because C is note 1 in the scale, E is note 3, and G is note 5. Chords has different moods depending on which note is the base of the chord.
    • Chord progression is based on going from one chord in the scale to another. For instance the 5-6-1 progression is used a lot in classic music to build tension and then release it (the base chord sounds the most relaxed in any scale). So in the basic C major scale, this progression would be G-B-D, A-C-E, C-E-G.
    • Any note harmonizes with itself (e.g. C-5 and C-6 harmonize). This means that it doesn't matter WHICH octave you pick a note in a chord from. So you can move notes up and down whole octaves and still have harmony.
    • Usually one bar of music is split into 4 beats. Notes that start exactly on a beat feel more rested and less dynamic. They carry the rhythm of the song, but it gets boring if EVERY note starts right on a beat. Depending on what you do with the off-beat notes, you can get a lot of different effects.
      upload_2019-11-12_22-15-2.png
    • Songs need some sort of repeating structure to not dissolve into total chaos, but they get boring if you repeat a very short section over and over. Try to find ways to spice the recurring structures up: change the instrument, change the scale, change the speed, add extra notes to flesh the melody out more the second time, etc.
    • Silence is a sound too. Breaks at the right place in a song can lead to some very interesting effects, and songs feel more "real" if there's little pauses for you to "catch your breath". Songs that go on with the same intensity for a long time feel exhausting.
    • The drums are VERY important for the rhytm / intensity of a song. The same song can feel a lot more sped up if you have the same melody but have a drum track with twice as fast rhythm. If the song feels too intense or boring, you've probably picked the wrong drum loop to back it up.

    Try going to a site like VGMusic (a very legit site that has been around since '96) and download some MIDI files of songs you like from the classic games, then use a simple MIDI editor to study them (I personally use 20-year-old freeware Jazz) and see how they managed to create the effects you loved. You can pick up a lot of fun tricks that way. For instance, the medieval sound in a lot of Castlevania tracks is achieved by alternating bassy notes with the main melody to create an illusion that two instruments are playing a duet.
    upload_2019-11-12_22-24-51.png


    Also, see those screenshots above? Think of music like that, as higher/lower pitches on a timeline from left to right. Don't think of it like sheet music.
    upload_2019-11-12_22-27-15.png
    I have no friggin idea how people can decipher these ancient hieroglyphics, and they've always been optimized for size. Think of music like a two-dimensional structure that spans every thinkable sound on the up/down axis, and time on the left/right axis, and things get a lot easier to work with. (Visualization videos like this can help a ton)
     
  3. Andrew R. C. Beck

    Andrew R. C. Beck Member

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    Just WOW O_O This has helped open my eyes up a hell of a lot! I came here thinking i may offer free software advice but DAYUM This knocks it all out of the park! I find this to be VERY helpful and will copy pasta this to read through again as I endeavour to create my game music :D :D :D Thank you!
     
  4. HATER

    HATER Member

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    WOW! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE ADVICE AND TIPS! This is the first time I'm making a full game, and by myself at that. Doing so many things at once can make a person overthink things. I will use these tips and try to make something AWESOME!
     
  5. rogonow

    rogonow Member

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    I use LMMS to make my music
     
  6. pixeltroid

    pixeltroid Member

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    Not a musician, but I've been toying around with FL studio for a while to make stuff.

    Music for games is not very different from other music. Each Soundtrack for your game should have separate distinct sections -- Verse, chorus, bridges, hooks etc. They can then be arranged in a way that it loops when played. So for example, your track can have the following order: verse, chorus, verse, bridge, hook, chorus. Then when the track starts playing, it goes seamlessly from the last chorus to the verse. You basically create the illusion that the song is never ending.
     
  7. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    I'd say there's quite a bit of differences between game music and traditional music!
    • Traditional music is its own thing that should do something with someone's full attention, game music shouldn't steal so much attention the player gets distracted (it has this in common with movie scores)
    • Game music can potentially go on forever, so it needs to loop properly, and have enough variation that it doesn't get stale to listen to repeatedly.
    • Conversely, some types of music usually only get heard a few seconds (e.g. a menu background track) so they need to have a very fast intro that gets to the point instantly.
    • Game music usually is meant to invocate a mood related to a particular area or story beat, so it generally needs to be composed alongside the game's development (usually not the case with movie music and songs in an album - they're either picked after the fact, or just a bunch of stuff based on the band/artist's current life situation and inspirations). Even if a song fits the emotional state of a scene, it's important that it matches the gameplay intensity as well, or there'll be a disconnect.
    • Game music usually doesn't have lyrics (it's changing these days, where at least the main theme gets lyrics, but the majority of background tracks don't have lyrics), this means the melody needs to be solid and fill in for the lack of volcalists... a lot of pop music basically just has a chord progression with no melody at all, so it would fail pretty badly as a game OST if you removed the lyrics.
     
  8. Lord KJWilliams

    Lord KJWilliams Member

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    look at other platform games that people have made ( commercial or indie ) to get an idea of what music to make
     
  9. Yal

    Yal GMC Memer GMC Elder

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    This basically boils down to "more or less every type of music imaginable", so not sure how helpful it is :p Might wanna narrow the search down to games that have a similar feel to what you're going for, instead of "every platformer in existence".



     
  10. Desert Dog

    Desert Dog Member

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    Perhaps not exactly answering your questions, but perhaps you'd enjoy to check out some videos/streams of supershigi: https://www.twitch.tv/supershigi (and she's on Youtube, etc).
    She's a musician-turn game dev, (rather than vice versa). Did a lot of work for some big titles(including the aforementioned Super meat boy, although she's most known for PvZ).

    Her stream is mostly her jamming some music with her keyboard. I haven't watched much of her streaming, but you might find it useful.. you could even try your luck asking her some questions.
     
  11. Robzoid

    Robzoid Member

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    If you don't have a good ear (i.e. you haven't done anything to train your sense of relative pitch), you're probably better off writing music by recording yourself humming and beat boxing. It might sound silly, but music theory can't tell you what note to choose. Only your ear can do that and if you don't have really good relative pitch, you're just going to be blindly guessing which note to play on the keyboard. Music theory just helps you make more educated guesses ( 7 notes to choose from versus 12) but it's still guess work.

    Michael Jackson wrote his hits using just his voice into a recorder.


    Download Audacity. Record yourself beat boxing a beat. Then add a second track and record yourself humming/singing a melody over it. Add a third line and hum a bass line. This is the quickest, easiest and most effective way for someone without a well trained ear to write good music. After you've got a song, you can then go back and ear it out on your keyboard.
     

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