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How to start writing VG music?

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As a hobby, I create NES, Genesis, and SNES styles of existing songs using famitracker and milkytracker. (here's my soundcloud; https://soundcloud.com/liam-mcneaney) but I'm interested in getting started with composing original pieces of music that may or may not be used in video games with a NES/Genesis/SNES aesthetic.

 

The will's there, I have a good knowledge of musical theory, but...nothing. I'm not getting any ideas for original tracks. It's like musical writer's block.

 

How do I take that first step? Maybe the other video game music composers here could help me. Thank you.

 

 

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The one thing that I like about composing video game music as opposed to regular songs, is that you can get really far with just one melody. I guess you can get far in regular music as well, but just one catchy melody means almost a finished song. What I also like about video game music is that it has to go straight to the point. Over 2 minutes of different sections is already almost too long for a video game song.

 

The way I compose is that I choose a tempo randomly between 60/90/120 depending a bit if I already have an idea. I make a simple drum loop and just start jamming with the keyboard. If something of value comes up, I record it and try adding something to it. Then if it sounds like something I'd use in a video game, I start refining it. If not, then I just save it and start over, maybe come back for it later.

 

That's pretty much all I can say about that. It isn't that much different from regular composing. You just have to remember that the scale is generally smaller.

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Most of the time the video game music comes from the "inspiration" of the game art. 

You could create a good piece of "absolute music" with just imagination AND structuring your ideas really well. Take for example, in general terms, music like the "Symphonie Fantastique" from Berlioz. Normally, in classical music you follow certain rules and a defined structure to present your ideas and that really helps a composer to finish his work, much like solving a physics problem. But in the case of that particular piece it is presented with an original structure and original ideas from a "imaginary guide" that Berlioz set himself. 

Putting that in context of video game music: The "structure" you follow is generally what the game demands itself through its art and certain technical parameters (Loop the music or making a main theme, level duration, etc.) and most of the time the Art Director will tell you what "kind" or genre of music he is looking for and may give you references. That is how you generally get the "structure that helps you finish your work" in video game music.

Now, as you don't have that structure there for you to use, you could have an "imaginary guide" that will help you create an original work, you could sketch a game for yourself inside your mind. Place some characters, worlds, bosses, levels and even game mechanics in there and then start thinking how the music for that game would be. It doesn't have to be so deep or complex, you could just copy your favorite megaman game and change some bits and pieces until it becomes something new. That new something is the structure that is going to help you to finish your work. 

And why not, it could give you ideas to begin your work. Those ideas may be the main character theme, maybe the final boss theme or maybe it will just set the genre or mood of your music. (with theme I mean the melody that represents that character, not the musical piece itself)

I hope you can find this comment helpful. If you do, please reply to it :)

Have a good one!

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A lot of the time inspiration for my chip tracks comes from some of my favourite funk, RnB, and jazz pieces. I'll incorporate compositional elements from those into new MML programs in my free time and wind up with something I like!

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All three of you helped a lot! Thank you! I took everything you individually told me, combined it and used it.

 

I decided to try and make a battle theme, because that seemed a good place to start in absence of inspiration for a location-specific piece, and I decided to make it genesis style so I had a good selection of drum sounds while still having a lot of simple wave-based sounds for the tunes as opposed to the more complex sounds of SNES and higher.

 

And here it is!: 

 

My next attempt will probably be based on a picture; an ambient theme for a specific area.

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The music in itself is nice but in my humble opinion,it starts a bit too slowly to be a standard battle theme and it's a bit short to be a boss theme. It's cool you find inspiration tho. Good luck for your next stuff.

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Hey! It sounds great!

 

I like the theme and how you play with the voices at 0:23 and 0:55. As shiggy said, it doesn't sound too hyped or action like for a battle theme but I believe that can be solved with doubling the beat at some moments (like those sweet 0:23 and 0:55) giving the hi-hat some sixteenths or double the kick time. (Sorry if my english is not clear haha)

 

Cheers!

Edited by eatorl

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