Creating my first music for a game. It couldn’t be that hard… Right?!?

Hello, friends.

How are you?

Sorry about being so absent from the page and not posting something in a while. Things are getting busy (way more than usual) and I barely have time to sleep.

Anyway, I’ll talk about my first assignment inside the game industry where a company back in Brazil contacted me to create a music for one of their mobile games. One of the problems was that I had 48 hours to create it…
“Well, 48 hours is not a problem at all”, I though. Not for me… and I’ll let you know why.

To start, when I accepted this task I believed that with my music experience (over 10 years), experience in playing games (since I can remember), talking about games and music, discussing with friends, having this website, etc, would help me working on that. “I created a few songs before. It was nice, people liked it. I can do this.” The problem was that I was so exciting on working in a song project that I forgot a few steps over the way.

1 – The Design Understanding!

The game was simple, but interesting. It was a side-scroll type with no end and you had to keep jumping and avoiding things to get the highest score. I started imagining a few bits, drums set, rhythm on my mind and decided to use a program that would help me build the song fast and, as before, the songs I made with it were really nice. I build a track with a bass line continuously, around 165bps, 170bps. It needed to be fast, but still understandable. Then I created a drums set, jumping from the bass drum to the snare, coming and going timing by the Hi Hat and the Ride Cym. It took me a couple of hours to complete and I was really happy with what I made so far. My problem at this time was that it had nothing to do with the game, I mean, It was a fast and nice track and would fit in another games like it, but not this one. I realized this when I sent my first (and what I thought would be the final to) sample to the client.

2 – The Client!

So, the client received my sample…. and what happened? He didn’t like it. The quality of the music wasn’t the expected one, the instruments weren’t right for the game, volume of a few were too high, others were too low, etc, etc, etc. It was a “nice” disaster and I realized I couldn’t expect to do the right and perfect song at my first attempt. Or could I?

Big mistake.

After talking a little bit more about the client, I understood what HE wanted and it was not what I wanted. Thats another problem with design: You work for the client, not for yourself and the sooner you learn that, the sooner you will avoid getting hurt when someone says you work sucks.

2 – The Learning and Creation Process!

Dealing with the client and solving that awkward situation, I started to researching what programs I could use to create the song and here comes another problem. Learning how to use a new program in 48 hours in the middle of a job.

I downloaded FL Studio and started working with it. It took me a while and a few hours of tutorial videos and reading to understand what I needed to do to create a song. It has a whole set of instruments, effects, weird sounds, keyboard styles, licks, samples, and more. A really interesting software if you want to deal with something around funk, techno, spy, dance kind of music. On this moment the problem was that I had already lost a day creating my first song, dealing with the client, downloading a new software, learning how to use it and creating something new.

So, to move things faster, I decided to create the song in the program I was familiarized with (Guitar Pro) and transfered to FL Studio.

It worked… for a while.

4 – The Work!

First, creating the song with a guitar, then transferring to Guitar Pro and finally transferring to FL Studio. Coming up with the music wasn’t the biggest problem. I like to deal with that and I can imagine a lot of samples, rhythms, how they work together and the final project. My main problem was: How I was going to use the right instruments, effects, sounds in order to fit the design understanding that I talked before? What kind of instruments should I use?

Then, I started…1, 2, 3, 4, 5 samples and, all the time sending to the client to check, get his feedback and modify.

After talking with my wife about it – which is a designer – she explained to me the idea behind the painting, how I was supposed to create something that express the feeling of the character, the scenario, the objective, and the game itself. I finally realized I was doing – almost everything – wrong (I missed the Design Understanding topic above). I was thinking as a gamer and building the song as a musician, but I completely forgot about the design and how I had to put everything together smoothly FOR the player and the CLIENT and not for ME. I created some samples of what I thought would be nice, inside my own music style.

After that class, I new what instruments, sounds and effects I was supposed to look for. It took me another couple of hours to deal with it, but I managed to work around. The song was ready! I sent to the client and he liked! Mission accomplished! (What I believed….)

I didn’t realized that, even having a good song and the approval of the client, it needed to be inserted into the game and tested into the specific device the game was going to be running. Why? Because on my computer and on my headphone, the music was fine, but by the time I downloaded in my cellphone, it was completely out of tune! And after that, the client said the music had to be in a loop with no “feeling of end”. In other words, it has to go on and on even being a small sample (30 seconds). EDIT: That is another thing that took me a while to figure out and realized that, for the engine Unity, .mp3 files are automatically increase of information in both sides of the song (beginning and ending) in order to load and end the song. I had to use a .WAVE file or something else. Another information I got is that there is a way to deal with that when editing your file called Crossfading where, according to Mark Harris (Digital Music Expert) “The term crossfading is a technique that creates a smooth transition from one sound to another — […]”. (Yep, I really made a research on it).

For some people this may be an easy task, but remember, this was my FIRST job and I was just so excited about it that I didn’t think about the technical parts.

Well, what happened was that I had to download another software (WavePad Audio Editing Software) to edit the song, loop it, cut the end, put pieces together, etc. And there goes a few of my hours to complete my task because I had to learn once again the program to deliver a good product.

Over the end I was working with Guitar Pro, to create my songs, transferring to FL Studio to clean and edit the song and, finally, to WavePad to do the final cuts.

“But, why downloading and dealing with 3 programs to create a song? Can’t a single program do all of that?” you ask me. Well, you know when people say its better to hire someone else specialized in something than trying to do yourself and mess it up with everything? I decided to do that. I used Guitar Pro because it was one of the programs that I had experience and had worked before, it was easy for me to write a song in it, create tracks, insert instruments, etc, everything with an acoustic guitar or a keyboard. FL Studio helped me editing the song as I needed, volume, effects, different types of instruments, adding more tracks if necessary, changing timing, etc, with more quality than Guitar Pro.

However, as a big program with a lot of functionalities it would take me a while to understand it and really be able to take everything from it. Finally, WavePad is a simple program to do the finals with your song, cut, paste, loop, trim, etc. Took me a few minutes to understand – and thats what I needed due to the deadline knocking on my door.

5 – The Available Time!

After all the happenings, I really had to stay awake a few more hours to finish the work. Coming and going between the softwares, how to use it, the details of the project, a real understanding of the project, what the client was expecting, among other things are only a few things that I didn’t consider when taking this job. When working with creativity, you cannot rely on your brain to bring something up out of the blue. Sometimes it happens with people in the middle of the night, sometimes when they woke up, even when you’re in the shower (like me) and you have to run to write it down or record it before you forget everything.

Also remember as living in another country different from my client, I had to deal with time zone and not all the time both of us were available to deal with the samples, feedback, ideas, changes, etc. One more problem to our list.

TIP: Its hard, but if for any reason you get stuck in something that deals with creativity, its probably because you’re putting too much effort into it. Yep, thats right, you cannot “force” creativity to come to you or out of your head. It took me a while to understand that because I always had the feeling “I could be working instead of doing this” or “this is a waste of time” or even “I don’t have time for this”.

What happened at the end?

I’m still waiting for the clients final answer about The client approved my work!!! For something I came up with in 24 hours – because the other 24 I was working on learning everything else and with the rest of my life (College, family, eating, sleeping) – I guess the final work was fine. Lets see. EDIT: Final work was accepted and now I have another sample to work on! 🙂

I’ll keep you posted for any news!

And you guys? Any tips or suggestion on how I should be working from now on?

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