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RayMabry

Questions about Composing video game music..I'd really appreciate some answers.

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Hi. My name is Ray i've been here for a little while. I've been composing video game music for a little while (you can check my stuff out if you'd like @ http://www.youtube.com/numberoneblind it's all rough versions though) and I have a few questions and i'd really appreciate it if someone answered them.

1. I'm getting a laptop soon and it's probably gonna be a sony laptop of some sort. What specifications should I look for?

2. ...Also how much memory might I need my laptop to have?

3. Do I really need a soundcard? and if so what kind should I get.

4. I'm looking for new software to make video game music. My current software (sibelius 5) isn't cutting it. I'm thinking of getting FL Studio. Is this the right choice? If not then what should I get?

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Hi. My name is Ray i've been here for a little while. I've been composing video game music for a little while (you can check my stuff out if you'd like @ http://www.youtube.com/numberoneblind it's all rough versions though) and I have a few questions and i'd really appreciate it if someone answered them.

1. I'm getting a laptop soon and it's probably gonna be a sony laptop of some sort. What specifications should I look for?

2. ...Also how much memory might I need my laptop to have?

3. Do I really need a soundcard? and if so what kind should I get.

4. I'm looking for new software to make video game music. My current software (sibelius 5) isn't cutting it. I'm thinking of getting FL Studio. Is this the right choice? If not then what should I get?

Hey Ray.

Can I just ask you, what are your end goals here? What are you trying to achieve overall?

Do you want to do remixes like most people here? And just rearrange existing game music?

Do you want to write original music for new games?

Just trying to get a feel for what you're building toward.

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I'd like to do original music for new games pretty much. I'm not into remixing too much. I guess my end goals would basically to continue to learn how to produce professional sounding video game music and to be able to make a career out of composing songs for video games...

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1. I'm getting a laptop soon and it's probably gonna be a sony laptop of some sort. What specifications should I look for?

You know you pay extra for the brand.

Specifications? The most powerful you can afford without a ridiculous graphics card, and without being ridiculously expensive (since any computer is obsolete within 2 years, it pays more to switch then than to hold on to something for 5 years because it cost an arm and a leg).

2. ...Also how much memory might I need my laptop to have?

As much as you can afford.

3. Do I really need a soundcard? and if so what kind should I get.

Yes, you do.

Which one? I don't know.

See, you buy an audio interface (a soundcard geared towards music production) based on the following criteria:

- what's your budget?

- do you want to hook up any real instruments, and if so, how many

- do you want USB or Firewire (for Firewire it's smart to get something with an approved chipset - see the audio interface manufacturer's site)

Without answers to those questions it's going to be hard to pick something.

4. I'm looking for new software to make video game music. My current software (sibelius 5) isn't cutting it. I'm thinking of getting FL Studio. Is this the right choice? If not then what should I get?

Why would you consider it the right choice? Ever worked with it? Tried the demo? Have a friend who knows it inside out who can help you?

Broadly speaking, the choice of software is not the issue anymore. Pretty much all higher-end DAW software supports plugins (VST or AU) and has a bunch of included instruments and effects. What matters is whether you feel that the software is "thinking" in the same direction you are when you want to make a song.

FL Studio is heavily biased towards patterns - dividing your song up in parts that may be repeated and copied. It's not that it's impossible to not use them, it's just that if you don't want to use patterns, FL Studio's forte is not being used by you.

Also, you're going to benefit from:

- a controller keyboard

- a set of good speakers, usually referred to as monitors

I guess my end goals would basically to continue to learn how to produce professional sounding video game music

There's actually no such thing.

Lots of the music you hear in games is simply instrumental music in a certain genre. The fact that there's a video game attached is in a lot of cases completely secondary; it just means the writer wasn't aiming to score some billboard top 10 hit with some chick singing through auto-tune or whatever.

Watch something like this:

Now imagine that's not for a film but for an intro for a game. Just the same track. Still works, as long as the intended atmosphere is identical. What matters is the style; this is somewhat classical-sounding stuff.

In terms of skills, it requires knowledge of orchestral arrangement and music theory. Without those, you can buy until you're blue in the face and evicted from home because you blew all your cash on gear, but it's not going to work. Building up your skills is the most important part - but the beauty is that once you do so it really doesn't matter what you eventually apply that knowledge to, and any education - if it's going to pay the bills, that is - will most likely give you a wide overview of various styles and has assignments for you to compose something in the vein of (artist x) or (historical era y).

and to be able to make a career out of composing songs for video games...

Yeah, that's going to be really really tough. Ask anyone else here how long it took and how much of a lucky break they had.

You want my depressing advice? Get a decent paying job doing something that can't be outsourced, and keep the music as a hobby on the sideline. Because record sales aren't exactly bringing in the money anymore, lots of artists have moved or are moving towards that domain because it actually means a guaranteed paycheck.

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Yeah, ultimately, I would consider gaining some knowledge of the theory and compositional skills that are required to score for video games. The only way i've been doing it, is because I have buddies in programming school who request me to do music for them.

Most of the time however, I just work on student comissions; it's all about networking.

But if it's just for fun, go all out, as much as you want.

As for what you want to buy, you need to specify genre probably. Like if you wanted to do electronica, I've had a lot of success with Digital Performer 6 (Mac only) in the studio I work out of, though I make musique concrete most of the time while I am in there. I've found that the Macs provide me with more programs to work with in my experience.

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is there any reason you want a laptop? the nature of them is that they overheat and break within a few years, as opposed to a desktop (which is also upgradeable and costs less for better performance).

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There's actually no such thing.

Sorta true, and sorta not true.

Because games are, so long as we can all remember, an interactive art--as such there's more to music and making music for games than simply writing a Top 40 Pop Song.

There's also another key element in the video game arena that film doesn't really deal with and that's platform related.

A buddy of mine scored a whole DS game with Reason and some custom samples. He didn't need a great computer, of course, because he wrote music designed to be played on the NDS.

Additionally, I appreciate the wish/drive/desire/or whatever you want to call it to write specifically for this interactive medium, because I share that drive, there's something exciting about creating interactive music (to me at least) that goes beyond the nostalgia of my youth.

So Yoozer is sorta right and sorta not right.

And if you're impressed by Mike's video, and you want a setup like that, well, he's got a pretty beefy setup going on there and there isn't a laptop in the world right now that can do what he's doing. (I said right now)

That being said, you will get more bang for your buck with a desktop. I'm using two desktops that I built with my own two hands and they've provided me with a lot of bang over the years for some very light buck, so to speak (at least in my opinion).

First step: Become a good composer.

You will never stop becoming a better composer (hopefully) and for all of us it's a journey that is frustrating and satisfying all at once. But there are a LOT of people wanting to work in games, you're not the only one, and so being a good composer is what it takes just to sit down at the table. When I go to GDC, and I go every year, I meet at least a dozen new and good composers all trying to break-in, it can be intimidating, but you just have to see it as playful competition. So the first step is to become good and to never stop becoming better.

Second step: Become a great producer.

No matter how good you are at composing, you can't ante in until you sound like a pro. This becomes a frustrating barrier when starting out because unlike any other game discipline, there is an incredible commitment required from composers and sound designers as far as initial investment. And yeah, that means you'll probably be spending some serious part-time dough on trying to make sure you sound like a pro. So threads like this where you're trying to figure out what gear you need are important. Learn as much as you can, but don't be satisfied by just asking folks on a forum, really search.

Third step: Understand the job/work.

You can sound like a champ, but if you're asked to deliver assets for a game, you gotta understand the technology you're dealing with. With a game in-development, you have to be able to ask the right questions not just of the developers or of the studio but of yourself. If the music is interactive, is there an audio engine being employed? Do you know what FMOD, Wwise, and XACT are? Do you know the best way to get a seemless loop? Do you know how to create one? Can you write parallel stems of the same cue that the audio engine will fade between to indicate when the player is fighting and when the player is eating bananas? No one is going to hire you if you can't do the job.

My opinionated oft reiterated advice (for myself as much as anyone else):

Be a jack of all trades and a master of ONE.

You will need to negotiate a landscape of multiple disciplines and game styles. Be comfortable doing almost anything music related and be comfortable at least discussing almost anything related to game development whether it be programming, art, modeling, design, etc. But, be VERY good at at least one thing, so good, in fact, that peers in game audio will admire your ability (or commend it, at least).

Be known.

When a company wants to hire a composer, only team projects and companies that pay bottom dollar go fishing for composers, everyone else asks themselves "who do we know?"

Your job is to be known.

Not just to be known, but to be known for the better.

Be ready when opportunity knocks.

Knowing when you're ready isn't always obvious. However, you must understand what is involved in creating music for games, for implementing music in games, etc. Ask yourself, in all seriousness, how big a project can you really handle? Continue to ask yourself this question. I think it's good to get experience with non-commercial endeavors to push yourself--to impose demands on yourself that you wouldn't normally, since that is certain to happen in a professional situation. At the same time, spend a lot of time with personal projects to develop and hone skills related to YOUR interests in music for games. When you're good at that one thing, opportunity will be more likely to knock, when you're known for being awesome at that one thing, opportunity will be even more likely to knock.

There is, of course, no formula for opportunity--simply that you must be open to it knocking at any time. It will likely catch you by surprise.

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Sorta true, and sorta not true.

Because games are, so long as we can all remember, an interactive art--as such there's more to music and making music for games than simply writing a Top 40 Pop Song.

Yeah, but there's "interactive" (music abruptly stops at end of level, different tune for the next one) and "interactive" (music fluidly segues into slightly different version when situation changes).

Wipeout's just playing electronic music that appeared in the charts on repeat, really. Same thing with various other games.

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Yeah, but there's "interactive" (music abruptly stops at end of level, different tune for the next one) and "interactive" (music fluidly segues into slightly different version when situation changes).

Wipeout's just playing electronic music that appeared in the charts on repeat, really. Same thing with various other games.

Yeah, and if you're a composer writing music for games, you're not writing music for games that are going to license existing popular music.

So if the goal is to write dance/pop that hits the radio top 40 with the hope of licensing your music for a game, then you don't want to be a composer writing "original music for new games."

If you want to write original dance/pop music for new racing games, then there is still a lot you need to know about music and games before you can become successful at that.

So you can't say that "game music" doesn't exist, and I understand what you're trying to say, so I want to say you're sorta right, but really, you're sorta wrong. There is actually such a thing as game music, not as a separate genre, but as music designed and intended for the specific medium of games.

What kind of music you write for games is completely subjective to your own personal tastes and skills. Though, getting full time work as a composer in any studio, you will want to have some experience with almost any genre or style. The more you can flex, the faster you'll get hired.

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Thankyou all so much for your comments. I really appreciate you guys taking your time out to really try to give me some insight into the whole thing. You've definately given me alot to think about so thankyou all very much for your comments.

I pretty much am forced to get a laptop because my desktop (which isn't really mine anyways haha) isn't always accessible and I don't have enough space in my room for a desktop so i'm opting for a laptop (Preferrably Hp or Sony or maybe Toshiba). (and I know what they say about sony's and being overpriced but I love Sony. I've always been able to rely on them for high quality stuff and i've fallen in love with my friends laptop and desktop (both sonys) although hp has been pretty good as well).

My music usually has a few patterns in it and honestly i'd be using sibelius to write my scores and then i'd upload the midi file into FL Studio (which I have used for a short time and it looks like it'll be easy to understand seeing as i've used something similar in the past) so i'm really thinking of getting it.

I was hoping to be able to get a laptop and produce video game music for fun and for pay on the side and I ultimately was wondering if that was possible. To do it all from a laptop. I've got some theory knowledge and some production knowledge but i'm pretty much just working it all out by just writing and letting people hear it. You guys have given me alot to consider though. Again thankyou for your responses I really, really do appreciate it ~Ray~

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So you can't say that "game music" doesn't exist

By the time the audio got advanced enough for composers to not bump into the constraints of the sound device or memory one of the major differences between "regular" and "game" music disappeared.

It's not that it doesn't exist - but the vast, vast majority of what you need in terms of skills is not available in some kind of course - and the resulting music follows logically from the constraints.

To do it all from a laptop.

You can do lots of things just with that, provided that you're not going to be ridiculously picky (this mostly entails endless obsessing about anything outboard that's analog - e.g. vintage synthesizers, preamps, mixing desks and whatnot).

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it's possible to do what you want from a desktop, but it's honestly a bad idea. you'll pay through the ass for hardware in a laptop only to have endless issues with crappily-written drivers, overheating, and a system that'll slow down to a crawl in a year and a half.

desktops are the way to go, man. there are people who mix on laptops here, but they're few and far between among the upper echelon.

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it's possible to do what you want from a desktop, but it's honestly a bad idea. you'll pay through the ass for hardware in a laptop only to have endless issues with crappily-written drivers, overheating, and a system that'll slow down to a crawl in a year and a half.

desktops are the way to go, man. there are people who mix on laptops here, but they're few and far between among the upper echelon.

I assume you meant laptop.

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I'm not interested in hardware instruments though. I just kinda wanted to use virtual instruments and sequencers and what not that was kinda my whole thing. I'm kinda disinterested in recording real instruments and going through the whole hassle.

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I'm not interested in hardware instruments though. I just kinda wanted to use virtual instruments and sequencers and what not that was kinda my whole thing. I'm kinda disinterested in recording real instruments and going through the whole hassle.

At some point, you will regret not listening. ANY laptop hardware is more expensive. And serious recording requires a LOT of space, ram, and CPU power - much cheaper and better on desktops. If you want to get a laptop AFTER a desktop as a supplement, sure, okay...

But if you don't want to listen to these guys, and end up using a laptop as your main recording computer, trust me when I say that you WILL regret it at some point.

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My question is though. What if i'm not recording anything. What if i'm just using virtual instruments and samples to make my songs? No recording at all cause thats kinda what I wanna experiment with for a while. I don't wanna record i'm trying to figure out if a laptop might be powerful enough for that. I'd never record music using just a laptop. It'd be foolish.

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Your laptop will be powerful enough, though it depends largely on how many instruments you use in your tracks. (Even when people record audio a laptop will be powerful enough).

While IBBIAZ might be correct to some extent (though I think "regret" is too strong a word... more like, "you will eventually covet more power") you will be able to make decent tracks on a beefy laptop. It just depends on how many plugins and effects you intend to use, how many samples you load, and how intense your tracks are in general.

It's really just a value issue. A good laptop will run you $2000+ dollars, and you'll get few ports, no way to upgrade almost anything, and a small screen. The same $2000 will get you a pretty nice desktop that'll do what you need for years to come. But, I understand why you might want a laptop. Some people simply can't afford to be tethered to a desktop - they can't move it, they travel every week, they go home only to sleep. Why get a desktop if you can't be around to use it?

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Yeah that's kinda my issue. Like I can't really get a desktop because I barely stay home anymore and even if I did I currently don't have the space for it but I desperately wanna start making higher quality game music. I'll figure it out though. Thanx for all the advice everyone I really appreciate you guys taking the time to advise me. And thankyou Arcana for giving me a clearer list of cons for why I shouldn't get a laptop. I'm probably gonna have no choice but to get one though. But i'm definately gonna make sure I choose a good one.

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One thing to keep in mind when getting a laptop is to go for high resolution (not necessarily screen size; make sure you understand the difference).

One of the reasons working on a desktop for music is more fun than a laptop is because of the available screen size, it's nice to be able to put your arrange window, your mixer, and some instruments or two on the screen at the same time. So do yourself a favour and get something with a really good resolution (IMO 1440x900 should be the absolute MINIMUM, any smaller and you actually will regret getting a laptop).

Also, get warranty coverage for your laptop. I probably shouldn't have to tell you that but some people are cheap. If you're going to put down a few grand on a computer that you're going to move nine times a day, get at least 3 years coverage on it because it's not an issue of if it breaks, but when. Laptops are fragile, you can get the best consumer-grade laptop around and treat it like fine china. Something's going to break on it.

If you are thinking of getting a USB controller (IMO again, a controller is worth it, they make music more fun), there are some ultra-portable ones out there like the Korg Nano series that are super compact.

And YES do be aware of what sound card is in it. Try to look up the chipset for it and doublecheck that the drivers don't suck. More than likely you'll want to check if there's good ASIO drivers for the chipset.

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Yeah that's kinda my issue. Like I can't really get a desktop because I barely stay home anymore and even if I did I currently don't have the space for it but I desperately wanna start making higher quality game music.

White and Black. You need to make time for it if you want it. I can personally attest that a laptop is not going to do you much good for making high quality tracks. Your best bet for high quality game music is a high quality desktop and making time to learn how to use it.

If you intend to make it a long-term concept, you're going to have to go desktop anyway, you might as well start out on it.

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a laptop is not going to do you much good for making high quality tracks.

In principle I agree with what Meteo is saying... except this line. What you use is always secondary to how you use it.

That said, a laptop might not be cost-effective as your primary music machine for reasons already stated in this thread. I used a laptop for a few years as my music machine, and it eventually ran out of juice to run my music projects. A laptop is good for writing, recording (few tracks, not a lot of effects while recording...), and some level of mixing, but at some point you'll likely run out of power and memory to keep up with your tracks.

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I think you understand my point though. He says High Quality, I'm guessing he means what's being used in mainstream games today. I'd be surprised if even a $5,000 laptop could be capable of that.

Of course what you use is secondary to how to use it, but up to a point. My last computer definitely would not be able to handle the work I've been asked to do here and elsewhere. I've been on that road where power and resources literally makes or breaks a track too many times to not recommend getting a powerful enough machine to start with.

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There's nothing wrong with getting a laptop. The guy is just starting out, if he needs portability more than he needs a super computer, let him get a laptop. Besides, if he can't learn to make decent music on a limited rig, then I assure you it's not going to matter if he has access to 12 gigs of RAM and a 4+ core processor or not.

I bought a $500 ASUS laptop last year as a secondary rig for mobile/live music use, and it has about the same specs as the iMac I was using since 2006. It can run FL, Live, Omnisphere, Kontakt, Zebra, NI's synths, and everything else I've bothered to throw on there. It's certainly true that a desktop for the same price would have doubled my HDD space and given me a better video card, and maybe a couple extra gigs of RAM, but it's still able to get the job done.

I'm personally all for a good desktop given the choice, and it's encouraging that you guys are wanting him to get the "best" stuff, but in all fairness, he's saying a laptop is more practical for him, so let him run with a laptop. Plenty of people (yes, even pros) make quality music on laptops. And hey, maybe down the road he'll decide he wants/needs a desktop. It's pretty unlikely that he's going to look back and say "Oh man, I royally screwed up and there's no going back. I should have bought a desktop. Guess I'll never manage now." ;-)

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Something like this takes money, time and above all else, effort. When we say making time, we mean a part of your life if you want to be really good at it.

You can get away with being moderate by making it a hobby. A hobby that could run you about two grand or so and 4 hours a day to accomplish at high quality. Well, I may be exagerating the cost a bit since I myself have spent at least 2300 american dollars this last month alone trying to build up my studio. But that's because I'm buying hardware like amps and a controller and modifying guitars and stuff. Not to mention super expensive software like Symphonic Choirs (which also recommends you to have at least 8 gb of RAM! I wish I read that first!) and Cubase 5 and EWQLSO Gold and the list goes on. (And I'm still shopping for speakers for my Mackie 820i!)

But don't let all that scare you. You can get away with a great deal at a low budget. And as for time you'd be surprised how much time you can fit into a recording session in spite of jobs and family. I know a guy with a wife and 2 kids in elementary school and has a 9 to 5 job and on the weekends all his play money a free time goes into equipment and recording sessions. It's like he literally has two lives! Like Dexter... only he don't kill people. He might make your ears bleed though.

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