Writing music for games and apps

Recently I’ve been doing a lot more work for games and app developers creating in-game music, menu music and various sound FX. It’s been really enjoyable. Each game throws up a different challenge, as they vary so widely in where they are set and what the music needs to convey. Topics and settings so far have varied from Africa, tanks & monsters to running, fantasy and dragons. So each time you have to turn your hand to a different style and use different musical skills and sounds to adapt to the genres.

I’ve also been doing a lot of custom songwriting for people, writing and recording songs for them for a special event or to give to their partner to commemorate an anniversary or something similarly important to them. This has been great as it involves writing a lyrics very specific to that person and really nailing the style that they have asked for, while also making sure the song is catchy and enjoyable to listen to. It’s also been a good exercise to take melody and lyrics snippets that people have already sketched out and fully develop them and record them as a full song. Each brief is very different!

We’ve also just got an upright piano in the new house, so I’m playing a lot more for pleasure than when I just had my keyboard in the studio. I’ve been learning a lot of Elliot Smith and Beatles songs. Both masters of voice leading and structuring chord sequences and using inversions cleverly to imply melody within the harmony of a song. It’s interesting the difference between learning their songs on the guitar and piano. On the piano it’s clearer to see how the chords are related, because if you work out your inversions correctly, you only have to change on or two notes between each chord, whereas on the guitar the chord shapes move around the fretboard more, so it’s harder to relate the chords to one another.

Hopefully the skills that I’m picking up from studying their songs  will seep into my upcoming songwriting work. I’ve already picked up some techniques that Elliot Smith used to create more interesting chords,  he regularly puts the fifth as the root note of the chord which creates some lovely, unexpected movements in the bass which create space for the melody to sit over unexpected roots. He also used a lot of chromatic bass runs and built chords around those movements, which gives the melody a lot of movement as it’s shifting key as it descends/ascends before generally returning to the home key by the end of the progression.

I’ve also learnt how to play the “Cheers” theme on the piano, as tune I’ve always loved, such brilliant harmony in that!

In terms of plugins, I’ve been enjoying using Trillian by Spectrasonics to get some great upriht bass sounds recently, and I’ve also been discovering the U-He Diva, which has some lovely analogue synth sounds modelled from various classic synths from the 70s and 80s.

Been experimenting with the brilliant Valhalla reverb plugins. You can create such cool effects with it really quickly which can totally change a percussive sound and place it somewhere entirely different in the stereo field.  Highly recommended.

Finally I’ve learnt an intersting lesson on Twitter this week. I managed to lose a large amount of  followers with one tweet the other night. I basically said that’s it’s important to always embrace change in creative industries rather than moan about it, as change is inevitable and you should adapt your business model to embrace it, rather than hoping it doesn’t happen. Seems like some people didn’t like that, oh well.

Please get in touch to discuss any upcoming musical projects you would like me to work on, or if you want to discuss that point!

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Scored Music For Hollyoaks Laters 2013

Over the last couple of months I’ve been lucky enough to have worked on writing music for an entire story-line for the upcoming Hollyoaks Laters which broadcast on E4 every night from 22:00 till 23:00 next week (7th-11th October.)

I’ll put some clips of the work up on my videos page and show-reel once it’s transmitted.

The story I wrote for involves some of the teen characters getting into all sorts of trouble in an isolated house in the woods.

The producer and directors wanted a tense, scary score with lots of atmosphere that developed and grew as the story became darker.

When I first got the scripts through I started putting together a palette of sounds and effects that I thought might might be effective in starting to build the main body of the pieces.

I started manipulating a lot of samples of sheet metal and industrial sounds with some distortions (particularly running them through Guitar Rig and Camel Phat)  and chopping them up and automating their pitch in Ableton, until I got some sounds with a strong attack but which had a eerie, resonating harmony to them.

I also created some high-pitched note bending noises with lots of feedback using an ebow and my guitar.

Once I had initial pictures, I spent a while at the keyboard, trying different chord sequences and melodies using a piano that I ran through some heavy distortion and amp sims to give it some nice crunch and resonance. Once I had found a central theme, I started putting it to picture, mainly deciding where you should here the full melody and chords and where I should just drop hint.

After that I worked on finding some drum sounds for a rhythm track and again, after running through some light distortion I managed to place it neatly under the piano.

I played around a lot with automating tempo shifts within scenes, so that as the action kicked in the tempo of the score shifts surprisingly and raises the tension for the viewer.

As I started to recieve picture changes and notes towards the end of the process, I added some modulation to some of the more drone-like sounds I was using to create some movement at crucial moments and also created some risers and hits from industrial samples and white noise that shift around the stereo field before landing in the middle for the hit.

For the final edit there are about 23 cues that have being used I think, some in episode 3, but mainly in 4 and 5 (Thursday’s and Friday’s episodes) when the action really steps up.

I really enjoyed working to picture and with so much great material, I hope you enjoy it and let me know if you have any thoughts or opinions once you’ve watched it.

Don’t get too scared!




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Website launched and upcoming work

Welcome to the website showcasing all my work for media so far. It’s being a lot of fun designing it with Graham at Army Of Cats, who I’d highly recommend for any branding/web design work and I’m really pleased with how it looks with Nick Bishop’s wonderful photography as well. We got lucky with the weather for the shoot, but he’s made the studio look amazing.  I’ll keep this updated as much as possible with new audio, video and photos as well as news of upcoming projects.

I’ve got a few exciting things coming up, including more composition work for a TV programme that should be going out in October.  I’ll update when I have more info. Check out my new twitter account as well and please share with any friends who may be interested in my work!

Hopefully I’ll keep this page updated with some info on new techniques I’m using to create sounds and music as well, so keep checking back.

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