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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