Marginalia, Graduate Blog

5 Reasons You Should Write Video Game Music

My first gaming machines

My first gaming machines

1. More Freedom

When listening to scores to games from Journey, Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption, to the Donkey Kong Country series, it is obvious that the composers are given a large amount of creative control. Generally, it seems like the directors of the games let the composers take risks, and find a unique sound. The nature of the medium also gives a less strict structure. A lot of score is used to set a mood or feeling, instead of writing to the hit points.

In addition, there seems to be less people making changes when compared to film music. I have heard many stories of composers given endless notes from producers, and the final product is very far away from the composer’s original idea. There can be many producers all giving different notes. This can be a real juggling match for a composer, trying to please each producer and at the same time making the music you want to make. I don’t believe games are immune to this problem (big blockbuster games probably have this problem as well), but it seems like it could be less common.

2. Unique Demographic

Diversifying your work to include video games will bring your music to a whole new group of mostly younger people. Composing for both mediums maximizes your potential fan base.

3. Emergent Gaming

It is an exciting time to be a game composer. The way the music can react to each player’s movement is magical. Programming and music creation skills come together to make the score. According to Austin Wintory, “The highly ingrained traditions of film composition don’t mean much in games. It’s more of a reckless Wild West. Games are still crazy teenagers, and I love that. Anything goes.” Take a look at an New York Times interview about this here

First and second year students at the arcade!

First and second year students at the arcade!

4. Longer Gigs

Video games usually have a larger frame for the composer to work when compared to film. While films often need to be scored in less than a month, video games have from half a year to a couple years of development time. Composers are usually involved much earlier on a video game, and have more time to create the score, which is often much lengthier than a film score. A good example is Red Dead Redemption, which features over 14 hours of original music. According to this article, compositions were completed over 15 months; a great gig for sure!

5. More Scoring Opportunities

The yearly revenue of video games continues to rise. In 2013, it reached $73 billion. The number of games being made is also quite insane. I am not sure on the math, but I imagine there are many many games for every one film made. So what are you waiting for? Get in contact with a game developer!

Note About AFM Musicians and Video Games

Unfortunately, scoring for games has some cons as well. According to Austin Wintory, No AFM (American Federation of Musicians) musician has been able to work on a new video game score for almost two years. Take a look at his video explaining this problem.

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I can’t wait to score some games at Columbia. During our 2nd year gaming class, we work on the gaming major’s senior projects.

5 Reasons You Should Write Video Game Music

1. More Freedom When listening to scores to games from Journey, Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption, to the Donkey Kong Country series, it is obvious that the composers are …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Musical Instrument Museum

trumpets

About a month ago I travelled south to Arizona, travelling to Phoenix, Tucson, and even making a stop in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. It was a good break from the windy city, visiting friends, watching Game of Thrones all day, trying to survive the blistering heat (110 degrees at some points), and checking out the Musical Instrument Museum. Located in north Phoenix, this museum is home to over 6,000 instruments from 200 countries.

Musical Instrument Museum

About a month ago I travelled south to Arizona, travelling to Phoenix, Tucson, and even making a stop in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. It was a good break from the windy …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Summer Jobs in the Windy City

Columbia Chronicle

Columbia Chronicle

Many continuing grad students like myself need a summer job while staying in Chicago for the summer. Securing work in such a big metropolitan area can be very challenging. I started looking for work the week of finals and after a few weeks of submitting resumes, returning phone calls, and interviewing, I was lucky enough to be hired by The Columbia Chronicle as a graphic designer. Here are some tips for finding a summer job as a grad student at Columbia.

Summer Jobs in the Windy City

Many continuing grad students like myself need a summer job while staying in Chicago for the summer. Securing work in such a big metropolitan area can be very challenging. I …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

My First Analog Synth

Just last month I added a great piece of gear to my home studio, an Arturia MicroBrute. This is my very first 100% analog synth, and so far I can say it has exceeded my expectations. Previously, my go-to hardware synth was the microKorg, a digital synthesizer modeled after retro analog synths. The microKorg is an impressive little machine as well, and for some projects I still prefer it over the MicroBrute.

My First Analog Synth

Just last month I added a great piece of gear to my home studio, an Arturia MicroBrute. This is my very first 100% analog synth, and so far I can …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Summer is here!

It has been a very intense last month of school! Projects include recreating “Time” from Inception (a very difficult and rewarding process), re-scoring the main titles for Life of Pi, mixing a rhythmic drum piece in surround, and writing in the style of Clint Mansell. The amount of work is definitely daunting. However, this is something a film composer must be accustomed to. It is interesting to look back at the beginning of the year. I don’t know how I could have finished all these projects back then. My cohort has learned how to write more quickly, efficiently, and of course, for the screen. The second years are packing and looking towards LA. In the next two weeks, they will start their journey, and prepare for their summer internship. I can’t wait to hear how their internships are going. Look for interviews with them soon, I will be posting them throughout the summer.

Summer is here!

It has been a very intense last month of school! Projects include recreating “Time” from Inception (a very difficult and rewarding process), re-scoring the main titles for Life of Pi, …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Theater Sound Experience

From my experiences going to film premieres of my undergraduate projects, watching the films in a full theater was always enjoyable. It was great to hear reactions from the audience based on the film as a whole. In addition, it was nice to hear the music and sound effects in a large theater, with a decent stereo speaker setup. I try to go to as many movie showings as I can because hearing the soundtrack through the high fidelity speakers is a greater experience than watching these films in my living room. Currently, all large professional theaters have surround sound ranging from Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 7.1, to Dolby Atmos. These set ups are highly evolved from early film sound. In the beginning, there was just one speaker behind the screen. Now with Dolby Atmos, there are roughly 60 speakers, each with individual control. These speakers completely surround the audience, with an array on the ceiling. Take a look at Dolby’s video about the past and present of surround sound.

Theater Sound Experience

From my experiences going to film premieres of my undergraduate projects, watching the films in a full theater was always enjoyable. It was great to hear reactions from the audience …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Recording Sessions

Over the last month, I had the privilege to attend two orchestral recording sessions. Three recording sessions are dispersed over the second year of study here at Columbia. It was a great opportunity to sit in, as many of my year one classmates did as well. We learned a great deal about score preparation, how to communicate to professional musicians, and how recording sessions are run. It is odd to think me and my year one classmates will be running our own sessions in one year. I am very proud of all the second year students. Their pieces were beautifully performed by the Chicago musicians.

Recording Sessions

Over the last month, I had the privilege to attend two orchestral recording sessions. Three recording sessions are dispersed over the second year of study here at Columbia. It was …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Best Original Score Goes To…

Oscars

The Oscars are this weekend! The student’s here at Columbia College Chicago in the Music Composition for the Screen program are excited; we are throwing our own Oscar party. I understand they held a similar get together last year, so I guess we are making this a yearly tradition. Year ones as well as year twos are planning to attend. For the year twos, it will be a nice break in between prepping scores for their orchestral recording sessions at Chicago Recording Company. I had the pleasure of stopping by one of the recording sessions and I have to say, I was blown away by the quality of the compositions, orchestrations, and the musician’s ability. It really makes me look forward to my second year. Be sure to stand by for my next blog, all about the recording sessions.

Best Original Score Goes To…

The Oscars are this weekend! The student’s here at Columbia College Chicago in the Music Composition for the Screen program are excited; we are throwing our own Oscar party. I …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

Three Instruments

I thought I would spend this post discussing three of my favorite instruments to add to any class assignment or student film. Melodica, Recorder, and Autoharp. These instruments are great to have around your workspace, and I tend to use at least one in the majority of cues I am working on. Even if they don’t eventually go into the project, it is a great benefit for me to play my ideas on one of these instruments rather than my midi keyboard. It makes me think about the melody or musical figure in a different way. These instruments can create a very large variety of sounds, keeping my musical arsenal ready for whatever the picture asks for. Synthesizers and sample libraries are obviously essential resources. Adding even a touch of “live” elements really can bring the track together.

Three Instruments

I thought I would spend this post discussing three of my favorite instruments to add to any class assignment or student film. Melodica, Recorder, and Autoharp. These instruments are great …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

A New Semester, A New Ambassador

Alt-J at Aragon Ballroom

Alt-J at Aragon Ballroom

Hi, my name is Logan Stahley. I am very excited to be the next graduate ambassador for the Music Composition for the Screen MFA program.

Ever since I was a child I was greatly involved in music. I recall taking violin lessons, trumpet lessons, and piano lessons all at the same time. My favorite soundtracks growing up were Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings trilogies. I remember playing back the themes on piano, plinking away the notes until it sounded close to the original. I studied trumpet and played in orchestras and wind bands during my high school years. During college I studied Music Technology at Montana State University Bozeman. I was lucky enough to record my school’s orchestra for three of my original soundtracks. Hearing my music being played by over forty of my peers was an experience I will never forget. I also joined a funk rock band and toured around the Northwest. I helped write and produce the first album, Cure for the Common.

A New Semester, A New Ambassador

Hi, my name is Logan Stahley. I am very excited to be the next graduate ambassador for the Music Composition for the Screen MFA program. Ever since I was a …

Music Composition for the Screen MFA Logan Stahley, unhello@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

The Graduate Experience