What’s Your Music Production Story?

What’s Your Music Production Story?

I’m fascinated by music production and the associated tech tools available that allow us to record and produce our ideas inside the box. I think I’m so intrigued by it because it has come such a far way since I first got into it in the early 00s. One way of seeing how far you’ve come with your music productions is to take a look back at your story. Let me take you through mine and maybe it inspires you to look back at your own journey.

 

Looking back allows you to see how much you have improved.

  • Choosing a DAW

In my teen years I was too preoccupied with playing guitar and going to the beach ( I grew up in a surf and bodyboarding city so it was a no brainer) to think about computers and how I could actually use them for music. I mainly just played a few games on them (hello Duke Nukem!), to occupy the time between surf sessions and band practices. But what really changed it for me was when I got my hands on Reason. Reason completely blew my mind with all the cool rack effects and instruments. And especially when you pressed the TAB key, and it flipped the rack around and you could see all the cabling to the different modules. Still even today it’s quite a nifty and impressive feature.

I was hooked on Reason (it was version 2.5 then), and wanted to take my music productions further.

But at the time Reason didn’t have audio recording capabilities. You could pull an audio sample into the NN-XT sampler but that was it. So I did some researching, and found out about DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstations), and how Reason could be Rewired into these applications. So the DAW could handle all the mixing and audio capabilities, while Reason ‘plugged’ into it. So I had to decide on two things: a DAW to use, and an audio interface to allow me to record audio sources into the software.

So I started off with ProTools (I think it was on version 5 then), as you got the audio interface with the software. And my first interface was the legendary MBox1. And I have to thank my wife as she helped me purchase it and, like we did with all the stuff we bought together, we gave it a name. So it was christened ‘Mindy’ and to this day I still have fond memories of Mindy.

It was only a USB1 interface with only 2 inputs and 2 outputs, but it changed my whole perspective on music production. Now, I could record my guitar and vocal parts straight into ProTools, have a visual display of the audio, and jump in and edit the ideas.

I think I stuck with ProTools for about 2-3 years, but then my ‘Gear Envy’ started to wander and I kept hearing good (great!) things about Logic. First things first, I needed a Mac. My introduction to the Mac world was the Mac Mini.

The Mac Mini was aptly nick-named Lunchbox, as…it was the size of, and looked pretty much like, a lunchbox. So Mindy & Lunchbox gave me the platform to start running Logic 7 Express, and then eventually Logic Pro 8 and so on….. I’m still an avid (no not Avid ProTools) Logic user. I think I’ve been using it close on 11 years now. That might be giving away my age. But what I have always liked about Logic is the bundled instruments and effects that come with it. Sure I’ve acquired much better synths and sample libraries over the years, but I still keep jumping back to patches in the ES2, EXS24 and using the bundled EQs and Compressors as my go-to tools in mixing.

Through the years I have also jumped through other DAWS: Reaper, Ableton, Sonar and Tracktion. But I seem to have settled on 3 of them now: Logic, Studio One, and Cubase. All for different reasons. Mainly because of their varying feature sets. Familiarity brings me back to Logic. But my interest in exploring other tech options takes me to Studio One and Cubase.

So I’m a firm believer that working in different DAWs makes you compose in different ways because of the feature sets and workflow methods in each DAW.

  • Getting a MIDI Controller

Another thing that also completely changed my perspective on music production, was when I got my first MIDI Keyboard Controller. It wasn’t very fancy, I think it was an entry level Evolution 49-key. And all it had was a Pitch and Mod wheel. No other controls on the device. But being able to bash out drum beats on those keys, and lay down pads assigned to the ES2 and EXS24 in Logic was crazy! It had come such a far way from when my band and I had to book studio time, go spend a couple of hours in there recording to tape, and being limited by the clock and budget. Music producers today are really lucky now that they can get a Macbook, Logic, and a portable MIDI controller and compose and record on the go and have top-notch sounding recordings.

Even though I haven’t gone back to ProTools or Reason, those initial pieces of software gave me a great start. Those memories remind me how far music production has come, and keeps me appreciating what’s possible, but at the same time excited to see what music tech tools and productions come in the future.

  • So Where to Next?

So what is coming up next in music production and its tech tools, and how will these tools shape the future of music creation? Will iPads and other mobile devices become more prominent in music production? Will VR gear work its way into our productions as well? Who knows, but all I can say is it’s exciting to know that the way things are now are not the way they will be in a decade. Appreciate your roots but also keep up with the new tech and see how you can incorporate it into your setup.

Now it’s your turn! Take a look back on your music journey and see how things have changed. How has the software changed? How has this shaped the way you do things? And have new instruments and effects expanded your music palette and allowed you to write things you may not have considered before? With each application or plugin I have learnt something new and it has taken my productions further. So take a look back and see what you have learnt over the years. Go through the software and plugins you have used and see how they have helped you. Also take a look through your older songs, and then compare them with newer ones, and hear what you have worked on and how things improved with your productions. Looking back allows you to see how much you have improved.

  • Need some Inspiration?

One way I stay on top of things is to keep learning. If that means learning new production tips and tricks, checking out new styles, learning new music production software, Whatever…

Take the time now to learn more. If you’re new to music production or want to brush up on tips and tricks, maybe take a look at the following courses:

Produce Your First Song in Studio One:
Learn how to Record and Edit Audio and MIDI in Presonus’s awesome Studio one DAW.

 

Learn Music Production Essentials:
Discover the key essentials music production tips and tricks so that you can get the most out of your DAW.

 

Music Career Masterclass: Your Guide to Success in Music –
Uncover ways to take your passion for music further by making it a career. This course will look at the different musical avenues and how you can earn money from it.

I hope this article has inspired you to take a look back at your music production journey to see how far you have come, and given you some ideas on how to look also to the future music production tech, tips and techniques to make sure you keep producing great music!

Exploring Indie Game Music

Exploring Indie Game Music

 

I love how progressive and dynamic game music/game audio is – and the constant flux and advancements keep pushing you as a composer to stay ahead of the (pun coming up) – game and create new and interesting compositions to keep your audiences engaged. Indie Games are a genre of games that showcase amazing talent and some truly cutting edge audio. Let’s look a closer look at this genre-

Indie Games really became popular round about 2011/12. Some small game studios developed and released their own games, and they were so highly addictive and popular that it spurred on this Indie Game movement. Before this revolution, many developers thought you had to go and work with a big studio to be successful as a game developer until they realised the beauty of producing a game themselves or as part of a small team. Not only could they make their own game, but these games had the potential to be huge successes. Platforms like STEAM and the Humble Bundles have helped push and grow the movement by giving the little guy a platform to sell to their audiences.

Before this revolution, many developers thought you had to go and work with a big studio to be successful as a game developer until they realised the beauty of producing a game themselves or as part of a small team.

So, the rise of Indie Games has not only introduced us to some awesome games regarding development or graphics, but there are also some stellar composers born from the movement. The crazy cool soundtracks, I believe, can often be attributed to the close communication required with small teams, driven by a common passion to develop something for more than a paycheck. Another reason I’m so fascinated with this scene is that a lot of these Indie Games remind me of games that I used to play when I first got my hands on some video games – gotta love the power of nostalgia!

Here are some of my favorites. Give them a spin, check out their game functionality and then also take a close look at how the sound and music help enhance the experience of these games. By playing games, you’ll get a better understanding of music’s role, game functionality and what makes a great game, well, great. If you want to get into the Game Music World, start researching with some hands on gaming!

I’m sure everyone has their own flavour of games they like, but hopefully, you’ll find these as inspiring as I have –

By far my favourite indie game is Fez.

 

Developed by Phil Fish and Renaud Bedard, Fez was released through Polytron in 2012. It’s a 2D platform-style game, with a 3D component. When you press the keys A and D and swivels the world around giving this 2D world a 3D flavour and also creates some interesting puzzle solving conundrums.

This game reminds me of some of the old school NES games and what’s even better is that the composer Rich Vreeland (also known as Disasterpiece), has produced an awesome chiptune style soundtrack to compliment the retro look of the game. These songs have been beautifully composed and arranged, and enhance the game experience. And even better I see that Rich is a Logic user (one of my favourite DAWs), and used the Massive synth (and one of my favourite software synths) quite extensively on this soundtrack. So it’s inspiring to know that these are tools within a music composer’s grasp.

 

Another favourite Indie Game of mine is Limbo.
 

This is quite a dark, haunting side-scroller puzzle game released by PlayDead games. The player has to guide a little boy through dangerous environments and traps to get to his lost sister and be careful; there’s some creepy and scary stuff around. It appears to be a simple greyscale 2D game, but the graphics and visual game movement give it an awesome modern feel.

There isn’t really music to this game. It’s more about the ambient background sounds composed by Martin Stig Andersen that create the dark, sombre mood. It’s a great game to play to hear how the ambient background places you in a particular space, and how the sound effects add to the experience of the game. Andersen’s use of pads and sound effects create this lonely, dark world and the minimal sound palette really adds to the level of game immersion.

 

Andersen’s use of pads and sound effects create this lonely, dark world and the minimal sound palette really adds to the level of game immersion.

 

 

Thomas Was Alone, is also another super simple game that reminds me of my old 80s and 90s favourites.

 
 

 

Created by Mike Bithel, the main character, Thomas, is a simple red square, and he needs to roam his world and find other shapes, like squares, triangles and circles to help him solve puzzles. The music was composed by BAFTA nominated composer, David Housden. It’s a combination of acoustic and electronic instruments playing very simple melodies and phrases, but don’t let the simplicity fool you – they’re super catchy. It feels like you’ll be humming the lines forever after a game play.

The game has amazing dialogue that accompanies it voiced by Danny Wallace. His voice gives this basic red object an actual character. You start developing feelings for this little red block, and the dialogue helps guide you so that you can progress in the game.

 

 

The game has amazing dialogue that accompanies it voiced by Danny Wallace. His voice gives this basic red object an actual character.

My favourite game on iOS is Monument Valley.
 
 

With its use of Escher style architectural puzzle solving and stunning almost dreamy graphics, Monument Valley will have you hooked as you try to navigate the changing and warping architectural paths.

The composer, Stafford Bawler, has written beautiful pieces that complement the amazing graphics. Plus, he has used some simple but interesting ways to use music scales to solve puzzles. For example, the one part in the game, as you match up a piece in the path it plays a different harp note in a scale. So it’s musically pleasing and helps you solve the puzzle.

With its use of Escher style architectural puzzle solving and stunning almost dreamy graphics, Monument Valley will have you hooked as you try to navigate the changing and warping architectural paths.

So what draws me to these games? Yes, the nostalgia of my 80s childhood, but couple that with the beautifully composed and thought out soundtracks – and I’m hooked. These Indie Games make me want to compose and play, and play and compose – catch 22 – which one first?

I have to be honest, when I got into game music production, I stopped playing games for a while as my addiction was the music software itself. But (thankfully) the Indie Game movement revitalised my interest in games, plus I heard some great new composers through the game, which I now listen to on a regular basis. With all the niche markets in the game music industry, there are so many possibilities for composers to get creative!

So take a play through some of these games. Get inspired by Fez’s chiptune style soundtrack. Take a listen to ambient backgrounds with Limbo. See how interesting dialogue can be in a seemingly simple game like Thomas Was Alone. And see how musical scales and theory can be used in gameplay like Monument Valley.

Music Career Masterclass

If you liked this article and would like to know more about game music and how you can boost your career with this path, then check out my Masterclass on Boosting your Music Career with over 8 hours of content. There’s a dedicated Game Music Module that covers the different Game Music Roles and how you can get involved as a music maker.


TAKE ME TO THE COURSE

* If you notice  that any of the youtube links have broken please do let me know. Images copyright the respective game designers.

Sound Design – Boost Your Brand By Creating an Audio Logo

Sound Design – Boost Your Brand By Creating an Audio Logo

Tap into the niche market of creating Audio Logos. In this course from composer/sound designer Gary Hiebner will guide you through how to create your own audio logo within your respective DAW’s. This will cover creating your own sound effects, such as hits and whooshes. Then onto how create tonal and sequencer patterns to build up memorable chords and melodies in your logo. And finally he’ll show you how to mix, master, and export out the audio and embed it to the video logo.

What You’ll Get From This Course:

  • Step-by step instructions on how to get started with the creation process of building an Audio Logo in your DAW.
  • Easy to follow on screen examples of how to create a complex sounding Audio Logo.
  • Tips & Tricks from an experience composer and sound designer
Produce Your 1st Song in Studio One

Produce Your 1st Song in Studio One

Do you want to learn how to produce your first song in Presonus Studio One?
Are you curious about Studio One’s capabilities?
Are you ready to add another DAW to your tools?

Composer and Sound Designer Gary Hiebner brings you Online Audio Courses, Tips & Tricks to get you On Track with Audio Production. With six years experience teaching online audio courses, and having worked at one of South Africa’s top game design companies, Gary brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his courses. Sign up, sit back and get on track.