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How do you make music for games?

Music in games is really good for the gaming experience if done right. But where to start? Don’t worry-we’ve put together four basic steps for you.

Step 1: Decide on a genre

This sounds obvious, but first you need to with the genre. What kind of story are you telling? Is it full of suspense? Or horror? Or is it based on puzzles? The music you choose will evoke different feelings, so you need to make the right choice.

It’s hardly worth playing a cheerful, optimistic tune when your hero is being chased by an enemy in a dark forest. Nor should you give the choice to a creepy, unnerving tune when the protagonist is solving a colorful puzzle.

Step 2: Determine your goals

Every game is different. So you need to decide what role music plays in your game. For example, the game Gris tells an emotional story – so the music should evoke feelings in the player. But, as mentioned above, in Oxenfree the dialogues are more important than the music, so the music should not distract players from them.

Is your game character-centered?

If your answer is yes, then music and sound can really help you when building your characters’ personalities. Are they bold and thoughtful? Or playful and fun? Sounds can add an extra touch that enhances your character’s personality. So make sure you set the right tone.

You might also consider giving important characters their own musical themes. Take Hornet from Hollow Knight, for example. You fight her twice, and each time she has her own unique battle music, which is instantly recognizable when you have to fight her again. Things like this can really bring your game to life and resonate with your audience.

Will there be many different locations in your game?

Consider having each one have its own tune. Or just change the main theme to add personality. Without new music for new locations, your game might seem monotonous or, God forbid, boring. Look at Sky: Children of light, for example. This game has a huge emphasis on visuals and sounds, and even encourages players to wear headphones to get the most out of the game. Each area and “level” has its own soundtrack, each one accompanying the gameplay and the location you are in.

This is really important for casual games, since casual games tend to be quite short and repetitive. Changing visual elements and sound keeps players in games that contain minimal content.

Still don’t know what you want?

Ask yourself:

  • What’s important in my game?
  • What do I want my audience to focus on?
  • How complex (or simple) is my story?
  • What emotions do I want to evoke in the players?

Now choose music to match your game.

Step 3: Research.

Once you’ve figured out what genre your game is and how you want to use music in it, you can start your research. Take a look at other games that are similar to yours. How do they use music? Don’t stop there either – if your game is about an alien invasion, for example, try watching a couple of movies or TV shows about little green men coming to earth for inspiration.

Don’t forget Spotify (or whatever streaming music service you use there) either – searching by genre or mood will get your creative juices flowing.

Step 4: Prepare a song.

If all this makes you think, yes I have some amazing tune in my head, but I don’t know how to create it, don’t panic. Some music publishers can help you through the whole creative process – Vietnamese Amanotes, for example. And here are some more useful resources:

  • Cubase – One of the most powerful software packages for creating music. Cubase lets you create, record, edit, and mix music.
  • FMOD – is a comprehensive solution for adding music and sounds to any game. It was used by the developers of Bioshock and World of Warcraft.
  • Wwise – One of the most popular audio tools on the market. Wwise can be integrated into various engines. Various plugins and add-ons are available. The tool offers full access to its platform, you get up to 500 sounds for free.

A little short on funds?

If you’re screaming at your screen right now, “I spent all my funds on amazing visuals and I have nothing left for music,” don’t worry. There are plenty of free tools you can apply.

  • Audacity – An open-source tool that allows you to record and edit music.
  • FMOD – Yes, this software made it onto both lists. If you’re an indie developer with a budget under $500k, there’s a free version available.
  • Garageband – Apple Music Creation has a full sound library that includes instruments, guitar and voice presets, and a selection of session drummers and percussionists.