A Composer's Guide to Game Music

A Composer's Guide to Game Music

by Winifred Phillips

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Overview

A comprehensive, practical guide to composing video game music, from acquiring the necessary skills to finding work in the field.

Music in video games is often a sophisticated, complex composition that serves to engage the player, set the pace of play, and aid interactivity. Composers of video game music must master an array of specialized skills not taught in the conservatory, including the creation of linear loops, music chunks for horizontal resequencing, and compositional fragments for use within a generative framework. In A Composer's Guide to Game Music , Winifred Phillips—herself an award-winning composer of video game music—provides a comprehensive, practical guide that leads an aspiring video game composer from acquiring the necessary creative skills to understanding the function of music in games to finding work in the field.

Musicians and composers may be drawn to game music composition because the game industry is a multibillion-dollar, employment-generating economic powerhouse, but, Phillips writes, the most important qualification for a musician who wants to become a game music composer is a love of video games. Phillips offers detailed coverage of essential topics, including musicianship and composition experience; immersion; musical themes; music and game genres; workflow; working with a development team; linear music; interactive music, both rendered and generative; audio technology, from mixers and preamps to software; and running a business.

A Composer's Guide to Game Music offers indispensable guidance for musicians and composers who want to deploy their creativity in a dynamic and growing industry, protect their musical identities while working in a highly technical field, and create great music within the constraints of a new medium.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262026642
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 02/14/2014
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Winifred Phillips is an award-winning composer who has composed the music for such video games as Assassin's Creed Liberation, The Da Vinci Code, God of War, Shrek the Third, Spore Hero , the LittleBigPlanet franchise, and many others.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

1 Why Would You Want to Write Music for Games? 1

2 A Composer's Creative Skillset 17

3 Immersion: How Music Deepens the Play Experience 35

4 The Importance of Themes 55

5 Music Genres and Game Genres 75

6 Roles and Functions of Music in Games 97

7 Preparation and Workflow 117

8 The Development Team 135

9 Music Needs of the Game 145

10 Linear Music in Games 157

11 Interactive Music in Games: Rendered Music 185

12 Interactive Music in Games: Music Data 203

13 A Game Composer's Technical Skillset 215

14 Acting Like a Business and Finding Work 237

Conclusion 251

References 255

Further Reading 263

Index 265

What People are Saying About This

Didier Lord

This book accurately illustrates the video game composer's task, which is to create music that perfectly complements an existing artistic vision. While the video game industry has its unique set of processes, for the aspiring composer, musicianship is the key to success. In the same manner, Winifred Phillips has excelled in this genre thanks to her musical talent.

Harry Gregson-Williams

Winifred Phillips's passion and understanding of this medium comes to life on the page and is a direct result of her vast experience and accomplishment in composing for video games. This is not just compulsory bedside reading for budding games composers, but a fine achievement in itself. Bravo!

Michael Sweet

When I began writing for games over 20 years ago, I wish there had been a book like this to guide me through the process, art, and business of scoring for games. Winifred Phillips's book is an excellent combination of practical techniques along with the human touch of a game composer's real-life experiences.

From the Publisher

Winifred Phillips's passion and understanding of this medium comes to life on the page and is a direct result of her vast experience and accomplishment in composing for video games. This is not just compulsory bedside reading for budding games composers, but a fine achievement in itself. Bravo!

Harry Gregson-Williams , Composer of Shrek , Narnia , Kingdom of Heaven , and the Metal Gear Solid series

An important, deep, and rare exploration of video game music by one of the medium's smartest and most talented voices. You may not know the name Winifred Phillips but if you play games, you absolutely know—and love—her creations!

David Jaffe , Director of God of War and the Twisted Metal series

When I began writing for games over 20 years ago, I wish there had been a book like this to guide me through the process, art, and business of scoring for games. Winifred Phillips's book is an excellent combination of practical techniques along with the human touch of a game composer's real-life experiences.

Michael Sweet , Artistic Director, Video Game Scoring, Berklee College of Music

This book accurately illustrates the video game composer's task, which is to create music that perfectly complements an existing artistic vision. While the video game industry has its unique set of processes, for the aspiring composer, musicianship is the key to success. In the same manner, Winifred Phillips has excelled in this genre thanks to her musical talent.

Didier Lord , Head of Music, Ubisoft

Endorsement

This book accurately illustrates the video game composer's task, which is to create music that perfectly complements an existing artistic vision. While the video game industry has its unique set of processes, for the aspiring composer, musicianship is the key to success. In the same manner, Winifred Phillips has excelled in this genre thanks to her musical talent.

Didier Lord, Head of Music, Ubisoft

David Jaffe

An important, deep, and rare exploration of video game music by one of the medium's smartest and most talented voices. You may not know the name Winifred Phillips but if you play games, you absolutely know—and love—her creations!

Customer Reviews

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A Composer's Guide to Game Music 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been reading lot of books and articles about videogames, but I consider "A Composer's Guide to Game Music" as my main book of reference, which has helped me to organize on my mind all the concepts about videogame music composition. Winifred's book introduces you as a game composer, helps you to understand how the player makes its first approach to a game through the "Path of Inmersion", and shows you the importance of the music through the analysis of themes, genres, and different kind of roles and functions. You will also learn how to understand your role on the game industry, and how to organize yourself knowing that you are not only a musician, but you have your own business. Released as an MIT Press book, it has a lot of interesting references about other studies people made about certain topics, so the book shares certain investigation knowledge mixed with the concepts explained on the book. Don't doubt about having this book. It will show you the path if you're starting on the music composition for videogames world, but it also has all the concepts you need to learn and work with to become a great videogame music composer. Excellent!
JordiFrancis More than 1 year ago
Would I recommend this book? 100%! Whether you're a composer starting out at the beginning of your career, a musician interested in the world of Video Game Music, or even an established composer, this book is a fantastic read. Winifred writes in such a personable manner that draws you into her stories and experiences as a composer; experiences which are invaluable in the lessons they can offer the reader. Everything you need to know to get started really is in this book, laced with personal tips and supported with music theory, you will walk away being able to put this content into practice. I found myself to be totally immersed in this book and I will always have this on my bookshelf to reference back to, if ever I find myself hitting a wall when composing. This is of lifelong value to me, and I hope that it will serve other readers well too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is definitely worth a read if you are looking to learn more about game music. It talks you through concerns, explains techniques and helps you gain a better understanding of what is most important in video game music and the surrounding industry. As a creative sound production student, I have found myself coming back to this book on multiple occasions.  I would also highly recommend this book to anyone who works within the video game field and has problems communicating their ideas to composers as it will give you a fuller understanding of what it is that they do (and vice versa for composers.)  Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was highly informative and an absolute pleasure to read. Not only did she explain the essential technical aspects involved in composing music for video games, she also covered the psychology of music itself and its interactive relationship towards game development. As an aspiring game and film composer, this book answered many questions I've had for a while, imbuing me with a new sense of confidence moving forward.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Winifred Phillips' "A Composer's Guide to Game Music" fills a void in the written world where it is so desperately needed. In the vein of many writings on film scoring, (yet surpassing most) Phillip's book takes you through a journey in and around the medium. Phillips' gives you a history of both games and game music, enabling you better understand video games as a cultural entity - along with their importance. She speaks of the psychological underpinnings which so drastically affect the player's experience, and how to navigate that and have agency on the gamer.  She discusses how to approach development teams, contacts, companies, and the task itself of breaking down a game into the music that needs to be written for it.  All in all, I have yet to find a more inclusive and educational text - pulling so perfectly from Phillips' own wealth of experiences. It would serve well as a classroom textbook, a foray into the world of game music for the casually interested, and as a marvelous how-to - and perhaps most importantly 'why?' - for anyone with an interested in a career in game music.