Shigi Articles #1: Game ComposingJanuary 4, 2010 at 10:21 am | Posted in Shigi Articles | 24 Comments
Tags: composing, sound design, video game music
Hello and Happy New Year to everyone out there ^_^
Between DoTA games and hanging out with family and friends, I was finally able to finish all the maps in the 2nd to last location in my game, so I posted a few screenshots over at leebleforest if anyone is interested in checking them out ^_^ But the main reason I’m updating tonight is because I was inspired to start a new article series based off of questions folks have been asking me… everything from getting into the video game industry to staying motivated when you do freelance work. Over the years, many people have been generous enough to offer me advice and information on these topics, so I would love to pass that along if possible… my hope is that somewhere in these articles, you’ll be able to find something useful!
Question #1: How did you get your start in the industry, and what sort of advice would you offer to folks who aspire to become full-time game composers?
I guess you could say that my start in the industry came after a series of very random events that happened over a period of several years. Although I’ve been playing the piano since I was 5, I grew up in an area that was very rigid about careers. You were expected to go to a 4-year university and become a lawyer, doctor, or engineer… so I never even imagined having a career related to music, even though I was very passionate about it. I spent a lot of time improvising and playing my favorite songs by ear. When I was around 8-10 years old, I learned a lot about arranging music from listening to NES video game songs (the Megaman series in particular); I’d record them onto casette tape, break down the different parts, and then attempt to play them on the piano. But it was always a hobby for me. I went to UC Berkeley and majored in International Relations and Business, all the while composing on the side. My friend gave me an old version of Cakewalk which I used to compose… I loved it.
During college I also put together a CD with a bunch of random songs on it, and I gave it to a friend in Japan who worked for a teen magazine. She (without telling me) forwarded that to a bunch of record companies there who subsequently called my parents offering me auditions. So I flew to Japan during my spring break to audition with a bunch of record labels, which was a lot of fun. I actually got offered a contract as a singer, but I ended up turning it down for a variety of personal reasons. But I realized at that point that having a career related to music and creativity was actually something I could/should be pursuing. After returning to finish college, I did a lot of contract work for a Japanese company as their sound designer. I hosted an audio talkshow, did all the sound engineering stuff, and composed a bunch of music for them. During that time, a friend of mine asked if I’d be interested in composing the soundtrack for a game he was consulting for. I did this project for free, but the company liked my work, so I was paid to do the sound and music for many of their subsequent projects.
From here I gradually built my portfolio. I worked on as many projects as I could, and I tried to learn as much as possible during the process. I received work both from referrals, and from folks who thought my style would fit their projects after playing a game I’d done the soundtrack for. The most important thing that happened during this time however, was that I developed my own style. So many times I’ve heard the advice, “you have to find your own voice”… and it is very true. Game companies receive tons of demo CDs that often contain generic orchestral music or electronic tracks; there is no way for the developers to differentiate! This is why it’s so important to figure out what makes your music special, and really focus on making that shine.
Well, that’s about it! I hope this has been helpful… if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section. Happy New Year, and keep on creating!
P.S. For those who like old school NES music, here are a few more of my favorites if you’re bored and want to listen to some great tunes!
Megaman 3 – Magnet Man
Megaman 5 – Gyro Man Yoko Shimomura is one of my favorite compsoers.
Megaman 5 – Protoman’s Stage This used to be my cel phone ringtone. Yay polyphonic!
Little Nemo the Dream Master – Final Boss Epic.
Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers – Final Boss Music I don’t know… I just love it.
Can you tell I like old NES Capcom games?