Game Music Tutorial – Setting the Scene

For me, music has been an important part of my daily life, I grew up with a family that loved music, from a young age my mum used to enjoy cranking up the most epic of tunes from our little CD Player. We then used to dance around the living room singing the lyrics at the top of our lungs. Whether it was Living On a Prayer by Bon Jovi or Chop Suey! by System of a Down we had a great connection with the music and it was always able to bring us up when we were feeling down. Music was something that connected me to all of my friends, in some way or another, whether it be Ska and Funk or Heavy Metal, it meant that we always had something to talk about. As music never keeps still, it moves on and changes and develops, kinda the same as life.

I’ve been writing music for a few years now, and something that’s cropped up quite a lot is how developers seem to put music last on the “to-do” list. There are a great selection of amazing Musicians around the little area of the internet I live on. Something they’ve all managed to capture is that music that is enveloped into the game itself. It’s not thought of as a last resort, but something that is brought into the game early on and is integrated into the emotion of the game. Just as much as music has been and still is a part of my every day life (the music in your projects whether it be film or game) should be integrated into the game itself! With the IGMC contest finally underway I’m here to help you out creating/choosing themes for your own competition entries!”

When you first get hold of your game assets, whether they are 2D or 3D it doesn’t matter, you should think: “how do they sound”, What do I want this art/image/sprite/character/map chip tileset/mesh etc… to represent in game. Take a minute or two to think, if I was to choose a “theme” for this, what would it be?

If your answer to this question is: ” I have no idea…” then this tutorial series is just for you. I’m gonna show you step by step how to choose/create a theme for your own games. So let’s begin


Here is a screenshot from Re and Apophis by Diaeitsch. Here today we’re gonna figure out what we could use as a theme but before we begin a little comment to make here.

Music is subjective. there are tools that can help, but there is no correct answer, there are many many different possibilities that you could use for this screenshot, and each of them will capture a slightly different emotion, anyway onto my analysis but anyway onto my analysis and creation of the track 😀

1. Setting the Scene

So first things first, when you look at the cutscene/map in your game that you’re looking for music for you think about the emotion you’re looking to capture. If you’re looking at a beautiful forest such as the maps from this beautiful tileset by Celianna you might want something that portrays a light and magical feeling such as The Gentle Forest or if you’re a fan of dark horror scenes using these horrific (but equally as beautiful) tile-sets from Frontier Works you might go for something that is a little more dark such as Obsession.

Going back to the screenshot above, the style of the tiles and the sprites bring you to believe that it’s an Egyptian game (which is then supported by the title and the fact the dev himself states it’s an Egyptian game on his website.

Once we’ve figured out where the game is set, we need to work out what is actually going on in your scene

From what we gather there is a group of what appears to be soldiers ready to march at the command of the guy at the top.

Now the guy at the top, he looks and speaks as if he’s a character of power.


That’s the first emotion and feel we’ve got…and nothing says power more than Brass instruments such as Trumpets, Trombones etc…

So let’s get this track started with some brass:

Something I also noticed whilst looking at the screenshot, was the look of the guards/soliders at the bottom, they were almost enthralled by him, they were all incredibly attentive to what he is saying. They seemed almost hypnotised by the Leaders comments, they don’t want to look away they believe he should rule the world and take over everything! This idea of crowds of people responding almost hypnotically made me want to almost replicate the enthralling nature of a Leader/Dictators speech.

Through the repetitive nature of the brass, it keeps a set rhythm which sticks in your head in hours to come later you will all be in my control!

Now let’s mirror this with some hypnotic rhythms…

Lovely, adds a sense of urgency, and somewhat hypnotic rhythms.

So that’s the first section done, you’ve got a basic rhythm and idea and it’s not time to develop it further…Tomorrow we’ll develop the original idea to make sure that people aren’t bored of hearing the same 30 seconds over and over again, as we don’t want to loose the effect of the hypnotic rhythm!



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