A Composer’s Guide to Game Music

Posted on March 12th, 2016 by:

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A Composer’s Guide to Game Music

music for video games is slowly becoming a focus in academic circles. Over the last decade the amount of literature about game music has risen. Winifred Phillip’s book on composing for game music is an essential addition to this subject. I really loved reading this book. Not only does it give great insight on how to create a career for yourself as a game composer, it really dives into the significance of game music, and music for visual media. There are sections in Winnifred Phillip’s book that delve into research about how the tone of the score can sway the audience’s opinion about a character, or even sway how the audience would about guess upcoming events in a storyline based off of the tone of the music. Winnifred Phillips even brings up examples of compositional techniques used in famous game scores, like for instance in Super Mario 64, Koji Kondo uses the ‘Shepard Scale’ technique when Mario is running up the endless staircase to reach Bowser. The ‘Shepard Scale’ gives the player and the music a feeling of endlessness, perfectly complementing the endless staircase. She also touches on techniques like writing ‘linear music’, creating loops, using musical ‘hinting’, and how music can provide reassurance to a player when they’ve done something correct.


In this book Phillips also uses specific examples from her career, and how she got started. For an aspiring game composer this insight is invaluable, since composing for games isn’t a simple career to break into. Her insights also include treating yourself as a business. The sense of professionalism is important, and this translates to building a strong database of contacts, designing an effective website, etc.


The most interesting parts of the book for me were ones that went into how music affects the listener. She uses examples of how music can access reactions from those suffering from autism, and how music also can even change the listener’s perception of how fast or slow time is passing. Also it goes into how you as a composer want to make your music varied and interesting enough so as not to cause ‘listener’s fatigue.’ Where the player just gets annoyed by the music looping over and over when they ar stuck in a spot in the game. All of this information is so interesting, and makes for a great read. For game composers it really highlights what is in the job description, and that composing for games is an art that can really take a lot of technique and finesse to make for a fun experience for the player.

Click on the image or text if you’re interested in purchasing:
A Composer’s Guide to Game Music



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