Writing Interactive Music for Video Games A Composer's Guide

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 9/22/2014
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
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“This book is a must read for newcomers and experienced composers wanting to learn more about the art of video game composition.”

—Chuck Doud, Director of Music, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios


All You Need to Know to Create Great Video Game Music


Written by the developer of Berklee School of Music’s pioneering game scoring program, this guide covers everything professional composers and music students need to know about composing interactive music for video games, and contains exclusive tools for interactive scoring—tools that were previously available only at Berklee.


Drawing on twenty years of professional experience in the game industry, Michael Sweet helps you master the unique language of music storytelling in games. Next, he walks you through the entire music composition process, from initial conceptualization and creative direction through implementation.


Inside, you’ll find dozens of examples that illustrate adaptive compositional techniques, from small downloadable games to multimillion dollar console titles. In addition, this guide covers the business side of video game composition, sharing crucial advice about contracts, pricing, sales, and marketing.


Coverage includes

  • Overcoming the unique challenges of writing for games
  • Composing music that can adapt in real time to player actions
  • Developing thematic ideas
  • Using audio middleware to create advanced interactive scores
  • Working effectively with game development teams
  • Understanding the life of a video game composer
  • Managing contracts, rights, estimating, and negotiation
  • Finding work


The companion website contains software tools to help you master interactive music concepts explored in this book, with additional resources and links to learn more about scoring for games. See Appendix A for details.

Author Biography

Over the past two decades in music, Michael Sweet has been an accomplished audio composer and has been the audio director for more than 100 award winning video games. His work can be heard on the X-Box 360 logo and on award winning games from Cartoon Network, Sesame Workshop, PlayFirst, iWin, Gamelab, Shockwave, RealArcade, Pogo, Microsoft, Lego, AOL, and MTV, among others. He has won the Best Audio Award at the Independent Games Festival, the BDA Promax Gold Award for Best Sound Design, and has been nominated four Game Audio Network Guild (GANG) awards. As an educator over the last 5 years, Michael Sweet has led the development of the game scoring curriculum at Berklee. He has created seven classes that teach the art of video game composition, and helped develop the Minor in Video Game Scoring at the college. Before Berklee, Michael was the co-founder and creative director of Audiobrain, a company dedicated to breaking boundaries with interactive sound design and music. Michael's creative vision for 7 years had led Audiobrain to develop many emotionally immersive award-winning experiences for games (i.e. Xbox 360, Diner Dash), broadcast (i.e. NBC Sports and Olympics) and sonic branding. Audiobrain continues to be successful, and Michael consults on many of their projects. In broadcast Michaels work can be heard in many network identities including HBO, VH1, Comedy Central, CNN, General Motors, and NASDAQ. In addition Michael's digital artistry has led him to ground breaking work in the creation of interactive scores for digital design installations that have traveled the world. As a teacher and communicator Michael has lectured at many universities and prominent conferences in interactive music and sound design including Game Developers Conference, NYU, SVA, Audio Engineering Society, GDX, and Parsons The New School of Design.

Table of Contents


Part I: Scoring for Games

Chapter 1 The Language of Music Storytelling in Games

Chapter 2 Breaking Down Interactive Music

Chapter 3 Spotting the Game

Chapter 4 Working with a Game Development Team

Chapter 5 Historical Perspective of Experimental Music by Non-Digital Composers including Aleatoric, Chance Music, and Indeterminacy

Chapter 6 Overview of Video Game Composition Over the Last 30 Years

Part II: Fundamental Video Game Scoring Techniques

Chapter 7 Composing Music Loops

Chapter 8 Horizontal Re-Sequencing

Chapter 9 Vertical Re-Mixing, Recombination and Phasing

Chapter 10 Writing Transitions and Stingers

Chapter 11 Music as a Sound Design Element

Chapter 12 Music as a Gameplay Element

Part III: Advanced Video Game Scoring Techniques

Chapter 13 Taking Steps Backwards — Midi, Virtual Instruments, Synthesis and Memory

Chapter 14 Rhythm verses Non-Rhythm and Tempo Variation

Chapter 15 Dynamic Re-Harmonization

Chapter 16 Aleatoric Techniques for Video Games

Chapter 17 An Introduction to Algorithmic Composition

Chapter 18 Music and Audio Middleware Solutions

Chapter 19 Creating A Custom Music Solution

Part IV: Bringing Music into the Game

Chapter 20 Composing Music with a DAW

Chapter 21 Notation, Recording and Mixing

Chapter 22 Mixing, Surround, DSP, and Effects

Chapter 23 Collaborative Tools, Implementation Strategies and Technical Considerations

Chapter 24 Bringing it all Together Large Scale Music Development

Part V: The Business of Scoring Music for Video Games

Chapter 25 The Life of a Composer

Chapter 26 Contracts, Rights and the Concept of Work for Hire

Chapter 27 Creating an Estimate or Bid

Chapter 28 Negotiating Tactics

Chapter 29 Marketing and Sales

Chapter 30 Challenges of Working as a Composer




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