Post tutorial Report RSS Composing - A Crash Course

I saw that no one had put up any tutorials on composition up, so I figured I would. This tutorial is intended for those new to composing, but not new to music. If you do not know how to read music or how to play any instrument (though not necessary, helps a great deal)

Posted by on - Intermediate Music

Ok, here is my attempt to give those with limited knowledge in composition a "crash course" which includes everything from simple theory to the software you will need.


If you intend to compose music for video games or any other mutimedia, there are a few programs that you need to get your hands on. The wealth of software options can seem overwhelming to a newcomer, however, with a little insight and a little knowledge, you can be well on your way to composing music for the next hit game!

First I will outline for you the types of composition software that are out there.

DAW - "Digital Audio Workstation". You WILL need one of these, it is basically an "all-in-one" type of software. There are hundreds of options here - so check the features and read reviews before you make a decision. Some big names are: FL studio, Reason, Cubase, Cakewalk, and Sonar. In my opinion, the most user-friendly of these is FL Studio (aka fruity Loops). It has a very shallow learning curve, and yet enough power to cope with the needs of professional music producers. I recomend starting out on FL, and then later moving to Cubase or Sonar. They both, however, have pretty steep learning curves (at least in my opinion), but a plethora of features. To the average composer, FL will take care of all of your needs in conjunction with the abundance of free resources on the web.

Sequencers - These operate in a "piano-roll" format, where you punch in notes and drag their length where the corrisponding pitch lies on the outstreched piano. This function is normally included in you DAW, and is where most of the composing takes place.

Notation Software - Depending on your genre, education, and commitment, these may or may not apply to you. If you want your music played by actual musicians then these are a must. There are two huge names in this business - Finale, and Sibelius. these two set the bar for all other notation software, and any serious composer of classical orientation needs to pick one of these up. There are, however, several free options to those of limited income.

Those should cover everything you need as an up and coming game music composer, however, if you feel I have left something out, feel free to edit this.

Pricing, and options -

Well, a good DAW could run you up to $500, and Finale comes at anywhere from $60 - $600.
There are some free options out there! Google free notation software, or free DAW, and you'll find a lot of programs that accomplish the same basic tasks. To the serious composer, however, some money must be spent to create quality work.

Starting to Compose -

Well you should preferable have some prowess at a musical instrument; if not, then humming will have to do. First you must have an idea or a goal. Start with a mood or a short motif and run with it. What I usually do is improvise till I have a theme I am happy with. Then I write it out with block chords (basic triads underneath the melody, or simple lead sheet style piano). After that I orchestrate it to the ensamble of my choice, extending the chords, adding counter-point, and adding rythmic contrast.

If none of that made sense to you, then I probably should clarify a little music theory.

Melody - this concept seems simple, but needs to be defined none the less. The rememborable part of the music. A linear (as in, not chords but single notes) line that takes precedense over the other parts of the music.

Harmony - Two notes played together.

Counterpoint - Two melodies working together and yet moving in oppisite directions.

Chord - Three or more notes played in harmony.

Interval - The distance between two notes.

Triad - A chord with 3 notes. the most common being -
Major- contains the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale. "Happy sounding"
Minor- contains the 1st, a flatted 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale. "Sad or mysterious sounding"
Augmented- 1, 3, and a raised 5th. "Sounds tense"
Diminished- 1, flat 3, and flat 5. "Tense and dark"

To get more music theory, check out a book from your library or the internet. Depending on the response to this tutorial, I may be writting more and more specifically on composing and music thoery. Until then - Happy composing!



Good suggestions on software.

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