Sound and Music

First Gig: Making MIDI Music  

 
By Randy Pringle
Gamasutra
November 14, 1997
Vol. 1: Issue 17
For my first gig as a game music composer, I got a chance to get my feet wet with a well established company without a lot of effort.  I merely visited game sites and e-mailed potential clients until I got lucky.

Ambrosia developers Andrew Welch and Glenn Andreas, contacted me by e-mail and then by phone. I was thrilled! My first job. The e-mail:
"We have an upcoming RPG for which we'll need several pieces of MIDI music composed. If you are interested in participating in this project, please drop me an email for the project details."

They were looking for a classical theme with a lot of different emotional effects. They sent me a list of places I had to try and represent:

  • Game Intro (something upbeat and majestic)
  • Outdoors music (sweeping, majestic, catchy, but not too annoying...it'll be heard the most)
  • Landking Hall music (something formal, a bit alien, soothing)
  • Ruins/Seldane music (Alien, a bit mysterious)
  • Underground music (Spooky, mysterious)
  • Magisterium music (Something complex, slightly formal)
  • "Dramatic" music (More intense, stressful, dramatic)
  • City of Odemia (simple, perhaps a bit rustic)
  • City of Catamarca 1 (fun, upbeat, relaxing)
  • City of Catamarca 2 (depressing, tense - there is a plague going on here)
  • City of Kosha (stolic, almost military)
  • City of Cademia (Impressive, sweeping, old, sophisticated)
  • Music that a troubadour might play on a Lyre

My studio at the time consisted of a Macintosh Performa, with Free Style software, and a Roland X-P50 keyboard. I had already downloaded Macintosh's Quick Time Musical Instruments, Movie Player, and Crescendo and had just recently learned how to get a midi file to play on my web pages at GTE.

Our arrangement was that I would provide Ambrosia with midi's attached to email messages. After sending off several pieces, it was becoming apparent to me that the midi files I was sending them were not sounding the same as they did in my studio. Randy and Glen were telling me to turn down the drums, and to edit the songs a little.

I jotted off a quick email:

"I'd like to know how this sounds at the other end...If one of these midi files are opened with movie player and sent through quick time music instruments and out the back of my Mac into a stereo...would that be close to the quality you hear?"

Glenn replied:

"This would be exactly the quality I (and anybody playing the game) would hear."

I thus needed to hear the songs with as little quality as possible. I discovered that one MONO speaker on the Mac heard through Movie Player turned out to be the trick. Hearing the songs in lesser quality helped me understand the sound quality that most gamers would experience.

City of Mystery [Listen] | Underground [Listen]

After weeks of studio time the task was completed. It was hard work, but definitely one of the most rewarding, fulfilling experiences of my life! Of course, as a musician and perfectionist, I'm still not satisfied completely with my sequences and edit them to this day, but all in all, I am very proud of this first chance at composing for games. I can't wait to get a copy to play and hear! Until then!

Randy Pringle has over twenty years plus as a professional musician. When not jamming on piano, guitar, or bass, he oversees Relatively Absolute Studios, scoring music for films, commercials, and games.