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A Gaming Sync Guide: How to Make Music for Video Games

A Gaming Sync Guide: How to Make Music for Video Games
May 30, 2023
Learning how to make music for video games that perfectly complements the overall atmosphere and experience can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can learn to craft soundtracks that perfectly fit video game sync opportunities.

You could be part of a game's soundtrack that will stick with fans for a lifetime. Think about the times you've had the 'What's the best FIFA tune?' chat with your mates.

Understanding the game and its audience as well as clearly defining your sound and style will set you in great stead to land a sync placement within a video game and open your music up to brand new audiences.

You can access sync opportunities and start earning publishing royalties by signing up to Ditto Pro.

Our musician's guide is here to cover some of the best tips and techniques on how to make music for video game sync placement.

How to become a video game music composer

If you’re thinking about making music for video games, you’ll first want to brush up on some music production tips, making sure your skills are up to date and of good standard. 

Due to the structure and complexity of many video game soundtracks, it’s also really useful to have a background in music composition, whether that be through previous professional experience or through academic research from a university music course

A Gaming Sync Guide: How to Make Music for Video Games - music production

The steps below should help better prepare you for a career in video game music production - and also improve your overall employability and chance of landing a job in the music industry.

Master music theory

When working on a video game project, you’ll be expected to produce a substantial amount of music within really tight deadlines. Because of this, it’s crucial that you have a comprehensive understanding of how music composition works. 

You’ll need a diverse toolkit to succeed as a video game composer so to stand you in good stead, we'd recommend brushing up on your knowledge of harmony and orchestration. 

A Gaming Sync Guide: How to Make Music for Video Games - music theory

Outline your goals

Just like other professions, video game composers need to realistically plan out their projects, starting small and gradually progressing. It’s unlikely your first job is going to be on the new Call of Duty release, so set your expectations accordingly.

Treat things like you would your music career. Start small and gain experience, tuning your skills and sounds along the way. The more work you put in early on, the better chance you have of being fully prepared when your big shot arrives.

Get familiar with production tools

There's a good chance that you’ll be producing your video game music from your own home studio, so choosing a perfect Digital Audio Workstation is vital to your success. Check out our video guide on the best free DAWs you can choose from below to help you create a video game soundtrack that’ll stick in the minds of its gamers.

Develop your professional network

As with any career within the music industry, personal connections and professional networks play a vital role in securing work as a video game composer. Being a gamer yourself can also be advantageous - especially if you’re a prominent figure on places like Discord music communities

If you’re trying to build your network, it’s a great idea to attend music industry conferences and conventions to meet like-minded professionals and establish valuable contacts that might open doors for you further down the line. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know and all that.

How to create a video game soundtrack

We all have memories associated with video game soundtracks or featured songs. Whether it's the classic Super Mario Bros. theme or the exciting melodies of The Legend of Zelda series, great video game music can transport us back to the joy we feel as we embark on our virtual video game journeys. 

A Gaming Sync Guide: How to Make Music for Video Games - Super Mario Bros

Understand the game and audience

The first step in creating music for a video game is to fully understand the game's narrative and audience. You need to have a clear understanding of the storyline and the characters' emotions to create music that complements the gameplay. 

Is the game fast-paced or slow? Is it set in a futuristic world or a medieval fantasy world? Understanding all of this will help you create a soundtrack that fits the game's mood and atmosphere. The more you understand this, the better chance you have of receiving royalty payments and sync placements.

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Submit your tracks for sync opportunities across TV, movies, ads, games and more.

Define your style

After getting to grips with the game's narrative, you’ll need to define its musical style. Different genres of video games require different types of music. 

For example, a role-playing game may require orchestral music, while an action game may require electronic or darker music. Choose a musical style that complements the game's atmosphere, and make sure it is consistent throughout the game.

Create a musical palette

Your musical palette is the collection of sounds, instruments, and effects that you’ll use to create your music. Your musical palette will consistently set the tone and maintain a cohesive sound throughout the game.

You’ll want to experiment with different instruments and sound effects thoroughly before deciding on your perfect combination that will complement the game's image and feel. 

Create loops

One of the key skills of a successful video game composer is the ability to create seamless music loops. Your music should be able to play repeatedly in the background without feeling repetitive or annoying, and without any noticeable jolts or distractions. Of course there will be times where you might need to add different sounds for effect - think suspense or action scenes - but in general, you’ll want to achieve a steady beat throughout. 

A Gaming Sync Guide: How to Make Music for Video Games  - DJ playing live

Your loops should have a distinct beginning and clear end, allowing your music to transition smoothly throughout the game journey.

As a musician, having the ability and skill to create loops is a really useful quality, and one that is vital when entering video game music production. 

Use sound effects

Sound effects are another important feature to consider when making music for video games. Effectively including sounds which can enhance the game's atmosphere and create an immersive experience for players can really make the difference between a good gaming experience and a memorable one. 

If the video game is set in a rainforest or jungle landscape, you could think about adding different sounds of animals and insects to the music to create a more realistic feel. 

Test the music

Once you’ve added the finishing touches to your music, it’s time to test it out in the game itself. Take your time to listen to how things sound and make sure to adjust the volume levels accordingly. 

Remember that your music is there to accompany the game journey - not take it over - so make sure that your soundtrack doesn't overpower the game's sound effects.

A Gaming Sync Guide: How to Make Music for Video Games - playing video games

Creating music for video games can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By following these tips and techniques, you can create a soundtrack that enhances the player's experience and immerses them in your game world - as well as landing much sought-after sync placements, making you more money from your music.

Remember to experiment, collaborate, and comprehensively test out your music to make sure that it complements the game's atmosphere and narrative well. 

A Gaming Sync Guide: How to Make Music for Video Games

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