Designing Music NOW

Dedicated to the Craft of Creating Music for Video Games and Interactive Media

NEWS: Indiecade Awards 2016

NEWS: Indiecade Awards 2016


Complete List of Winners

Rand Miller (pictured above receiving award), creator of Myst recognized with the 2016 Trailblazer Award for his accomplishments and contributions to gaming.

LOS ANGELES—OCTOBER 17 – IndieCade, the premier international festival of independent games, honored the winners of the 2016 IndieCade Awards at an event last night at the Norris Theater on the campus of the University of Southern California.

The IndieCade Festival has distinguished itself for providing a platform for identifying the best, brightest and most inspired independent games in the world. This year’s festival was held on the campus of The School of Cinematic Arts at USC in downtown Los Angeles.

“The IndieCade Festival is a celebration of the innovation and creativity that distinguishes the world of indie gaming,” said Stephanie Barish, Indiecade’s chief executive officer, “Independent developers are essential for the progress and advances of the larger game industry and we’re proud to provide a home that celebrates and honors their talent, dedication and important works.”

Soundstage Wins Audio Design Award

One of the most interesting Audio VR projects to come around is this year’s Audio Design Award winner, Soundstage. You can learn more about them at their website: Soundstage VR. For a complete list of all winners and links to the games, head over here.

Soundstage VR – The First VR Synth
Disasterpiece’s Score Propels Hyperlight Drifter to the Jury Choice Award

Disasterpiece’s far out score for Hyperlight Drifter helped the game win Jury Choice Award. For a more in depth story behind the music, check out Level with Emily Reese’s interview of Disasterpiece here.

Interview with Dr. Seth Horowitz- Auditory Neuroscientist

Interview with Dr. Seth Horowitz- Auditory Neuroscientist

  Introduction I have always been fascinated with the neuroscience behind our craft – making music and sounds for games.  To really tell a story with music and sound,  I believe we need to have a great curiosity about this subject.  At Designing Music NOW,...

Modulation Tips for Composers Part 2 of 3: 2nd Degree of Kinship

Modulation Tips for Composers Part 2 of 3: 2nd Degree of Kinship


In the first article of this 3 part series “Modulation Tips for Composers”, we discussed modulating to closely related keys (keys derived from the initial key’s set of diatonic triads). This key relationship is referred to as being on the “first degree of kinship”.

In part 2 we will discuss modulating to keys that are not derived from diatonic triads of the initial key, but are still within 5 “signs of difference”:

“Signs of Difference”

“Signs of difference” means the number of changing accidentals between two key signatures. For example, the keys of C major (no accidentals) and D major (2 sharps) would be said to have 2 signs of difference. The keys of Gb major (6 flats) and A major (3 sharps) would be considered to have 9 signs of difference and would not be a 2nd degree key relationship.

Throughout this article, I will use the abbreviation S.O.D. to refer to “signs of difference”. Let’s further break down what constitutes a 2nd degree key relationship:

Second Degree of Kinship

Any given key has exactly 12 keys that are said the be in second-degree relation. The process of finding these 12 keys is dependent on whether you are modulating from a major key or minor key.

Major Key Modulations

Each major key has 8 major keys plus 4 minor keys in second-degree relation. The major keys can be found following this rule: 4 keys are situated above the given major ascending by half steps in the range of a major 3rd, and 4 more major keys below the given major, descending by half-step in the range of a major 3rd.

ORCHESTRAL REVIEW SERIES – Solid State Symphony by Indiginus

ORCHESTRAL REVIEW SERIES – Solid State Symphony by Indiginus

Introduction For the price of a video game, you can now have a full orchestra in the palm of your hand.  Well, at least on your laptop.  This Kontakt instrument is mind blowing, and not only for the great sound and amazing features, but also for the impossibly low...

Modulation Techniques for Composers Part 1 of 3: The First Degree of Kinship

Modulation Techniques for Composers Part 1 of 3: The First Degree of Kinship

Most popular classical harmony books that I’ve read barely scratch the surface when discussing modulation, which can make it seem like a “dark art” even to experienced composers. This 3-part series will attempt to demystify the subject by breaking down a dogmatic method of modulation developed many years ago at the Moscow Conservatory.

Let’s jump right in to it!

(I’ll assume that you have at least an intermediate understanding of classical harmony for the entirety of the series)

All key centers in Western tonal music can be said to relate to one another in one of three ways, which are referred to as “degree’s of kinship” (1st degree of kinship, 2nd degree of kinship, and 3rd degree of kinship). This post will discuss what constitutes a key relationship as on the “1st degree of kinship”, and it’s corresponding modulation procedure.

Let’s define what constitutes a “first degree” key relationship:

Keys that relate on the first degree of kinship are all diatonically related keys. “Diatonic keys” are derived from the diatonic triads of any given key (omitting diminished triads due to the unstable 5th). Keys derived from diatonic triads will share many common tones with the “home key” (key we are modulating from), which will make our modulation sound smooth and convincing. More common tones between two keys means the listener will be less likely to notice an abrupt change in the music.

In addition to diatonically related keys, the keys derived from iv minor* (in any given major key) and V major** (in any given minor key) are also said to be in first degree relation to their respective “home keys”. These two keys are included as non-diatonic exceptions due to their extremely common use; even though they technically contain non-diatonic notes, they don’t sound too foreign to “western ears”.


Keys that are in First Degree of Kinship to C major:

D minor (ii), E minor (iii), F major (IV) and F minor (iv minor)*, G major (V), and A minor (vi)

(diminished chords omitted due to unstable 5th)

Modulating from C major to D minor, E minor, F major, F minor, G major, or A minor would be considered a first degree modulation.

Interview with Beep Movie Composer Leonard J. Paul

Interview with Beep Movie Composer Leonard J. Paul

Introduction Beep: A Documentary History of Game Sound, a celebration of video game music, SFX and VO from a historical perspective, is worth the price of admission just to experience the score.  Now, a digital version of the OST from Beep by Leonard J. Paul has just...

NEWS: ELIAS 2 Adaptive Music Engine Launches and Interview with ELIAS Founders

NEWS: ELIAS 2 Adaptive Music Engine Launches and Interview with ELIAS Founders

Stockholm, Sweden – September 13th, 2016 – Elias Software, the Sweden-based company bringing adaptive music to the forefront of gaming has today announced the release of the much anticipated ELIAS Music Engine and ELIAS Studio version 2.0.
”ELIAS 1 was essentially my vision of how to make adaptive game music. With ELIAS 2 we actually complete that vision but not only that. Co-Founder Philip’s ideas have been given a lot more space and most important of all – Your ideas have come to life. Since we strive to be a company that listens and claims to be for composers by composers, this is our top priority. Finally, with the release of ELIAS 2, the journey to the perfect platform for music in games can continue…” – Kristofer Eng, CEO

The first improvements will be immediately visible upon first starting ELIAS Studio 2 – the entire GUI has had an overhaul. With a context sensitive Inspector and customizable layout of windows, users will have everything at their fingertips, especially with the ELIAS Player now always accessible, allowing for a more effective and controlled workflow.

There is now a Stinger level slider which enables a more fine-tuned approach to creating dynamic adaptive music. ”Multi-Themes” make it possible to transition musically between several Themes while level variations offer a new way to follow in game events and narratives with deeper customization thanks to the new segment tool.

Users will be happy to know that ELIAS Studio 2 includes a mixer, giving them the option to create their final mix within the program, plus the ability to modulate and sweep in real-time together with Action Presets. This updated version of the Composer’s Studio also comes complete with a basic reverb tool.

And the enhancements certainly don’t stop there. Within the ELIAS Music Engine, performance has seen a boost. Reading from disk is now much more efficient, meaning that mobile developers can more easily implement adaptive music into their next project.

”ELIAS 2.0 is a complete rewrite of the engine, and is far more modular and extendable than version 1 as we intend to support this version for a long time. We’ve also put a lot of effort into optimizing everything to run well in environments where performance requirements are especially tight.” – Philip Bennefall, Lead Developer

This update promises to be the biggest yet, with an arsenal of new features such as ”Transition Presets” and the inclusion of a mixer; improvements on older tools like the renovated track view and under the hood, the ELIAS Music Engine promises to deliver the same versatile results to the world of mobile gaming thanks to streamlining without sacrificing power.

NEWS: Chanel Summers Contributes Audio Chapter to Upcoming Book on Level Design

NEWS: Chanel Summers Contributes Audio Chapter to Upcoming Book on Level Design

Game Audio Level Design

We are very proud to announce that Designing Music NOW Managing Editor, Chanel Summers, has contributed a chapter to an upcoming book. The book, primarily about level design in games, is called “Level Design: Processes and Experiences” and is being published by CRC Press and edited by Christopher W. Totten.

Chanel, a pioneer in game audio as Microsoft’s first Audio Technical Evangelist for Microsoft and a member of the original Xbox team, is co-founder of audio design group Syndicate 17 and a leader in audio for VR and mixed reality projects. She is also a world-traveling speaker and long-time game audio educator, as well as a lecturer and director of the Experimental Audio Design Lab in USC’s Interactive Media & Games Division.

Book Summary

In this book, veteran game developers, academics, journalists, and others provide their processes and experiences with level design. Each provides a unique perspective representing multiple steps of the process for interacting with and creating game levels – experiencing levels, designing levels, constructing levels, and testing levels. These diverse perspectives offer readers a window into the thought processes that result in memorable open game worlds, chilling horror environments, computer-generated levels, evocative soundscapes, and many other types of gamespaces. This collection invites readers into the minds of professional designers as they work and provides evergreen topics on level design and game criticism to inspire both new and veteran designers.

Creating Seamless Loops

Creating Seamless Loops

Creating Seamless Loops

Loops are the basic building blocks used to create many video game soundtracks. They are a critical part of interactive music because they allow scores to adapt to any length of play time. The average person may take three minutes to complete a specific game level but the score still needs to sound flawless for the player who spends eight extra minutes exploring. Loops allow a short amount of music to last as long as necessary. This makes writing seamless loops a mandatory part of any game composer/sound designer’s toolbox.

Creating the perfect loop is simple once you know how to do it. The first concept to understand is that a loop is just a circle. To create a seamless loop, the end of the segment needs to perfectly match up with the beginning of the segment. If the waveforms don’t join there is an audible ‘pop’ or ‘click’.