I scored a full soundtrack in 7 days. Here are my thoughts and what I learned
Hi, Earlier this year, I was approached by a game developer that wanted a soundtrack for their game, called “Pest Control”. We scheduled a meeting to discuss the details. We agreed on the price and delivery time. The game was in its late stages of development, so the delivery date was already pretty close. A few hours later, I was approached again. There had been some misunderstanding, so they asked if it could be delivered in 7 days. This was a super short delivery time, but I liked what I had seen of the game and the developers were cool people. I hate to say to to a challenge, so I accepted.I had to combine this with my other full-time job as well. Because of this short time, I had to rely a lot on experience and generally working fast. During the process, I did a few thoughts, so I want to share that with you, as well as some things I learned this week. I have included a link to both the soundtrack and the game at the bottom of this post. Spoiler alert: I managed to finish on time. 1. Preparation To be able to pull this off, I needed to prepare. I discussed with the team what was expected and needed, and tried to get as much as info as I could. To be able to do this quicker, I found that a video call was much more efficent than just writing on Discord to each other. With video calls, I were able to get a faster understanding of what the devs wanted, and we could clear out anything way faster. Before I had written a single note, I took out a piece of paper and wrote down each cue, and make myself some notes on how the music should sound.
Here you can see some of my notes. These were done while I was chatting with the devs. Each of these four areas would need two loops, one for standard gameplay and one for a battle. With the notes, I could more easily find a melody faster, because I knew how it would sound already. Another good thing about makes notes before you start, is that you can just check off each track as you finish them. Once track one is done, just check it off, remove it from your brain, and continue to the next. A clear mind makes it easier to focus on what's important. 2. Focus To be able to do a lot of work in a short period of time, you need to focus. If you have your thoughts somewhere else, you will not get anything done. I guess probably most of you already know that, but I wanted to include it anyway. In order for me to focus, I had to get rid of all things that could possibly get me distracted. I put my phone in another room, and I closed all programs and apps that could send me notifications. I even disabled the WI-FI connection to my mac. I didnt need to check my Twitter feed each 10 minutes. Everything I needed, was in Logic. For the creative process, I started either with recording the piano or drums. This gave me a good foundation to come up with ideas. It is easier to come up with an idea once you actually have something to build that idea on. I wanted each area to have its own unique melody, so this was always my next step after putting up the foundation. Here, I could not spend hours on nailing that one melody. I needed to just get it done. Humming and whistling while playing was a very good way of doing this, because I could just improvise while I was playing the piano. This was also the fastest way of composing, since the voice is connected to head and body, and the road between brain and voice is not very long. I often had to stop and think “is this good enough?”. If yes, then I could move my focus to other parts. If no, then I knew I had to focus more on that specific part.
Even though the time is your biggest enemy here, remember to take breaks. I found that taking a 5-minute break each hour, and then a longer after a few hours worked pretty good. This also made it easier to keep focus. “Keep on working now, you will have a break soon anyway”, I said to myself. Do something else in these breaka. Grab a snack, watch a YouTube video, play a game.
I have to admit that I didn’t sleep extremely much that week, I still prioritized to get some rest. When you are long into the night, almost falling asleep at the computer, is not very good when doing creative work. Any work, for that’s sake. Get some sleep! Your head will work much better the next day.
5. Take care of the most important things
When you don’t have much time to nitpick, take care of the most important things. I had to sacrifice “realism” and small tweaks in order to get everything done. I quickly realized that 99% of the people that would play the game, could not care less if I used a tenor sax instead of tenor sax, or what reverb I used. As long as it sounds good enough and gives the player the right mood, then that is good enough. Some things were maybe not even realistic to play on a certain instrument, but this music will probably never be played live anyway, so I didn’t even bother to spend time on that. Focus on finishing the track instead!
6. It is okay to use inspiration from existing music
Some people don’t like to use placeholder music for reference, or temp music. They want to not get tied into what a previous piece of music gives, only to focus on what the composer can do. While I can agree here, having temp music was also a very good thing for me here. I could easily understand the mood, and know exactly what to do. I did some searches on Spotify and YouTube too, to get inspiration quick. “Okay, starts with drum fills on toms, then a bass riff starts”. Then I used the same recipe/formula on my track. I never copied a note or melody, I just used existing music to get a form I could build on myself.
The result I ended up pretty happy with the result, in terms of my short deadline and what I achieved. The developers were happy with my efforts and results, and that was the most important thing. The soundtrack ended up as a jazzy thing, with lots of big band music and a few other influences.
You can listen to the result here
And you can also check out the game HERE
I hope it was interesting to read this, and maybe inspiring as well.
As long as there are a tiny chance to succeed, then you are able to do it.