Need a composer?

Create music and sound effects for mainline or user-made content.

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West
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Need a composer?

Post by West » October 30th, 2006, 9:43 pm

Hi,

I posted a little thread in the Art contributions section, offering to do some art for the game if/where needed. But as I'm also a musician I would love to contribute with some music as well (or instead, as I'm not sure I'm able to find the time to do both). I don't know if my skills meet your standards but I'll let you be the judge of that.

Anyway, I should probably begin by mentioning that I have no classical training. I am however a big fan of orchestral music, soundtracks in particular, and I like to think that I have at least some rudimentary understanding of composing and arranging. Here's a number of short pieces (third paragraph, under "The fact that...") I've written for a personal project. The sound quality is crappy as they were made quite some time ago with the old Yamaha S-YXG50 softsynth, but at least they should hint at my skills. For a newer sample of my orchestral music, here's a sketchy and unfinished piece made with Edirol Orchestral: Departures.

I realise that nothing of this may be in the "Wesnoth style", but given some guidelines I think I could compose something more fitting. But once again, I'll let you be the judge of that :)

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Post by nightcrawler » October 30th, 2006, 10:44 pm

TimothyP is big on formal training and theory and all that, so be warned. Maybe you could fake it. But, I think his point is that properly assembled orchestral pieces require certain pieces to fit together in certain ways, and you all of that should be learned. However, there is certainly more than one way to learn.
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Post by zookeeper » October 30th, 2006, 10:45 pm

Before either Aleksi or TimothyP chime in...

First of all, make sure you have Wesnoth 1.1.11. You probably do, but just to make sure. The gameplay0x.ogg tracks (and main_menu_new.ogg too) therein are the "new ones", and are in the general style ("realistic" sounding orchestral) and quality that all new music additions should follow somewhat.

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Post by West » October 31st, 2006, 1:59 am

nightcrawler wrote:TimothyP is big on formal training and theory and all that, so be warned. Maybe you could fake it.
Hmm, well, thanks for the warning. I'm not going to pretend that I know how to write and arrange orchestral music the "right way" (if there is such a thing, dealing with any kind of music), I know my limitations, so I thought it was better to mention that fact right away. On the other hand, I know my strengths as well, and lack of formal training does not equal having no idea what I'm doing. I guess that depends on who you ask though :)
nightcrawler wrote:But, I think his point is that properly assembled orchestral pieces require certain pieces to fit together in certain ways, and you all of that should be learned. However, there is certainly more than one way to learn.
Yes, and I see this as an opportunity to learn. I never said I was a pro, I never even said I was particularly good at this. But if pros are what the developers are looking for... well, in that case I wish them good luck.
zookeeper wrote:First of all, make sure you have Wesnoth 1.1.11. You probably do, but just to make sure.
Yep, I sure do.
zookeeper wrote:The gameplay0x.ogg tracks (and main_menu_new.ogg too) therein are the "new ones", and are in the general style ("realistic" sounding orchestral) and quality that all new music additions should follow somewhat.
I have listened to those tracks and I must say that's some very atmospheric, professional-sounding music. I particularly like gameplay02 with it's flowing, traditional music-tinged theme. Some of it sounds a bit overly elaborate for being "background" music though -- as a musician I could easily get distracted from the gameplay -- but whether that is a complaint or a compliment I don't know... :)

Now the big question is: do I believe myself capable of writing something like that? Yes, possibly. But what I think is maybe not important. All I would like to know at this stage, however, is if anyone is really interested in me attempting to write something. Basically just, "sure, go ahead" or "naah, don't bother". I'm not going to spend a couple of weeks writing some piece only to get "sorry, that's not what we're looking for, better luck next time". In that case it would probably be better if I just focused on contributing some art for the game instead...

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Post by turin » October 31st, 2006, 2:26 am

I dunno what TimothyP or Aleksi's opinions will be, but as a campaign designer, I can say that more music is always appreciated, and you definitely have the skills to at least make some music that will be used in user-made campaigns. If you aren't interested in making music for UMCs, and what to do work on mainline, that's completely understandable (in that case, I would wait for TimothyP or Aleksi to comment before doing anything), but if you have fun doing it, do it - someone will use it. Probably me.

BTW, I play cello, but not seriously, and I've taken one year of music theory as an elective - so, I sort of know what I'm talking about musically, but not really. I personally find composing music to be a rather arduous and painful process, which is why I'm not going to continue in that field. If you like composing more than drawing, spend your Wesnoth time on music. Music is more needed than art, I think.
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Post by West » October 31st, 2006, 2:45 am

Oh, I wouldn't mind doing music for user-made campaigns. Not at all. I was mainly asking if anyone would like me to write something or if I shouldn't bother and focus on the art instead. Maybe I misunderstood nightcrawler's and zookeeper's posts... I sort of got the impression that all music for the project needed to be up to par with the mainline tracks, which seemed like kind of an unrealistic demand as those are really some very intricate and well-crafted pieces. But if there's a need for more music, generally, I'd be happy to write some.

As for what I like doing the most... that's a tough one, so I'll probably try doing both. Sometimes I'm in a musical mood and sometimes I feel like drawing, I like to alternate between the two. I agree with you, to some extent, that making music (especially orchestral stuff) can be arduous and painful, but on the other hand it's also immensely rewarding, I think. Nothing beats the feeling of finally completing something you've been wrestling with for months, or managing to connect two passages in a way that sounds and feels just "right"...

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Post by vonHalenbach » October 31st, 2006, 7:35 am

Hi West!

I have listened to some of your music files (and seen your nice art). Personally i think you are good in both, but i like you to focus on music for the game, because we have already many artists who can draw very well and we really need some new music.
I like to have an orcish theme for a user campaign. I don't really know what that should sound like, but we can work that out together. :D

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Post by torangan » October 31st, 2006, 1:09 pm

I think you should simply try to compose something and post it here. You'll most likely get usefull critics from TimothyP or Aleksi and even if you don't quite match their standards for mainline music, some campaign author will most likely be very happy to have your music in.
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Post by TimothyP » October 31st, 2006, 4:05 pm

Greetings, west!

Thanks for posting and allowing us to sample your tunes. I listened to your newest orchestral track, and I've been hanging out on your site a bit, sampling your Ruins of Valoris tracks. I can compliment you in saying that this is some of the best music I've heard from anyone who's offered to write for Wesnoth. You seem to have more natural musicianship than many aspiring composers. You have come up with some sensible melodies, and you seem to be able to write layers. I was very pleased to have something submitted that wasn't a slow series of shifting chords (which is what many new composers write). You are willing to test out various orchestral timbres, which is very welcome.

This music (Valoris) reminds me a lot of FFVII from Playstation. Similar sample quality, and some similar thinking to Uematsu.

Hmm. This Celtic Groove is pretty tasty. I like that you are able to write moving lines and craft clever rhythms. This is much beyond the standard submissions we get around here.

So, here is my feedback for you:

1. You have innate skills and talent. If you were to get some formal training, you would really shine. Boy oh boy. I'm imagining the kind of music you would produce after a couple years of college training in theory and composition. If you could spend some good time one-on-one with a good composition professor, you could leap ahead, I think.

2. My main reason for not using your music for the main library in Wesnoth is that your samples are not believable. I would love to hear your tracks with really nice orchestra samples. Will we accept non-pro music in Wesnoth? Yes, if it's good. Will we accept low quality samples? No. It's really a bummer, but we want to keep a uniform sound, which is realistic orchestra at this point.

3. I definitely think it would be worth it for you to compose some nice pieces for user campaigns. If you ever upgrade to high quality orchestra samples, you could re-produce any good pieces for the main library.

4. The samples used in Departures are your best. Use those. I think, with the proper mods, you could get that orchestra to sound semi-realistic.

5. Don't forget, with an orchestra, there's so much you can do. You have basses, celli, violas, 2nd and 1st violins. You have a whole section of woodwinds, a whole section of brass, and a whole lot of percussion. Use the voices with creativity. Expand. Listen to how other composers use the orchestra to fill your own toolbox.

I think there are lots of developers who would love to use your music in their custom campaigns. If you really want to compose for Wesnoth, that's the place to put your efforts right now. Despite sample quality, we can tell if a composer has skills, and you do. So go ahead and write. We'll see how your Wesnoth style turns out!

(By the end of this writing, Celtic Groove is my fave of your pieces. :D )

--Timothy

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Post by West » October 31st, 2006, 7:31 pm

Thanks so much for your comments, TimothyP. Actually this came as a bit of a surprise as I was expecting something... less encouraging ;)
TimothyP wrote:This music (Valoris) reminds me a lot of FFVII from Playstation. Similar sample quality, and some similar thinking to Uematsu.
Never heard that music. In fact, I can't stand the whole Japanse console game thing :P
TimothyP wrote:Hmm. This Celtic Groove is pretty tasty. I like that you are able to write moving lines and craft clever rhythms.
Hehe, I've been playing progressive rock of various kinds for fifteen years, and I've also been into traditional music for a long time, so "crafting clever rhythms" is something I do without even thinking about it. :)

1. I'm sure it would be good for me with some formal training, it's just that I'm maybe a little too old (32) to embark on any lenghty educational journeys like that. Not that I think I'm too old to learn or anything, it just feels like I should have done it earlier in life. But then again, I took two years of writing classes only a couple of years back that helped my writing a great deal, so I don't see why I couldn't do the same with music.

2. I understand you, I absolutely do. Those samples suck and I would never expect you to accept something sounding like that. But as mentioned those Ruins of Valoris tracks were made a while back, most of them two years ago or more, when the S-YXG50 was the best equipment I had to work with. Nowadays I'm on a good computer, relying solely on VST instruments and soundfonts/samples (well, I do have a Proteus 2000 also but that's a damn hip hop module and I've never found any use for it). I've been thinking about buying GPO but I'm not sure. While relatively cheap, it's still a lot of money for something that I have no way of testing on my machine in beforehand. Edirol Orchestral was different, as I bought it used from a friend and was able to test it extensively before deciding. I'm not entirely fond of it though. The samples are decent but it's hard doing any expressive stuff with it (brass swells for example), and the plugin itself is awkward to work with. So we'll see,

3 & 4. I have no intention of using anything else really, as those are the best sounds I have. I do have some okay-ish free soundfonts though, and I've been thinking of putting together an orchestral sfz setup from those, but I don't know if it'll sound any better than the Edirol. Most likely not, and creating/tweaking sample libraries is a PITA (I want to make music, not tweak parameters all day long :)).

5. Yes, the possibilities are virtually endless. Which is kind of daunting. But I listen to a fair bit of orchestral music and try to absorb as much as I can. Soundtracks mostly, I must confess, and not much classical stuff. I'm a big fan of John Williams (which you probably have deducted) and I also like Horner, Elfman and Trevor Jones (his work on Excalibur in particular). My faves when it comes to computer game music is Lenny Moore's Outcast soundtrack -- absolutely breathtaking that one -- and Howard Drossin's Baldur's Gate II music. World of Warcraft has some nice moments as well, even if it's not 100% orchestral.

Finally, I must say that I'm looking forward to making some Wesnoth music. I actually have a few small ideas. A couple of questions though: even if I'm not aiming for making mainline music, is there some particular feel/style I should be adhering to? I mean, are there any thematical guidelines like, "not too happy-sounding", "no marches" or something like that. Are there even any musical motifs I could incorporate into the pieces, some distinctive little Wesnoth melody perhaps? I haven't played the game long enough to be intimately familiar with the music I'm afraid.

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Post by zookeeper » October 31st, 2006, 9:01 pm

West wrote:Finally, I must say that I'm looking forward to making some Wesnoth music. I actually have a few small ideas. A couple of questions though: even if I'm not aiming for making mainline music, is there some particular feel/style I should be adhering to? I mean, are there any thematical guidelines like, "not too happy-sounding", "no marches" or something like that. Are there even any musical motifs I could incorporate into the pieces, some distinctive little Wesnoth melody perhaps? I haven't played the game long enough to be intimately familiar with the music I'm afraid.
Well, I think there are quite a small number of scenario archetypes, and it would be nice to have pieces that fit these archetypes.

Let's take the gameplay0x.ogg tracks as an example: I see gameplay01.ogg as epic battle music, so I'd use it in epic battle scenarios. gameplay02.ogg on the other hand is clearly "adventure music" - fitting for a scenario where you're on a journey of some kind (and which isn't too miserable, as the track is just a little bit cheerful). gameplay03.ogg seems pretty neutral to me, fitting for short battle scenarios or other generic situations. Of the older tracks, frantic.ogg is perfect for sudden panic situations or short and intense "run for your lives!" -scenarios. underground.ogg is, unsurprisingly, suitable for scenarios taking place in creepy and eerie places. wesnoth-2.ogg is a good "to arms!" track (mostly due to the military'ish snare drum, whatever it's really called).

What I'm trying to say is that it would be good to try to compose a track to suit some scenario archetype, perhaps one that we don't have a good track for yet. This is something I hadn't thought about all that much before, so I can't give much specific ideas about these scenario archetypes right now (I'll think about this more though, I'll tell if I come up with any). Anyway, this might be something that's obvious to you anyway (in some form), so there might not be that much useful in this post, but I thought about writing it down nevertheless. Maybe someone thinks of a scenario type we haven't got suitable music for yet, and can give you some further inspiration about what such music could be like in more detail.

I think you could well do a relatively happy piece. It could be put to good use in "happy scenarios", however rare they may be (I immediately think of the Gryphon's Tale, as it has quite a lot of cheerful "running around having fun" -style scenarios), or happy epilogues. And you could do a march; could be used in scenarios where you're...uh, marching. :) And remember, we can change music mid-scenario, so even if something like march music (for example) wouldn't fit as the only music of an entire scenario, it could be used temporarily - it could start playing when you spot a group of (hostile) loyalists that charge you in the name of the king or whatever nonsense, and the normal scenario music would resume again when you've dealt with them. Just as an example. I think the best bet though is to just play more - when you know well enough what the game and scenarios tend to be thematically, I believe it'd be easier to find spots that you could fill with new music more easily.

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Post by TimothyP » October 31st, 2006, 9:37 pm

Our thinking in composing for Wesnoth is to envision the world in it's non-2D format. Picture the people, the history, the fantasy lands. Then, come up with music to represent those things you see in your head.

As Aleksi and I have been working on music, we find that people keep requesting more intense and battle-like music, which is the direction I am taking Gameplay 04. Aleksi is currently working on something like this for Gameplay 05 as well, I think.

Here are a couple thoughts I have on Wesnoth music:

1. The game doesn't have a whole lot going on besides moving, attacking, etc. It's not like we have to keep out of the way of audible dialogue and plot. So it isn't like writing for film.

2. We want the music to feel natural to Wesnoth and its happenings, so we need to at least make sure the music seems to fit during gameplay.

So, I try to make the music more thematic than basic Hollywood underscore. We can do more with our music because we don't have to be careful not to distract. If you are going to play a game for a long time, you want the music to be great. If it's weak or boring or repetitive or tedious, players will end up turning it off. We don't want players to turn off the music. We want it to make the gaming experience better, so make your music reek of some aspect of Wesnoth. We try to make the music have nicely planned intros and exits so that they aren't too abrupt. There is a pause between pieces of music to give the player about 15 seconds of rest (at least that's what I requested from the programmers). Then a new piece picks up.

On the topic of orchestra samples:

This comes down to how much money you can sink. If you are going to use high-end samples, you need the computing power to do it. I'm running an Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB of RAM. Aleksi is running a G5 tower with like 4-8 GB of RAM. He uses EWQL Platinum. I'm using EWQL Gold XP (which is not yet in any of my Wesnoth pieces. You'll hear it in Gameplay 04).

Here are some orchestra options:

- Garritan Personal Orchestra - cheap, but not phenomenal, as I understand it

- Steinberg Halion Orchestra - new, haven't heard any feedback

- EWQL Symphonic Orchestra - what we use. Comes in 3 levels - Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Platinum requires the most computing power.

- Vienna Symphonic Libraries - the best of the best, costs a buttload, requires lots of computers

If you do plan to pick up EWQL, all of their softsynths are 50% off through the end of 2006.

--Timothy

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Post by West » October 31st, 2006, 10:28 pm

TimothyP wrote:
- Garritan Personal Orchestra - cheap, but not phenomenal, as I understand it
Really? Hmm. I've heard some pretty darn cool things done with GPO and I was under the impression that it was basically the best you could get in its price range. But then again I don't know much about it except for what I've read and the demos I've heard.
TimothyP wrote:
If you do plan to pick up EWQL, all of their softsynths are 50% off through the end of 2006.
Thanks for the tip but I don't think I'll be buying any new stuff anytime soon. I've spent quite a bit of money on music equipment already this year and I can't really afford anything more ATM. I'll keep working with Edirol Orchestral and see what I can come up with. And like you said, I could always redo the pieces with better samples later on.

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Post by TimothyP » October 31st, 2006, 11:52 pm

You're right. I think GPO is the best for it's price range. Completed listings on ebay are about $170 + $9.50 shipping. That's a low price for a pretty good orchestra.

From there it's just steps up. Like I said, I haven't heard Steinberg's new orchestra so I can't say anything about it. It's brand new so it's going for about $600 on ebay.

EWQL is selling all their stuff way marked down:
Silver Bundle: $295 - usually $490
Gold Bundle: $895 (what I have) - usually $1490
Platinum Bundle: $2695 (what you gain here over Gold is 2 extra mic positions and 24-bit samples, everything else is the same)

The bummer about Silver is that you lose a lot of the articulations from Gold/Platinum. I was recently talking to a guy I know who has been pro at this stuff for a long time. He said that EWQL Silver and GPO are his recommendations for first-time orchestra buyers looking to buy on a budget.

Funny side-note: I recently read a post in a forum from a guy who owns both EWQLSO and Vienna SL. He said that if he had to pick one to keep, he would choose EWQL! Go figure....

I'm researching your Edirol now. From what I read, the only bummers are the copy protection system and the price is too high. Is that your experience, west? Amazon has it for $199 currently. Is that a good price? Seems kind of high, when you're matching it against the GPO.

Anyway, thanks for the nice softsynth conversation. Let us know how your experience with the Edirol orch is.

Another thing you might want to do for fun is go to the websites for all of these orchestras and listen to the demos. You'll definitely hear differences in quality. I did a lot of listening before buying. It's interesting to hear what each one can do.

--Timothy

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Post by West » November 1st, 2006, 12:50 am

TimothyP wrote:I'm researching your Edirol now. From what I read, the only bummers are the copy protection system
If you mean the fact that it nags you about inserting the CD from time to time so yeah, that sucks. To be honest I'm running a cracked version that doesn't require a CD. Don't know if that's illegal or not, considering that I do own the software, but frankly I don't care. If there's one thing I hate it's stupid and annoying copy protection measures, especially ones that involve having a CD inserted all the time.
TimothyP wrote:and the price is too high. Is that your experience, west? Amazon has it for $199 currently. Is that a good price? Seems kind of high, when you're matching it against the GPO.
Yes, it's far too pricey considering that there are better -- and cheaper! -- alternatives available nowadays. Hell, Orchestral is several years old and still costs that much. But as mentioned I bought a used copy so it wasn't that bad. I paid a bit more than half of that. I would never have bought it at the retail price though, no way.

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