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Interview: Game Music Composer Matthew Pablo

Violet Jobs spoke to super talented game music composer Matthew Pablo about breaking into the world of Game Audio. He gives some great tips and advice to aspiring composers. Check out his informative website and excellent tutorials at:

Can you give us a brief overview of your career to date? How did you get into game audio?

I’m a recent graduate from Berklee College of Music with majors in Film Scoring and Composition. I’ve bbeen working on indie film and game projects since my junior year at Berklee. I started out working on other student film and game projects, and as I progressed through my studies in music, my peers in film and games did as well. Keeping in touch with my fellow creators is what helped to jump-start my professional career in music. I spent a lot of my time on social media, online communities that were heavily focused on game and film production. I then started with smaller projects and as my portfolio grew, I had enough to show for it when applying for more high profile gigs. I also regularly attended film festivals, game dev meetups, hangouts, game conventions and other events to network with other creative people. Today I continue to work indie film, animation and games as well as many commercial media projects as well.

What do you feel is your greatest achievement so far?

I know I’m not Bach, Beethoven or Mozart with a very extensive library of music, but currently I have around 600 fully produced, high quality commercial music tracks and scores of many styles/genres to date. It’s quite a lot of music, and because I have worked many genres of film, animation and games, doing this work had forced me to learn brand new instruments, composition techniques, styles/genres and much more. I always love trying out new and innovative things. So fortunately for me, working with many different
projects always brings in new and fresh inspired ideas. Being able to adapt to any creative media situation or scenario and provide high quality music of style or arrangement is quite an achievement to me.

What do you hope the future holds for you?

I hope to land a in-house position in audio at a well-established game production/development studio.
I hope to be part of creative teams that create new and innovative game ideas that revolutionise the interactive and gaming industry.

What is your favourite piece of game music?

This actually goes back to 1997, the release year of Final Fantasy VII for Playstation. My favourite game music piece would be the battle theme from Final Fantasy VII called “Fighting” on the Original Soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu. The soundtrack from this game is what initially inspired me as a kid to start learning piano and ultimately music composition. I started questioning “how did they do that?” in regards to creating music to fit certain moods, feelings and scenarios.

Favourite album?

This is a tough one here, but I’m going to have to go with Dream Theater’s 77 Minute epic prog-rock narrative album “Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From a Memory” At the time I first heard this one I was truly amazed at the unbelievable amount of talent all bunched together in one album. This album really inspired me to continue build up my chops on the drums, guitar, and piano. Being instrumentally proficient is really handy at times when creating game and media music on your own.

For musicians/composers who want to make the transition to game music, what should be their first steps?

Play some video games! No really, play some video games if you don’t already. It’s the best way to get an
understanding of how game music functions interactively with gameplay. Don’t limit yourself to one game genre that pretty much only has one musical style. You won’t get far in the industry since gaming and technology go hand in hand, exponentially evolving each year with new ideas, and innovations. Being able to adapt to these changes and trends in the industry is the key to lasting success here. Too many times omposers often think; “Wow game music is so easy I just have to make a bunch of simple loops and I’m done!” Yeah, sometimes it’s like that but there’s way more to it than that. Modern concert music doesn’t really fit he bill for commercial media music, so you’ll have to learn how to make commercial sounding music first. Getting the right feel of music that most people who you should assume are non-musicians or composer can relate to and understandTo those composers who are technologically inept and lack basic skills using a
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to produce music, you should really get started with that. Understanding of music technology and production is crucial to creating game music, especially if you are just starting out. It’s very unlikely you’ll jump into game music production by creating your scores with full orchestra studio recordings at first. Even AAA titles don’t even bother to use high-budget and high-production value live recordings, most of the time a well-made orchestral mock-up track will do the trick.




What are the main challenges when composing non-linear music?

Some of the first things you’ll have to make sure you have down pat is creating a music track that is immersive and complimentary to the game’s aesthetic design without being distracting. You also have to think about filesize/filetype as well. So you need to basically be thinking: “How can I make fitting, non-distracting, something not too repetitive, and fit that in a 40 second loop?” Sometimes it can be longer, but usually shorter loops are in mostly in favour to the developers to save on filesize of the game. Once you’ve got that down, usually your next step is making more loops that can interchange with each other seamlessly. The idea is to make sure your music is truly an immersive part of the experience. Meaning, any abrupt cuts or transitions can really ruin the experience, so seamless loops and transitions are a must. There are many technological challenges along the way to ensure the best seamless music in game audio. When it comes time to programming the actual interactive part of your game track, many composers usually don’t bother to get into it this far to actually program within the game engine to implement music. That being said, it’s not 100% essential to be able to do this, but you should at least have a clear idea of how you want your music to work interactively, and have an effective way of delivering your ideas to the game developers and programmers.

What software/skills are crucial for game music composers?

I have already mentioned a lot of important skills previously, but it really should go without saying that you do need to have a very strong grasp in music composition to be able to cater to the many needs of game developers, designers and programers. You’ll need to be well organized as anything related to game development can get messy quick. Way too many assets to deal with in game development to get unorganized. All it takes is a few un-categorized, poorly named audio files to lose track of what you’re doing and ultimately lose precious time in development. This along with being technologically adept in music software, a basic understanding on how interactive music works and being able to communicate effectively with your game development team.

How can someone get their first experience in game audio?

As I have mentioned previously; It’s important to get out there and network both on social media and in person. You want to hang around creative as well as like-minded people interested in the same goals. I don’t necessarily mean other game composers, but ultimately game developers/producers will have the same goal as you, a game composer; To create something awesome! Many times new composers will try to take the Olympic level high dive and try to get right into it. This doesn’t usually work out. You need to gain experience, see what it’s like before getting to bigger game titles. Start out with productions and creations on YOUR LEVEL. If you are a student just starting out, get together with a game development student just starting out. They will welcome your help with open arms! From there you start building your portfolio/resume and start gaining some experience in game music production. Now, with your ever-growing resume of game projects, bigger developers will be more interested in taking you in as a new member of their development team. You’ll want to try to be active in online communities focused on game production and development. Also, as I have mentioned before, get out there, network with developers and creators at gaming conventions, meetups, festivals or any gaming related event. Keep in touch with your contacts. As you grow as game music composers, it’s likely those who you worked with before as a student are also progressing in their game development career as well. You’ll be happy that you stuck around for the ride.

Should game music composers learn the basics of engineering, mixing, audio programming/implementation etc. or should they focus on the music?

They should have a strong grasp on music composition for commercial media, but at least in the game music industry music technology skills are crucial. It will take more than just music compositional ideas to compliment a game’s aesthetic design.

What would be your top tip for budding game composers just starting out?

Along with being proactive in networking, my top tip would be to start out working with other creators who are on the same level as you. Are you a student or an enthusiast just starting out? Find an aspiring game developer who is in the same boat as you. I promise you won’t regret hanging around them as they progress in their career later on.

How do you see the game music industry changing over the next 10 years?

Trends in gaming have been following closely to the film industry. Games are becoming more immersive in their design and narrative. With the technology industry booming, it’s not surprise the gaming industry is booming as well. Given that game music has been following the way of the film score and it’s current trends with highly ostinato (repetitive motif or musical phrase) based, hybrid-orchestral music, indie games today have been taking the spotlight surprisingly more times than bigger AAA game titles. That said, indie game music is on the rise as well with new whimsical themes, catchy tunes and very fresh original sounds. Many times these soundtracks are often breaking common boundaries, becoming too distracting, but somehow in a good way. Game music has recently peaked interest in more players today than ever before. It’s amazing to hear many gamers are interested in actually paying or donating the extra 10$ to be able to obtain a music CD of the game soundtrack along with the game. With these new and fresh game music ideas breaking boundaries in the industry, I think in the next 10 years the game music industry will start taking notice more composers and music artists. Especially those who are more song-writing, EDM production oriented. Hopefully the rise in self-published games will attribute to a better game and music industry in the near future.

Reader Comments (1)

Matthew Pablo is very known Audio maker.. now he going to work for cute children he is going to make song for them.... that is really cool

April 21 | Unregistered

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