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Victor_lod

Background music - Structure

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Posted (edited)

Hello guys! I hope you are all well!

I have a question about music composition for games, more specifically, background music.

About the shape of the structure:

What form is generally used in compositions of music games? Ternary, Rondo, Theme and Variations?

About the melody:

What style of melody is usually worked on? the system of motive and development as did Beethoven, or Wagner's endless melody?

About contrast sections:

Do background songs need to follow the same instrumentation from beginning to end?

Edited by Victor_lod

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I think you're asking what length is a piece of string.

The only way to answer those questions to your own satisfaction, really, is study the music for a few games. Note the difference between action episodes and menus for instance. I'm no gamer but I've watched people playing and am intensely aware of background music (to the extent that I rarely watch films now because I'm sick and tired of the formulaic, predictable music)! If there's thematic development at all in games it's very simple. 

One game's music I studied a bit was Skyrim. It has many episodes/tracks and they're all fairly short but in the game would be extended because of the play. One important point is to avoid boredom at any cost even with sections that might go on for a long time; another is don't let the music try to dominate.  Fit the music to the mood of each part of the game.

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1 hour ago, Quinn said:

I think you're asking what length is a piece of string.

The only way to answer those questions to your own satisfaction, really, is study the music for a few games. Note the difference between action episodes and menus for instance. I'm no gamer but I've watched people playing and am intensely aware of background music (to the extent that I rarely watch films now because I'm sick and tired of the formulaic, predictable music)! If there's thematic development at all in games it's very simple. 

One game's music I studied a bit was Skyrim. It has many episodes/tracks and they're all fairly short but in the game would be extended because of the play. One important point is to avoid boredom at any cost even with sections that might go on for a long time; another is don't let the music try to dominate.  Fit the music to the mood of each part of the game.

 

Hey, thanks for the comment!

I don't mean the length, but the internal structure of each track

I want to know if the background music made for games has a scheme like Sentence or Period?
If the shape used looks like ternary or rondo?
If the melody used in these tracks is based on motives, or endless melody?

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Posted (edited)
On 6/24/2020 at 9:05 PM, Victor_lod said:

What form is generally used in compositions of music games? Ternary, Rondo, Theme and Variations?

None of the above and it depends on the game and what the developer wants

If it's a modern, cinematic game, the music's "structure" is often non-existent. Rather, certain events triggers certain pieces which may be a part of a broader composition or at least sound like they could be. Sometimes, it is just one loop with various intensities. 

The structure of dynamic scores relies heavily on technology rather than traditional form.

In oldschool-style games, the structure is that of any other pop or folk song. Verse-chorus. Usually it looks like this.

Intro - Verse - Pre-Chorus - Chorus - Some sort of bridge or riff

Repeat.

On 6/24/2020 at 9:05 PM, Victor_lod said:

What style of melody is usually worked on? the system of motive and development as did Beethoven, or Wagner's endless melody?

Lol most games coming out these days are as bad as films and hardly have a melody at all.

But in the games that do/did, it would be typical sentence/period stuff

On 6/24/2020 at 9:05 PM, Victor_lod said:

Do background songs need to follow the same instrumentation from beginning to end?

If it's not a dynamic soundtrack, then it's probably best to keep it mostly the same except in the chorus.

If it is dynamic, then it often adds or subtracts instruments.

Say it's a battle against an army. When you're fighting the full army, maybe it's choir, brass, strings, pounding, drums, etc. going. Then, when you're down to 50 guys, maybe the choir drops out and the percussion gets lighter. Or maybe you do that in reverse.

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw
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12 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

If it's a modern, cinematic game, the music's "structure" is often non-existent.

So in that case there are no sections? like Section A, B (contrast), A recapitulation?
 

12 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

hardly have a melody at all.

The background music melody cannot be a memorable, as it takes the player's attention to the song, correct?
 

12 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

If it's not a dynamic soundtrack, then it's probably best to keep it mostly the same except in the chorus.

But doesn't keeping the instrumentation from beginning to end make the track monotome?

Exemple, a musical composition for a desert city for a medieval fantasy game:

I imagine an instrumentation such as acoustic guitar, flutes, sitar, strings, and middle east percussion.

I imagine that a section B (contrast) would be necessary to change something and introduce news instruments, because listening to 4 minutes of music with the same instruments that only change the harmony, would it be boring?

 

 

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4 hours ago, Victor_lod said:

So in that case there are no sections? like Section A, B (contrast), A recapitulation?

Not necessarily no. How it's usually done is that there is a list for the different cues like: "Player at full health, low health, enemy near death, enemies defeated." etc.

So you'd compose a piece of music, probably just a 32-bar track or something, and you'd compose variations of it that fit with the defined scenarios. Then, you'd want to make transitional bars and probably an ending stinger too.

These are usually then rendered as separate files and are programmed with FMOD or WWise. BUT on a soundtrack release, the composer would arrange those sections into one piece according to...however you want, really.

You see this a lot in strategy games like total war. There is an ambient loop when you're setting up your troops, a percussion-heavy theme that comes in when you order your troops to move for the first time, a new loop when the armies clash, etc. But they're all in the same key and roughly same tempo, so it sounds like one piece.

4 hours ago, Victor_lod said:

The background music melody cannot be a memorable, as it takes the player's attention to the song, correct?

One of the most attractive things about scoring video games is they're basically the only medium left where people still actually want memorable pieces of music, though like I said, a lot of newer games are eschewing that but that's probably because they're aiming to literally be hollywood movies instead of games and sometimes hire hollywood composers.

So much "BGM" from video games is memorable. Megaman, Street Fighter, Ninja Gaiden, Tekken, F-Zero, Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy...the list just goes on. The Castlevania soundtracks are especially memorable and legendary.

 

4 hours ago, Victor_lod said:

But doesn't keeping the instrumentation from beginning to end make the track monotome?

Is a rock song monotonous because it uses the same instrumentation all the time? But again, you don't have to keep it the same from beginning to end, but you don't want too many different instruments either. The piece has to stay consistent is what I mean. 

4 hours ago, Victor_lod said:

Exemple, a musical composition for a desert city for a medieval fantasy game:

 

4 hours ago, Victor_lod said:

I imagine that a section B (contrast) would be necessary to change something and introduce news instruments, because listening to 4 minutes of music with the same instruments that only change the harmony, would it be boring?

Most of the time, long tracks like that which loop are used for hub worlds and such and they are almost always ambient pieces that are dynamic.

I take the usual approach there: you set up some evolving pad or drone sound(s) and over top of them write a bunch of different melodies or just heavily-reverbed, very-distant-sounding phrases. Sometimes with a lot of different instruments, sometimes not. Then, I'd render all of the different melodies and phrases separately from the drone/pad loop. Then, in the game engine, we'd set it so that exactly which melody track plays each time the whole thing loops is randomized, so you won't hear the same loop twice in a row.

That's how most such tracks work. The music to tretogor gate literally uses the "where faeries live" soundscape and lute from Era II: Medieval Legends.

 

but the music can still be quite memorable and there is the odd occasion that the tracks are composed as full, 4+ minute loops.

 

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