You can have incredibly well composed music coupled with the slickest production but if it doesn’t suit the aesthetic of the game then your soundtrack will fall short. What’s more, one person’s idea of a suitable soundtrack may not match another’s. For this reason it’s important to spend time on the concept of a game soundtrack and to make sure everyone knows what to expect before putting pen to paper.
To decide on a musical direction for Kandinsky’s Violin, the team and I have been using Spotify to create and maintain a folder of reference music. Spotify has a phenomenal library of music these days and it’s really easy to make the most of it’s sharing functionality. The team has access to an up-to-date playlist and if they like a particular song they can easily find others from the same artist or album. Spotify will let you know when new songs are added to the playlist and it can be accessed virtually anywhere from a computer or smartphone.
Here’s how to do it:
1) Create and share a playlist
To create a playlist in Spotify, click ‘New Playlist’ in the grey panel on the left and name your playlist.
You’ll need to make your playlist collaborative, so right click it and select ‘Collaborative Playlist’.
Hit ‘Share’ near the top of your playlist and choose ‘Send to friend’.
Send it to anyone you’d like to collaborate with. Your request should appear in their Spotify inbox. Once they accept they’ll be able to add, remove and reorder songs from the playlist (Plus you’ll have gained a Spotify follower! Woohoo!).
2) Add music
You’re now ready to fill your playlist with music. Use the search function to find a track, right click it, hover over ‘Add To’ and select your playlist.
At these early stages it’s a good idea to add anything you think might work. Don’t worry about consistency, you can always come back later to remove anything you’re not happy with. In-game music can be quite unpredictable and a style of music you thought would never work might be perfect!
Once everyone has had a chance to add to the playlist, it’s worth discussing what works and what doesn’t. For Kandinsky’s Violin, this meant going through the playlist whilst looking at the early concept art and talking about each track. We discussed things like musical styles, instrumentation and the size of the soundstage. Before long we had a list of things we wanted from the soundtrack, everyone was on the same page and I had the information I needed to get going.
It’s a good idea to maintain the playlist and remove any tracks that don’t match the vision of the soundtrack. Move the tracks that work best to the top of the list so that the reference is roughly laid out in order of best to worst fit. Over time your playlist will become more focused and anyone wanting to get an idea of what to expect from the soundtrack can do so by listening to the first few tracks.
The Kandinsky’s Violin reference playlist is embedded below. It’s still at an early stage, so expect it to change as the project progresses. If you’re a fan of minimal composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich then you might like it.
Do you have any tips on creating a powerful reference music collection? Maybe you use Spotify in other unconventional and creative ways. If so, let us know in the comments section below.