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A common request from directors is to provide mood-setting music that doesn't call attention to itself. One of the best ways to do this is with long, held tones. Making these drone tracks can be quick and easy, but there's also an art to getting just the right emotional flavor. In this episode I share some of my drone variations for the film Twin C…
 
What would you do if you were given a barebones MIDI file, and told to fill it in with whatever sounds you want? That's the challenge I posed to Composer Quest listeners, and in this episode we'll get to hear from them about their experience completing our MIDI Remix Quest. You can download the full tracks at composerquest.bandcamp.com.This product…
 
Early video game music was in some ways a revival of Baroque counterpoint. In this episode, I share one of my video game-y tracks inspired by counterpoint techniques, and inadvertently inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog.This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest episode 149 with Jess Scherer and Peter Lund. For more music production less…
 
What do you do when you've written an A section and B section that don't quite fit together? In this episode I analyze my surf-inspired chiptune track to figure out how to smooth this transition point.This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest episode 145: Game Music Melee. For more music production lessons and composer interviews, v…
 
To have any real emotional impact, music has to have some sort of payoff, through repeated themes, sounds, or lyrics. When you're scoring a film, you should also keep this idea of musical payoff in mind. Where are the moments in the story when you can resolve the themes that were only hinted at earlier? In this episode, I share some examples from t…
 
When you're scoring a film, some scenes have an obvious emotional direction to follow. Other scenes leave you with a puzzle to solve. In this episode, I break down my scoring for two of the hardest scenes to figure out in a film I'm working on.This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest episode 142 with Sage Lewis. For more music prod…
 
How would you score a scene where a guy looks longingly at a bag of Doritos stuck in a vending machine? That was one of my recent scoring puzzles I had to solve. In this episode, I share some tips on writing an effective melody in the brief amount of time you're given in a commercial.This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest episode…
 
Video game music seems to have cliche sounds for different types of levels: ice world music, jungle world music, etc. In this episode, I talk about how I approached making a stereotypical tropical island tune for a video game, with Mario Kart 64 as my inspiration.This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest episode 134 with Lena Chappe…
 
Sometimes you have to give yourself weird challenges to get out of your comfortable habits. In this episode, I describe a technique I'm calling visual MIDI improvisation, where I draw in MIDI notes in a visually-pleasing arrangement, without any regard for what they sound like. I also share some techniques you can use to make a listenable track out…
 
Changing a single note in a chord can drastically alter the mood of a piece, like changing from major to minor. In this episode, I show how different types of seventh chords can give your song a different color. I also describe the technique Queen used in recording their vocal harmonies.This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest epis…
 
Challenging yourself to re-arrange a piece of music is a good way to practice your composing skills without having to start from scratch. For this episode, I made it my goal to transform a cheesy soap opera theme into something that I’d actually want to listen to. In the end, it turned into an old-school video game track. This production lesson ori…
 
If you were asked to channel The Beatles and write a new song in their style, how would you do it? That was the challenge I gave myself in creating a jingle for my patron from Liverpool, Luke Thomas. In this episode, I explain my thought process behind each layer of this Beatles-esque song. This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest …
 
Sometimes you have to expand your horizons as a producer and just experiment with as many different crazy effects as possible. Here are some mixing ideas I used in a sound collage I made for one of my Composer Quest patrons. This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest episode 121 with Noah Keesecker. For more music production lessons …
 
I often start a song idea on guitar, but sometimes I add so many layers I have to pick and choose which ones should be highlighted, and which ones should be subconscious background layers. In this episode, I talk about my process mixing a commercial soundtrack. This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest episode 119 with Lisa Walkosz-…
 
I had the privilege of watching Rich Vreeland (aka Disasterpeace) give a live music production demo at Gamer’s Rhapsody. In this special CMPL episode, you’ll get to hear Rich composing a track on the fly. He shares his secret ingredients in scoring the video game FEZ: the Massive synth, with heavy amounts of reverb, bitcrushing, randomness, and tap…
 
This episode comes from my interview on Tom Snively’s podcast Inside Video Game Music. I thought I’d share it here, since it’s in the same spirit as my other music production lessons. In our talk, I pull apart the different layers of my video game track “Moto Hekalu.” You can find the finished track on the Star Reaction Soundtrack at untiedgames.ba…
 
If you can create authentic-sounding chiptune music, you’ll have a leg up in the video game composing world. Plus, it’s just fun to see what you can do with very limited musical materials. In this episode, I share my first adventure in creating chiptune music. My finished song is a jingle for one of my Composer Quest patrons, Rob Waite.This product…
 
I sometimes wonder how much sound designers think in terms of music theory. For example, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard microwave drones that sound like a major chord. In this episode, I talk about my own experience applying my music theory knowledge to designing some video game sound effects.This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest ep…
 
As a producer, one of your main jobs is deciding when to add and when to subtract. In this episode, I explain my process of sifting through musical layers until you’re left with only the golden nuggets. The track from this episode, Ki?trinos, can be found on the Star Reaction Soundtrack at untiedgames.bandcamp.com.This production lesson originally …
 
Sidechain compression. You may not know the term, but you’ve definitely heard the results of this technique, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 20 years. If you’re aspiring to be a pop or dance music producer, this is going to be one of your cornerstone effects. I’d say you can find a use for sidechain compression in almost any kin…
 
One of my secret weapons in my productions is randomness. I often try to set up a system that generates random pitches and rhythms. If you’ve never tried this kind of music making, just Google “generative music,” and that should give you more info on how to get started. In this episode, I show how I use randomness in one of my video game scores. Th…
 
How do you start an electronic track? With a synth sound? With a sample? In this episode, I talk about building a track from a single electric guitar strum.This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest episode 60 with Brooke DeRosa. For more music production lessons and composer interviews, visit composerquest.com.…
 
Have you ever tried making a song that has both a swung section and a straight section? In this episode, I show how I gradually morphed from a swung beat to a straight beat in one of my video game scores. The finished track, called Sumendi, can be found on the Star Reaction Soundtrack at untiedgames.bandcamp.com.This production lesson originally ai…
 
I love making ambient music, because it feels like the equivalent of finger painting – you can smear things around by stretching out long tones and soaking them in reverb. No sound seems out of place if you bring it in gradually and keep it there for a while. In this episode, I talk about how to create tension in ambient music by holding notes long…
 
If you’re like me, you’ve probably stumbled upon a song that made you think “Hey, this would be really fun to remix.” But how do you even start a remix? In this episode I share a few of my mixing techniques to get you going.This production lesson originally aired in Composer Quest episode 50 with Desmond Simmons. For more music production lessons a…
 
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