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How to put the Metal in the Metal

After a less than restful holiday break, filled with moving and job hunting, I found myself with the need for some creativity. So I went to the trusty Video Game Music Academy website that I know and love to see if the site manager Dan had created the next edition of the Composer Quest, which is a set of musical composition challenges designed to get the creative mind working. To my delight, it had been released and without hesitation I got stuck in straight away. From the very beginning I had my eye on the 4th task which was called "Heavier Things" which called for me to compose a Heavy Metal boss battle track. I've always wanted to explore Metal and all its sub genres as I've always been a fan of the distinct effects it can have on a composition. Then I started thinking, as a goal for this trimester, I could identify what other genres are unfamiliar to me and explore them in a few research blogs.

So as a way to start things off here are a couple of different genres I'd like to explore over the next few months.

1. Metal

From Rock to Heavy Metal to all the other sub genres that I know absolutely nothing about. I've always been a fan of the way the heavier side of music sounds, especially when its used to accompany an orchestral arrangement to add an extra layer of intensity to an already epic track. An example of this can be found in the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack created by Junkie XL:

Although mostly used as a sound cue for this character, the riffing definitely adds an extra layer of intensity to the Zimmer inspired orchestral percussion. A similar effect is achieved in the Final Fantasy 13 soundtrack where the guitar riff is introduced subtly in the string build up to increase the tension and a metal inspired breakdown is used after the climax to return to the build up again making for an exciting battle loop:

I think that by exploring metal as an isolated genre of music I will really be able to understand exactly what parts of it are being used in these tracks to achieve the results they have. I've decided to start by having a listen to some of the Top 50 Metal Albums of all time found here(just in case somebody wants to join me in my quest):

2. Electronic Dance Music?

Next on my list of genres I'm keen to explore is what I want to call Electronic Dance music. Based on my limited knowledge of the genre I may be labeling this wrong as of this moment but hopefully my exploration will affirm my initial assumptions. The soundtrack that first got me into this genre is from Snowboard Kids,which is a Nintendo 64 game created all the way back in 1998, so it may be that the genre has evolved some since then:

I'm also thinking that it may have been sped up a little to accommodate the game play where as the original genre might have been slow enough to dance to. Either way, there is no denying that this style of music makes for a bright, energetic addition to the game play.

I feel like understanding how to arrange electronic instruments will be a fundamental skill I will need in order to compose music for video games. To start understanding this genre I'm going to need to do a lot of digging, starting with finding out exactly what genre this music is.

3. Jazz

Lastly, I've been a fan of Jazz since I started studying music theory about 3 years ago, however what I didn't understand until more recently was that I'd actually been a fan since I was very young. The Super Mario 64 soundtrack that I've always loved and the music of Banjo Kazooie is heavily influenced by Jazz, particularly Big-Band.

This music is from Super Mario Galaxy 2 and is a recreation of the Bob-Omb Battlefield theme from 1996, the old version is 100% midi-instruments and has an overall limited sound due to the technical limitations of the time but I'm absolutely in love with this version which uses a lot of recorded instruments. I want to learn how to take a wide arrangement like big Band and give each instrument its own individual place to shine much like I believe is happening in this song. To start with I'm going to look into Jazz studio recording techniques and see if I can pick up some stems to practice mixing with.

So I think I've done enough talking now, the next step is to make a more detailed plan of how I'm going to go about learning all this and most importantly, following through with it!

More updates soon!

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