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  • Writer's pictureandreahywong

!! New reading material: The Game Music Handbook

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

Alright, so last week I got this order in the mail and I’m so excited to dive into it! I think one unique aspect of game music is that it has the potential to be interactive and responsive to what the player is doing – adaptive and unique! While I still have a world to learn about (non-interactive) music composition in general, I thought this book #Kellman_GMH might be a good practical start for me as I’m current working with simulations/game-like experiences at work!

I thought I’d write down some personal study notes, jot down some key quotes I like, and keep them here by chapter for future self reference! Let's jump into some of its introductory contents!

Foreword (by Rich Vreeland)

Getting Involved Early

  • “… get involved early, and don’t forget to take breaks.” (p. vii)

  • “… allows others to know you better, and gives you a chance to put more of your personality into the game. You get to be part of the prototyping phase, whether you’re exploring ideas in a musical silo or iterating on cross-disciplinary concepts with other members of your team” (p. ix)

Pre-Production/Trying new things/discomfort zones

  • about what to do before game development/design has been finalized: “It proved more fruitful to focus on weird, novel, and spontaneous ideas, workflow tools, and audio systems” (p. vii) than writing music demos that could be used

  • “This pre-production period is a great time to interface with new ideas outside of your comfort zone. When the pressure to deliver content isn’t there yet, you have the opportunity to pick up new skills and learn new things from your colleagues.” (p. viii)

  • “I think we benefit from first stretching ourselves in those uncomfortable moments, continuing our search for new ideas. There are always new hurdles to cross, and if you want to do your best work, prior experience alone won’t leap those bounds for you.” (p. ix)

  • “But many exciting possibilities lie beyond the well-trodden path, in the endless desert of creative hypotheses. If you can, spend a few weeks in that desert trying out novel ideas: Explore an implementation approach that you’ve never tried before. Follow a silly thought experiment down a rabbit hole. Flip your usual strategies upside down. If you can stomach the struggle, the benefits you return with can be extraordinary.” (p. ix – x)

  • Much of this experimentation might not be appropriate for the current project, or you’ve reinvented the wheel, or it just doesn’t work but it could be useful in the future! “you’ll learn the cost of your creative choices… humbled by what you could never accomplish without help… wise up to hairy problems that are hard to pull off even once.” (p. x)

  • “you may enjoy breaking the rules more if you know what they are” (p. x)


Many times, the acknowledgements are personal to the author and this is no exception. I thought it might be neat to jot down some names of people that collaborated on this book so perhaps in the future I could go and check out their work!

  • Alba Torremocha, composer (Where Shadows Slumber) @PHÖZ (game audio company)

  • Rich Vreeland, Video game composer (FEX, Mini Metro)

  • Jason Kantor, Audio Lead @Avalanche Studios

  • Daniel Brown, procedural music system (Dynamic Percussion System) @Intelligent Music Systems

  • Bobby Tahouri, composer (Rise of the Tomb Raider),

  • Phil Lamperski, audio designer (Rise of the Tomb Raider) @Crystal Dynamics

  • Chris Velasco, composer (God of War III)

  • Lena Raine, composer (Celeste)

  • Mateo Nossa, composer and sound designer @Frost Lab Studios (audio middleware chapter)

  • Mark Benis, composer (The Worst Grimm Reaper) @Moon Moon Moon studio (using middleware to build an integrated music system)

  • Robert Lundgren, composer (music system/middleware Elias in Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden)

  • Simon Ashby @Audio Kinetic (Wwise middleware)

  • Guy Whitmore, composer and music designer

  • Ronny Mraz, sound designer (Just Cause 4) @Avalanche Studios

  • Zach Abramson, composer (Just Cause 4) @Avalanche Studios

  • Robert Rice, sound designer (VR)

  • Harpreet Athwal, programmer (programming for composers)

  • Jack Kelly & Frank DiCola (Where Shadows Slumber) @Game Revenant (music system/design/integration process)

About the Companion Website

Now this is something completely bonus. There are videos and audio on the companion website that supplement the concepts in this book! I’ll be referencing these as I take notes for sure!


  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (2013) scene and audio example

  • Scoring a game is very different than scoring for any other medium “because everyone plays games differently” (p. xvii)

  • the score has a direct relationship with the player

  • composer must account for “unpredictability and nonlinearity” (p. xvii)

  • this book: conceptual (e.g. music-player interactivity…) and technical key concepts (e.g. middleware, programming…) fundamental to be a good game music composer, and understanding that allows creativity and open-mindedness when scoring a video game project

Additional Notes

From the basics of creating emotional and immersive environments; to technical aspects like implementation, version control, and optimization; to even business aspects like writing contracts; this book really covers a lot! Let’s get straight into PART I Game Scoring Fundamentals!


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