The Big List 2021: Resources for Game Music Composers

Photo of game music composer Winifred Phillips, pictured in her music production studio at Generations Productions LLC. This photo was taken while Phillips was delivering her presentation for GDC 2020.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Glad you’re here!  I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips, and every year I compile a “big list” of the top online resources available for game audio folks.  It’s an evolving list that expands each year as more awesome professional tools and great networking opportunities become available.  However, before we begin, it’s important to acknowledge what the Covid-19 pandemic has done to our industry this year.  While the games themselves are as popular as ever, those of us making assets for these games are working under extraordinary circumstances.  It’s harder than ever to meet face-to-face, and our community can feel a bit fractured and distant.  With that in mind, let’s kick off this list with a look at how we’re connecting with each other in the time of the coronavirus, exploring how conferences and events have adapted to our socially-distant world this year.  In doing so, I’ll be sharing some videos from conferences that took place entirely online, including the full-length video of the talk I gave in 2020 at the Game Developer Conference (pictured above).  After that, we’ll once again explore the best available resources in the form of online community groups, software applications, and academic institutions with wellsprings of expert knowledge to share.

So if everybody’s ready, then let’s get started!

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Video Game Music Concerts in 2021

Photo of video game composer Winifred Phillips, pictured standing in front of the official poster for the Assassin's Creed Symphony concert tour.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Hi!  I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips.  These are the times that try our musical souls, with live concerts enduring an avalanche of cancelations and postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  For our community as game music composers and game audio pros, this means that most video game concert tours have gone silent.  As one of the composers whose work was featured in the Assassin’s Creed Symphony World Tour, I was honored to join the players onstage during the Montreal performance last year (pictured below).  It was a thrill to have my music from Assassin’s Creed Liberation performed in Berlin, Milan, and all around the world.

Photo of game music composer Winifred Phillips onstage during the Montreal performance of the Assassin's Creed Symphony worldwide concert tour.

Now, I’ve sadly watched as the coronavirus postponed the entire UK leg of the tour, with no resumption date as of yet. This fate is common to live concert events around the world.

While we all have reason to be sad about this, there is some light in the darkness.  A few touring companies and orchestras have nimbly shifted to online live-streaming events as a way to sustain their fan bases and keep enthusiasm alive through the Covid-19 pandemic.  Other video game music shows are holding things together while continuing to sell tickets, with optimistic plans to resume their in-person tours later in 2021.  As both game audio pros and game music fans, we all want to enjoy and support this music, so let’s check out what’s happening this year in the world of VGM concerts!  We’ll start by taking a look at those organizations that have moved their concerts online with live-streamed events.  After that, we’ll check out the concert tours that are still selling tickets with hopes to return to their stages sometime later this year.

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Getting your big break – 2021 edition (Video game music composer)

This photo depicts game music composer Winifred Phillips working in her music production studio at Generations Productions LLC on the musical score of the Sackboy: A Big Adventure game from Sumo Digital. Winifred Phillips is an award-winning video game music composer whose credits include games from five of the biggest franchises in gaming (Assassin's Creed, God of War, Total War, LittleBigPlanet, The Sims).

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Delighted you’re here!  I’m video game composer Winifred Phillips, and this past year has been particularly busy for me.  I’ve released several projects this year, including Sackboy: A Big Adventure (my latest, pictured above) – and I’m very pleased that my Waltz of the Bubbles composition from Sackboy: A Big Adventure just won a Global Music Award, and is nominated along with the rest of the game’s soundtrack in this year’s NAVGTR Awards!  In between projects, I’ve given three virtual talks this past year at the Game Developers Conference in March, the VGM Academy Live event in April, and the GDC Summer event in August.  Popular events like these are great opportunities to touch base with the community and exchange ideas about the art of game composition and the business of being a video game composer.

All during this time, I’ve been keeping up with this blog, writing monthly articles that explore different topics of interest to us as game composers.  In addition to the regular monthly entries, every year I write an article that tries to answer the question, “how does an aspiring composer break into the video game industry?”  This is the question I’m personally asked most often, and it’s one I always struggle to answer.

Part of the reason for this is that my own “breaking into the business” story is so unusual.  My first video game project happened to be a triple-A blockbuster (God of War from Sony Interactive), The logo of the original God of War video game from Sony Interactive Entertainment. Game music composer Winifred Phillips was a member of the music composition team for this video game.and I was able to land the gig because an example of my work landed on the desk of a music supervisor for the project at exactly the right time.  What are the chances of that?  It’s akin to being struck by lightning, and I certainly can’t advise young composers to depend on that kind of lightning to strike.  But I don’t want to leave hopeful young composers in the lurch either.

So every year, I revisit the subject, trying to learn what helpful advice might be offered by virtue of the common wisdom that exists at the time.  In expert articles and community posts, the subject is ceaselessly examined and reconsidered.  It’s an evolving conversation that shifts in subtle but appreciable ways from year to year.  So this is the 2021 edition, in which I share the interesting observations I’ve gathered from online sources during the previous year.  Hopefully, this article will provide some guidance and support for those who are embarking on their own game music careers. But first, in case anyone might like to hear a fuller retelling of my own “breaking into the business” story, here’s an interview I gave in 2011 with GameSpot in which I recount how I landed my first gig.  The relevant discussion begins at 4 minutes and 15 seconds:

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Resources for Video Game Music Composers: The Big List 2020

This photo shows video game composer Winifred Phillips working in her music production studio. Phillips has composed music for titles in five of the most popular franchises in gaming (Assassin's Creed, God of War, Total War, The Sims, LittleBigPlanet).

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

Hello there!  I’m videogame composer Winifred Phillips, and it’s time once again for our yearly collection of top resources for game audio practitioners!  The following article contains an expanded and updated collection of links on an assortment of subjects important to the game audio community.  We kick things off with a list of concert tours and annual game music events.  After that, we check out the online game audio communities that we can join for support and assistance.  We’ll take a look at the software applications currently in use by game audio pros.  Finally, we’ll look at what’s going on in the world of game audio conferences and academia.

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Video game music composer gives lecture at the Library of Congress

Photo of video game music composer Winifred Phillips giving a lecture at the Library of Congress (Whittall Pavilion, Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington DC). Winifred Phillips' lecture was the first video game music composition lecture given at the Library of Congress.

By Winifred Phillips | Contact | Follow

On April 6th I was honored to give a lecture at the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington DC (pictured right).  As a video game composer, I’d been invited to speak by the Music Division of the Library of Congress.  I’d be delivering the concluding presentation during their Popular video game music composer Winifred Phillips is here shown outside the Thomas Jefferson Building (Library of Congress, Washington DC), where she gave the first-ever video game music composition lecture at the invitation of the music division of the Library of Congress.premiere event celebrating popular video game music.  My lecture would be the very first video game music composition lecture ever given at the Library of Congress.  I was both honored and humbled to accept the invitation and have my lecture included in the 2018-2019 season of concerts and symposia from the Library of Congress.

In my presentation, I included many topics that I’ve written about in previous articles.  My lecture topics included horizontal resequencing, vertical layering, and interactive MIDI-based composition. I explored the various roles that music has played in famous games from the earliest days of game design (like Frogger and Ballblazer).  I also discussed how music has been implemented in some of the awesome games from the modern era (like one of my own projects, Assassin’s Creed Liberation).

My lecture was supported by a full house in the Whittall Pavilion at the Library of Congress. The audience gave me both a warm welcome and lots of great questions following the conclusion of my lecture.  Afterwards, the discussion continued during a book signing event that was kindly hosted by the Library of Congress shop.  During the book signing event, I was pleased to sign copies of my book A Composer’s Guide to Game Music. I also got to talk personally with quite a few audience members.  Such an engaging and insightful crowd!  It was a pleasure getting to know these lovely people.  I really enjoyed the lively conversation – I had the best time!!

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Video Game Music Concert Tours

Colbert presents The Legend of Zelda Concert (article by Winifred Phillips, video game composer)This week I thought we’d check in with some of the top orchestral video game music concert tours currently underway.  We’ll take a look at some reviews of 2015 performances from the respective tours, and we’ll also take a look at video from some of the most recent concert performances.

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses

Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses marquee (article by game composer Winifred Phillips)Originating as a simple four-minute overture performed at a Nintendo press event in 2011, Symphony of the Goddesses kicked off as a full-fledged concert tour in January 2012 and currently has 33 dates scheduled for 2016 that will take the popular tour all around the world.  The concert’s program lineup focuses exclusively on famous music from the Legend of Zelda games.  In a review of the September 25th 2015 performance at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island, Broadway World critic Andria Tieman wrote, “Overall, this was a night of fantastic music, excellent people-watching and a fun, visual performance. This is something that Zelda fans should certainly seek out.” Here’s a video clip from the Oct. 30th 2015 broadcast of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, in which the Symphony of the Goddesses tour performed their Legend of Zelda Medley:

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VR Audio: Past, Present & Future

VR Audio (article by award winning video game music composer Winifred Phillips)In this blog, I thought we might take a quick look at the development of the three dimensional audio technologies that promise to be a vital part of music and sound for a virtual reality video game experience. Starting from its earliest incarnations, we’ll follow 3D audio through the fits and starts that it endured through its tumultuous history.  We’ll trace its development to the current state of affairs, and we’ll even try to imagine what may be coming in the future!  But first, let’s start at the beginning:

3D Audio of the Past

Alan Blumlein (article by award winning video game music composer Winifred Phillips)In the 1930s, English engineer and inventor Alan Blumlein invented a process of audio recording that involved a pair of microphones that were coincident (i.e. placed closely together to capture a sound source).  Blumlein’s intent was to accurately reflect the directional position of the sounds being recorded, thus attaining a result that conveyed spatial relationships in a more faithful way.  In reality, Blumlein had invented what we now call stereo, but the inventor himself referred to his technique as “binaural sound.”  As we know, stereo has been an extremely successful format, but the fully realized concept of “binaural sound” would not come to fruition until much later.

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A Composer’s Guide to Game Music in 2015

A Composer's Guide to Game Music, photo from the article by game music composer Winifred PhillipsHappy Holidays, everyone!  2015 has been a really memorable year for me, and a successful one for my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music.  Writing this book not only allowed me to express my excitement about game music, but also opened up my world to a huge community of game music enthusiasts that I’m now proud to call friends.

I’ve been delighted to meet so many people who have read my book – from aspiring composers, to scholars and educators, to game audio pros.  It’s been tremendously gratifying!

I’d like to spend this blog recapping the events of 2015 as they related to my book, and I’ll also be sharing some book-related resources and tutorials that I created in 2015 (in case you missed them).  Happy Holidays, everyone, and thank you so much for your tremendous support this year!

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First Look: Beep Documentary interview with game music composer Winifred Phillips

Beep-Headshot_Winifred-Phillips

The Beep documentary is an awesome upcoming crowdfunded film consisting of interviews with top game composers and sound designers from around the world.  Leading up to the film’s world premiere in Spring 2016, the Beep Documentary team has been releasing webisodes of interview footage with selected composers and sound designers who will be featured in the documentary.  I’m pleased to share that a webisode of my interview has just been posted by the Beep documentary team!

Beep has been described as “the most comprehensive documentary of game music/audio history ever made,” and “a huge and culturally significant undertaking to document the history of video game sound and music through interviews with composers and other game audio professionals from around the globe.”  The Beep documentary is described best on the project’s website: “Relive the moments of your childhood, and hear the stories behind the songs and sounds of your favorite games from the people who created them. Help us to give the composers and sound designers throughout game history a chance to tell their own stories, to share the truly amazing things that they achieved.”

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