September 22, 2017

Music to Brawl to

Let's talk about the music in Legends of the Brawl!

We've got a fantastic write-up for you from our amazing composer, Richard Hunter.  He's from Glasgow, so be sure to read this in a Scottish accent.

Glad he's not wearing a kilt here

Richard Hunter: As Legends of Brawl is based around the early 20th century, much of my work is largely orchestral based, inspired from the era. There was an interesting movement during this time between large scale romantic music and chamber music.  The music in LOB is always inspired by this transition and often elevates from chamber ensemble to full orchestra using certain adaptive music techniques.


Tchaikovsky is a massive inspiration, particularly his string quartet works like Souvenir de Florence - Tchaikovsky can have a quite sinister feel as well as beauty in his work, which is something I always aspire to - good vs evil elements in melodies.

That said, I can’t deny that many of my themes are largely inspired from film & games from the 80’s and 90’s. John Williams is the master of creating popular themes and musical representations of mood, and much of the heroic elements of LOB are inspired by films he scored in the 80’s. Game composers' Nobuo Uematsu and Motoi Sakuraba attention to capturing character and level settings was an element I tried to reflect with the atmosphere of LOB environments.

Compact and efficient DAW

Creative Fuel & Process

This year I have been fortunate to hone my skills using the orchestra for television and film, e.g scoring music for Thomas and Friends and small-scale film productions, but I found LOB has given me the opportunity to think beyond typical scoring and really utilize the adaptive element of game music.

My writing process always begins with the piano, usually playing around with certain modes or chord structures, and then scoring a rough idea onto manuscript. It’s pretty rare that I start coming up with key themes using my digital audio workstation (DAW); I just orchestrate more effectively seeing all the registers on the piano.

The fundamentals

I usually have some sort of recording device handy if I am out of the studio, so I can refer to the feel later when transferring the idea in my studio.

Depending on the idea, I then orchestrate it using techniques typically found in 20th century composition, and develop the sound appropriately using the game environment's atmosphere and events. At this stage, it's important to leave space for intensity for the combat sections as I strive to create a musical impact when things kick off.

What is the right music for a sewer?

Technical Setup

Organisation and effective stemming procedures are key for balancing adaptive music.  I always make sub groups of parts (e.g Strings, Choir, Woodwinds) using my DAW but have organised my template a certain way that this is easy to do using Vienna Ensemble Pro as my VST database.

I run two computers, one with all my samples including Vienna Ensemble, and another as my main work station with all my production gear routed through. This is typical with most midi and media composers and I found this way works best for me.

Talking about how I orchestrate each part and make them sit properly might take a while, but I generally use the traditional scoring approach as much as possible. I organise my parts using the traditional layout, e.g having woodwinds/strings near the top, and having Violin 1, V2, Viola, Cello and D.Basses as the string order.  Look at the pic below to see how I divide parts for the string orchestra using the original piano part (the VST piano is called The Giant).

Orchestra organization in DAW

There are several aspects of layering to get a wide sound and you can see that my template has additional mirrored parts that I might affect in some way to achieve this.

Setup for a nice wide soundfield

Projects do get rather large, so I have notes within the DAW and in a notepad reminding me of changes or alterations I have made. In this project, I have typed the chord symbols in the bar which is critical for efficient work flow when composing parts for the main background and combat themes.

Label *everything*

After I mix all the parts together I stem them separately, master them and send them off to the audio engine.

Regarding the gear that I use, I always use a combination of many sample libraries and not just one. It’s just the way things go when trying to achieve the sound you are after.  I always mix them a certain way that I find is effective for the individual instrument sound (Waves plugins are great for this).

Two heads are better than one

With LOB work, the VST’s I predominantly use are East West, Project Sam, Vienna Instruments and Native Instruments orchestra bundles. However, I do have some obscure libraries that I use from time to time, I usually bundle this with my own sounds. I always mix using M-Audio DX5 speakers and follow a similar mastering procedure for stemming.

How about a sample?

I hope you enjoyed a somewhat brief break down of my typical composition approach. I am always finding new ways to create a score so these procedures will change slightly from project to project. Hit me up on Twitter with questions or comments!

- Richard