During the summer, I took part in the 48 Hour Film Project, hosted in Austin, TX. It was a blast! For those not familiar with the festival/contest, teams are given 48 hours to create, write, film, edit and produce a short film in 48 hours. To keep things interesting, all submissions had to work in:
– a character’s name
– a prop
– a certain line of dialog
Teams also had to genres randomly assigned to them and could pick which one they wanted to use. It’s a very fun, challenging and fast pace contest! Our film, Until Death Do Us Part, was nominated for eight awards and won four of them! Here’s my favorite music cue from this project:
The whole film should be released to the public soon. Stay tuned! And if you haven’t taken part in a 48 hour film project yet, do it! It’s so much fun.
Back in December 2015, I started writing music for a unique, clever and funny web-series called You Again. The musical style is a fusion of different genres and approaches including some jazz mixed with light, comical orchestral, retro video game music and even some Celtic-like elements. Over the months I’ve been writing music and revising cues for each episode. For the most part, things were good with the usual bumps and back-and-forth that any show experiences during production. Then, due to circumstances outside of our control, we found ourselves without the intro music we were planning on licensing for the show’s intro/teaser.
We needed a theme song… and FAST.
The intro is a montage of quirky, fun actions by the two leads of the show and the vibe of the music needed to be fun, energetic, humorous and engaging. The track that we were going to license was a Celtic song filled with fast violin runs, accordion, hand percussion and claps, guitars and singing… in French. It sounded awesome and fit the visuals perfectly. The director, Andrea Kile Peterson, reached out to me and let me know about the situation right away. It was the evening of July 3rd and the show was going live July 6th. We talked about possible options and then I got to work writing a theme song. Writing super fast requires knowing each “trick” or technique used will have a good pay off. There’s no time to rethink, create doubt or even experiment. You just have to get it down and make it good the first time!
My goal was to get something to the director by the next morning to allow for any feedback and revision requests. Right off the bat, I knew creating convincing violin runs in a Celtic style would require a lot of time and effort. It’s not impossible but it would take time. I knew we had to have everything finalized by July 5th in time for the launch the following day. So the first thing I simplified was the violin part. Instead of cool, complex Celtic violin lines, which would require lots of articulations and production, I went with quick staccato violin accents. Creating a simpler violin track allowed me to split up my focus and energy across all areas of the track (the drums, the guitars, the accordion, the hand percussion, etc). I had a majority of the piece written out in about 3 hours.
The last thing you want to do is get neck deep in only one layer and ignore the rest of the song. I’ve seen this happen time and time again and it can kill your momentum as well as destroy your time management. Writing quickly is a constant balance between the macro and the micro.
Bringing in some outside help.
For the guitars, I used a mixture of live and looped guitars to help fill up the sound. My buddy, Ben Cockerham, recorded some guitar lines early July 4th morning and they sounded great. Aside from the live guitar parts, everything else was virtual. To help give the piece a sense of evolution and more energy, I had tempo ramp up slightly over the whole song. This also allowed more of the hits to match up with the visuals. Mixing in the guitars and doing a final mix pass took about an additional 2 hours.
The take away.
By creating a plan and having a defined target, I was able to deliver the finished track to the director the very next morning. She gave some good feedback, I tweaked the mix and production a bit more and then got approval. All in, the entire song took about 6-7 hours to create.
Working quickly is a rush! It’s fun and it’s a challenge. I always view it as “Am I up for this challenge?! Can I do it?!” By focusing on what I knew I could delivery quickly and avoiding what would cause major time sinks and difficulties, I was able to create a theme song literally in the last minute with little stress and have a blast while doing it. The next time you’re in a crunch mode, ask yourself how you can ensure the highest odds of success. What are your “go to” bag of tricks and methods to help get the job done super fast?
The finished product!
You can see the final result below! And go check out the series, Episode 1 is now live!
Buzzopoly features some of the big band music I composed while working at Beecave Games. Driving drums, walkin’ bass lines, a soaring sax solo, punching brass stabs combined with scatting vocals make this an energetic and fun song!
In my opinion, creating big band music with virtual instruments is extremely hard. Part of this is due to the large amount of inflections and articulations big band music requires. Another aspect is trying to create the interplay and give-and-take that live jazz ensembles do while performing. The rhythm section is responding to each other while also responding to the ensemble or solo player. Likewise, the brass and wind instruments are responding to each other as well as the rhythm section. It’s a very organic and fluid thing! To try and create that when being just one person working with 90% virtual instruments can be quite challenging. It can also be quite fun! To be honest, I’m not crazy about my singing voice – never have been. But it gets the job done and it was what I had to work with considering the budget and schedule constraints. All music and vocals are by Nathan Madsen. Final mix and mastering were done by Beecave Games audio director, Greg Allen. I hope you enjoy it!
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Last weekend, Madsen Studios LLC took part in the 48 Hour Film Project, here in Austin, TX. It was a blast! I wrote music for the short film called Until Death Do Us Part, which is sort of a black comedy drama. For those that don’t know, this project involves drawing a genre (we drew adventure-serial) and had to work in a certain prop, character name and line of dialog. After drawing the genre, you have 48 hours (hence the name of the festival :P) to write, film, edit and post-produce the film. It’s quite the challenge! It’s also a great deal of fun.
Since music usually comes in late at the end of the production cycle, I decided to write a bunch of music to get the editing team as much to work with as earlier as possible. This was tricky because I was writing without any visuals, since the team was still writing and then filming. The last day, Sunday, was a fury of writing for me as we decided the film had changed tone and needed a new direction musically. I always love a challenge and am, overall, very happy with how things turned out.
Check out the poster and once the film is released to the public, I’ll definitely share it! Stay tuned!
Here’s a Chinese New Year inspired theme I did for Beecave Games. Since 2016 was the year of the monkey, the slot theme was named Year of the Golden Monkey. It’s always a fun challenge to write music in a style from another culture than yours. It’s a tricky balance because you want to honor and accurately portray that culture while making the music your own. (And the music needs to work for the multimedia it’s designed for as well.) The artwork was done by the very talented Logynn Hailley! Check out more of her work here: https://www.behance.net/logynn-b-hailley
World of Pixels is a brand new song for everyone’s Friday!
It’s an ambient, peaceful, electronic track that I wrote recently for fun. It’s available for licensing currently. One thing I really enjoy about this piece is how the melody evolves each time it’s stated. It’s never repeated the same way. Either a new instrument joins in, new chords support it or the melody notes themselves change. I like using the visuals of pixels in the title because they can be both harsh, jagged and beautiful and smooth.
Using low-fi, chip-tune like sounds is a challenge as they can be really harsh around the edges. But when produced differently, they can be quite beautiful and smooth. I hope you enjoy the song!
Start your Monday morning off right – with some new jazz by Nathan Madsen! 😛
This is, perhaps, my favorite track I did while at Beecave Games! It’s a jazz theme much in the style of those 1930’s cartoons. I really enjoyed working on this one and I’m quite proud of it (both in regards to the composition and the production). Devin Lawson did the great artwork. This theme isn’t released yet – at least not currently – but I was able to get permission to post the music to my demo reel.
Ever been on a quest for donuts? Who doesn’t love donuts?! I mean… really. Come on. And this song captures the feeling of going out and chasing the dream that is donuts. Originally written for a slot theme being produced by Beecave Games, which sadly ended up not coming out. But fear not! I was able to get official permission to share this orchestral track with you all and I sincerely hope you enjoy it!
Side note (no pun intended): My favorite part of the song is breakdown section that happens after the crescendo at 1:22. But the piece is short enough that you should really just listen to the whole thing. Several times. 😛
Nate is an established composer/sound designer, based in Austin, TX. Aside from making various kinds of noises and music, he also teaches private lessons (saxophone and piano) and performs with live bands. On the weekends he likes to sit and watch the grass grow.
Here’s the main theme to Of Love and Sorrow, a new game being developed and published by Niels Bauer Games. Madsen Studios LLC – an Austin, TX based audio company, was hired to compose the music for the trailer and the game itself. It was really fun to write the music for a civil war, text game. For this theme I wanted to capture the grand, epic conflict while also showing some of the more tender moments of the game. In a way, this piece harkens back to Civil War epic soap operas that I saw on TV as a child in the 80’s. Check out the music and the game, once it’s made live!
Please reach out if you need original music or sound design for your next project. I’d love to help out!
My wife took this pic of me working a late night in the studio. She even brought in some Dr. Pepper and chips. 🙂 Currently working on several things including a remix/arrangement, some music for a webseries, sound design for a new 2D fighting game, sound design for a new social app and some music for an upcoming game trailer. Hanging out with my wife, snacking on chips and Dr. Pepper always help make a late night in the studio go by faster! Need audio? Reach out! I’ve still got some spots available!