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nathan-madsen-composer-sound-designer-Cedar-Falls-IA

The Big Move to Cedar Falls, IA!

Back in Sept of this year, my family and I moved from Austin, TX up to Cedar Falls, IA so I could begin working for Scientific Games Interactive. For those not in the know, SGI (https://www.sginteractive.com/) is one of the largest and most successful virtual casino gaming companies in the world! Currently over 9,000 employees! I was honored to accept the position of Senior Composer/Sound Designer at this prestigious company. Making a big move across the country is always interesting and while we certainly miss our friends and family in Texas (as well as all of the BBQ and Tex-Mex) we’re loving life here in Cedar Falls! Nothing I’ve worked on has been released publicly yet but I’m eager to share some of the work I’ve been doing with SGI once it’s made live!

BTW, I’m still freelancing, so hit me up if you have a project that needs audio. Also stay tuned for some announcements of some of the side projects I’ve been working on lately! Happy holidays and Merry Christmas.

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A Tense Moment – 48 hour film project

48 hours to make a film?!

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.

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Of Love and Sorrow – Main Theme

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!

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It’s time for a divorce….

It’s not you, it’s me.

It’s time for a divorce… from your work. If you’re a freelancing or hired audio professional, that is. Too many times I’ve seen audio professionals, as well as folks in other disciplines, grow too attached to their work. This is a dangerous thing because it causes you to lose perspective and potentially over react when criticism/feedback is delivered. This can harm the collaborative effort which is vital to projects like films, video games and other multimedia. When we compose music or produce audio for a project, it’s NOT own our audio anymore. It belongs to the project.

It’s not about our personal feelings, tastes or bias.

It’s not about our own egos.

It’s not about our own preferred work flows.

It’s only about what content/methods would best serve the product.

I picked the title carefully because divorce is, from what I’ve been told, a very hard and personal thing to go through. Likewise, having your work criticized can be very painful and difficult. It can feel personal, even when it’s not meant to be. Divorce is also the act of detaching two things that were once very close to each other. When I’m doing work for a client or for an employer, I remind myself that I’m “divorced” from the audio. I put myself in a very different mindset than when I’m working on my own projects as a hobby. This enables me to better receive feedback from management and peers as well as objectivity look at my work and see how it’s lining up with the product’s designs and goals.

It takes practice.

This is a skill that can take some time to develop. My advice is to keep a cache of personal projects on the side where you can do whatever you wish, in whatever manner you wish to help satisfy that personal creativity. This way you can keep a part of “you” in your work and not feel like a drone and also be better prepped to fall in line with what your given roles are on a work-for-hire project or employer. Please notice what I’m not saying: I’m not telling you to sell yourself 100%. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be invested in work or be passionate about it. I’m not saying to give up your personal ideals or methods. That’s not healthy and odds are not why people hired you to make audio for them. They want YOU involved! But sometimes you do have to adapt and change your approach to better serve the project. If you’ve never been through honest feedback on your work, then I’d suggest putting your work online and letting folks from the professional audio realm review it. Many folks, myself included, will listen and gladly give our input. This works great because it’s not your friends or family listening and saying “sounds great!” even if it doesn’t. This is good, honest feedback from folks that should have the ears and skillsets to be able to distinguish what’s going great in your work and what could use some improvement.

Growing a thick skin.

My first real exposure to blunt, concise feedback was at FUNimation Entertainment, where I worked as a composer/sound designer in the Special Features/DVD dept. I would create the music and sound design, as well as edit and produce dialog from the show into a trailer for anime shows and films. We’re talking top tier anime work like Dragon Ball Z, Yu Gi Oh and such. Once the audio was done, I’d have a quick review with the brand manager, head of the video editors and sometimes even a VP of the company. Feedback was sometimes as brief as a few words:

“Love it!” “Doesn’t work.” “Hate it.” “Redo it.”

Then the folks would go back to their jobs and I’d be left making any needed fixes. That kind of environment forced me to grow a thick skin quickly. And you need a thick skin to be successful in this industry. It was at this job that I started the notion that any critiques were not personal in nature and were not directed at ME. They were directed at my work and how well it lined up with the product. This helped me better process and apply the feedback. In turn, this made me much better at my job.

Take a moment.

And the next time you feel yourself getting heated or protective of your work due to some criticisms, take a deep breath. This is creative work and therefore passions can play a large factor. Take a moment before responding and remind yourself – this is no longer YOUR audio. You’ve divorced yourself from it and instead, it’s the PROJECT’S audio. Do what’s best for the project. Hopefully everyone else on the team will be like minded and focused exclusively on what’s best for the project as well. Not always the case but one can hope!

Best of luck!

Bio:
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.

materia-album-cover

Materia: Final Fantasy VII Remixed

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this page! So here goes! I was extremely honored and humbled to be a part of Materia: Final Fantasy VII Remixed. This incredible album which features a staggaring 5+ hours of music by artists/composers/producers/musicians from all over the world! You can hear the track I arranged/produced below. Track credits:

iTunes: https://goo.gl/CioQUj
Loudr: https://goo.gl/xz6zY1
Spotify: https://goo.gl/WPXYSf
Official website: materiacollective.com/music/materia_…sy_vii_remixed

The approach was to combine Eric Satie’s Trois Gymnopedies No. 1 with You Can Hear the Cries of the Planet (a long time fav of my from the game).

Nathan Madsen – vocals, arrangement, production
Lauren Liebowitz – vocals
David Neale – guitar
Joanne Moo – harp
Doug Perry – vibes

I hope you enjoy it!

nathan-madsen-madsenstudios-denver-colorado-composer-sound-designer

A world….WITHOUT DONUTS?!?!

Terrifying. Truly!

Here’s a short snippet of music I wrote on spec for a horror film I was bidding on. Liked how it turned out so I thought I’d share it with you all. I hope you enjoy it! And should you need a composer or sound designer, I’m available!

nathan-madsen-madsenstudios-saxophones-denver-colorado-composer-sound-designer

Six Tips for Hiring a Live Musician

Looking for some tips for hiring a live musician? I can help! I’m lucky enough to get hired to play saxophone and/or piano quite often for clients. It’s a great way to keep my reading/playing chops up, earn a few extra bucks and get involved with new projects. Over the years I’ve noticed ways to make hiring a live musician more streamlined, for both the client and the player. Some of these are things I’ve done myself when hiring someone and other times it’s things I’ve seen others do when hiring me.

Here’s a quick-n-dirty list of those things:

1) Know the range of the instrument(s) in your music.

Sometimes I have to rewrite parts for people because they’re out of the range of my saxophone. I never like changing someone’s music, because that’s not my role as a hired player. I want to capture their music as closely as possible. Best way to avoid this is to do a little bit of study of whichever instrument(s) you plan to have recorded live. Check for things like standard range of the instrument and if it’s a transposing instrument or not. (I don’t mind transposing at all but not having to transpose a part does speed things up for me and the client!) Google instrument ranges or pick up a college orchestration book (The Art of Orchestration is an EXCELLENT resource for things like this!) More modern sample libraries can help but even then you want to know if you’re writing in the super-hero range or the more “normal” range of that instrument! If you gave a trumpet player nothing but super high Cs to play for a full hour, you’re gonna wear out that player much faster than if the part was using lower notes! It also comes down the ability of the musician you’ve hired!

Sub point: Consider delivering the parts a few days early so your musician can look it over. This way you can avoid any snags once in the studio, where every minute costs money!

2) Include an audio recording of the MIDI/sample mock up.

The problem with working with samples is sometimes the MIDI and the audio output don’t match up. Think of a sample that when cued, plays a whole note with a crescendo. The audio sounds like a long tone but the MIDI data shows a short note. This literally happened today with a saxophone recording I was doing. Thankfully, the client was smart enough to also include an audio recording of that MIDI, so I knew to hold out that note and crescendo. But without that audio file, I would have delivered a much different recording – only to the frustration of my client and would’ve had to re-record things to fix it. Re-recording things means more studio time and that means more cost to you, the client.

3) Make your parts “native” to the instrument you’re writing for.

I’m not really a guitarist so if I were writing a guitar part, I’d first check with some of my guitar playing friends to see if what I’m after is even possible on guitar. Is it idiomatic or does it conflict with how the instrument organically plays? Depending on the ability of the musician you’ve hired to record, this could possibly be an issue. As a saxophonist, I can play most things but there are certain regions of the horn where highly technical playing is more difficult for me than others. If you want the low Bb note (the lowest note on most saxophones) to be super duper soft and played as 16th notes repeatedly at a tempo of 190, that’s gonna be challenging! But move it up just one octave and I could play those 16th notes all day. Look for tiny compromises in your music where the musician can quickly and easily nail the part for you but still deliver the song/vision you’ve composed.

4) Musicians have to breathe too.

I’m guilty of this one myself! My track, The Market was written back in 2006 for a game that never came out. I designed the flute part to be an ostinato over much of the piece. While it sounded cool on my computer, it was KILLER on my live flute player once we had it recorded! Give your parts some life and flow by putting in spots where the player would rest or at least breathe. I’ve found it helpful to sing the part and mark where I need to breathe myself, then consider adding in a little lift in the rhythm or changing the music so it’s more singable. This could also change your piece’s structure and give it more direction, instead of rambling along.

5) Clean up your MIDI data.

If you choose to deliver MIDI as notation for your player, please clean it up to make it as easy to read as possible. Make sure measure numbers coincide with the master score you’ll be referencing in the control booth. (Again, this is a mistake I made once by having the score and part render out different regions, therefore the measure numbers didn’t match up!) Include rehearsal numbers or letters to help mark chunks of the piece. This is especially helpful when having your musician redo or start somewhere in the middle of the piece. Quantize your MIDI data so the rhythms are as readable as possible. This is especially true if you played the parts in yourself instead of point-n-click with a mouse. Put in dynamics, articulations and phrase markings (even by hand if needed!) to help translate as much of the performance as possible to your player.

6) Communicate!

Most musicians I know and work with really enjoy recording parts for composers. They want to help bring your music to life! Perhaps you don’t have or don’t know how to use Finale, Sibelius or Notion. That’s okay! Write in notes by hand to help communicate what you want out of the performance. Talk with the musician beforehand. Give references and ideas. In other words, you simply cannot over communicate… as long as you’re not conflicting yourself. 😛 During the recording session, be firm about what you want. Nothing is more confusing or frustrating than a wishy-washy client! You know this music better than anyone else in the room. Own it and let your musician know if things are not going in the right direction. Politely, of course. Having said that, also be open to your musician’s ideas as they’re the expert on that particular instrument. Strike a balance.

Summary

Hiring a live musician is one of the best ways to bring your music to life! Yes, amazing results can be achieved with modern virtual instrument libraries but a living, breathing human can bring so much more! Both in regards to playing as well as presenting new ideas for you music. “Have you considered this note instead of that note?” “What about a glissando up to this part?” “This part of the horn is more muffled, what if we took it up an octave?” And so on. Use these tips to help keep your recording session as efficient as possible. It will be mean less cost and stress for you and a more enjoyable process for everyone else involved!

Happy recording!

Bio:
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.

nathan-madsen-madsenstudios-denver-colorado-composer-sound-designer

Ninjatown’s “Death” Sounds

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of composing music, producing sound effects and creating voice overs for a cute game called Ninjatown: Trees of Doom! (Go get it, it’s FREE!) My wife was kind enough to play the ninja. You don’t really die in the game but we needed some funny sounds for when your turn is over. Check out what we came up with!

nathan-madsen-madsenstudios-austin-texas-composer-sound-designer

It matters…

I recently landed a new audio project, which is always a good thing! But what’s most interesting about this particular situation is the client talked to me about WHY I was picked, especially considering that some of the other candidates had way more experience than I did. Aside from the obivous things like matching style needs, scheduling, cost, etc, it came down to simple, common respect. Respect for the client hiring and respect for the application process itself. And, again, this is all according to what my client told me:

*One applicant was late to the interview and didn’t even apologize or awknowledge being late.

*One applicant came off as uninterested or somewhat distant/distracted during the interview (which was held via Skype).

*Another didn’t fit all of the requirements and wanted to bring in extra people adding to the costs, overall.

*Here’s one more from another interview experience I had years ago for an in-house position: The other applicant literally smelled like “old cheese.”

Interviewing can be a hard thing. It’s stressful! You’re on the spot and want to make a good impression. You might be nervous! I’ve heard tips on how to interview well most of my life but this recent experience reminded me that they actually DO apply! So don’t dismiss them!

*Be early to an interview.

*Be prepared.

*Be engaged. This is critical during phone or webcam interviews where it can become much easier to multi-task.

*Be yourself.

*Be presentable. Have good hygiene and take pride in your appearance!

You may or may not get the gig but don’t sabotage yourself by missing out on the easy things. Give yourself the best odds possible!

Good luck!

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Too Fat to Fly…

A few years ago Madsen Studios LLC was thrilled to provide original music for this cute game featuring Jay and Silent Bob. Are YOU too fat to fly?! 😛 Check out the in-game video below:

Bio:
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.