One of the best ways composers can add more realism to their pieces is with tempo changes. This is especially true when writing for orchestra, big band, jazz combos and even certain rock songs. In this video tutorial I discuss how and why I use tempo changes to help make a piece feel more organic. I also detail how tempo changes may differ from a solo performance versus a large ensemble. The example piece featured in this video is War Upon The Sea which you can hear in it’s entirety here: https://youtu.be/BGMoxGkBHYU.
Of course this approach won’t apply to every style of music or every song. Experiment and see how these kinds of edits can help strengthen your song. Go make your tracks more organic and leave more space for your listener’s emotions! Put in some tempo changes where they make musical sense. It can make such a difference – even small changes! I hope that you find the quick tutorial helpful and please feel free to leave comments and feedback. I enjoy reading them!
Should you need custom audio for your next project, let’s chat!
Nate is an established composer/sound designer, based in Cedar Falls, IA. 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
The Old Tree, a new track by Austin, TX based composer/sound designer Nathan Madsen.
Nature can be so beautiful, mysterious and enchanting. That’s what this short track is focused on. Outside of my studio and freelance work, as both a composer, sound designer and studio musician, I’ve been working on a few personal tracks. This song wasn’t written for anything in particular, just trying to capture a mood. As the music evolved, I started seeing an old tree in a dense forest. Perhaps this tree is magical? Who knows. In my mind’s eye, I could see how the sun beams would peek through and the deep grooves of its bark. The tree would seem to rise up forever and be older than time itself. Maybe I should cut back on the drugs while composing… 😛 I may come back and touch up on a few things but, overall, I’m happy with it. I hope you enjoy it!
Any comments are always welcomed and thanks for listening! This track is currently available for license.
Big announcement! Madsen Studios LLC and family are moving to beautiful Austin, TX! I’ve accepted an in-house position as a composer/sound designer for Bee Cave Games. Should be a lot of fun with plenty of BBQ and Tex Mex sprinkled in for extra flavor. My family and I will certainly miss Austin, TX. It’s a magnificent city and a wonderful place to call home. We’re trading out the pine trees and mountains for cacti and palm trees! As we get more settled in, I’ll be offering my services as a saxophonist and pianist as well as a private lessons teacher for the greater Austin area.
If you’re local, hit me up! If you’re not, let’s stay in touch!
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!
I stumbled across a cute (but silent) video on Vimeo the other day and thought it could really use some sound. So I reached out to the creators, Herzblut & Bock, and asked if they’d mind me adding in music and sound design. They kindly agreed and here’s the end result. If your project needs music or sound, just hit me up! Enjoy the video.