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Anyone who knows me knows that I’m passionate about food. Love the stuff. I like being around it, eating it, discussing it, smelling it and dreaming about it. Yes, I’ve had food dreams, what of it? Only in the last ten years or so, I’ve become more passionate about actually cooking food. Before that it was making meals as quickly and easily as possible…. or paying someone else to do that part for me. With much of the US huddled under snowing skies, including here in Austin, one of my favorite winter time meals comes to mind: stew.

What makes a great stew is the right ratio of ingredients, mixed together over the right amount of time. Stew, at least good stew, isn’t something you make super duper fast. So why am I writing about stew on my audio production page? It’s because of how often we, as composers and audio professionals, push audio content out the door SUPER fast. Sometimes this is out of necessity. Client calls and needs four cues by…. tomorrow morning. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. There’s definitely a skill and virtue to working fast and being able to just…. CREATE… without getting in the way of yourself. But there’s also a great deal of value to “living with something for a while.” “Letting it stew.” These are both phrases I’ve heard several audio directors use in the past.

We’ve all had moments of furious creation, where the art just flows out of us. It’s a great feeling and something that you should ALWAYS capitalize on! But for those more “regular” sessions where you’re not super inspired, I’ve found giving the audio some time to stew is useful and invigorating. Currently, I have two situations where I’ve had to let things “stew” longer than I normally would. One situation was recording several live musicians for a new track that still hasn’t been released yet. On top of that, I’m taking composition/production lessons (something I strongly urge everyone to do!) and I want to get some additional input before publishing the piece. As a result, I’ve lived with this piece much longer than normal for me. It’s made me re-evaluate and tweak certain parts of the work. Even my process and approach to that piece. All of this is making a strong impact. The other situation was for a HOG (hidden-object-game) that’s taking longer than the producer first thought it would (huge shocker there, I know!).

While letting something “stew” and “living it with” – you might find your ingredients were a bit off. Maybe your chorus is too weak? Maybe your voice leading is cluttered? Maybe your production is too static? Or maybe everything is just about perfect and you’ve confirmed it by letting your ears and mind rest before pushing the publish button. I’ve found that I do a lot of thinking about my music and audio outside of the studio. While I’m working out, running, doing chores or just watching TV. The problems I’m working out in the studio are always in the back of my mind. And often the solutions don’t come to me during my studio time. It reminds me of the quote from Hans Zimmer to his assistant about “working too fast” and missing some of the finer details.

Here’s what I’m NOT advocating: endlessly tweaking and “fixing” a piece. We’ve all been there. It can become an endless cycle. Eventually you do have to let go of your babies. And perhaps this article is coming about because so many of my clients, writing me today, want their audio done… yesterday. If not the day before. Everything’s a rush. But where possible, take it a bit slower when creating your audio. Consult an outside voice (see my previous entry “Letting Others In”) and when you’ve done a solid job of considering your work – release it to the world. Rest assured, young(er) composers, you get better and faster at creating good audio the longer you study it.

So how do you apply this in a real-life situation? Well, to be honest, it’s not always possible. But if you have a good relationship with a client, where they trust you, then you could say “hey, why don’t we try this out for a bit? If it works – great! If not, I’ll fix it.” It doesn’t always happen. Many of my clients need the audio as quickly as possible and don’t want to spend much time (and effort) implementing different options of audio content. They just want it to work. I don’t blame them for that. But if you get on with a project early enough or work with a client who does want to invest that time and energy into the project’s audio – seize that opportunity!

TL;DR – When and where possible, give yourself time to reflect on your audio work before rushing it out the door. The results might just surprise you.

Go make some noise.

 
I’m very pleased to share with you all the release trailer for Hot Tin Roof, developed by Glass Bottom Games! This trailer features one of the tracks I composed (with me on the sax) and the wonderful voice over work of Emma Messenger.

Enjoy!

A good friend and colleague of mine recently talked about the realization of not letting others in on some of his projects. He expressed how limiting it was to try and do everything by himself. Limiting to his passion and creativity on the project. Limiting to his approach. Limiting to the overall scope and impact of the project. This really struck a chord with me as I’ve recently pushed to do more collaborating in my own projects. In an industry that is so often one audio guy in front of a computer, bringing in people with differing, new approaches is not only freeing, it’s refreshing.

If you’ve composed for any amount of time, you’ve noticed that you develop ruts in the grass. I know I have. Same chord progressions. Same melodic patterns. Same approaches to composing a piece of music. Bringing in new people to help branch out exposes your work to new avenues. New opportunities. So, on your next project I’d challenge you to ask yourself – am I letting others in? Even to just evalute the mix and overall structure of the piece? To review the melody and offering up suggestions? I’ve been so pleasantly surprised and encouraged by sharing my work with others during the production process. It’s made me a better composer, better engineer and stronger musician.

In an industry where so many of us tend to hide away in our dark studios and crank away on our masteripieces, maybe we should do a bit more sharing? When it’s appropriate and not guarded by NDA, of course! So reach out to your friends and peers. Folks that play actual instruments (gasp!) and see how they can breathe life into your pieces. Make suggestions as to how your piece can be stronger. More emotional. For example, I’d written out a flute ostinato that worked well for the song but was very challenging for a live player to perform. My VST could handle it all day… but my VST also doesn’t have to breathe. We made it work in a recording studio environment but if I ever wanted to have that piece performed live, I’d need to rethink that part some.

Using live musicians or collaborating can also be more inspiring and much more affordable than you might first think! Consult with folks who are talented and knowledgible at production and mixing. Because even the best song can suck with terrible production. I completely realize you cannot, and most likely WILL NOT, collaborate on every piece you do. But challenging yourself with new approaches and ideas is always a good thing. Maybe you’ll use them or maybe you’ll confirm that your own approach is the best for a particular song. Either way, you’ll come out ahead for having passed your piece across some people you admire and respect.

My point? Music composition and production is a life long path. No one person can know everything. This industry is actually much smaller than first impressions and folks are willing to help out! Buy them a beer, coffee or do an exchange of services. When possible throw cash. Or just ask and show gratitude! It’s definitely worked for me and I think it would work for you as well. The more well versed you are, the better. It will never hurt you.

Happy composing!

Here’s the main theme to the 99 Dragons iOS app, Dragon Vita. I hope you enjoy it!

Sproggiwood is live on Steam RIGHT NOW! http://store.steampowered.com/app/311720/ Go check it out. I was honored to produce sound design for such a fun and unique game.

Thanks!

Nate

Here’s a “new” track. Rather, here’s a new take on an old track from 2006! I hired Jean Bolger to play the violin tracks and we recorded them at Mark Derryberry’s new studio, Derryberrys Recording Studio. I’ll be honest, the track is still evolving somewhat but this is very close to a finalized version and… honestly, I just wanted to get it out there!

What I’ve tried to convey with this track is a blending of mystery, wonder along with some element of danger or foreboding. You’re in this Lost Forest but you’re not quite sure it’s a good or bad thing yet. Currently, I’ve got three or four more tracks coming down the pipeline once I get all of the parts recorded, produced and mixed. Stay tuned!

Thanks!

Three new songs composed for the Antilia MMO. I hope you enjoy them!

You can stream or buy the full album with the links provided!

 
This track was written for Disney’s Threads of Mystery, a social, hidden object game on Facebook. Later I hired the amazing John Rodd to mix it. The track’s aim was to convey the magic, excitement and mystery of a movie set. I hope you enjoy it!

 
 
I was really thrilled to write music and produce sound design for this epic trailer. I mean, you’re riding and controlling dragons while fighting other players on dragons. It just doesn’t get much more epic than that! 😛 Check it out:

I also wrote all of the in-game music as well as the in-game sound design and most of the voice overs. I hope you enjoy it.

 
Hey ladies and gents,

I’ll be out and about all next week at GDC! Really excited to catch up with some old friends and make some new ones! If you’re going, let’s connect and hang out. If you’re lucky, I might even buy you a beer! If you’re really lucky, I might even give you a high five.

Cheers!

Nate