Monthly Archives: January 2013

Wednesday January 30th, 2013

What a day!

Today I had the opportunity to write some Big Band music (w/ different instrumentation), Arrange String Parts for a Ballade/Lullaby, and define a unique palette for a new game I’m pitching on (hopefully I’ll be able to talk about this more in the future if all goes well).

I also worked on a few different articles.  The “Cities of Legend” Postmortem’ish article for Shockwave-Sound is coming along nicely & I’m hoping to have it finished by this week.  However, I’m also finishing up two articles on EVERYTHING that goes into a single minute of finished music (With cameos from some Colleagues). It may be useful to some Composers, but I’m mainly creating these for the other disciplines… as I’m pretty sure game designers, directors, producers, etc. aren’t exposed to this info as often as they should be (especially when attending university).

Skulls of the Shogun” is finally out & it looks/plays fantastic!  I didn’t work on this game, but some friends did & it’s well worth the investment.

I’m not working on this game either, but the Concept Art from Mojo Game Studios is too brilliant to pass up.  The Ranger in the Quarry is currently my desktop BG.

Until tomorrow…



Tuesday January 29, 2013


Just finished a new Music & Sound for Games (Reel).  It’s on the front page of my main site, but figured I’d post it here too.  Pretty fun to look back at the last couple of years working in game audio :)

Kole Audio Solutions – Music & Sound for Games

Jeklynn Heights, the awesome indie game I wrote Original Music for (and am currently doing Sound Design), just started a new Indiegogo Campaign.  Check it out & feel free to contribute if you’re so inclined!

Last but certainly not least, I’m about to head out to the release party for my friend Marie Lu’s, 2nd book (in the Legend Trilogy) “Prodigy.”  I had the pleasure of working with her (and Wicked Sweet Games) on the “Cities of Legend” social game.  Beyond playing the game, I’d highly recommending reading through the novels!

Digging through the Article Archives

Those of you who know me, understand that I like to write articles… a lot.  So, I’ve decided to repost all of my old articles (that aren’t site-exclusive) to this blog over the next couple months or so.  It’ll be quite a trip down memory lane.  Here is one my first, all the way from the ancient year of 2006!


Are You Unique?

By: Kole Hicks

Have you ever asked yourself or been asked by other people questions like these: “What does my music have that really makes it different and unique from anyone else’s?” or “What sets you apart from every other musician out there trying to make a name for themselves?” Well, if you are like me, then you have not only had these questions come up, but put much time and thought into them while trying to prove and understand what really separates you from everyone else.

However, to truly understand what we wish to learn, we must define its true meaning. In this case, Unique is the word we shall try to understand. The dictionary defines ‘unique’ as: “being the only one of its kind: without an equal or equivalent; unparalleled.” This article will go into depth on how to answer and approach these questions, as well as, how someone can help themselves find their own “uniqueness.”

First of all, let it be known that I am not one of those instructors who will downsize the importance of actual technical practice and tell you that all someone ever needs to learn is how to hold the guitar and have a good time. I am a strong believer that the more you learn and know, the greater your playing skills, composition abilities, and distinctiveness are going to be.

1. “How do I know if I am Unique or have my own sound?”

A brilliant musician, and mentor, Tom Hess, once told me that he first found out that he had his unique style when his other guitarist turned to him one day at practice and said, “Wow, you really have something special bro, no one sounds like you.”

Needless to say, when another musician notices that you have your own sound, then that is a definite sign of uniqueness. However, what about all the people who have never had anyone tell them that their sound is “different”? To this question, I say don’t worry.

First off, every single decision you make, or lick you play in life will write a completely unique chapter in the story of your life. No one else can copy that word for word. The hardships you had to go through or the decisions you have made not only form you as a person, but as an expressive musician and will further your creative abilities uniquely.

Next, if one truly worries about how unique or “different” they sound from another musician, then their head is in the wrong place! One must always remember that the true meaning of music is for self-expression. Worrying about somebody else’s’ playing will only hinder your own. I must point out though, that there is a big difference between wanting to learn and evolve as a musician and getting upset at sounding like a certain musician and then changing for that reason. Changing because some of your licks sound like another person’s is what will waste your time and only hinder your growth. Tom Hess, never worried about sounding different from everybody else, he just kept practicing, learning, and playing what he liked until the one day he was told that he had something “special.”

2. “What can I do to help develop my own sound?”

Now that you have learned to not worry if you currently sound cliche’ or not, I have some advice for you that I have learned and use in my own musical experience.

First of all, it is perfectly fine to reach outside of what you would normally play or hear in search of something new and exciting. It is called musical exploration and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to expand their musical mind. Go through many different genres of music, ranging from Hip Hop and Bluegrass to Classical and Metal, and listen to them all closely. Some of these musical genres you may be disgusted with and that is ok, because you have just eliminated a genre that you do not wish to add to your own personal style and have come that much closer to completing your goal of self realization and self-expression.

However, there will also be genres or parts of genres that you wish to play and learn more about. Studying these elements would be highly beneficial to the development of your unique style. Remember, some of the greatest musicians have listened to and been influenced by music that is much different than their own compositions. Steve Vai was first influenced to start playing music by the musical “West Side Story,” and anyone that listens to Vai’s music knows that they both sound completely different. I have found that improvisation within rhythms, progressions, and keys that are not that well known to you, can help develop that ‘unique’ sound for you.

For example, if you are used to and comfortable improvising in a 4/4 blues progression of: A7 – I7, E7 – V7, A7 – I7, then try something completely different than that. Perhaps try a 6/8 Classical progression of: A – I, Bm – ii, D – IV6, E – V, G#dim – vii*6, A – I. (Suggesting you have the technique and theory knowledge to play in this new progression.)

In conclusion, I want you all to remember two things from this article that will be highly beneficial throughout your musical career. Don’t worry about sounding different from someone else, but if you are on the path of self-expression, I advise you to open your mind and listen to music that you would normally never think about.

Sunday Jan 27th, 2013

Today it was a little bit chilly on the West Side (& now dark clouds have moved in… looking like a storm), but that’s hardly anything to complain about compared to other cities.  A good day overall!

The first half of my day was spent in a meeting with a student in San Francisco.  We’re currently working on his first album of “Night Music.”  A talented & humble guy who (although it’s not his profession… yet) pours his passion into his music.  I’m looking forward to helping him produce/arrange the tracks on this album.

I was also fortunate enough to try out a new board game with some new friends.  It’s a very heavy resource management, sci-fi, strategy game called “Twilight Imperium.”  It was most definitely overwhelming at first, but became quite fun as we started to become more familiar with the rules.  Looking forward to diving in at a later time, although we’d have to seriously set aside ~5 hours to finish a full game.

Last but not least I’ve started working on my “Cities of Legend” article for Shockwave-Sound.  Hoping to finish that up this week… should be fun digging through old notes :)


Saturday Jan. 26th, 2013

It was a beautiful day down here in Brentwood… 70s, clear sunny day (although it’s quite foggy right now).  Most of the day was spent chatting with my Artist buddy over a game we’re hoping to work on together.  We’re still in the Pre-production phase right now, but I’m hoping to solidify the GDD relatively soon so we can begin working on assets & implementing the foundation of the game mechanics.  It’s an interesting idea, but only time will tell if we can turn interesting in to fun!

Braindex, a game I did Sound Design for is doing very well at the top of the App Charts!  If you’re a fan of trivia (and/or celebrities) I’d highly recommend checking it out!

Planning on writing an article for Shockwave-Sound on my Game Music experiences with “Cities of Legend.”  Hoping to start writing that tomorrow & finish it up mid next week… I definitely learned a lot of interesting things which I’d like to share.

Last but not least (it’s hard to believe), but the Bag it! album has already been out for over a month!  We’re still looking into ways of having iTunes display the proper $ amount for the album; hoping to find a solution relatively soon.

CD Baby // iTunes 

Thanks for reading!


How to Hire an Audio Contractor for your Game

My name is Kole Hicks and by profession I’m a Freelance Composer and Sound Designer with a focus in Games (Kole Audio Solutions). My goal with writing this article is to share information gained from years of personal experience on how to best approach the subject of hiring an Audio Contractor. I hope to help both those who are working on their first game and are new to the process, along with those developers who have a bit more experience, but are looking to make the process a little easier.So… you’re at that point in developing your game where an impact sound could really help that melee hit feel satisfying and some triumphant orchestral music would really help the player feel like a hero. Great! Now What?

Well, you could always go to a library and pick up said Sounds and Music at a semi-decent quality level on the cheap. The quality varies greatly from library to library and often the highest quality Audio assets will cost a pretty penny more than it’s lower quality competitors. However, you understand that great custom Audio has a large role in immersion and the player’s enjoyment of your game, so it deserves the same investment that you’ve put into the other areas of development.

With checkbook in hand now you’re ready to go hire someone to create fantastic Audio for your game! … Or are you?

I. What to Have Prepared Before you Contact the Audio Contractor

Before you even start looking for someone who is capable of bringing your audio world to life, there are a few things to prepare that will help potential Audio Contractors create a more accurate quote for the work to be done.

First and foremost, play through the entirety of your game and create an Audio Asset list. Depending on your needs this could include Music, Sound Effects, Dialogue, etc. It’s also imperative to know if you’ll only be needing the Audio Contractor’s creative services, or if you’d prefer him/her to implement the audio as well (not all Audio Contractors do both).

Next, it’s not absolutely essential (as it depends on where you’re at in development when hiring), but a playable build of the game in some form is infinitely helpful to the potential Audio Contractor. After signing an NDA, some Audio Contractors may prefer playing through the game to not only get a feel for the mood/style, but to potentially augment the Audio Asset List with essential items that may have been missed.

It sounds like common sense, but the next thing to have prepared before you contact an Audio Contractor, is an idea of what your game world should sound like. You don’t have to go into very specific detail (in fact too much direction will limit the creativity of the Audio Contractor), but you should have a general idea of what your characters sound like, how the world should sound when the player is walking around in it, and what emotions the music should evoke. At some point it’s necessary to complete a “Style Guide” for the entirety of your game. While it’s not essential for the Audio Contractor to have this during the bidding process, it most certainly will help them get a clearer image of what you’re envisioning.

Last but certainly not least, formulate an accurate idea of your Audio budget. Understandably you’ll most likely keep this hidden from potential Audio Contractors during the bidding process for negotiating reasons, but it’s essential that you have an amount allotted for every section of Audio in your game. Furthermore, determine the amount of time you’d need the Audio completed in and how much space it can take up (essential for mobile games).

**I realize it may be useful to see some numbers on how much recording dialogue costs, a finished minute of music, etc. However, there are tons of variables to consider and these numbers can vary greatly from not only contractor to contractor, but region to region. Instead, perhaps in the future I’ll create an article detailing of all the elements involved in bringing a single sound effect, line of dialogue, or minute of music to life. That way you’ll be in a position of understanding how complicated (or simple) you’d prefer the process to be and thus control how much it would cost.

II. How to Find a Professional Audio Contractor

Now that you have a solid idea of what your game world will sound like, a shiny new Audio Asset List, an accurate idea of your Audio budget, and perhaps even a playable build of your game, it’s time to find your Audio Contractor!

So your buddy happens to play drums in this one punk rock band and you think to yourself “Wow, he’d be perfect to score my Game!” Well (assuming this drummer is also a competent Composer and familiar with recording) if your game requires one-shot drum heavy Punk-Rock… you could be right! If however your game requires dark Irish influenced orchestral music that’s very interactive, I’d recommend finding a professional. Where though?

Well, the first option is to ask your other Game dev. friends and colleagues, as they may have worked with someone who could fit the bill. Make sure to check out their website for the quality of their work and potentially their Linked In Profile for recommendations (seems to still be used frequently in the Game Industry).

Second, you could always try contacting an Audio Contractor that worked on one of your favorite games. Love the “Amazing Spider Man” or “God of War” music? If you’ve got the budget, then contact Gerard Marino directly and see if he’s interested. However, Audio Contractors of all sizes and shapes are usually credited somewhere in the game, so those with tighter “indie” budget restraints need not woe.

Next, you could always post a listing on a site like Gamasutra or perhaps on a forum that correlates with the engine you’re using (Unreal, Unity, etc.). However, I must warn you ahead of time though that you’ll receive quite a few submissions and the quality will vary greatly in the submissions you receive. So be ready to filter through a ton of e-mails to find the right Audio Contractor if you choose this option.

Last but not least, keep your eyes out for Articles like this one on various sites/blogs! There are a handful of us who really enjoy writing as well as creating Audio for Games, so feel free to add those people to your “list.” =D

III. How to Contact an Audio Contractor for a Quote/Bid

Now that you have a list of potential Audio Contractors and all the necessary materials prepped, it’s time to contact them for a Bid on your Game. What information should go into these e-mails though?

First, I would recommend e-mailing your potential contractors with a short summary of your game and it’s audio needs. Ask them if they may be interested in taking on the project and if they would have the time do so.

You’ll most likely hear back from these potential contractors with a “Yes/Yes,” so the next step should be a proper meeting discussing the direction of the game and it’s specific Audio needs. Most developers prefer these contractors sign an NDA before discussing anything in depth and most professional Audio Contractors are very used to this. Sending over a build of your game at this time is recommended (if you have one in a playable state).

After this meeting the process can go in a few different directions. If you feel confident enough in the Audio Contractor’s abilities to accurately create Audio for your game, then you’d supply him/her with the Asset List/Build/etc. and ask for a Quote on how much it would cost for the work to be completed. If however you’re not completely sold on their abilities, it’s not uncommon to ask for a short spec. demo from the Audio Contractor. Some contractors will be opposed to this (as they may have a lot on their plate and very little time), so offering a little compensation as a sign of respect for their time should solve that issue.

**An appropriate spec. demo varies based on many factors, but between 2 – 5 Sound Effects, 30s – 60s of Music, or a few lines of dialogue are usually acceptable.

IV. How to Choose Your Audio Contractor and Seal the Deal

You’re almost to the finish line! Let’s say three of your meetings went quite well and you’ve received each Quote from the potential contractors. Which one should you choose?

There are many reasons for choosing one contractor over another, but I recommend NOT having money be the deciding factor. Sure it’s a very important part of making your game, but there are often reasons to why one contractor would quote higher than another. Perhaps they have higher quality equipment/more schooling, include multiple revisions per asset in the price (useful for iterative teams), or are just very timely and professional. Over the years I’ve lost initial bids for projects purely because I quoted higher than some of my competitors only to have the developer come back at a later date (when deadlines are looming) asking if I’m still interested. In some instances the quality of the work they initially received from the other contractor was terrible, or perhaps it was just the lack of communication. Either way, professionalism goes a long way and justifies that old saying “You get what you pay for.”

So, maybe one of the contractors is really appealing to work with (especially if you loved their spec. demo), but his/her quote is higher than you budgeted for. Find out what elements are contributing to that Quote and even make a counter offer, but don’t just say “No” and choose the cheaper option if you really want to work with this contractor. The majority of us are open to negotiating terms and compensation.

Last but not least, you sign the Agreement and begin your journey working together… may it be a fantastic and memorable one (with perhaps many more to come in the future)!

**I could write forever on the specific conditions that make up a standard Music/Sound WFH or Licensing Agreement, but will save that for another article in the future. Until then, take comfort in the fact that most professional Audio Contractors have templates they work from. Or, if you have the money, attorneys will be involved at that point and they can worry about all of that stuff.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Best of luck with your game and your Audio Contractor hiring endeavors!

1st Post

Just a test to see if this is working…

Hello everyone,

This is the first post of my blog & as such it’ll serve to give a little background on why I’m doing this & what I hope to accomplish.
First & foremost I’m doing this to help keep a record of many of the things that happen to me, to others I know, I hear about, etc. over the course of a year.  Most of it may be mundane, but there may be a few exciting things along the way.  So, every night’ish I’ll try to create a brief entry describing what went on in my world that day.  This may include informative Game Audio tid bits, rants, or maybe even the occasional meme.
I hope to mainly “accomplish” 2 things with this blog…
1. Have a record of my daily tasks/thoughts, as it may be fun to go through at a later time.
2. Share these tasks/thoughts in the hope other colleagues find (at least some of the info) useful.