Nov. 21st, 2013 – Jeklynn Heights Blogging

As some of you know, I’ve been blogging about my progress with the audio for Kenshi over the past few months.  Both the developer and gamers have enjoyed this so much, that I’ve decided to blog about a few other projects; even though they are in very different stages of development.  In comes Jeklynn Heights

Jeklynn Heights

I was originally hired to solely create the music for this wonderful dark fantasy MOBA all the way back in the Fall of 2011.  So needless to say, my Composition work (for the most part) is complete. However, I’d like to revisit those pieces & talk a bit about my favorite ones… perhaps sharing the inspiration behind the piece, how I created various motifs/musical ideas, and a bit of the feedback between myself and the Lead Designer.  Furthermore, as Beta nears I’ve more recently been asked to fulfill a Sound Design role.  So I’ll be sharing some of the unique SFX I’ve been creating for J.H. & my experiences with bringing a map to life in the Unreal editor (via sounds of course).

Thanks for reading & the first Jeklynn Heights Blog will be up shortly!

October 31st, 2013 – Kenshi Update – UI Sounds

Happy Halloween!  My beard has filled in pretty nicely as of late, so I’ll be using it in the costumes I’m planning… Viking, Mountain Man, etc.  I’ll try to remember to take a few pictures & update the blog with beard progress.

As for Kenshi, I’ve been working hard to provide another big update.  This time I’ve been tackling the realm of UI (User Interface) sounds.  I haven’t counted it all yet, but the total # is somewhere between 80 – 100 new sounds.  This covers everything from General Clicks/Pops, to Inventory management, & cycling through various Tabs/Options.  Needless to say there are a lot of things to click on in Kenshi & now there will be a lot of different sounds associated with those clicks.

I’ve also been tweaking the levels of all the audio & made a few revisions to sounds I was unhappy with before.  The Plate armor never sounded “right” to me in-game, so I’ve iterated a bit & created some sounds that work much better.  Now a group approaching in Plate will sound even more intimidating than the same group in another set of armor.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. I mentioned the “Alarm” idea (that many of you suggested) to Chris & he agreed that it was a good idea.  It needs to be coded first, but hopefully it’ll make its way in to a future build.

September 29th – Kenshi Audio Update – An Explanation of Our Music System

Hello Again!

As of late I’ve been busy creating and implementing a large chunk of SFX into Wwise so they may be plugged into Kenshi.  Everything from footsteps, to combat sounds, and even general UI “clicks”… I like to think it’s a general/broad sweep of the SFX needed for the game.

However, in my spare time I’ve created two videos detailing the thought process and ideas behind Kenshi’s music system.  The first demonstrates quite a few examples (captured in-game) & the 2nd (to be shared at a later time) is much longer, but goes into a lot more detail.  If you’d like to watch the first video, feel free to check it out here:


Some important bullet points about Kenshi’s Music System: 

*”Musical Indifference” – The world doesn’t care if you live or die & the music is a direct representation of the world.  It’ll never react to your actions in-game.

*The System consists of 3 different layers.  Bed, Frame, & Canopy.  You can think of it like this… Bed is the foundational layer, Frame is the stuff in the middle, & Canopy is the melody up top (although there are of course exceptions to this generalized description).

*The System creates its own soundtrack.  All of the musical parts are randomly chosen by the system to help build various musical tracks.  Sometimes it features 1 layer, while other times all 3 shall play simultaneously.  I’ve simply given it musical excerpts to use & basic instructions on the overall tempo.

Thanks for reading, I’ll post again as soon as the other video is ready & hope you enjoy the current one!

The Various Roles/Professionals Necessary to Bring Music to Life


  1. Music Programmer – If the Composer doesn’t directly enter in the notes of the Composition into his/her computer via Midi data, then a Music Programmer is necessary.  This role may be necessary anyway on larger projects with tight deadlines (even if the Composer enters in most of it him/herself).  The end product of this role is usually what the “Hiring Entity” will hear before it goes to be recorded live in a studio (if live recording is within in the budget).
  2. Lyricist – Not all Composers write lyrics and if your project is in need of Vocal music (more than Ooohs and Ahhs) then a Lyricist will be necessary.  Some Recording Artists (J) write their own lyrics, so this role may be covered by another professional.
  3. Orchestrator – This role is necessary for projects that need a lot of musical content created in a short amount of time, and when the music will be recorded live in a studio.  The Composer may only have time to write the basic Melody and Chord progression, so an Orchestrator is necessary to define the parts that are played by each instrument.  Orchestrators are traditionally only necessary when an Orchestra is involved, however this isn’t always the case as many Orchestrators are very versatile and musically intelligent people.  So their skill set can be applicable over a wide variety of instrument combinations.
  4. Music Preparation/Copyist – They provide any potential session musicians with the appropriate notation needed for recording the score.  Preparing sheet music can be a daunting and highly time consuming task, especially if an orchestra is involved.
  5. Proofreader – These professionals are necessary to make sure the parts are correct in the score and that the players are playing the correct notes during the recording session.  They can also point out how to record the written music more efficiently, as mentioned above.
  6. Producer – This role is necessary if the Composer is conducting at the recording session or purely for a “fresh set of ears” that can help make the performances more emotional and cohesive.  Sometimes a Composer has sat so long with a piece of music that it may be hard for him/her to hear something slightly different (perhaps something that makes the score sound better); a Producer can help here.
  7. Musician Contractor – This professional takes care of hiring all of the necessary Session Musicians for the recording session.  Larger scores may require a large number of session musicians and thus coordinating everyone’s schedules, staying within budget, booking the studio/engineers, working with Unions, etc. can be very time consuming.
  8. Conductor – Absolutely necessary if the Composer is going to be listening in the booth, perhaps taking on the role of Producer as well.  Although this role usually isn’t necessary if your musical score isn’t Orchestral.
  9. Session Musician – Necessary to bring the musical score to life and drive the emotion of the piece.  Sometimes only a single musician is needed, but other times 50, 70, or 100+ are necessary to capture the sound the “Hiring Entity” desires.
  10. Vocalist/Recording Artist – This is worth mentioning separate from a Session Musician as the vocal recording session can often be separate from the other musical instruments.  Furthermore there can be differences in payment rate and contract specifics (especially when it comes to crediting the vocalist for his/her performance).
  11. Instrument Tech – Where there are instruments, there is a need for an expert in their preparation and repair.
  12. Recording Engineer – These professionals are necessary to capture the performance of the session musicians during the recording session..  They need to be expertly familiar with the studio (gear, mics, software, etc.) and set it up in a way to efficiently/effectively record the Session Musician(s).
  13. Music Editor – This Role can be necessary for preparing the recording session (Usually in Pro Tools).  They will monitor the recording session, make any necessary adjustments, edit/clean up the recorded tracks, and label/organize everything for the Mixing Process.
  14. Mixing Engineer – This professional is especially important in modern musical styles that use anything outside of the recorded “acoustical” realm.  Production is a big part of the end product of those styles, however they are still an essential step in the Music Creation Process.  A few of their jobs are making sure all of the instruments are balanced in the song and letting important musical lines or soloists “shine” through the piece.
  15. Mastering Engineer – Necessary for balancing all of the tracks relative to one another for implementation into your project (and/or potentially the soundtrack as well).  The final touches/last layer of paint that makes it all “gel” together as a cohesive whole.
  16. **Composer Assistant – May be necessary for all of the other tasks the Composer would not have time for.  Answering Calls/Emails, booking the studio/musicians (if a Contractor isn’t involved), scheduling meetings, troubleshooting the Composer’s personal studio, Taking Notes at the Spotting Session, etc.
  17. **Music Supervisor – It is worth mentioning that a Music Supervisor may be a part of the process for some of the projects (especially Film/TV).  Although not directly hired by the Composer for the purpose of finishing a minute of music, it’s essential that the musical palette stay consistent across both the Original Score and Source/Licensed Music.

Short Interview with Orchestrator, Arranger, and Copyist, Jason Poss

Jason Poss IMDB

Q: Could you give us a brief overview of some of the tasks involved in your profession of preparing music for a recording session?

A: Music preparation is the work of creating printed music for a recording session. Usually the term is just used in reference to creating musician parts (music copying), but it also includes orchestration, arranging, printing and librarian services. Basically, music preparation begins when the composer releases the composition.

As an orchestrator, I take over when the composer completes the sketch of the composition either in a digital or a written form. It’s common today for composers to deliver a MIDI file and an audio file (MP3) of the music for orchestration. From there my job as an orchestrator is to assign the notes of the sketch to the proper instruments and make any necessary adjustments. My role is to use the live ensemble to realize the composer’s vision for the music.

There are things that work in a sequencer or when played at the piano that don’t translate well to other live instruments. As an orchestrator I have to be aware of these peculiarities and make sure that the music is written in a way that will enable the players to sound their best and facilitate a smooth recording. Additionally, composers often come to me for my ability to look at their composition and figure out how to give it a little extra spark. They expect me to be able to read between the lines of their composition and find those places where the orchestration can enrich the composition and take things to yet another level of emotionalism and excellence.

Once the orchestration is complete, individual musician parts must be created from the orchestrated score. Contrary to the marketing promises of notation software, this is not a simple one-click process. A professional music copyist pays careful attention to how the music is laid out on the page for the musician. Good copyists understand how make the written page look like it sounds to the player and lay out the page so that the eye can follow it smoothly. This makes sight-reading much easier, reduces errors in the session, and enables the players to focus more on interpretation than just trying to read all the notes.

I should also note that music proofreaders are essential in this process. Proofreading is often overlooked by amateur music copyists. Proofreaders check every note in every part against the score and may also recommend better enharmonic spellings (i.e. G-sharp vs A-flat), proper page turns, and ensure consistent labeling and notation across all parts. The keen eyes of a proofreader help eliminate potential problems long before they reach the session where they can cost money.

Once the parts have been created and proofed, they are printed on high-quality paper to reduce glare and make turning pages quieter. The pages are then bound into booklets for each musician. If there is more than one cue, all the booklets are collated for each musician by the music librarian. The music librarian then transports the music to the recording studio, makes sure every musician has the correct parts, and remains available at the session to make any changes, print new parts, or perform any other unforeseen on-site tasks.

Q: Why should either of the negotiating parties (Composer/Company) allot a portion of the Music budget to a professional Music Preparation company like Sarawak Songs?

A: Proper music preparation actually increases the value of the project in a few ways. First, good orchestration makes the music sound better, but it also enables the recording session to run smoothly. Poorly orchestrated music often requires more time in the studio for the musicians to get right because it is harder for them to play. That’s because you can end up with musical lines that aren’t idiomatic to the instrument, or require awkward techniques. Poor orchestration also requires more work on the part of the engineer to create a good balance. All this eats up precious time during a recording session. I’ve heard some engineers say that they feel a good mix starts with good orchestration. That definitely mirrors my experience.

Poor musician parts can drag a session down in a lot of unexpected ways. There are obvious things like frequent note errors that can grind a session to a halt, disrupt the creative flow, and waste studio time. But there are also subtle things that individually seem small yet have a cumulative effect. Poorly copied and printed parts can cause lackluster performances because the musicians are focusing more on reading the page than on giving their very best performance. Parts that aren’t copied well also don’t inspire confidence from the players. This can lead to a lot of unnecessary questions, which slow down things even more.

In many ways you can think of music preparation as insurance for a smooth recording session. Sure you can try to cut corners on it, but you may end up paying more in the long run when things don’t go as planned. I’ve seen more than one session bogged down because of poor music prep. It can make sessions run into costly overtime, require more time fixing problems at the mix, or just result in a performance that doesn’t live up to expectations. Sadly, people often blame the players or even the composer because they don’t have anyone in the room who understands that the real problem may lie in the music preparation. (This is also a reason why some composers have long relationships with certain orchestrators and music prep teams. They make the composer look and sound good to their clients!) 

Make sure music preparation is a part of the budget from the beginning. Otherwise you could end up wondering why things didn’t turn out as well as you expected at the end. If you’re going to spend money on the best studio, musicians, and engineer you can afford, you’ll want them to be able to give you their best work. Great music preparation ensures they’re able to do that.

Short Interview with Vocalist, Violinist, and Actress, Lucine Fyelon


Q: Could you tell us a little bit about your role as a session musician/vocalist?

A: My role as a session musician is to provide the best natural sounding music possible. I show up at the studio and am given a piece of music to play and sing. I usually never see the music beforehand and will need to learn it on the spot. However in some sessions no sheet music is provided, which requires improvisation skills. In this case I play by ear and improvise any style of music the producer asks me. I’ve been doing session work for many years now and each session has required a slightly different set of skills to use that day. During orchestra sessions I always listen to the overall sound in the room and try to play similarly to the other musicians so that we can accomplish the most cohesive sound possible. However if I’m in a studio by myself I put more emotion into the music and try to provide a sincere musical interpretation to get the best natural sound possible.

Q: Why should a Producer/Director/Composer Budget for a session musician/vocalist when so many other cheaper options are available? 

A: The answer is simple. A Producer/Director/Composer will almost never be able to make a raw highly emotive sound like a session musician can. Compositions and songs that are recorded purely with samples from libraries almost always sound unnatural and don’t speak to human ears. In all my solo sessions I put my own interpretation of music combined with the producer’s vision and input. This way we bring the music alive. A good professional musician will follow the details in the music and will also be able to play in many different styles. At the end of the day we all try to communicate through music and try to be as vulnerable in the studio as possible. A computer sound cannot be vulnerable. This is the reason producers/directors/composers hire me for studio work as a violinist and a vocalist.

Short Interview with Recording, Mixing, & Mastering Engineer, Les Brockmann


Q: Could you briefly give an overview of what tasks you perform as a Mixing Engineer?

A: The music recording/mixing engineer for a score is responsible for the technical and aesthetic details of the sound of the music, from initial recording of musicians to the final mix.

Before recording, the engineer will prepare computer files for every piece of music, including all blank tracks necessary, routing and setup for headphone mix and reverb, click track, video file synchronization, etc. The music engineer would also be responsible for session planning and setup details, and communicating them with a staff of a commercial studio or scoring stage if one is used. It’s critical to be completely set up and ready in advance of musician recording, for the best management of costs – - no one wants to pay for sitting around while the engineer gets his act together!

While recording, the engineer is responsible for choosing and managing microphones and microphone placement, preamps and other outboard gear, mixing console (“real” or within software) details such as levels, control room and headphone mixes, and (unless an assistant is provided) computer operation and file management. The engineer will keep the session moving forward, and help the composer manage the best possible recorded performances within the allotted time and budget. 

The final music mix includes editing and cleanup, routing all channels including “stems” mixing if applicable, EQ reverb panning and levels in order to make a finished polished music track that can be used in the final sound dubbing.

Q: Why do you believe it is essential to hire a Mixing and Mastering Engineer?

A: Consider the director of a film – - even though he or she may have some knowledge of camera operation, it would be foolish for the director to do the cinematographer’s job. So it is as well for the composer. A composer must be expert with melody, harmony, everything about musical instruments and their usage, and most importantly the creative decisions that make the score enhance the dramatic storytelling of the film.

An engineer spends his life and career thinking about music in a different way: about the sound quality and balances of a polished finished mix. Besides all the technical details and responsibilities, the most important skill of an experienced mixer is that of listening and knowing what a good score sounds like, and how the sound of the score can best contribute to the overall quality of the experience.

September 7th – Kenshi Audio Update – SFX & More…

Last post was all about our first session in the studio (which was a lot of fun!) & we now have around 40 minutes of music in Kenshi.  I’ll make sure to create a video demonstrating our Music System in the near future :)

Now it’s time to talk about SFX though.  A quick Q & A…

What SFX will you be tackling first?

The first priority is to knock out all of the basic character sounds.  So this means footsteps for different surfaces, the armor the character is wearing, and a good chunk of the necessary combat sounds.  Attacks, Impacts, etc.

What is the plan for future SFX?

First and foremost we want to get all of the 1st priority SFX working as intended, as there are many complex layers involved.  After that, I’ll probably start to focus on non-character specific sounds… perhaps ambient sounds or maybe crafting/building.

What SFX will be released in the next update?

That depends on a few different factors & I’m not sure what will make its way into the next update, but there will most definitely be audio!  I would expect the first priority SFX to be ready by then.

Thanks for reading!