Creating 8-Bit Music for Video Games | Misici | Skillshare

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Creating 8-Bit Music for Video Games

teacher avatar Misici, Music Composer & Producer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Our Scoring Goals


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Experimenting with Melody


    • 5.

      Expanding the Melody


    • 6.

      Taking Risks & Making Chords


    • 7.

      Putting It All Together


    • 8.

      The Journey Isn't Over


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About This Class

Are you a lover of 8-bit music?

There's nothing quite so satisfying as playing old school games and listening to the incredible 8-bit soundtracks that were forged by composers with very limited software capabilities and storage space. 

This class is all about the discipline that went into creating some of our favourite soundtracks. This means only using 8-bit sounds for the entire song we compose, with no convenient extras of any kind added. 

For this class, I'll be using Ableton Live 11 with the plugin 'Magical 8-Bit' by YMCK. I'll be re-scoring the free indie video game demo 'Brave' developed by Smaex. 

If you'd like to follow along, you can download 'Magical 8-Bit' and install it into your DAW of choice. I hope you'll join me, I'd love to hear what you've created using the wonderful and instantly recognisable 8-Bit sound we all know and love. 

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image


Music Composer & Producer


Hi! I'm Jordan, I also go by Misici.

I'm a composer & producer from Australia, having studied music at the University of New England. I also teach music and performing arts from my base in Shanghai as well as in partnership with institutions in other cities on request.

I score projects on a freelance basis for animation, video games, and film. I also produce lofi and dance tracks for Spotify and YouTuber clients. I fell in love with music production while rocking out to the Doctor Who soundtrack in my car with my best friend as a teen. Since then I've been obsessed with finding and creating the perfect leitmotif.

My favourite style of class is short, sharp, and focused on creating and refining a single track that's applicable for a focused purpose. I don'... See full profile

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1. Intro: There was once a time, not so long ago, that 8-bit music was the only music available. If you wanted to score a video game. Back then, composers were scoring the music within the software that was used to develop the video game. As you can imagine, very little of the software was dedicated for music. And as a result, these composers were often working just within one octave or not even that. They might only have five nodes from within the C major scale to work with five whole notes, and that's it. So today, I want to recreate 8-bit music. I don't want to create it within video games software, although that would be the most authentic way to do it, I'm going to use Ableton Live, but to that end, I'm going to use a plugin called magical 8-bit. I'm also not going to stick to just one octave, but I will only stick to eight bits sounds for everything from percussion to the codes, to the melody, everything. If it's not available for eight bit, I'm not going to use it. No external drum kits. Nothin like you say, all the time people sneak in an extra things. Now, if it's not in magical 8-bit, why not going to use it? Today? We're going to score, we're going to rescale the video game brave, which is a procedural side-scrolling game that suits our needs. It just suits 8-bit music, so we're going to use it and we're gonna make our own soundtrack. My name is Jordan. I'm a composer, producer from Australia. And join me as we create 8-bit music, a style that was once a necessity and is now a luxury. It's now something that we make just for pleasure, just because we can and because it sounds great. So let's get started. 2. Our Scoring Goals: Hey, bit music has its roots in functionality. It was invented so that games could have music, but it's made entirely with Midea, which is a lot easier to store and transferable between software. And just relies on the sounds generated by the software itself. So adaptable for different software. It's, it's, it's the perfect music, functional, functionality wise. But in more recent days, it's become something that we can pose just because we enjoy the sound, just because we don't need it anymore. It doesn't mean it's still not a pleasure to listen to such incredible composers in the past. I've come up with such amazing music that were inspired and we want to make stuff ourselves. So today we're going to use the game brave and we're going to recompose a new soundtrack for it. It does have a soundtrack already, but that soundtrack is not a bit. So we're going to create It's very first eight per cent check. Well, we're going to keep in mind is that we need this soundtrack to stay simple enough that the player is focusing on the game. With these game soundtracks. What matters more than the ongoing score? What matters more is sort of turning point moments, how the music develops at certain turning points in the game. We're about to have a look at the game and you're going to notice there's a Start screen and then it's the first time the player can move. And then it's the first time the player can talk to someone. And then it's the first time the player swings their sword in the tutorial area. And then it's when they go into the initial level and then when they're fighting their first real bad guys. Key moments that the school needs to highlight. It's important that we create a melody that's as simple as we can make it so that we can raise score the same melody in future levels in different ways. So if you've ever played a curvy game, you'll know what I'm talking about, where that Kirby theme is racecourse, so that it sounds aquatic and an underwater level, so that it sounds frigid and a snow level. The melody can be developed and there can be other ones created and then re-introduced. But the best games bring melodies back in a way that's fresh and exciting. And the player can get attached to them because they've heard them so many times. I really love soundtracks like the Shovel Knight soundtrack, where you'll hear themes for Shovel Knight themes for the buses, and then Shovel Knight and the buses soundtracks will be combined during really epic moments. It's, it's beautiful, it's gorgeous. So today we're gonna get started just on a premolar preliminary, on an early soundtrack for the game. Something that the game can suddenly that the composer could, could use to make the rest of the game with, we'll start with an early piece that is sort of a theme for the character and a theme for the game. That starts bright and cheerful, compels the player to keep going, compels the person to play more, and to keep exploring and to feel excited about the game. And then from there, it can be built and get more complex as the game goes on while bearing in mind, it's all about those pivotal moments, and it's about safe staying simple enough that the player isn't distracted from what's going on, on this, on this screen. People like me, I will be distracted by even simple music because I will watch a movie and play a game for the music. But for the average person, they should feel completely undistracted. They should feel completely within the game. So that's the goal that we need to achieve. Alright, so let's turn to our software and get started. 3. Percussion: Alright, let's get to work. So here we have video game that we are scoring today. This is a procedurally generated indie game called brave, and it already has a soundtrack, of course, but it is not an eight bit soundtrack. It looks like it would suit a bit really well. But they didn't go that route. We're going to go that route for them. So it's a general side-scrolling action RPG. Okay, cool. Tutorial combat. I like that. We have that title sequence in the beginning that we can use to set up a theme right here. Establish our sound before being taken into the world. We have our character. So we can have a simple melody that builds as the adventure unfolds with a bit, we really want a distinct melody that's simple, easy-to-follow, easy to remember, then is also something that can be adapted for other levels. So the same character goes underground or goes in the water. We can just retool the theme for what we need. So I like to start with percussion with whenever I'm doing stuff like eight bit. But also if I do like household Lo-Fi, I'm using magical eight bit. So this is pretty great. We've got three options. You've got square, triangle and noise. Square is the one that I usually use for melodies. Triangle I hear is good for base. Oh yeah, for base, but I will use it for the base. Um, it's not super easy to tell the difference. This is what it sounds like. A sort of sounds like a pretty, pretty much what you'd expect. And then of course you can play with the attack, decay, sustain, and release to get a difference on the sound that you want. Attack, of course, influences the sound as it's beginning, as the note is ramping up, the decay. Of course, on the other end, it affects the end of the node as the node is ending. So that there is a really fun to play with. And of course, the sustain. This is stain. And the release out what we're going to play with for our percussion sounds, attack, and decay. We're not going to need it all. But let me show you what we're going to need. Square and triangle of what I've already talked about. Noise is what we need. Noise, sounds useless. It's what you hear. It's a static from a TV. Basically. It's that horrible sound. We're going to use that horrible sound for good, for our percussion section. With the sustain and release, we can play with it and get a drum sound out of it. I think there's the composers who originally worked with this white noise sound to make artificial percussion, I think are truly admirable. See how that kind of sounds like a drum already. That's great. That's great. It sounds like I'm hitting a drum. It's not white noise sound. Okay, so let's space this out. That's great. Great. Great. I just wanted, just want that even sound. Awesome. Alright, so we've got our basic drumbeat. Alright, I'm going to add a base to it down here. Sound familiar with memories. Great. Excellent. Then of course, hi-hats, right? I've had, I think, two octaves higher. How are we making music out of this horrible white noise? It's pretty amazing. Yeah. That's because I just didn't grab that firstNode. That's why. How does that sound? I think it shouldn't start that complicated, but it could become that complicated. Maybe. Maybe I'll copy and paste it and then the first one, simplify it. Maybe take out the high ads that off. See it without it. It sounds weird. Can always can always adjust it later. Maybe it's too low. I did that helped. Or maybe the germ could stay alone or the base. It's still are definitely needs a baseline. Definitely. Alright, so we can adjust it later if we need. But that is a good start for our percussion. 4. Experimenting with Melody: Melody, let's get a melody going. Okay, so put our plugging back in. We're just going to use the flag in early square, some attacks and to k. But we can play with that. Alright. Turn this back on. It's pretty cool. That might come in handy at some point. Okay. So as always, are going to just experiment a bit and then try to come up with a melody that is something we can build on and something we can base this space, the entire game on once the melody is made, once the rest is just derivatives of it. So this is the hardest work right here. This is, this is the most work you'll put him. And it's entirely off of feel. No. Now it's tough. You know, we're trying to get that adventure feel, that side-scrolling off on a quest, that inspirational get going. That's what we want to emulate. Maybe I'll put the Germans arm. Germans really helped. Give me a feel. All right, Let's, let's work on that. I see that name wasn't maybe I can harmonize it. All right, let's see that. All right, We're off to a great start. We just need to build on the melody from yeah. 5. Expanding the Melody: Alright, so here's our melody. Let's, let's see if we can't do what we did before. But to greater effect, they buy before. I mean, when we tried to put a third night above that one node and the melody and Asana kinda weird. Sounds. Maybe underneath. That sounds weird. Alright, I know what to do. Let's create another line for it. And just change some of the presets. Give it more attack. She's like that. Pretty distracting me. I kinda like that. Shown that insurer. How many is too aggressive? I don't think the harmony and the melody count. Repeat that, Ellie, we need a continuation of this melody. Maybe you can, maybe I continue it afterwards. Final note. 6. Taking Risks & Making Chords: Alright, So I did end up making a little change with this. I didn't have it go up. I just kinda resolved that a little bit. That's soya ended up going. So I think I should repeat it and then give it the treatment of this pot. By the way, I lengthened the harmony a little bit so that it carried over into the secondary melody. And then that makes the transition a little bit better. I guess the same treatment. Harmonize it. I think what I did with the other arm was just make a little bit less chain like denotes change less frequently, have them carry longer. Maybe I'll be a resolution or transition. Let's see how it looks with the with the game. Oh, yeah. Also look new drum line. I just just simplify that and just cut out a lot of it. Copy that across. All right, cool. Let's say that what the game, right now, my favorite thing in a bit is when the melody is combined. So I'm dying to see if it'll work here. I'll bring back this germ line. Bringing back this malady. Like we didn't new track. Let's pull it down. Harmonizing one. Horrible, not sure about that, come back to that. But more importantly for now is a baseline or courts. Let's see if I can just do some some regular codes. Some triads. Oh, I didn't give out any instruments. All right, Where do we go from head? This first-degree triad? Gosh, I'm gonna give it a lower root night as well, which I will carry across to here. All right, Great. Great. Alright, that's okay. That's a cool chord progression. Can start with that. 7. Putting It All Together: So I've made a couple of changes. I've pulled things back. So I've got it said that the cords, which I've just copied out a few times, the chords and the drum line, what starts first? So I've got the drum line with the chords, which then moves to the germ line with the basic melody with the codes than the germ line with the melody again, but this time with the high hats codes, of course. Then we've got the melody again with the drums, with the hi-hat, with the codes. Here's the harmony line that we made, but I deleted it. And what I'm thinking is some kind of base line, some kind of baseline instead of a harmony. Well, it's still a hot, it's still a harmony, but something that complements what we're listening to, but isn't a direct what the other one was was the exact same thing, but a third apart. And I could just never get it so that I liked it. So this is what I'm gonna do instead. Let's quiet the other things. Groups. Maybe it's finally time to try that triangle. Oh, I see the merit. Now, what does that noise at the end of it? That's better. I might sound nice. Yeah, let's give it a try. Bringing everyone else back in. I had a ten down. I like it but I need to change the patch. Just repeat the patch. I liked that a lot. That will work out very nicely. Still extra long from my old experiment. Let's just meet, as I said to you, hi, Nice. That's messed up. Oh, that was my old experiment. Maybe the one without the high hats and then put the high hats back. Oh, yeah. I like not having anything else going and then putting everything back in. That could be cool. I want to create a bit of a lead in. Alright. It's, it's the precipice of music. It's, it's leading into music. That sounds wrong. I mean, like there's more to come is what it sounds like. It sounds like more is more is on its way. All right, let's see how it looks with the video. Alright, I think we definitely have the beginning of a game soundtrack. Absolutely. From here, we would expand our musical idea. The whole thing sounds like an insurer, which is great because it means from here, we can really go crazy and flesh out a melody that can keep the player's going through multiple levels. Absolutely, That's a first level sound. There we go. We've done it. 8. The Journey Isn't Over: There you have it. That's our 8-bit track of for the video game brave. It is just the beginning. It is an early theme that if I was to keep working on, I would develop further. I would try more ways of working harmonies and I would probably vary up the percussion. I would probably find more ways of sneaking in different drum cycles that could vary it up and vary up the pacing. Like put the melody into halftime, change up the drums, stuff like that. I would also get in a second melody to put over the primary melody and make it sound good. Make it sound extra compelling. But with a bit you don't want to over-complicate it. You want the player concentrating on the game and not the music. But you still need to make sure that it's compelling and that it's changing and that you can recycle it in future levels in a way that is not going to get bored. So it's quite a dense. I hope you had a great time. I hope that you've composed something that you're proud of and you can post it here on Skillshare and let us all see what you've created. So up to you. Thanks so much for joining me and have a look at the other Skillshare classes that I have posted and I will see you next time.