Music experimentation

I'm not much of a musician, but I'm trying to reflect on some musical themes for this competition.  A lot of it will depend on the game themes when voting comes around.  Finding inspiration is not easy, and I have no idea how professional composers do it.  Hopefully when pyweek starts I won't find myself so lost for ideas.

We've also got some ideas working for Sound Effects and some decent equipment to record it.  Last pyweek we had no SFX and it hurt our game.  This time one of our goals is to have SFX for all major actions.   If anyone knows of something good to sample for cartoony lightning or hissing steam, those are major missing areas for us.

ikanreed on 2010/08/06 15:25 of Team Nerd Paradise

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Steam: tea kettle / record it then adjust the pitch?
Lightning: tearing paper towels and screwing with the frequency/pitch?
You could try "Music Composition for Dummies" :-)

If you want to throw together some midi, I don't recommend fruityloops (is that right?) or anything of that style. Use something that uses a proper sheet music representation of the music.

For Unixes of all shapes and sizes (except Minix of course) there are at least three midi editors with those properties that are free software, for Windows they cost a fortune (seriously, I think they cost around $10 000).

If you can't find inspiration, there are a few general rules for how you can put chords together in a major scale:

I (the major chord whose root is the first tone of the scale) can appear anywhere
ii (the minor chord whose root is the second tone of the scale) appear before I, V and vii*
iii (you get the idea...) appear before I, ii and IV
IV appears before I, ii, iii, V, or vii*
V appears before I and vi
vi appears before i, ii, iii, IV, and V
vii* (the diminished chord whose root is the seventh tone of the scale) appear before I and iii.

Once you've built a short progression from that you can simply repeat it over and over (make sure it all ends with I though). Once you have a chord progression, it's a lot easier to through in the actual melody.

It won't give you anything spectacular, but it WILL sound allright!
Can't you just swipe the chord progression from Pachelbel's Canon in D like everyone else? :)
Well, yeah, but... uh...

By the way the hissing kettle sound can be made with a recorder (if you own one) just put your hand over the window and give it some air, it will sound just like a kettle, and guess what, you can easily vary the sound of the hiss (is that a word?) in such a way that it sounds like you've really recorded a kettle!

I recommend an alto recorder, but any size will do (I doubt it will sound good if you use a double contrabass recorder though).
I've got plenty of high quality recording/composition software.  I'd already considered the teapot solution for steam.  It'll need some tweaking to sound right.  You're right about the good old bookstore solution for learning how to compose properly.  I might make a side trip to a local bookstore today.
I'd just try to find a really talented musician/sound designer, nothing can replace years of experience. :)

About finding inspiration, I have to say that the better you get, the less you need ideas (as sad as it may sound). That's like building a musical vocabulary. I've taken part in a lot of one-hour-compos and the best guys can make great tunes every time.

It surprises me that you have such specific requirements as particular missing sound effects before the competition has begun. Do many other people plan our their PyWeek game in such detail before a theme has even been chosen?

I realise that this is always going to be a fuzzy boundary, it would be silly not to think *at all* about what sorts of games one would like to write - I myself have some vague ideas that I'd like to crowbar into the theme if I can. So I'm not criticizing here, I'm just curious about what other people do.

Best regards all round,
s / plan our / plan out
tartley: We generally come up with a broad plan for each of the five themes during the theme voting week, so we have a good idea where to start on day one. Before the themes come out, though, we generally just have some vague ideas like "something 3d" or "something with physics" or "a massively multiplayer online dating sim". You can probably tell by comparing these ideas to what we eventually come up with that things generally change for us quite considerably both once the themes are announced, and when we actually go to make a game. 

I can't imagine having an idea specific enough to require particular sound effects at this point. Like you, I don't mean to criticise, but it seems pretty bizarre to me that someone could have that much of a plan, without knowing the theme. That said, I can imagine that developing a library of generally useful sound effects would be quite a clever thing to do - I know I've spent hours during Pyweeks past clicking through endless collections of public domain sounds trying to find something appropriate.
We like to plan at team Nerd Paradise.  It's fun, and it's done with the understanding that all of it could go out the window with various themes.
Coolio. Thanks for the thoughts ikanreed (har har I just got your username) and Martin.
Update: I've picked up a book on music composition, and am plowing my way through it. It's actually helping a great deal.  Thanks to ardwen for the suggestion.  My personal goal with pyweek is to develop skills that are outside of what I do for work.