Music Contribution FAQ

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Revision as of 10:26, 24 February 2008 by Mesilliac (talk | contribs) (initial copy of West's FAQ from the forums)
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Please read the following carefully before submitting any music.

Originally copied from this forum post by West.

I want to make music for Wesnoth, what software do I need?

If you need to ask, you are probably not who we're looking for. As discouraging as that may sound, it's a practical issue. Starting out with sequencing -- let alone computer-based orchestration -- is a very time-consuming endeavor and we don't have time to hold your hand through it. That said, you are of course welcome to submit a piece or two once you're starting to get the hang of it all. From there, we can help you with tips and suggestions.

But to answer the question, this is what you'll need:

1. A DAW. Doesn't really matter which one as long as it supports MIDI, VST plugins, and is not pattern based. Popular ones are Cubase (Mac/Windows), Logic Studio (Mac), Sonar (Windows) and ProTools (Mac/Windows). Those are pro-grade applications and thus quite costly. REAPER (Mac/Windows) and FL Studio (Windows) are two more inexpensive alternatives. For Linux, options are more limited; Ardour is as of this writing the only program that offers professional audio features.

2. A good orchestral sample library and the know-how to make the most of it. It doesn't necessarily have to be a high-end library like VSL or EWQL Platinum -- you can get by with a more modest sample set as long as you can prove that you can make good music with it. Likewise, don't expect your composition to be automatically accepted just because you have good samples. What counts is how you use them, and the quality of the composition itself.

What kind of music are you looking for?

We are looking for orchestral music, i.e. a simulation of a contemporary large orchestra with strings, brass, winds and percussion. That means no synths, no loops, no drum kits, no electric guitars, nor any other pop/rock instruments. Ethnic instruments are fine if they fit the musical context and are used tastefully. Since BfW takes place in a world resembling medieval times, traditional music influences are encouraged. Pure classicism or experimental music are less desired, but it depends. If in doubt, listen to the music that is in the game and aim for something similar.

A good thing to keep in mind is that Wesnoth music is supposed to be a soundtrack, not just "background music". It is meant to enhance the gaming experience rather than just being an unobtrusive sonic backdrop. In other words, a repeating percussion pattern with some string pad chords and a flute melody on top will not be accepted. As a rule of thumb, the music should be interesting to listen to on its own.

How do I know if I'm skilled enough to contribute?

You don't have to be a music professor, but at the very least you need to be a reasonably competent musician with a will to learn. You also need a basic understanding of orchestral music and composition, not only so you can realise your musical ideas in an orchestral format, but also so we are able to communicate with you. If you're unsure if you're "good enough", just post a demo of your work and we'll have a listen to it and let you know what we think. Should you not feel comfortable with posting it publicly, it's perfectly fine to PM a music dev with a link to the demo. Though unrelated to musical skill, thick skin is also recommended, as you will recieve feedback that sometimes isn't really what you want to hear. See the next question.

I think my music is good, why are you being so harsh?

Most likely we aren't. Rather, you might have a problem with critique. Never forget that the main point here is making the game as good as possible. Everything else is secondary, including the pride of the contributors. If we deem that your music is not good enough or doesn't fit the game, you'll have to accept that. This is not a democracy. Do not waste your time and ours telling us that we're wrong, and why. We do our best to motivate our judgments and keep our criticism constructive, but we don't always have time to be highly diplomatic. So if something sounds a bit harsh, don't take it too personally.

However, even if your piece isn't up to mainline quality, there are probably UMC authors who'd be more than happy to use it.

Any requirements for the "end product"?

Your song should be downmixed as hot as possible without clipping. A mastering limiter should then be used to bring it up to roughly -0.2dB, while using as little compression as possible to preserve the dynamics of the piece. Finally, it should be encoded in ogg vorbis format. Use VBR somewhere around 160-192kbps, which is a good tradeoff between quality and filesize.

If you have no idea how to go about mastering your music, PM me and I will help you out. Do NOT, however, email me huge wave files. Use a free file upload service and send me a link instead. /West

Do you accept midi files?

No. All music contributions should be in ogg format. If you just want to post a demo of your work, mp3 is of course fine. Please use a fairly high bitrate though, as it is hard to judge the quality of your samples if the music is compressed to crap.

Do you accept music made from orchestral loops?

No. That is not orchestral music.

Do you accept renditions of classical pieces?

No. Our goal is to have a high quality game soundtrack with only original material.

I'm a musican, not an engineer -- can you help me make my piece sound better?

Sure. If we feel that your music has potential, we can offer some advice on getting the technical bits like effects, EQ, mixing and mastering right.

If you have any further questions or matters you'd like to discuss in private, PM me or hit me up on MSN/ICQ. Contact info is in my forum profile. /West