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I'm not very good with music, so when the time comes I'll need help from a composer for my game. I'm unsure of how to actually work with one.

Despite my lack of musical understanding, I know what I like. I might listen to some music and think "Hey, this kind of music would be awesome to have in the epic chase scene near the end of the game, where our heroes just barely manage to escape!"

When I go to hire a composer to make music for my game, how much detail and reference music should I provide? Should I provide lots of long descriptions of what I'm after, lots of links to music that I think fits the theme? Or should I just let the composer play the silent game and work it out themselves?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I hope this is not deemed too broad, because it sure is an interesting question. \$\endgroup\$ – Quentin Dec 19 '17 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ As worded, this question invites a lot of opinion ("how would you prefer to work?"). Sometimes developers will want to set the tone, other times composers will want to. While who prefers what is a matter of opinion, the fact that decisions about tone will need to be made is matter of fact. I think by focusing on core process, we can keep this on-topic. \$\endgroup\$ – Pikalek Dec 19 '17 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes; removing the bits of the question about what one prefers is a good first step. I think the best way to make this objective and on-topic is to make it a question about the reference material itself. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Dec 19 '17 at 16:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I took a stab at it. \$\endgroup\$ – Josh Dec 19 '17 at 16:49
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I think it's going to vary from composer to composer really. And whether you are giving them wide creative freedom to compose, or are restricting them by asking for a very specific style or sound.

It's like asking a 3D artist to create something for you. You might be very vague and just say, "I want the content to convey the idea of great age and decay" and let them ask you questions back and try things out. Or you might say, "I want a style that is exactly like game X" and they will be more of a copier as opposed to originator of content.

If you're looking for a composer (as opposed to a copier), I would highly recommend you read some interviews with the Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory. In many interviews, he talks quite a bit about how he works with game developers.

Here are some links to interviews where he describes the process...

https://www.keengamer.com/article/17144_interview-with-gaming-composer-austin-wintory

https://www.polygon.com/features/2016/2/16/10970474/journey-live-austin-wintory-fifth-house-ensemble-kickstarter

https://popgeeks.net/award-winning-composer-austin-wintory-on-working-in-video-games-interview/

https://www.rollingstone.com/glixel/interviews/a-day-with-grammy-nominated-game-composer-austin-wintory-w471406

http://www.zam.com/article/1493/austin-wintory-on-composing-absolver-a-game-about-friendship-through-fighting

Again it may not be how everyone works, but should give you some good insights into the process as others have experienced it.

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I'd say that the answer to this evolves depending on where exactly you are in the game development process. If you're just starting out and are trying to figure out the mood and style of a game, perhaps you would spend more time allowing the composer to experiment, bouncing their music to inspire your concept artists' and writers' work and vice versa.

However, if you have a clear idea of the mood that you want in a game, it's better to be specific. However, I'd say try to avoid direct comparisons to other games, as then your music just ends up sounding like that other composer's and not your team's. What you come up with to fit your own unique world will end up being better if it matches your world and not someone else's. Give them concept art, bits of writing, etc. that define your world, then have them ask you questions. Each person's creative process is different, so some things will help one composer but not others.

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