Most game development (game design, art, programming, etc.) can be done by one person with relatively little equipment: A game designer needs a pencil and paper, an artist Photoshop or Paint, a programmer a laptop and compiler.

Sound is different: External noises are a big problem, sound effects can't be made with instruments, and small mistakes easily produce disaster.

I can see how large companies with big studios and budgets do this.
How can I do this as a one-man indie?

Should I synthesize everything? Record sounds and buy some crazy program for editing them?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Music's easier than art. For music you can just dig through classical music to find something with the right mood and then mark it up in MIDI. For art you have to have at least a bit of talent. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Jan 17 '12 at 17:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ "You can just take software like Photoshop or Paint and you're an artist, a scanner and you're a sketcher, a compiler and you're a programmer." Yes, and you will suck at all of those as much as you would with a microphone trying to make sounds, or with a tracker trying to create music. Sound effects are no more special than art or code. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas Jan 18 '12 at 0:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Gtoknu: Photoshop isn't exactly free (unless you like copyright infringement), nor are scanners. And good programming tools aren't cheap either. Buying a decent microphone is no more costly than these. Making art and programming all require "secrets" of one form or another, things you can only learn by experience or from someone else. It's really no different from sound work. \$\endgroup\$ – Nicol Bolas Jan 18 '12 at 2:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterTaylor That's rather condescending to those who are good at music. Not sure if you were being sarcastic though. \$\endgroup\$ – Sidar Oct 19 '12 at 18:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sidar, I wasn't being sarcastic but I didn't mean to be condescending either. The point I was trying to make was that there is a large repository of music in the public domain, built up over centuries, which a one-man indie can use, so said one man doesn't need to be a musician. However, the visual art which has accumulated in the public domain over centuries is almost completely unsuitable for the indie game developer, so he does need to be able to create his own graphics. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Taylor Oct 19 '12 at 20:46

First, read these questions:

Second, there are so many musicians and sound designers of all skill levels (and expecting various degrees of compensation from free to standard rates) wanting to join on with a project. If you're having trouble finding somebody, you just need to find more internets. ModDB, GameDev.net, forums for specific engines/tools that have tried to form a general game development community. Seriously consider giving working with somebody a shot. You'll both learn a lot.

If you're wanting to be a one-man developer, then you can take a sound editor, microphone, and samples and synths, and now you're a sound guy. It's another art/craft to learn, no different in that regard to drawing/modeling/other-graphic-art, game design, and programming. Use the tools Valryon mentioned (SFXR and Audacity) to get started. Also look into:

  • Wavosaur - A freeware sound editor
  • Reaper - A very inexpensive DAW (digital audio workstation, used for producing music from audio recordings and midi) and Ardour, a FOSS alternative for Linux and OS X
  • KVRAudio.com for free basic VSTs (often playable directly in Reaper and other DAWs
  • Modplug, Renoise, SunVox, and Buzz are music trackers for old-school-style game music composition
  • Links for the lazy: Audacity and SFXR

For learning about sound, you should be aware of some of its physical properties and how we are able to digitally represent it.

To start making music, you should learn about music theory and how to produce music.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, i've studied music theory for like a semester in a specialized school three years ago, and dealt a lot with low level sound apis and dsp. But i still couldnt link the question to my knowledge xD \$\endgroup\$ – Gustavo Maciel Jan 17 '12 at 11:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for Modplug and Buzz references. Buzz has it's own Dev community and most of it is open source. Modplug has great support and was used on games like 7th Legion and Monster Truck Madness. \$\endgroup\$ – Chad Harrison Jan 17 '12 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, and I happen to one of those musician/programmer types that is interested in collaborations ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Chad Harrison Jan 17 '12 at 15:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "If you're having trouble finding somebody, you just need to find more internets." \$\endgroup\$ – API-Beast Oct 19 '12 at 18:14

There are many sound banks on the Internet providing sound effects or musics for games. It can be free or not, in all formats and quality you want. An example: Findsounds

You can mix those samples, or modify them to create new sounds. A fridge sound can be transformed in a spaceship laser sfx. Some softwares are quite easy to use to do that, such as Audacity.

If you are into retro/chiptune sound effects, there is an awesome software to make those kind of sfx : SFXR. You will spend some hours getting what you want but you can make everything with it.

Another solution is to record on your own. You need a mike and a lot of imagination (like this bread landing in the bath producing an octopuss being scratched sound...). But results may not be terrible.

Finally you can do all your sound effects with your mouth, the result may be.. unexpected!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer! I didnt know the SFXR software, kinda cool :D \$\endgroup\$ – Gustavo Maciel Jan 17 '12 at 10:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is actually an Air version of SFXR with slightly updated feature set called BFXR -- bfxr.net \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Burt-Brown Jan 17 '12 at 12:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ The first game I made I did all the sound effects with a cheap mic and my mouth. It was very amusing. \$\endgroup\$ – notlesh Jan 18 '12 at 1:37

As a one-man developer, I've got something quite interesting - I invested a few months into writing a piece of software which autonomously generates music. This doesn't work for everyone, of course, but it is really, really, helpful, since some music in the style of the game really helps me get into developing. If you're not a musician, then consider looking at other algorithmic composition programs.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Looks interesting, like writing a few samples and toeing all together. Care to share your software? \$\endgroup\$ – Gustavo Maciel Jan 18 '12 at 23:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would love to see this! \$\endgroup\$ – Todd Lehman Jan 19 '12 at 7:10

That's a really great question. I used to wonder the same thing which is one of the inspirations of my webpage: Game Creation Tools

Its lists a variety of DIY tools to help in the game creation process plus they are all free! (Including Texture creators, 3D modelling tools, sound effect generators, skybox creators and more.)

Now to answer your question there are quite a few tools (ALL FREE) out there that could help you including:

Pxtone-Another powerful Music creation program that comes with a free manual on HOW TO CREATE MUSIC for games. (You can find others at my Game Creation Tools page.)

Advice:Try free programs and see if you can make the sounds and music you need, then try free sound resources then try other more expensive avenues. Its easier that way and you will have a lesser headache when it comes to things like royalties and such.

(Sorry to sound a bit 'spammy')


I've been making music longer than I've been making games...But I just make all of my music and sound effects in Milky Tracker and FL Studio. That works for me since all I need are 8/16-bit style sound effects for my games.


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