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(Composing Music for Video Games) Course Syllabus (Gerard Marino)


(Composing Music for Video Games) Course Syllabus (Gerard Marino) 1" " COURSE'SYLLABUS ' ' Course'#''X '478.52




Course'#''X'478.52' Discipline:'Music'









Course Description

Through weekly writing assignments, lectures and audio-visual demonstrations, composers gain an understanding of the composition techniques, organization, and delivery formats unique to the video game industry. Topics include in-game versus cinematic scoring; budgeting and project management; contracts; technology tools for asset creation and processing; music engines and compositional techniques specific to video game music; electronic music creation versus using live musicians; mixing; composing for different game genres and audio formats, delivery of assets for different console formats such as Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and handheld devices (PSP, Nintendo DS). Weekly composition assignments focus on writing original adaptive music similar to works created for current games.

Prerequisite: Some composition background. Since outside composition projects are assigned, students must create final mixes outside of class with their own composition tools such as: Pro Tools, Logic, Digital Performer, Cubase SX, Nuendo, Sonar, Live, or Reason. Enrollment limited; early enrollment advised. Internet access required to retrieve course materials.

(Composing Music for Video Games) Course Syllabus (Gerard Marino)



Instructor Gerard Marino

WELCOME to Composing Music for Videogames

This class is an intense, hands-on workshop on composing music for videogames. We will break down the basics of music composition into usable cells and then apply those elements in various ways to create common forms of adaptive videogame music. Entry into and continuing to prosper in the game industry will be discussed. We will have a few guest speakers from both music and developm ent sides of the game industry and will take at least one field trip to a composer studio or recording session.

Gerard K. Marino moved to Los Angeles in 1999 to seek a career in writing music for picture. Six years later the Los Angeles Philharmonic was performing his music at the Hollywood Bowl.

He is most noted as the principal composer of Sony Playstation’s GOD OF WAR series of games, the first of which won the Interactive Academy Award for Best Score, as well as the Game Audio Network Guild’s “Music Of The Year” Award. Marino’s orchestral suite of his GOD OF WAR themes has been performed live by world class orchestras to sold-out crowds on 6 continents including the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center. One of his songs, THE END BEGINS (TO ROCK), is the most downloaded song for GUITAR HERO III on the Playstation Network. He has also contributed music to such game titles as THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN, SPIDERMAN:EDGE OF TIME, DC UNIVERSE ONLINE, THE AGENCY, FANTASTIC 4, THE PUNISHER, and 187: RIDE OR DIE. He has scored several commercials, including spots for the NBC 2006 Winter Olympics, DTS, State Farm Auto and Life, and Dannon Yogurt. His music can be heard in countless theatrical motion picture trailers including Hellboy 2, I Am Legend, Leatherheads, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At Worlds End, Superman Returns, The Grudge I and II, Ice Age II, and Terminator 3. He has scored 7 feature films and has also contributed music to television programs, including the CW’s SUPERNATURAL and USA’s THREE WISE GUYS.

Gerard Marino mobile: 310-386-4434 email:

(Composing Music for Video Games) Course Syllabus (Gerard Marino)


Course Grading Policies

Grading: 720 points possible for all course components

Grades are assigned based on your ability to demonstrate understanding of the techniques, material, and concepts presented in this course.

  • 1. Assignments: 50 points for each of 7 assignments; total 350 points.

  • 2. Participation: 10 points per class: 5 for showing up, 5 for participating, total 120 points.

  • 3. Final Project: 50 points for each of 5 components total 250 points.

Policies About Deadlines and Late Work:

This class is run as if it is a real world job. Absences for any reason will eliminate 5 points from that day’s participation total. Notification of an impending absence at least 24 hours previous will save 5 points of that day’s participation total. Deadlines are considered “hard”, meaning set in stone. All assignments must be completed and delivered for peer review at the following week’s class for the points to be credited to your point total. If you cant make the class, make sure your assignment does. Emergencies must be declared at least 24 hours in advance for consideration. The point value of the final project cues is assessed in part by those cues’ interchangeability with the previously written assignment cues. Therefore unexcused late assignment cues must still be turned in for their corresponding final project cues to receive full point credit.

Letter Grade" " " %"" " """"""""""" " A" " " (90/100%)" " B" " "
Grade" "
""""""""""" "





Information'about'Incompletes:"The"interim"grade"Incomplete"may"be"assigned"when"a"student's" work"is"of"passing"quality,"but"a"small'portion'of"the"course"requirements"is"incomplete"for"good" cause"(e.g."illness"or"other"serious"problem).""It"is"the"student’s"responsibility"to"discuss"with"the" instructor"the"possibility"of"receiving"an"“I”"grade"as"opposed"to"a"non /passing"grade.""The"student"is" entitled"to"replace"this"grade"by"a"passing"grade"and"to"receive"unit"credit"provided"they"complete" the"remaining"coursework"satisfactorily,"under"the"supervision"of"and"in"a"time"frame"determined"by" the"instructor"in"charge,"but"in"no"case"later"than"the"end"o f"the"next"academic"quarter.""At"that"time," the"Registrar"will"cause"all"remaining"Incompletes"to"lapse"to"the"grade""F".""Note:"Receiving"an"“I”" does"not"entitle"a"student"to"retake"all"or"any"part"of"the"course"at"a"later"date."

Student'Behavior"involving"cheating,"copying"other’s"work,"and"plagiarism"are"not"tolerated" and"will"result"in"disciplinary"action.""Students"are""responsible"for"being"familiar"with"the" information"on"Student"Conduct"in"the"General"Information"Section"of"the"UCLA"Extension"Catalog "or" on"the"website"at"'

(Composing Music for Video Games) Course Syllabus (Gerard Marino)


Week 1

Course Outline

Lecture: Introductions. In-game vs. Cinematic music. Challenge of making in- game feel cinematic. Artistcally substantial music vs fully adaptive music. Pitching for game music jobs. DNA of melodic writing. Importance of being social with devs, pubs, AND composers.

Assignment: Complete gear info sheet, Business card, pick pitch for game, write piano or guitar sketch 30 seconds or more, write email describing choices, prep live presentation of theme idea.

Week 2

Lecture: Common game music terms/definitions. Stems explained. 3 layer orchestration and arranging. Basic DAW setup tips for game scoring. Basic Mixing tips. Theme Idea reviews with memorable-ness assessment.

Assignment: Realize sketch in 3 layer orchestrated/arranged file, mix AND stems.

Week 3

Lecture: Energy/intensity levels of in game music. Fighting the loudness war. Music engine disparity. Looping basics. Naming conventions. Cue review.

Assignment: write :30 seamless looping ambient/suspense cue based on Main Theme.

Week 4

Lecture: Cue sheet disparity. Audio/music director disparity. Corporate culture disparity and dangers. More looping tips. Cue review.

Assignment: write :30 seamless looping med/hi combat cue based on Theme Idea.

Week 5

Lecture: Dealing with revisions. Introduction to vertical interactivity. Cue review.

Assignment: write :30 seamless looping boss battle cue based on Theme Idea and incorporating new Boss Theme.

Week 6

Lecture: Advanced vertical interactivity. Cue review.

Assignment: write :30 seamless looping lo/med combat cue with vertical interactivity

(Composing Music for Video Games) Course Syllabus (Gerard Marino)


Week 7

Lecture: Adaptive scoring with branching, stingers, and swells. Cue review.

Assignment: write :05ish Intro and Finisher stingers for all 3 combat tracks. Write 2 :05ish Success Stingers and 2 :05ish Fail Stingers based on Main Theme and interchangeable with all 3 combat tracks.

Week 8

Lecture: Mining approved compositions for new cue inspiration. Project scheduling. Cue review.

Assignment: Final Project! Write Secondary Theme and use as DNA for new set of in game cues to compliment cues from assignments 3 thru 7.

Week 9

Lecture: Breaking in to the game music biz. Guest speaker TBA. Secondary Theme review.

Week 10

Lecture: Staying in the game music biz. Guest speaker TBA. Boss Cue v2 Review.

Week 11

Lecture: Advanced mixing and mastering. Guest speaker TBA. Vertically Interactive Cue v2 Review.

Week 12

Lecture: Field trip to Gerard Marino writing studio. Combat v2 and Ambiant v2 cue review.