Howdy! Thought I’d drop in and lay some updates on you cats.

The wedding went down without a hitch and my wife and I have been enjoying our new legitimate status for a little over a month now. Although our tans are now fading, our honeymoon to Hawaii was awesome. We spent a week in Maui and got to do lots of hiking and snorkeling, then went to the island of Kauai and got to see all the remote filming locations for Jurassic Park, and just generally explore a new place. We’d never been to Kauai, and it was fascinating to see how much one island could differ from another; it was way more wild and remote than Maui, which is more developed and crowded. People ask us which was our favorite, but it’s hard to say because they’re both great for different reasons.

So back in reality, I did have a chance to complete a couple projects in between the wedding and honeymoon. The new Wizard 101 world Khrysalis launched, so players got a chance to hear the music that I’d been working on for a bit. The storyline for the world blew me away, and I was inspired to do something a little different to differentiate the two cultures at war. The bad guys in this level are insects, so lots of dark buzzes, drones, clicking, and alien sounds contributed to what I wanted to be a claustrophobic, skin crawling score. I incorporated some minor electronic elements which is generally speaking not in the music style of the game thus far, but felt right to represent the alien threat of the insects.

I’ve been back for a couple weeks and am getting back in the swing of things just in time for everything to stop for the holidays! Although things do slow down at this time of year, I’ve had some pretty exciting conversations recently and next year should be starting with a bang. I got to chat with a super-talented friend from back in the day, and think we could be working together again! That’s got me pretty geeked as this guy has worked on some big titles, so I know whatever he’s doing is going to be great. I’m sure I’ll be gushing about the experience soon. (-:

I had a listener email me with some questions about how to make samples sound more real. The most important answer for me is to only use sounds that work for the part you’re writing. Just because a sample sounds great doesn’t mean it can do everything well. The typical example is brass sounds: a lot of them have this mushy, repetitive attack that does not work for anything but slow individual notes. When I dial up a sound, I usually play with it for a bit to see what sounds good on it and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to use a different sound for different sections of the same instrument.

Obviously, using the best sounds you can find/afford is helpful, but knowing how those sounds work in your mix is also integral. I have some great sounds I can only use by themselves because they’re either too big (take up too many frequencies) or too thin (don’t cut through other sounds.) Obviously, some EQ can fix these issues, but I’m usually looking to keep things simple so I can focus on the music.

Another strategy (which the listener identified) was layering, or using a couple sounds playing the same thing to create a more complex sound. This works really well with strings when you find a sound that does one thing well (say, the attack) and another that does something else well (say, the sustain.) I’ve also played live trumpet over top of a sampled brass patch to get a good section sound… live instruments obviously phrase things more naturally than samples. If you make it the most obvious voice, it can trick the ear into thinking the whole section is phrasing similarly.

And speaking of sounds, there are some great sales on sound libraries, so I think Santa might be loading up on some new inspiration over the next few weeks! I use alot of Cinesamples’ libraries for my brass and woodwind sounds, and now they have some great sounding percussion and string libraries available. Another company called Embertone has some smaller libraries with incredible legato technology that sounds amazingly real. It’s getting hard to spend money responsibly with all the great sounds available!

Hoping everyone’s having a good holiday season!