Absolute Beginner To Pro Video Game Composer Timeline
Updated: Jan 13
I have often thought, what would I do if I started again with no knowledge of music but knew I wanted to be a video game composer. The opportunities online in the early 2000's were very different back then and there was no real Indie game scene or Android and iPhones with masses of apps that need music, so I will make this timeline as if I were starting in the present day.
Year 0 - 1
In this first year I would concentrate on two things; Learning keyboard skills and writing lots of music using reference tracks. You don't need to be at grade 8 piano to write video game music, ideally you want to know your chords and scales so you can listen to reference tracks and work out what's going on. As a bonus, learning how to use the mod wheel to manipulate synth sounds and adjust the volume of orchestral patches will pay dividends in the future. In terms of composing, I would choose a simple DAW such as Garageband on the Mac and concentrate on listening to tracks you want to make and either copy them or use them as inspiration for original pieces. I will write in detail on using reference tracks in an upcome post.
Years 1 - 3
As soon as I had the basics of writing music down using reference tracks, I would setup profiles on freelance sites (Fiverr being the most popular) and social media sites. At this point in my career I would be setting prices low and focusing on getting experience and testimonies. Obviously you can raise prices as you get more reviews and experience, but we are setting the foundations here so it is not the main goal yet. Regarding social media, you want to be concentrating or sharing your journey and your progress to build an audience. This is, again, going to give you a solid foundation and allow you to gain a reputaion in your field. Once you're established, people will love coming back and seeing how you have developed, plus, even a modest audience will give you some leverage when negotiating jobs in the future.
I would also gradually upgrade my equipment over this time, upgrading Garageband to Logic Pro, getting relevant software plugins and getting good quality hardware such as the keyboard, headphones and speakers.
Year 4 and onwards
This will be the time you can really monotise your composing skills as you should have hundreds of jobs under your belt and have amassed a reasoable following on social media. You want to get away from the freelancing sites now and make your own website and start promoting this through your social media. Now you can set the prices at a professional rate (somewhere between $300 and $1000 per minute of music is a good target) and either learn to promote the site yourself, or partner up with someone to do this whilst you concentrate on the music.
Use all the testimonies you have received to promote yourself and make a showreel with all the best music you have made. Start paying freelancers to make graphics for you when needed and make an attractive video for your showreel. You can afford to start investing more in your equipment, maybe rent a place to work and quit your day job at this point.
Obviously the years I have put here are just a guide but I think they represent a good estimate for someone who is dedicated to pursuing this business, assuming they are putting in a couple of hours each day until they can afford to go full time.
If you are in the early stages of becoming a video game composer then stay tuned to this site and the YouTube channel to accelerate this process even more!