How to write a brief for a composer?

Are you a game developer seeking the perfect soundtrack for your game? The perfect soundtrack starts with a good briefing.

Think about it this way; someone wants a game developed and writes a briefing for you. In this brief the person tries to explain how the game needs to look and feel. They provide a list of elements that should be in the game and it’s your job to translate this into a fully developed game that respects your clients wishes.

In this blog we will explain how to communicate effectively with composers, so you can write comprehensive briefings that will ensure your creative vision can be translated into music.

The perfect brief for a perfect soundtrack

1. The Basics

Give a clear project overview. Paint a vivid picture of the world you’ve created, so the composer understands in what world the music will be heard. This includes:

  • The genre and general theme of the game
  • The setting of the game
  • The target audience of the game

If you have any visual examples, please include them! To read about your game is one thing, but to actually see it will give way more information than words could ever do. It’s easier to create music with a visual image provided than it is to imagine what the game would look like.

2. Three basic specifications

Don’t go into detail too much yet. The three basic specifications don’t give the composer the full scope of your idea, but will give him a frame to work in. The three basic specifications are:

  • The tempo of the music
  • The length of the track(s)
  • Should the track be loopable, does it need to fade-out or does it need a clear ending

3. Mood & atmosphere

Here you go into detail about the creative part. Tell the composer which elements the music should have, but what’s also important (maybe even more important); let the composer know which elements the music should NOT have if there are any. This ensures the composer won’t include elements that you absolutely do not want to hear. This should include:

  • What sound the music should have. Are you aiming for an epic orchestral score, a futuristic electronic sound, or something more subdued and atmospheric?
  • Instruments you would like to hear/not hear (if you don’t know, no problem!)
  • What emotions the music should provoke
  • How dynamic or static the soundtrack should be. It could be that you want multiple emotions in your soundtrack, with each segment changing, or that you want a more drone-like soundtrack that can be used for background music.

4. References

Perhaps this is the most important one. Of course you want a unique soundtrack that doesn’t sound like something you already know, but references will give the composer a better understanding of what you are looking for. A reference doesn’t mean the composer will copy/paste anything, it only means he will use the reference as a guide. Even if there is a particular part in a song or soundtrack that captures what you are trying to communicate, include it! A maximum of three references is enough.

5. Timeline & Deliverables

Last but not least, let the composer know the timeframe they will be working in and give a list of everything you need. This should include:

  • A timeline with clear deadlines
  • A list of deliverables. Be really specific in what you need, the worst thing that can happen is that the composer has checked all deliverables, but there are still things you need because you did not include them in the brief.

That’s it!

Communication is key

A brief shouldn’t be too long and usually fits on a single page. Be clear and specific and be sure to not over-explain. A good briefing is simply a guide for the composer to work with and the better the brief, the better the composer knows what it is you are looking for.

What’s also very important: write the brief in your own words and don’t worry about musical terminology! It is our job to translate your vision into music and if you describe it the best way you can with words you are comfortable with, the chances of us understanding your wishes are much bigger.

If you check all the boxes provided in this blog when writing a brief, the composer will have enough to work with. The first step to creating your perfect soundtrack is completed!