#1
As you guys know, I love video game music (especially JRPG) and would love to write some. I'm curious what similarities there are that make for good RPG music and what cliches exist here. My favorite is Yoko Shimomura but I'm including some others that I like. I know Japanese composers love pentatonics and pretty melodies but what else. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
"Battle Within Our Hearts" is a lovely mashup of "Battle for Everyone's Souls" (Pesona 3) and "No Way Out" (God Eater Burst).

"Battle With Magus" (Chrono Trigger).

"Lord of The Castle" (Kingdom Hearts RE Chain of Memories). A great and slightly underated KH boss theme.

"L'Impeto Oscuro" (Kingdom Hearts 3D).

"Hollow Bastion" (Kingdom Hearts 1). Famous stage theme from KH.

"Velvet Room" (Persona 3). Lovely stage theme from Persona 3 (I'm also an SMT fan).

"Kefka" theme (Final Fantasy 6). Here's a lovely motif with a circus feel.

That should be enough examples for now. Any tips?
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#3
Be Nobuo Uematsu.

Seriously though, he's the best video game music composer in history (an opinion not at all subjective and obviously based on fact) and the one I'd recommend you start listening to if you want to hear good JRPG music.

But as for tips, eh, you learn and write it like any other style of music, learn the songs you like and figure out how they work. There is no JRPG-exclusive theory. Why do you like those songs? Really think, what sounds, what melodies, what instruments do you like? Why?

Also, RPG soundtrack music is often based on easily recognizable themes and motifs that represent the characters or areas in the game. While talking about Dancing Mad V, (sadly) the only Nobuo Uematsu composition on your examples, you mention the motif. Well, that is actually a variation on Kefka's theme, that's faster and more chaotic. In a similar way, you must have noticed that almost all of the early final fantasy boss theme's are based around the same bassline (especially since you're a fan of Scott Pilgrim, who in the film boasts about having learned "the bassline from final fantasy"). That way, the moment the bass kicks in, a fan of the series instantly knows that shits going down.

The thing about good soundtrack music is that you can't compose it in a void. Soundtracks really only work as a whole, where the listener can hear the themes and motifs that are carried throughout the whole game (or a movie, or anything else) and tie it together.
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#4
it's all simple, highly loopable, and layered in a way that you can listen for 100+ hours and not get bored as long as you're doing whatever grindy stuff you're doing.

you'll find a lot of similar themes, too. lately i've been playing WoW again on and off and the current stormwind theme has a passage that's completely ripping off FF9, but i can never put my finger on it enough to actually know which track since that OST is like a million hours long.

it's a lot easier to write soundtracks with a video game or movie subject to soundtrack, btw. you need a context
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#5
Kev, I was actually thinking of adding "Birth of A God" (FF7) but thought I had enough examples as is. I love JRPG music mainly because that's my favorite type of video game and the genre was a big part of both my childhood and adulthood. I believe Scott Pilgrim's "bassline from final fantasy" was the Battle theme from Final Fantasy IV but it was probably used elsewhere (it's such a good bassline too). Nobuo Uematsu's definitely a game musical genius and has written many great pieces. I thought I used "Kefka" theme as an example (you know his motif).

Thanks everyone for the tips and I'd like to keep them coming. I'd love to someday write great JRPG music. I know the Japanese love pretty melodies and pentatonics. I'm also trying to make things more loopable and motif-laden but it's hard without getting too repetitive.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
Last edited by RonaldPoe at Nov 7, 2016,
#6
Quote by RonaldPoe
. I believe Scott Pilgrim's "bassline from final fantasy" was the Battle theme from Final Fantasy IV but it was probably used elsewhere (it's such a good bassline too)..


Yes, it's a staple of FF fight themes, even within the same game you can find it in both the standard battle theme and the boss battle theme. It's originally from the first Final Fantasy, and has appeared in numerous games since. I always thought that it was silly how Scott called it the bassline from FF IV, as the exact same line has been present in the games from the beginning. Even in songs like the standard battle theme from FF II, where there isn't a bassline, you can still hear the same motif being played by different instruments.

Quote by RonaldPoe
I thought I used "Kefka" theme as an example (you know his motif).


Ahem, my bad but if you do listen to Dancing Mad V, you'll see that it's a variation of the same theme.
Quote by Jet Penguin
Theory: Not rules, just tools.

Quote by Hail
*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#7
Listen to the music and you tell us. What are the chords?
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#8
Kev, I checked a few early FF battle themes and you're right about that riff (it's prevalent in many of them and Nobuo seems to have favored it early on). I think "Birth of A God" also has a rather nice bassline but agree that as a composition, it's overshadowed by "One Winged Angel". I wonder what a mixture of the two would sound like?

Jet, I thought you of all people would understand seeking out a style's theory and cliches (you do that very often and well with Jazz). JRPG style involves Japanese style melodies with Classical harmonies and/or orchestration and hints of Jazz (Yoko Shimomura is largely influenced by Jazz) and/or Rock music (Nobuo Uematsu is a big fan of Rock music including Led Zeppelin). I'd like to understand Japanese melodic style and gaming music.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#9
Honestly, if you want to write stuff like this:
a) Analyse the hell out of it
b) listen to an insane amount of it. Do it actively and passively
c) just start humming stuff while you have your phone recorder on when doing the washing etc.
d) transcribe and refine
e) think about where your melody or counter melody would fit contextually
f) harmonise + rhythm
g) refine until you get a motif
h) from here is where you just do insane amounts of variations, transformations, reharms, minor or major (if it's in a major key, you rewrite it in minor) etc. The key is to just do a whole bunch of versions of the motif. Now you should hopefully have some material to play with.

It's not what I do anymore, but this method worked fine back when I didn't know anything 8 or 9 years ago.
#10
Sorry for the late reply and minor bump, but I find this topic useful. I love JRPG music and would also like to know more about Japanese melodic tendencies. If any more help comes, I'd appreciate it but if not, I'm fine. I'm just going to keep remixing, writing electronic music (based on games and anime), and practice bass and guitar.

Here's an attempt at RPG music I did this weekend. It's a theme for both Marluxia (Kingdom Hearts COM) and to a lesser extent, General Grievous (Star Wars). I usually make my own motifs when writing music but I occasionally use bits of existing motifs (depending on the character). Tell me what you think (I've gotten a little less repetitive over time).
https://soundcloud.com/dark-ronald-poe/general-flowers-demo
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#11
I think re-arranging some songs can also help if you want to understand how they are constructed and at the same time create your own voice.
#12
I'm sure you have a good sense of melody from actively listening to and making/remixing your own JRPG-style tracks.

However, I would like to say that in general, but especially JRPGs, mostly memorable and/or climactic tracks have the impact they have because of what they add to on top of what they are. If you take a listen to character themes, usually what they try to do is create a sense of a character's personality or story. Same with how there's town themes, boss themes, over world themes, etc., that try to create an atmosphere, or create tension/resolution.

I won't get in to what tracks may have that impact. I'm sure you have your own tracks that come to mind when thinking of memorable tracks and themes. Try to look into how a piece of music reflects a memorable moment/character. I think it may be something that you could apply to both remixes and original work.
Last edited by SombraDLG at Nov 15, 2016,
#13
Thanks everyone for tips. I have a unique style and hope to continue with electronic music and bass. More tips would be appreciated but for now, I'm fine. Have a nice day.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).