I’m an American composer based in Los Angeles who primarily writes for video games, film and TV. Credits include Mass Effect 1 and 2 (and 3 if you count reuse of my music there), Jade Empire, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and III, and many others. I just finished the soundtrack to a very cool Indy game called “Into the Stars” which comes out on March 4th! We are releasing a vinyl through iam8bit and I’m really proud of what we did with it. For any fans of RichaadEB (check him out on YouTube), known for his killer metal and guitar remixes, he contributed some guitar to the final track, “Titus Nova” which totally kicks ass. Looking forward to chatting with y’all!

Into the Stars: http://www.intothestarsgame.com

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jackwallmusic/sets/into-the-stars-original-soundtrack/s-8amug

Iam8bit Vinyl: http://store.iam8bit.com/products/into-the-stars-vinyl-soundtrack

Proof: http://i.imgur.com/0AT6jVl.jpg

Hey guys - thanks so much for the questions. Unfortunately, I have to go. I'm very sorry if I didn't get to your question. I really enjoyed what I did get to! Let's do this again soon! - Jack

Comments: 377 • Responses: 77  • Date: 

magician8272 karma

Are you working on music for Mass Effect: Andromeda?

jackwallmusic224 karma

Unfortunately, I will not be involved.

inspektor71119 karma

Unfortunate for you and for us (the fans) but in the end, EA gonna EA.

jackwallmusic183 karma


JimmyJango112 karma

How does the process of making music scores for games go? For example at Mass Effect, did they ask you to make a score based on game genre and setting or do they give you concept art for you to get the feel of the game? What I'm mean is where the main influence comes from when making music for a specific theme.

jackwallmusic363 karma

It's all over the map and really depends on the type of game. For Mass Effect, I would get video playthroughs of a level. We'd spot the level with the audio director at BioWare (that means we figure out where music should and shouldn't go) and then I would write generally to picture. For ME2, "Suicide Mission" was different. The game director asked me for an epic piece to be used at the end of the game and he wanted me to write that first. When the end game level was completed I just retooled that piece to fit. Probably one of the best game endings ever IMHO. And the music fit perfectly. I'm very proud of that one!

Cyber8589 karma

Why does the suicide mission music sound similar to the Doctor Who music?

jackwallmusic228 karma

Yeah I'm a little upset by that. They completely ripped that off. thanks for reminding me. I wanted to let the music director for EA know about that. It wasn't just close, it was a direct quote. I'm not sure why a composer would do that so intentionally. Of course you never know... there are only 12 notes.

aeiluindae18 karma

I'm somewhat convinced that it wasn't a deliberate rip-off. The chord progression and rhythm is something I'm sure I've heard elsewhere as well. One of the Skyrim boss themes hits a lot of the same notes in a very similar rhythm, for example. And there are some late 20th century marches for band that do very similar things. The shared bit between Suicide Mission and I am the Doctor also sounds really, really cool, so you can understand why they would have gone with it.

jackwallmusic55 karma

Yeah you can never be totally sure. But I was pretty surprised that even some of the orchestration was the same. Who knows?

CptFlyingToaster77 karma

Thanks for visiting! The final chapter of Mass Effect 2 was the finest movie, TV or game experience I've had, but it wouldn't have had nearly the same impact without your score. "End Run" and "Suicide Mission" give me goosebumps every time!

I was wondering, since you do both, how is composing for games different from composing for film?

jackwallmusic51 karma

Games are harder in that you have to imagine everything the player can do and write for all of it. But with games, you get a lot more time. Film/TV are linear so there's just a series of linear decisions. But on the flip side you get a whole lot less time. Both can be challenging but both are fun!

BigTall8161 karma

How much collaboration was there between yourself and Sam Hulick in Mass Effect 1? Was the work split between you or was there a lot of give and take with some of the songs?

Also, Vigil is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard. It sends a chill down my spine each and every time I hear it. Thank you.

jackwallmusic99 karma

Not a lot of collaboration between us really. We just sort of attacked different parts of the game at the same time and got the score done. I did get the tracks from "Uncharted Worlds" to do a quasi-remix of that for Mass Effect 2 which became "New Worlds". I love that piece that Sam wrote. Quick story - That piece was Sam's audition for the game. I actually won the audition and much later brought in Sam to help out. He ended up writing a few really important themes so I shared the credit with him. But I think I asked the game producers after hearing that piece, "Why did you hire me?" Lol Sam's a talented cat. I enjoyed working with him on it even though we didn't do much together. Vigil has it's own story. I wrote that one for the Prothean archives where they were all buried I think (it's been a while) on Ilos. Casey Hudson, the game director, made the decision to use that for the menu screen. I had no part in that but it was a great decision because it gave the game a whole other feel. Nice when that happens!

Surtur0141 karma

Hi Jack,

What do you consider to be your best work?

jackwallmusic136 karma

Really proud of the Myst games. They still hold up even though they are 16 years old. Mass Effect I like a lot because it's so original for a game. My recent score to Call of Duty Black Ops III I'm very proud of - especially the big band tracks for Zombie mode! Still working on my best work though...

TheInactiveWall9 karma

I recently saw an interview with Kevin Sherwood where he mentioner working with you on CoD. That's so cool to have not just one bht TWO of my favorite video game composers work on my favorite game rn

jackwallmusic6 karma

Kevin is awesome!

nathanexplosion3035 karma

as a person who makes music for a living, what music do you listen to when you're not working? what's your favorite genre?

ps. music in the ME series and Jade Empire was killer.

jackwallmusic63 karma

Looks like I missed this one! sorry...

first off, thank you! I like to listen to silence when I'm not working. :) But seriously really like Adele, The Shins, Foo Fighters, Fleetwood Mac, Duke Ellington, other soundtracks, Beck is one of my favorites - just everything he does. Not a huge listener of classical which is rare for an orchestral composer. I do studies of it for work but not for pleasure in general. I also love the work of Cindy Shapiro. www.cindyshapiro.net. Check her out. (full disclaimer: She's my wife but what a creative voice!)

MagistrateDelta29 karma

Hi Jack! Can you tell us why you left after ME2?

jackwallmusic65 karma

I'd worked with BioWare for 5 years on 3 games. It was a tough road at times and I suppose it just wore out it's welcome on both sides. I miss the series but I think it's for the best. I wouldn't want to say more than that because I really respect those people and wish them well.

jred25022 karma

Jack, first off, thank you for writing me back in an fan email I wrote you many years ago. It absolutely made my day.

Secondly, I lack the vocabulary to describe it, but I loved the "synthy" music of Mass Effect 1 and didn't feel like there was as much of it in ME2. Was this an intentional choice by you, the studio or am I imagining it?

Also, if you are doing the music for ME:A, please put more synthy music into it. Like the "Spectre Induction" music, or "The Wards", or "Laira's World". Thank you for all of the wonderful music!

jackwallmusic25 karma

  1. That was a conscious decision by the game's director, Casey Hudson.

  2. Alas, I will not be a part of ME:A.

HarmonieKorine20 karma

Hi Jack, you are one of my favourite contemporary composers. My question would be, What were your influences and/or inspirations when you composed Jade Empire OST?

jackwallmusic32 karma

Thank you! Well I did a LOT of research about Asian music - specifically Chinese music. Most of what I heard was a bit strident for a video game context, so I went with an "East meets West" approach. I hired a chinese music consultant who would bring in super authentic chinese musicians - many of whom did not speak English. My big influence reference for the game's score was "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". Which sort of gave me permission to use percussion as a solo instrument. Loved doing that!

photonsnphonons10 karma

While I never really got into Jade Empire during it's prime I've listened to it's soundtrack plenty. You really nailed it and created something unique that fits the game perfectly.

jackwallmusic10 karma

Me thanks you...

Qrchack19 karma

  1. DAW (and preferably sample libraries) of choice?
  2. How common is it for professional composers to use Vienna Ensemble Pro? Can I get away with composing on just one machine?
  3. Any tips on making my template as efficient as possible?
  4. Do you prepare the printed score as well or do you have someone who does that for you (including proofreading and orchestration)?
  5. The most important advice you'd give to a youngster willing to get into composing for media in general?

Edit. Also obligatory 6. Do you agree Austin Wintory's soundtrack for Journey kicks ass?

jackwallmusic39 karma

1 - I'm a Cubase user, converted from Logic a few years ago, and I even used to use DP way back in the day! As for libraries and synths, I like to use a wide variety - Cinesamples, Heavyocity, 8Dio, and Spitfire are all great, and synths like Omnisphere, Zebra, and Signal are all in my template as well!

2 - I find it to be extremely common - almost all professional composers use VEP. You can potentially get away with using one machine, but spreading the workload among multiple computers is definitely more efficient.

3 - For me, I think it's important to have things organized so they are ready and easy to find. That's part of why I like Cubase - I can really break things down into folders that allow me to get right to the sounds I want or need as fast as possible, and keep unused sounds and tracks off the screen to minimize clutter.

4 - I have my team of trusted orchestrators and copyists that usually help me out with scores and notation, but I am always very involved. I always proofread myself and have a lot of dialogue so that the score ends up being exactly what is necessary to bring the music to life!

5 - No matter what, you have to do the work.

6 - Absolutely! Austin's stuff is fantastic!

Qrchack6 karma

Thanks for the replies! Also, I know you all guys have tight schedules, but perhaps you would be willing to do some kind of mentorship from time to time or know someone who has a bit more time? It would definitely help to have a professional hand over what I do so I could see what to work on if I want to make it - you know, indie game developers aren't really best for getting usable feedback.

jackwallmusic6 karma

I do that yes! i love teaching and doing panels, seminars etc

Caos218 karma

Hey Jack, first of all I love the music of the ME series, the trilogy just wouldn't be the nice without your work in it! As for my question, which are you favorite video game soundtracks?

jackwallmusic24 karma

I don't get to play a lot of games because I'm pretty busy most of the time. But I do enjoy playing at times. I liked the Medal of Honor/early WWII Call of Duty series, Jeremy Soule's work on various games. A little Xbox game called Crimson Skies (LOVED that game and score!), I like Richard Jacques' stuff. Rod Abernethy is unique. Lots of stuff really.

Caos211 karma

Crimson Skies: High Road to Vengeance, right? Yeah, it's a great game.

jackwallmusic10 karma

I think so!

Fredvdp17 karma

What do you think of the soundtrack of Mass Effect 3? How did it feel to listen to a Mass Effect soundtrack you didn't work on?

jackwallmusic56 karma

Honestly I thought all of the music was great and very well produced. However, as a gamer, I was very disappointed with how poorly the music was implemented into the game. It had a very unfinished quality to it. Sound design was missing and the wrong mood of music would come in at the wrong time. The biggest moment had arrived - the Reaper invasion - and it was just so poorly executed in the sound department. It was a bummer. I don't even think I finished the game. But honestly the music itself was really good!

xanidue15 karma

I listen to the music for Mass Effect 1 and 2 a lot, especially whenever I'm flying for some reason. Mass Effect is my favorite game series and the music is phenomenal. Thank you so much.

Do you have a favorite track from those soundtracks? Also why did you decide to not work on Mass Effect 3?

jackwallmusic23 karma

Thank you! I think Suicide Mission, Reflections, The Illusive Man, Normandy Reborn and New worlds from ME2, then from ME1, The theme, The Citadel, The Wards, Presidium, Noveria, Vigil and especially Uncharted Worlds (which I did not even write)!

Sometimes when you've had a long relationship with a developer it's just time to make a change.

Firestar116114 karma

Hi, Jack! I absolutely love your work for BioWare. I was curious about a couple things. Namely,

1) I love Vigil, Liara's World, the Mass Effect Theme, The Love Theme, and from ME2 I love New Worlds, and of course Suicide Mission. With ME:A being focused on exploration, will your New Worlds theme ( Or variant thereof like in ME3 ) return? It's so symbolic!

2) Your music for Black Ops III occasionally has a Mass Effect tinge to it. I really have enjoyed what I've heard. Have you ever composed a piece of music only to realize it was possibly too thematically similar with previous compositions?

jackwallmusic14 karma

  1. Hi there! I really don't know but I would imagine so. I'm not involved with the series any longer.

  2. For BOIII there were a couple moments where Treyarch asked me to write something in that vein. You do have to watch out for repeating yourself. Sometimes you'll do it without really noticing you're doing it!

itsalwaysbeen14 karma

I just wanted to say that your music moved me into the Mass Effect games in a way that I hadn't been moved into a game before. While that series is incredible, for me, the soundtrack is what beckoned my memory to go back into some wonderful collage of all the great sci-fi classics I grew up on. You made the story so much more accessible to me. Thank you.

To get to the aim of this thread, what music was able to move you into a world you weren't expecting to get so enthralled with?

jackwallmusic15 karma

For some reason the Ward's Theme surprised me. It just created a feeling of living on the Citadel which felt really different to me. That happened a lot with games like Mass Effect which are all about story. Story games do that to me constantly.

paulbrock210 karma

how would you compare scoring for games versus films/TV?

jackwallmusic17 karma

Really a LOT harder. :) You have to make every piece somehow fit with whatever you the player are going to do next. Not an easy thing but fun and I love the challenge. TV/Film are tough also because you normally have a week to score an episode. Or about 6 weeks (or even less!) for a film. Games do give a lot more time which is a good thing.

ShepHeartsTali9 karma

Whats your favorite film score of the last 10 years?

Thanks for taking time to do this, love your work

jackwallmusic24 karma

Episode I. hands down. :)

ShepHeartsTali8 karma

As in Star Wars? I'll allow it. The Droid March is my favorite

jackwallmusic28 karma

Duel of the Fates. 'nuff said!

sesto8 karma

I just wanted to pop in and let you know that I met you a few years ago at PAX and appreciated you taking the time to answer a bunch of questions and be such a down to earth dude. The soundtracks for Myst 3 and 4 are some of the finest pieces of music ever created as far as I'm concerned.

MY QUESTION: When creating the soundtracks for the Myst games, how difficult was it to create sounds for worlds that didn't exist? A lot of composers default to 'native american' when making music for alien type worlds, but you somehow created amazing unique sounds and feelings for all of the worlds. Even some of the instruments sound other worldly.

jackwallmusic6 karma

Well good to see you again! and thanks.

I really looked for musicians who created their own instruments. I wanted sounds that were unfamiliar. I had a girl who made her own clay flutes. They didn't sound like anything I'd heard. Another guy played an electronic valve instrument and made his own sounds. then Duduk which was very rare back in 2000 but not so much now.

aadmiralackbar7 karma

Hey, Jack! Mass Effect 2 is my favorite game of all time, and I love your work. Some of my favorites are, "Suicide Mission," "Uncharted Worlds," and obviously "Vigil." My questions for you are: • ManShep or FemShep? • Paragon or Renegade? • Favorite romance? • Favorite ending? Thanks for doing this. (: EDIT: Removed ME3 music. Had no idea you didn't work on the game.

jackwallmusic13 karma

Femshep, Paragon, anything that pushes boundaries, total success as it's the most triumphant. :)

weesnoosle7 karma

Do you do most of your work in a personal studio or on location(if there is such a thing as on location). The music in ME is some of my favorite, except for the critical mission failure music... was that you too?

jackwallmusic15 karma

I do most of my work in my garage which I converted to a studio about 16 years ago. You can see a little bit in my proof pic! Recordings and such at other studios like Abbey Road or Ocean Way Nashville more recently for Black Ops III. Unfortunately for Mass Effect we didn't do any recording.

Helvegr11 karma

The "critical mission failure music" is Saren's theme, just shorter.

jackwallmusic15 karma

Oh yep. That's me! Sorry?

SayerApp7 karma

Has the need for scores in gaming given new opportunities (specifically economic) to classical musicians?

jackwallmusic17 karma

If they are willing to hold their noses. :)

The classical world looks down (sometimes) at gaming. Sometimes they do embrace it. Over time they will most certainly embrace it. They used to look down on film composing. Now, because of John Williams and many others film composing is looked at with respect.

ice_moonsugar7 karma

Hi Jack! I am wondering what you like to do to get inspired for new work?

jackwallmusic19 karma

I normally will take a shower. :D

Seriously, I don't know why but a shower always gives me ideas. That and the several week process of digging into the story and just kind of going about my business, things start to percolate. Then it's just the business of sitting down and writing. No matter what, you have to do the work. 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration kind of thing...

manocolypse7 karma

I absolutely love the games you had done the music for. It really is a very key component that keeps us latched on to every moment and most people just don't notice that it has that effect. Anyway, not related to my question, just wanted to say thanks.

What games in 2016/17 will you be doing the music for?

jackwallmusic7 karma

Well "Into the Stars" comes out next Friday! It's a small indy game with a big heart. Really enjoyed working on it. The team at Fugitive are great. The creative director and others came from the Lost Planet 3 team and other big companies with passion wanting to make a great game. I think they've achieved that. I'm also excited that iam8bit is doing a vinyl release of the soundtrack. Beyond that I am contractually not at liberty to discuss other projects at this time.

ocremix7 karma

Hey Jack,

I love thinking about circumstance a lot, and was wondering about pivotal moments that led to cool stuff in your life & career, like

  • becoming a game composer
  • getting the initial Mass Effect and Call of Duty: Black Ops II gigs
  • meeting your wife
  • becoming a conductor

For example, were there key things that happened like reading an article, meeting a pro composer, connecting with one key person at a convention, voicing a goal out loud to someone, etc. that made these specific events happen?

Also, when you toured with Video Games Live, what was your personal favorite location?

Thanks for everything musically, AND for taking a chance with Jimmy Hinson. I still remember 1) encouraging him to drive up to see you for that VGL show a few hours away from him to give you his CD of demos and 2) telling him to hit you with everything he had to show what he was capable of. I still enjoy the photo of us 3 together at the Kennedy Center VGL years before even that. Keep up the great work! -Larry

jackwallmusic9 karma

Hey Larry! nice to hear from you!

Becoming a composer: I was working with Cindy Shapiro's band, 2.5D in New York as an engineer/producer for Capitol Records. She was also a game designer and I was really interested in what she was doing and with her in general (we got married!) and a friend of hers eventually asked us to write music for his game company. We did and the rest is history! Cindy is now a modern opera composer doing various shows.

Initial gigs: For Mass Effect I had done the music for Jade Empire. I auditioned for ME and won. For Black Ops II, the audio director and I had worked on a kids game 10 years before and he really liked the ME games and asked me to audition for him. I won that audition and jumped up and down at LEAST 50 times. :)

Met my wife Cindy and I met in the studio with her band. I liked her immediately.

I studied conducting with a guy who was a protege of the great Leonard Bernstein, Brad Keimach. It seems t hat want you visualize doing something, you manifest it. I started conducting my own scores about 2 years later starting with Myst III.

Jimmy is great and we are now talking about doing another big project together. We'll see, stay tuned!

My favorite location for VGL was the Kennedy Center! Great orchestra and 2 sold out shows. Amazing place. But we did a lot of cool things in a lot of great places. See ya Larry!

ReturnOfSuperman6 karma

Looking back at all the fantastic games, films and TV series' out there that you've seen (or heard as the case may be!), is there any project in particular you wish you could have been apart of?

jackwallmusic19 karma

Battlestar Galactica - love Bear's score. My favorite TV series of all time. There were a couple of games that I can't remember that were so cool and wished I could have written for. I wish there were more games like Myst that I could be a part of. I'd like to write for games like Ori, Ico, - more moody, ethereal pieces that take you somewhere different. Love that stuff!

Archalon6 karma

Howdy Jack,
My question(s): What got you started in music, and why video games?

jackwallmusic11 karma

I've been a musician since I was 3. Always loved it. I wasn't a prodigy or anything close to it. I just loved music and thought musically from day 1. I played "Myst" in 1994. It made me realize that this medium was up and coming and that I wanted to be a part of it. I loved this new way to tell a story that was interactive. Still feel that way.

TheCasualMarxist5 karma

Do you think that composers of video game music are underrated or pushed aside unfairly by composers for more conventional content like films? I've always been far more moved by the scores for Thomas was Alone and Skyrim than I have by most of the famous movie scores.

jackwallmusic12 karma

Yes and no. Certain elements of the artistic community who don't play simply don't understand the value of the medium. For people who do play, I think they understand - no matter their background.

Bovine_Arithmetic5 karma

I can't help but notice how much the "Critical Mission Failure" music in ME1 sounds like a nitrous oxide head rush. Was that your inspiration?

jackwallmusic7 karma

I wish I could remember that and who wrote what. I guess I need to go back to play it!

Aequitas1235 karma

What DAW are you working in? Do you record mostly in the box or use some hardware? What are your go-to plugins/soft synths?

jackwallmusic9 karma

I'm 100% in the box except for recording. I use Cubase to sequence and Protools to print my mixes and stems. I'm in love with U-He synths, Spectrasonics, Spitfire, Cinesamples, 8DIO, UAD (amazing stuff!), tons more.

dooper14 karma

Mixing Virtual Instruments is an art form in itself. How do you approach that? Do you just find sample libraries that require the least amount of config?

jackwallmusic6 karma

There is a certain amount of value to libraries that fit into a mix better right off the bat, but I use such a wide variety of different libraries and sounds that it still takes some mixing. And I just approach it the same way I approach live-recorded instruments - make sure it's played the way I want, craft the sound if necessary (using EQ, compression, etc), and give it appropriate space and presence in the mix.

Qrchack3 karma

Zebra or Diva?

jackwallmusic8 karma

Zebra (and Zebra HZ)

jackwallmusic5 karma

And a new one Hive.

IndiGamer4 karma

What's your favorite track from the Black ops 3 Zombies maps, and what is your favorite map?

jackwallmusic8 karma

I really like "Cold Hard Cash" and "Snakeskin Boots". I have not yet had a chance to play. My writing schedule hasn't let up since the games' release in November!

OrderedFromZanzibar4 karma

To think, I've heard and been so impressed by so much of your music when I didn't even know your name before now! Excellent work.

I especially love the Jade Empire main theme. Was it more challenging to capture the sound for the setting of Jade Empire compared to other things you've worked on?

jackwallmusic6 karma

Actually we started out with lots of iterations of things. But after a while, the team trusted my judgment and things went really well!

punk42784 karma

How long did it take you to write the score for mass effect 1? I know there might not be a definite answer but in the ball park is what i'm asking for

jackwallmusic10 karma

somewhere between 9-12 months I think? Of course we don't work on it the entire time. Starts and stops.

Shargur4 karma

Hello Jack! Thanks for doing this AMA. I have loved your work in the Mass Effect series and even had the opportunity to go see Video Games Live once, which was spectacular.

What are some of your favorite soundtracks to games/movies?

jackwallmusic12 karma

I just answered some about games. So I'll hit the movies here. Besides the best movie scores of all time belonging to Star Wars (seriously John Williams is our living, breathing Mozart or better!), I love James Horner's Braveheart, Hans Zimmer's Gladiator, actually I'm a big Zimmer fan though I don't write like him at all and don't want to. But even check out the score to The Holiday. A romcom that is a fantastic set of music and themes. who knew? Lol Anything by James Newton Howard and Tom Newman.

jackwallmusic7 karma

Oh and thanks! ;)

GamingTrend4 karma

I think that music (audio in general, really) is one of the most overlooked aspects of games. When I'm watching Sci-Fi shows and movies I've often remarked "Sounds like they are stealing a little Mass Effect music right there..." You do incredible work.

My question is easy -- do they at least hook you up with a signed copy of the games you score?

Keep doing amazing work, you bring my favorite games to life!

jackwallmusic11 karma

Well we composers all "borrow" from each other. Much of the ME reference material came from Tangerine Dream or Vangelis for Bladerunner. So in reality, one could say ME sounds like them. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before kinda thing.

Yes, I get a copy or copies of the game. If i ask. :)

all_thetime4 karma

1) what is/was your musical background prior to getting into creating soundtracks?

2) how did you get into the business/decide that is what you wanted to do?

3)who are your favorite composers/musical inspirations

Thanks a bunch!

jackwallmusic15 karma

  1. My degree is in civil engineering. So yeah, that's odd right? But I've always loved music so I got bored and got involved in learning to become a recording engineer. I did that for about 8 years and got pretty good at producing music. Then someone came to me with an opportunity to actually write a full score to a game. I jumped in and did it and fell in love. That was in 1996. Been writing ever since.

  2. After doing my first score for a company called "Postlinear Entertainment" which did a lot of games you never heard of, all of the people there went off and did bigger things. Dan Irish did Myst (which I scored the 3rd and 4th renditions of), Gareth Davis who was my producer became an exec at Facebook and Pixar. etc. etc.

  3. John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, Thomas Newman, many others.

Bk73 karma

Suicide Mission from Mass Effect 2 is one of my favorite pieces of all time. Do you get to view the gameplay beforehand or are you just given a general theme to compose along?

jackwallmusic6 karma

Thanks! It varies from project to project, and even sometimes within the same project! I like to try and get gameplay footage to write to as much as possible, but some times I will write themes or pieces without it - like Suicide Mission, actually. Originally I was just asked to write a big, epic cue for the end of the game, then once that portion of the game was actually finished, I went back and tailored it more to the final product.

faculties-intact3 karma

How did you make your break into the music composition scene for video games? My friend is currently studying music and that's what he wants to do, but he's not sure how to approach things after grad school.

jackwallmusic4 karma

Back in 1996 when I started there were about 5 people doing what I do. Now there are 100's if not 1000's! I think your friend should intern for someone they are inspired by which can lead to real opportunities if they are willing to work hard and be that composer's problem solver. You'd be surprised how fast people with talent can rise in a situation like that.

KimJongSkill4203 karma

Have you ever had a piece you loved, scraped by someone higher up then you? If so do you still have the file or media you kept it on?

jackwallmusic3 karma

Probably but I don't remember a specific instance. Wish I did because I'm sure it's happened.

Glassfan3 karma

Hi Jack! Some of my favourite gaming memories are from ME1 & 2, thanks for your part in making those games! My question; If you could work on the music for any game in the past, present or future, which game would it be?

jackwallmusic4 karma

I love all of it. I love working on a creative team to come up with something brand new. Not a huge fan of licensed stuff. More into original content. Though there is some brilliant licensed stuff.

EvilAnagram3 karma

The opening title song, with the few long notes that seem to last forever, never fails to evoke a sense of wonder in me. Why is that?

If you could score a single person's biopic, who would you choose?

jackwallmusic6 karma

I assume you mean "Vigil" in Mass Effect? man, I wish I could answer that question. I never know when something will be a hit or a miss.

  1. good question! I think I don't really know. But I will say that I can find a story anywhere. So I like all of it and digging in to find out the interesting stuff. Part of what makes composing so rewarding and challenging for me.

sockgnomed3 karma

Hello Jack!

My question is mostly about how you approach writing a new piece. Where do you start? Do you bang out some chords on a piano and build a melody from there, or do you start with a melody and build around that? Do you scratch notes on staff paper, or just hit record and improvise?

I don't necessarily expect you to answer all that individually. I was just curious to have a peak at your process. I imagine it probably even varies from piece to piece.

jackwallmusic5 karma

I might go for a walk and my most useful composing tool at that time would be my iPhone. Voice memo is my friend. I will sing a tune I hear in my head. From there I hear the orchestration and so when I get back to my studio I just start playing things in to a tempo and then I will adjust the tempo to fine tune the feel. I'm very percussion aware. I think very percussively - especially for game and other media music. the cadence is of paramount importance to me as well as odd meter here and there. Syncopation is a big part of my writing style. But it all starts with a melody.

TheInactiveWall3 karma

Let me get straight to the point: Tits or ass?

jackwallmusic19 karma

It all works for me.

j1mtones2 karma

What is your favorite video game soundtrack and why?

jackwallmusic4 karma

Mass Effect. it's original. It's a signature for the game. It's married to that game.

JARpapa2 karma

If you could make music for the Mass Effect Universe again would you?

jackwallmusic3 karma

If the opportunity came up I probably would

DC62 karma

Is there any game you wish you could have scored in the past or any game on the horizon you'd love to score?

jackwallmusic2 karma

I enjoy the challenge of anyone asking me to work on their stuff. I really like when someone trusts me to come up with a musical signature for whatever it may be. I like making music because I love telling stories with it. No matter the game, movie or TV show.

SkeXyz2 karma

Did you write the music for ME:Andromeda too?

jackwallmusic6 karma

Unfortunately, not - I am not involved in that project.

n0stalghia1 karma

Any chance you know any music similar to your ME1 soundtrack? Something ambient, very electronical, a bit low-fi-ish? I can't quite find anything like what you created, it seems to be one-of-a-kind.

jackwallmusic2 karma

Check some of this out. More next friday but this should whet your appetite a little. https://soundcloud.com/jackwallmusic/sets/into-the-stars-original-soundtrack


Peat141 karma

How do you get inspired?

jackwallmusic5 karma

I take showers. :)

I get sleep. !!

I wake up loving my job and am thankful for not having to do something I hate every day. Then I get to work. And I work hard.

BeetlejuiceForSenate1 karma

I often prefer the authentic orchestra sound over that of a computer generated sound. Are there any specific orchestras that you would or already do like to work with?

jackwallmusic3 karma

I just worked with Nashville. They were amazing. The top 3 are LA, London and Nashville in my opinion. though I haven't really worked in LA.

kazoovirtuoso1 karma

Thanks for doing this, Jack!

If you could offer any advice to someone looking to get started in the industry, what would it be?

jackwallmusic3 karma

Just be passionate! Write music you want to hear. You can imitate others for practice but be you for the rest.

CapnSherwood1 karma

Hey jack! Do you have any advice for young people looking to make it in the music biz? Any dos and donts? Thanks in advance.

jackwallmusic7 karma

Don't do it if you're not passionate about it. Do it if you are. And if you are, do it with everything you've got. Be a problem solver, not a problem creator. In the end, we all solve the problem of "Hey, I need great music to tell my story, can you help me?". If the answer is yes, you are on your way. BTW - always say yes and figure it out later. That's were the passion really pays off!

jwchen1 karma

Hello Jack, I wanted to say thank you for your work on ME1 and 2 soundtrack. They have been a steady part of my work music for the past few years. My question is do you have any soundtrack music you would recommend?

jackwallmusic5 karma

Check out this new stuff in a similar vein to Mass Effect that we just finished. The soundtrack will be live on iTunes next Friday, March 4th! https://soundcloud.com/jackwallmusic/sets/into-the-stars-original-soundtrack


Ninja_Apple1 karma

Hi Jack, really enjoy your work! Just wondering how you managed to break into and become so successful in such a competitive industry, and what would you suggest to an aspiring composer trying to break into the business? Thanks a lot!

jackwallmusic2 karma

I've addressed this a lot in many other posts, but I think you need to intern for successful composers and learn directly from there. I started when it wasn't that competitive. I was lucky. That isn't the case anymore unfortunately for the new composer. But working with an experienced one is great! My assistant started as an intern. I teach him a lot and I'm getting him up to speed so he can have a good career.

photonsnphonons1 karma

Hey Jack,

Jack here. I was wondering what your thoughts are on 90's video game music? Primarily midi and limited with the technology available composers still made enthralling and memorable music. What are your favourites?

jackwallmusic2 karma

I'm not really a fan of the 8 bit stuff. Sorry, I just like humans playing and serious sounding synths. Though some of the early Mario stuff puts a smile on my face.

Superdreuzel1 karma

Hi Jack! It's an honor to be able to ask you a question. I love your music, Mass Effect 2 being my favorite piece of your work. I was wondering who your favorite composer is. Also, is there a piece of music you made which you really dislike and would like to redo, and if so, why? Any chance of seeing you perform your music live with an orchestra? Thanks.

jackwallmusic2 karma

Not really. when I finish something I just move to the next thing. I let others judge whether it is any good. sometimes I go back and think, "oo... well could have done a better job with that one!" but I don't really think about redoing it. I hope to be doing some of my music with a live orchestra again. Not sure when but I'll make sure to promote it if it does.

teampupandsuds1 karma

Jack, how much do you get to play the game before composing? Do you just get something like "Shepard goes to save the world" for the suicide mission of ME2?

jackwallmusic3 karma

Ha! well funny you should pick that one. That was exactly the direction I got for Suicide Mission! But usually I get a video capture of the gameplay through an entire level. I write to that as if scoring a movie.

parasseux1 karma

Hey Jack! Thank you for your AMA, really love your music. I'm a beginner at creating music and I often have trouble getting inspiration to get started. How do you get inspiration for your songs and what are some steps to get started?

jackwallmusic2 karma

I find that most of the time, that comes from the "fear of the blank page". You just have to let that go and not judge your work while you're doing it. Save that for when you are finishing it. Be good to yourself in that respect. Be kind. Seriously. then just write. It's really quite easy when you can just let the rest of that go.