Dr Dissonance The Music Maker

What follows is a guest post by Musician/Unlicensed Surgeon, DrDissonance. First, the project update:

I’ve resumed work on the next part of scenario content. I have a big long bug list but I want to keep content updates rolling out. The 5$ patron Slime Story is due out this week (most likely). Chickenwhite was sick and underwent surgery on Sunday, and should be back to work this week. Stinkehund hurt his shoulder (somehow) and is slowed on inking the Doll Manor images (hence why they were in lineart for this prototype). Koops is going to be making more Doll Manor images soon.

There is also a 5$ patron poll today. Go here to do that.

Everything below this point was written by someone with a PhD in Dissonance.

Hey there! The name’s DrDiss, and I created the music for Pandemonium. Salty asked me to write a post about what I did, so here I am before you.

Pandemonium was an interesting project. Mainly because of how diverse the world is. I can’t think of many games that need country-style farm and eldritch horror music in the same soundtrack. This huge diversity was a challenge I faced head on.

When writing music, I usually follow a process I’ve grown accustomed to in the decade I’ve been composing. I could talk hours about it, but I don’t know if this post’s word count could handle all that splurging. So, here is a watered-down version of my process.

Step 1: Gather information

Whenever you start a new project, you start by figuring out the exact tone and feeling the music needs to evoke. Your ideas might not initially align with the world, and you won’t know that until you gather info. What better place to learn about a world than from the people who created it? I began by talking to various team members. Chicken in particular was more than eager to tell me everything about the world of Pandemonium.

Turns out Sophie wasn’t the death metal loving renegade I was hoping for.
[She totally is. Everyone is. -Salty]

Step 2: Sketch

Now that the world was clear to me, I started by sketching out ideas. This usually just involves mucking around in my music software until something sounds good.

For people interested, my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is Cubase. I’ve amassed an impressive (and slightly insane) number of samples and libraries to use for any occasion. I’m a big fan of the Berlin series by Orchestral Tools, SonicCouture’s various weird instruments and any library by Output. As for special effects, a solid reverb and mastering package is a must. For reference, I use EW Spaces 2 for reverb, and Ozone for mastering.


Here’s a nice screenshot. I guess these would be my audio ‘waifus’.

Anyway, back on to the music. Rather than focus on chords or melody, as many online tutorials suggest, I focus on the sound world. I’ll use three themes as examples.

For Christine’s battle theme, it needed to be energetic and futuristic. It was formed once I created the starting sound of an arpeggiated (individual notes of a chord played rapidly) synth and a throbbing bassline.

For Breanne’s theme, it needed to sound like you were home on the range. A simple guitar strum and drum beat was all that was needed to evoke the feeling of a hot day of honest work.

For Sophie’s theme, it needed to be sweet and romantic. I listened to a ton of my favourite piano works to get in the ‘mood’.

Step 3: Flesh Out

Once sketches became solid, I built on them. Expand on a synth arp, extend this chord progression, vary that melody, and so on.

Christine’s theme was built by creating a solid melody and building on the initial sound world through lighter, accompanying synths and strings.

Breanne’s theme needed more guitar strumming variations. A harmonica on the melody worked a treat too.

Sophie’s theme was a tough one to write. There’s a lot of emphasis these days put on the ‘emotional piano’ track of any RPG. It had to be perfect! I ended up writing 3 to 4 versions until I settled on the one you hear now. A melody full of rising/falling and tons of rubato (varying speeds)!


Another screenshot. So romantic.

Step 4: Glue it all together

By now, I have what feels like an actual track. I tend to ask for feedback at this point. Those people that know the world inside and out let me know if I’ve gone off the deep end.

Using that feedback, I spend ages combing through a track, mixing things to perfection. This is the part where I stare at the screen for hours on end, only to change one teeny-tiny thing. ART!

Step 5: Pretend I know what I’m doing

Finally, I render the track and do some mastering. This usually involves a preset in Ozone. One click, and I’m done. Then I tell everyone I spent forever getting that sweet spot of sound sexiness, and that mastering requires years of training and experience.

Everyone does it, trust me.

After all that a soundtrack is born.

Of course, this is just a small glimpse into what I do. I barely mentioned some of the sound building done for the horror tracks (listen for the heart monitor sounds when in Serenity Crater) or how I replayed through Metroid Prime as ‘research’.

That last one may have just been an excuse.

[Because you need an excuse to replay Metroid Prime? -Salty]

Regardless, I hope it provides a small idea into what went into creating the soundtrack.

As a bonus, I’ve provided the MIDI file of Sophie’s theme for fellow musicians to take a look at. Please ignore the parts impossible for mortal hands. If you want to play it yourself, just cut out a few of the middle notes, you’ll be fine.

[Click here to download it, suckers! -Salty]