Making a Game - Finishing the Music - EP 26


Video Tutorial

Aims of this Tutorial

  • Finish up the music.
  • Learn some basic music theory (text tutorial only).

How to make music sound good

There are multiple components about how to make music sound good and what to consider when composing. There are the basics, like pitch, tempo, rhythm, etc. Then there are more advanced concepts like timbre. We will discuss just these 4 in this tutorial, since this is the bare bones you need to make your music sound good.


This is one of the more straight forward concepts. Tempo is how fast your music will play. You can change this in Ardour above your master track. Tempo is measured in beats per minute (bpm) and 120 is a very typical value. A higher tempo can make your music more intense (and harder to play if you are playing an instrument). A lower tempo can make your music more relaxing. 


Rhythm tells you when to play the notes in relation to the beat. The beat is determined by your tempo as previously discussed. Rhythm is important to put emphasis on some notes and lead you into different sections of your music. A simple rhythm would be a bunch of crochets in a row (crochet = 1 beat in length). Don't be afraid to use silence in your rhythm, since, if used effectively, silence can be more powerful than music! In Ardour, you tell it the rhythm by where you place notes horizontally in the grid.


Pitch tells you how high or low a note is. This might seem simple at first, but getting all your notes to work together is more difficult than you might think. Luckily, music theory gives us a way to ensure that our notes will work together. First, we need to introduce the concept of an interval. An interval tells us how far apart two notes are, and the important ones that we will use here are semitones, which are adjacent notes (eg F and F#, G and Ab or B and C) and tones which are two notes away (eg F and G, B and C#, Eb and F).

Using these intervals, we can now construct a scale, which will contain the notes that we need to make our music. For a major scale, start on your tonic (the name of the key you want to use) and count up in this order: Tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone. You just hit every note in the scale and ended back on the same note! For the equivalent minor scale, use this same scale, but start on the 6th note. The key I used was D major (D, E, F#,G,A,B,C#,D), the equivalent of which is B minor (B,C#,D,E,F#,G,A,B).

Now we have our key, we can create a melody using these notes. Not all notes from this scale will work together, namely, adjacent notes in the scale will clash, so avoid that at all costs. Important notes in the scale are the first, third and fifth, since these are what make up the main chord in the key. I will not go into chords in this tutorial, since things can get quite complicated quite quickly, so just play around with these notes until you are satisfied. In Ardour, you control pitch by moving notes vertically.


Timbre is a fancy word that simply means how an instrument sounds. Is it tinny, soft, distorted, etc? These are all things you need to think about to get the feeling that you want to convey across. You can control timbre in Ardour with plugins. These range from the synths that we use (like zyn-fusion and geonkick) to filters, reverb, compression, etc. This is something where you just need to play with all the sliders and knobs until you get something you are happy with.

Exporting in Ardour

When you are done making your music, you then need to export it. You have a few settings in here, like the format to export to, how to generate the file name, and analysis. I used Ogg Vorbis as the format and turned on analysis. This shows you a spectrogram at the end where you can see if there are any glaring errors with the export. 

This concludes this tutorial, I hope you found it helpful. Next week we can start using this music in the game!