I've been working on and off as an independent contractor for the last several years, and now more recently as a full-time employee, for High 5 Games. High 5 Games is a worldwide leader in developing slot machines, creating hundreds of games for the casino floor, social media and mobile apps. I am one a several composers and sound designers that creates sound and music for the games.
This is a great job. I get to write in a wide range of styles, record live musicians in a professional in-house recording studio, work with the latest audio software and sample instrument libraries, and learn along with a team of accomplished and innovative composers, designers, and audio engineers.
Each game has a special theme or story and requires longer works of music to set the mood of the game, short musical moments to punctuate animations, customized celebratory music to highlight wins, and a full collection of sound effects. As a composer I've gotten better at putting the listener in a specific place in the first few seconds of a piece of music. There is less time to develop a theme in these pieces of music. Even when there is, you need to engage the listener from the downbeat so they instantly know exactly the feel of this game and what is going on.
In my time at High 5 Games, I've become a better composer and audio engineer, particularly in the world of commercial music. I've also gotten to be a small part of a larger company, something a composer doesn't often experience. Often we toil away on our own, working for ourselves or freelancing, forced to be our own agent, marketing department, and social media team while trying to carve out creative time. It's a real luxury to be paid to focus on creating music and then pass off your work to a larger team.
Here are the two questions I'm most asked about this job:
I never knew there were people who even wrote that music for slot machines. How in the world did you end up there?
I started composing as an independent contractor for High 5 Games several years ago when it was a much smaller company. A good friend and bandleader of a band I was in started working as a designer (and ultimately Sound Director) for High 5 and brought me on board.
Are all slot machines in the same key?
You know, I thought they were. When I was in high school visiting my sister and her family who lived in Vegas, I remember walking through the casino Paris and pulling out my pitch pipe. There was definitely this pleasant wash of the key of C. I assumed when I started at High 5 Games I would have to write in C but that is not the case. In fact the games are all over the place. We jump around in tonal centers within the games to make certain moments pop out. I don't know if our company is unique in that sense. Many games are also played online now (Facebook and mobile apps) where you can more easily hear the game by itself, so perhaps there is less of a desire to make it blend with the other games on a casino floor.
If you've been to the casino you probably played some games by High 5 Games. High 5 has also made many games for the companies Bally's and IGT and you may have noticed those names before.
Here are some demos of games that I wrote the music for: