Why am I doing this?

I’ve been thinking a lot about musical goals lately. How to define them, how to work towards them in at least a semi-disciplined manner. And most importantly, how to keep them realistic while at the same time providing yourself with enough challenge to improve and evolve as a musician.

Set them too low, and you’ll just be stuck in your comfort zone rehashing the same old stuff year after year. Set them too high, and you’ll spend more time beating yourself up for not being better than appreciating what you’re actually good at. As with many other things, there is a delicate balance at play here that you somehow need to find and maintain.

After a two year hiatus from orchestral music, questions started popping up as soon as I fired up my orchestral project template and began working on a new track. Why am I doing this? Am I really good at this? Shouldn’t I be better at this after all this time? My samples are sounding kind of dated, aren’t they? And so on.

All these insecurity issues started bubbling up to the surface, to the point where I felt that I should just go back to playing my guitar and let more capable musical minds handle the big, complex music. You know, the people with formal musical training, good piano skills and expensive sample libraries.

And then, perhaps triggered by that definition of “who I’m not”, came the revelation. By admitting that I consider myself vastly inferior to all the big names in the business, some questions started answering themselves.

Am I doing this because I want to score Hollywood blocksbusters? Hell no. Am I miffed because Bethesda hasn’t asked me to score the next installment of The Elder Scrolls series yet? Nope, not really. Is my work sophisticated enough to be even remotely considered for any of these things? Definitely not.

So why am I doing this?

Because I love it. Because it’s fun. Because when it comes down to it, the act of creation is its own reward. I’m not in it for the sake of breaking big, I just want to write some good tunes to enhance people’s gaming experiences. That’s pretty much it. Game music is what got me started doing this in the first place, and that’s where I feel most at home.

I’m not John Williams, Danny Elfman or Jeremy Soule, nor will I ever be. Paychecks aside, that’s not such a bad thing.

This entry was posted in Miscellaneous, Music, Rants. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Why am I doing this?

  1. Otto Halmén says:

    Excellent post. “Leave it to the pros” is something that, unfortunately, gets thrown in the faces of people a lot. I kind of feel sad for people who quit their activities without realising that it’s perfectly okay to suck as long as it’s fun.

    Also, thanks for Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra. It is immensely practical when making orchestral music on a weaker computer.

  2. Mattias says:

    Thanks Otto.

    And yes, I agree that is a common and unfortunate attitude. If you can’t get pro-level results immediately, you shouldn’t bother. How the hell is anyone supposed to learn and hone their craft properly if that is what’s expected of you? I know my limitations but at the same time, if I go back and listen to the orchestral music I created ten years ago, I have improved by leaps and bounds. It just doesn’t make sense for me to quit because I’m not “better” than I presently am. I know I can improve even further, and that’s the best reason to keep doing it there is.

  3. Svendre says:

    While not in recent times, I have done a fair amount of composing at the hobby level without any formal training (even so a lot went into it.) I saw your internal churning over your work and was able to relate somewhat. Your conclusion that it should be done because you enjoy is a good one. Music does not have to have a big label, be epic or well polished to have value. What matters is if it catches your interest and evokes thought/emotions… or just makes your feet tap.

    I wanted to give you some encouragement and let you know that I like at least one of your songs well enough (Journey’s End in Battle for Wesnoth) to look you up and visit your site. When I first heard that song playing, it turned the game from mere sword slashing noises to feeling as though I were watching Conan for the first time.

    Best Regards!

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