Monday, January 27, 2014

Evolve Your Game: Music for the First Timer

Evolve Your Game: Ambient-Mixer
Game: Any

When I was running games way back in the 80s, I used to struggle with movie soundtracks played on a cassette player (A what?) to enhance my games.  I remember wearing down my Enya tapes as I ran them over and over to add a deeper emotional charge to my Dungeons and Dragons games.  I recall recording selected tracks from The Lion King, The Prince of Egypt and even Mulan in a single tape so rather than have to manually rewind the tape each time a song ran out, I could keep it playing over and over again.  Eventually, I could afford my own CD player and following that, mp3 player, that I started to burn CDs with various mp3s and would even create "Official Soundtracks" for the games I would run.

And I remember how other groups would be astonished, or impressed, or inspired by how I'd use music in those games, and in many instances, they would ask how to start doing something like that in their own games.    Thankfully, nowadays, using music isn't that hard to accomplish in one's own games.  The internet offers a wealth of opportunities to dip into and take a stab in adding music to their games.   Purchasing movie soundtracks, thematic scores and even mood music now is very easy.  Creating your own playlists to have tunes arranged according to a specific emotion or atmosphere are as easy as clicking and dragging songs to a window, depending on what software you use.

Finally, for those who aren't willing to take the time to burn discs or purchase songs, there are websites that make it even easier to do.  This post is focused on one such site:  Ambient Mixer.

Ambient Mixer is a free online resource with a thriving community that has been creating wonderful soundscapes for others to use.  The site requires no installation to use and all the music are created with royalty free audio files.  Need an evocative theme to add color to your fantasy games?  Hoping to embellish your board game nights by having appropriate dramatic music while your group plays Last Night On Earth?  Searching for a fun touch of ambient environmental sounds to suggest the group has arrived at that tavern? This site has got you covered.  

 And even better, each arrangement has the appropriate controls so the user can make adjustments where they feel are necessary.  Not too keen on the crickets in the forest music?  Then slide that audio sample down to mute.  Want that cityscape to sound more like a city with busy streets than one with just the occasional car horn?  And slide those portions up and tweak the frequency of the loop.

Ambient Mixer is the kind of website I wish I had back when I started my gaming days.  And I'm extremely happy that others have the opportunity to use such a site now to give their game that added dose of cool.
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