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The music of Mass Effect 3: Synthtopia

Mass Effect 3, The biggest release of 2012 is now only a few weeks away from release, I give you a little behind the scenes info of how and what we’ve used to create our score for ME3. Please note that there are other composers involved due to the sheer amount of music a game like ME3 needed (One of them being Sam Hulick. Check out his work). Also check out the work of my co-writer, Cris Velasco right here. 

Growing up in the 80s, electronic music was everywhere. From the likes of Vangelis and his Blade Runner score to Tangerine dream and Depeche mode were on the radio 24/7. Being able to combine two passion’s of mine, electronic music influenced by the 80s together with the magical sounds of the Orchestra, was a dream come true. Early on, I wanted to take this to the next level so I decided to not only use Virtual Instruments but real hardware synths as well. So here’s a list of hardware we’ve used on ME3:

The Juno 106

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We’ve purchased this synth right before we worked on the Quake 2 score back in 1997. Feels like forever ago but this synth is still one of my favorites.  If you want more history on this synth, I suggest you read it up here. 

This Synth has an excellent analog low-pass filter and was used for lot of the pads layered underneath the Orchestra. Everyone from The Prodigy to Depeche Mode have and use one. 

Next up is the rather newer Moog Slim phatty and the Roger Linn’s Tempest drum machine:

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The Moog was used for a lot of the arpeggiated Bass lines you will hear all over the tracks. This unit gets send first through a Chandler Tg-2 pre-amp before it hits the DAW so the signal is really phat so to speak. The Tempest came in while we were almost done with the score but I still managed to use it on 2 combat cues. Of course Linn style drum sounds, that was the whole point.

Modular Rig: 

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I started to build a Eurorack Modular Rig last year with some help from Josh Humphrey of Big City Music here in LA. What you see there in yellow is the Metasonix Vacuum Distortion module. Yes, real working tubes. True Clipping. :) It’s good stuff. The modular was used for a lot of more FX type of sounds. Since theres no way to ‘save a patch’, you never know what you going to get next. Some sounds of it you can hear in our Character creation theme. 

Next up is the OP-1:

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The OP-1 contains 8 different forms of synthesis. From an FM to wave engine, it has it covered. It also has a unique build-in sequencer. Almost all of the melody arp lines you hear are coming from the OP-1. Lots of outboard was used to give the sequences that ‘Vangelis’ sound (well thanks to the H8000).

Alesis HR-16

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What you see here is a Modded Alesis HR-16 drum machine. The original machine is from 1988 but when you hear the crazy modded sounds, its a killer for sure. You can patch for hours and always get something new and strange. Not sure what each mod does but I used this for more of the one shot FX hits in our ME3 combat cues. On the Soundtrack listen to “The Scientist”. 

And lastly, the iPad:

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Yes, the iPad is now a legit tool to use as a music pro.If you still think this is toy then you are sorely missing out on some of the most innovative software out there. Moog’s Animoog app was used for a lot of the, what I call, Musical sound design. Wave table movements all send through a Eventide H8000 unit, together they make magic. You can hear this app on pretty much every single cue, esp. the ambient ones.  

These were some of the main tools used to create the musical soundscape that is Mass Effect 3. Honorable mention: The MS2000 (still a great synth), Roland V-synth and of course my Symbolic Sounds Kyma system, which was used to create some drones and other morph lik effects. 

I will leave you with a snippet of our Character Creation theme but you can download the free Mass Effect 3 demo and hear the whole thing when you create your own Shepard. ;) This piece uses the Op-1, Juno, modular rig and the Kyma system for the vocals. Enjoy and for more news on all things ME3 music follow me on twitter!

Special thanks to Rob, Mark and Casey of Bioware/EA. 


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  5. qbical reblogged this from toksin and added:
    great tumblr post...Mass Effect 3 soundtrack, and...vintage...
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