How to compose Pirate music for games

How to compose pirate music in Studio One

In this article we look at how to compose Pirate music for games!

Let’s break down a Pirate game loop I produced for Peak Games.

We work with Studio One, but you can basically use any DAW to replicate this kind of music as long as you have the right samples. Importantly, we look at arrangement, chords, melody, instrumentation, layering.

Furthermore, I explain why I select each specific instrument for the cue.

How to Compose Pirate Game Music | Studio One 4.6 Tutorial

Pirate melody and chords

In the video we talk about the melodic phrasing and question / answer in melodies. Importantly this will give you some helpful tools to write great pirate game music.

Pirate theme for games

Pirate melodies and rhythm tend to be jumpy and bouncy so that’s what we are working with, without going too much into Pirates Of The Caribbean.

The pirate game music loop was going to work in the background of a pirate themed game, so I needed to keep things a bit on the calmer side.

  • For an instant pirate sound, accordions work well. They’re also characterised by a stride bass pattern (bass note on beats 1 and 3, chord on 2 and 4)
  • pirate music is often based on folk-style melodies which are heavily swung, lots of dotted notes.

If you want to listen to a great pirate game score I highly recommend listening to the score of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. The game Black Flag contains a very cinematic pirate game score composed by Brian Tyler.

Pirate music instrument, Hurdy-gurdy

One of the most common and iconic instrument I can think of when it comes to pirate music is the hurdy-gurdy. Sometimes called wheel fiddle. The hurdy-gurdy features three strings strung across a wheel that accesses a bow. You turn the wheel and it vibrates the strings. Two of the strings are droning and the middle string has wooden keys on it that you use to play a melody.

pirate-instrument-hurdy-gurdy
Hurdy-Gurdy – pirate instrument

It’s like a very primitive violin. The hurdy gurdy is a tricky instrument to play but instantly gives a pirate sound.

When you hear it in context it reminds of a bag pipe.

If you play games like Assassins Creed – Black Flag, Sea Of Thieves, watch films like; Black Sails, you can hear the Hurdy-gurdy all over the place.

Bear McCreary makes good use of the hurdy-gurdy in the score to Black Sails series.

Instruments in pirate music

Other typical instruments found in pirate music themes is the cello (preferably staccato), violins, accordion, military snares, cornet / trumpet and flutes etc.

In the pirate music video above I talk about why we often hear staccato cellos, trumpets and military snares in pirate themes.

When we want to convey war we use these instruments because it’s sub-consciously those instruments used throughout the ages in war-related scenarios. Burials (trumpets), marching troops (military snare), war horn before battle (trumpets). So the typical use-cases of these instruments go way back. We can use this to our advantage when selecting instruments for our pirate music cue.

Get in the pirate music mood

In the pirate music cue I was depicting some kind of war scenario, not actual battle, but a foreboding war between the english and caribbean pirates.

It will help tremendously if you set up a topic and scenario in your mind before starting to work on any creative piece. I do this all the time in any type of music track or art piece I create.

About the author:

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Mattias Holmgren is a creative director sailing from Sweden – business owner of Morningdew Media.

Visit Mattias YouTube with informative videos on music, creative sound design, graphics and brand development.

#piratemelodies #piratemusic #studioonetutorial

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Mattias Holmgren

Mattias Holmgren is a creative director sailing from Sweden – business owner of Morningdew Media. Visit Mattias YouTube with videos on music, creative sound design, graphics and brand development. Check out the Resources Page if you want to know what gear i use. Join my exclusive community: https://www.patreon.com/gelhein
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