The Sound Architect had the pleasure of speaking with the excellent composer, Jeff Broadbent!
Jeff Broadbent is a Hollywood Music In Media Award-winning and Global Music Award-winning composer whose passion for music and sound has been heard around the world in numerous video games, television programs, trailers, and films.
Broadbent has composed music for some of the leading video game companies in the world including Activision, Warner Bros., Sony Online, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and NetEase. His unique and authoritative musical style combines the power and depth of the orchestra with cutting-edge synthesizers and sound design elements, making him a very unique, adaptable and versatile composer.
Such musical diversity is evident in Sony Online’s Planetside 2 in which Broadbent fused elements of orchestra, rock, and electronic genres, winning him a Hollywood Music In Media Award for Best Video Game Score and a Global Music Award of Merit. Jeff’s ambient sound-design inspired score for Ubisoft’s I Am Alive resulted in rave press reviews, an Outstanding Production Winner Award (Game Music Online), and an additional Hollywood Music In Media Award nomination.
Broadbent’s adrenaline-fueled action music has been heard in blockbuster film video games such as Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Soundtrack Geek Awards – Best Video Game Score Nomination), Expendables 2, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
In addition to Broadbent’s work for video games, his music has been featured on prime-time television for networks including CBS, MSNBC, FOX, the Discovery Channel, VH1, and more. In 2010 Jeff composed the score for the feature film THE GRAY AREA (winner of the Platinum Narrative Feature Award). In addition to his work for film, television, and video games, Broadbent has composed production and trailer music for some of the world’s leading music houses including WARNER CHAPPELL, POSITION MUSIC, SOUND IDEAS and more.
Read our full interview below!
Hi Jeff, thanks you very much for speaking to The Sound Architect, we’re very excited to have you!
Thanks much! Good to be talking with you.
Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get into music composition?
When I was a teenager I realized I wanted to be a composer. I had studied music since I was young, learning the piano and alto saxophone, and later started getting into jazz music and improvisation. Learning about jazz was a gateway into music theory and harmony, which gradually progressed into an interest in composition.
I always loved film and video game music, and this was what I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I was always exploring musically by writing my own pieces, dissecting existing compositions, etc.
Later at BYU and UCLA I studied music composition, learning in detail about orchestration, counterpoint, and other fundamentals. I studied film and video game scoring at UCLA, which taught me the specifics of these media.
What made you decide you wanted to write music for games?
A visit by video game composer Chance Thomas to Brigham Young University got me interested in scoring for video games. I saw it as a unique and emerging platform for music composition. Later at UCLA taking a video game composing class taught by Lennie Moore furthered my interest in video game scoring. I really enjoyed the hybrid nature of video games scores – they combine many different instruments and musical styles. I also liked writing action/battle music a lot, which is of abundance in video games =).
Do any projects stick out as the most challenging so far?
The project I’m working on at the moment (undisclosed game for release later this year) is probably the most challenging! This is due to the tight schedule and large amount of music that needs to be written, so it’s really a test of endurance, organization, and pacing myself.
I find that in addition to the creativity and musical chops needed to compose for film/TV/games, the ability to be well organized and manage your time and energy well is very critical. This project is teaching me increased efficiency and organization.
Out of all of them is there one that you’re proudest of?
I’m very fond of my score to Dawngate (Electronic Arts), which is a recent project of mine. Dawngate is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) that has rich artwork and diverse characters. In this game the characters battle one another for a mystical force called Vitality. Each character has his or her own backstory and lore.
The visual art of Dawngate was a big inspiration for me. It had some exotic/Eastern influences, which helped guide me in the creation of the music. This score gave me a chance to combine many different musical influences: Western orchestra, Eastern harmonies and melodies, various world music instruments, and even some organic and modern synthesizers and hybrid scoring elements.
How does your process usually begin?
I first think in terms of instrumental color – I select the musical palette that can best represent the emotions and tone of the game. I like every music score to be unique and customized, so I don’t have any default instruments I use. Rather I choose the specific instruments that are well-fitting to the game.
Next I map out the musical form of the piece – a basic overview of the sections and what I will do in each section (such as where the themes will be, theme variations, rhythmic sections, etc). This gives me a “bird’s-eye” view of the piece.
After that I begin composing, laying down the main instruments first, and then the supporting instruments. I like to tweak and refine the mix as I go, rather than leaving it for the end. After the piece is mixed I will give it a mastering pass and then send it to the development team for review.
Does your process differ much between writing for linear media, such as TV, and games?
Video games require music composed in different layers of intensity so that as the action and combat of the gameplay increases the music crossfades to gradually more intense layers of music. As such, whenever I’m composing for games I keep this in mind, and expand/contract the music layers accordingly.
Video games also use looping music tracks (usually around 2 minutes or so each), so I’m composing a steady 2 minutes of combat music or 2 minutes of ambient exploration music often on game scores. However in film or television you are scoring directly to the scene, and thus the music can change pace at a faster rate.
What equipment do you generally use?
I use Logic Pro for sequencing, and many samples/virtual instruments by companies like EastWest, 8Dio, Soundiron and Spectrasonics. I have a variety of mixing and mastering plugins I use to refine and polish the mix.
I also have a 7-string electric guitar and 5-string electric bass I will record material with (depending on the score). A newly acquired piece of gear I’m enjoying a lot is the Axe-Fx II guitar modelling processor – I’ve created many great guitar tones from this, as well as some experimental sounds.
My current mixing monitors are Focal Twin6 Be – I love the clarity and precision of these monitors. My studio room is acoustically treated so I can get a tight and accurate mix.
Are there any go-to plug-ins or favourite pieces of software you use?
Kontakt I use very often for a sampler. Ozone gets a lot of use for its mixing and mastering purposes. On a game I’m scoring now I’m using a lot of Soundiron Mars/Venus Choirs, which sound great. For strings I use a mix of LA Scoring Strings, Hollywood Strings, 8Dio strings, and Symphobia. And of course lots of synthesizers and hybrid instruments as well.
Did you use any specific techniques whilst writing for Dawngate?
For Dawngate a major goal of mine was to blend the music styles of the East and West. The game has an interesting art style that is inspired by Eastern art, so I wanted the music to follow suit.
Some Eastern inspirations were usage of pentatonic scales, quartal harmony, and harmonic movement in whole steps. Western elements include strong bombastic music (especially for the combat cues) using the western orchestra.
Dawngate was sonically unique in that I blended exotic world instruments, orchestra, and modern organic synthesizer tones and pulses. This was the first time I have worked on a game with such an eclectic music palette and I really enjoyed it. To me these sonic colors represent the richness and vibrancy of the Dawngate universe, and also the mystique and grandness of the era.
Another technique used for Dawngate was weaving motifs from the main theme throughout the score. This helps the players identify with the melodies of the game and gives a common backbone to the score. Often when composing a game score I like to start with the main theme first, so I have some melodic material to develop and incorporate throughout the score.
Was there anything in particular that challenged you on this project?
I’d say the most challenging aspect was composing the main theme – this was a very important music piece so we did a few revisions to make sure the tone and melody was spot on.
Overall, composing the Dawngate score was a pretty smooth process – I felt inspired by the game’s art and story while composing so a lot of the music “created itself”, so to speak =).
How did your approach differ on PlanetSide 2?
In PlanetSide 2 a major difference was that the game had three different factions, each of which needed their own distinct music score. For the Terran Republic I composed epic orchestral/choral music. For the New Conglomerate we used blues guitars, fiddle, and modern percussion. The Vanu Sovereignty was a mix of modern electronic music and exotic world instruments. PlanetSide 2, being a first-person-shooter, also had primarily combat music that was intense and fast-paced.
What advice would you give to aspiring composers?
One major piece of advice I would give, in addition to learning the music skills (composition, orchestration, working with software/sample libraries, mixing) is to understand how to run a freelance business. Read books on independent/freelance business and learn from them – this is often an area of importance not taught sufficiently in university.
Always give your best effort and services to the project. As an artist this means aligning your music skills with the needs of the game, and adapting accordingly. Be easy to work with and strive to make the process fun and convenient for those you work with. Learn to market yourself and showcase your abilities to others. Keep learning and improving!
Are there any major DOs and DON’TS?
Major Dos: Put the needs of the project first, and write music that will be the best possible fit for the game. Be open to revisions and improvements. Be efficient, organized, and results-oriented. Give your best every day – this to me is the fundamental building block for success.
Major Don’ts: Don’t let your ego or artistic side get in the way of the project. Realize that you are there as a composer to support the game and its creative direction. Don’t get behind in your production schedules – make a timeline and stick to it so you ensure that all deliverables are made on time.
What are your plans for the future?
I love video games so I’m always looking forward to the next project! I’m currently composing for an online game for release later this year, and in the summer I will be starting a new game score (both are undisclosed). I’m also looking forward to composing more modern/hybrid motion-picture trailer music later this year. And, a much needed vacation will be taken in a couple of months =)
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Jeff Broadbent! You can stay up to date with Jeff at the following links:
Official Site: Jeff Broadbent
You can also check out our other interviews here: Interviews
The Sound Architect
Interview by Sam Hughes