I'll probably do a number of posts on the topics of music and audio. ^^
I've been making music with software for over ten years (although I did have a few years of hiatus in the middle of that), so it's something I've been doing for much longer than game dev.
This first post on music is about the initial stages, coming up with some concepts for the audio in the game.
With a visual novel you may decide that you'd like some pieces of loopable music to be the key pieces (perhaps based on the themes or tone of the story), then possibly a number of shorter sections either of music for dramatic scenes or even foley work (sound effects such as wind, rain, clock ticking, etc.). For long stories you'll probably want quite a lot of different pieces to reduce the need for lots of repetition (which can be annoying for the player).
But before creating an asset list or anything like that I like to jam in my DAW (music software), with the story in the back of my mind.
So for this game, which is still under the working title of Departure Lounge, I know that the setting is modern UK and the themes and tones revolve, in part, around technology and mystery. This is plenty to go on! I'll no doubt end up making some pieces that are fairly beatless and ambient (which usually works well with visual novels as the player will be reading a lot and shouldn't necessarily be distracted by the soundtrack), but for now I'm making essentially dance music loops.
There might be music jargon in the next few paragraphs - sorry >.<
I'll load some drum samples first usually, I've been feeling some 909 drums lately! Then either a pad or some bass (perhaps leaning slightly towards more trippy/psychedelic sounds for these - lots of delay and acid basslines!). Setting a tempo of around 124-130bpm usually works for me when I just want to jam with some ideas, but occasionally I'll do something at a wildly different bpm.
As a quick aside, I find it very useful to save the bpm as part of the filename - because at some point later in development I might want to time some animations to the beat!
Here is an example of a quick bare bones piece I made recently:
I quite like some of the sounds and the energy. But it's unlikely to be useful as it is. So now begins a process of refining or redeveloping ideas to get something that will be closer to a piece that could be potentially used in a visual novel.
Here is a stripped down and slightly edited version of the section I was feeling the most.
This will probably be on my hard drive (and backups of course!!! remember to back up. always always back up ahaha) for a few months while I work on refining the scenes in my story.
I'll then revisit the pieces that I really like, or that I think would work really well for particular scenes, but this time I will be in more of an asset creating mindset. Which is probably the subject of a future blog post.
Till next time!