Ask @benprunty:

Hi Ben! I'm looking to buy my first keyboard. Thanks to your blog I found out you use the novation launchkey 49. Would you still recommend that or would you buy a different one if in my shoes?

Hello! The Launchkey is a fine keyboard, but I've found that I don't use any of the extra bits (faders, knobs, drum pads, etc). I'll probably end up getting a different, simpler keyboard eventually, though I still don't know what model yet. Again though, there's nothing wrong with the Launchkey. It has great build quality and I can imagine it would take many years of abuse. :)

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Hi Ben. You are a successful artist that works from home and seems to get a lot done. I know you use a bullet journal but do you have any tips for staying disciplined and getting work done/staying motivated?

I kind of answered this one a while back: https://ask.fm/benprunty/answers/138910725105
To this I would add: get a consistent sleep schedule! Forcing yourself into a routine isn't glamorous, but it can help you get a lot done. Don't believe the 'true artists never sleep/eat' bullshit. That mindset is an express train to failure and bitterness.
I'm also trying to add 'free' composing days to my schedule. Days where I just compose whatever I want, not attached to any particular project. I often get demotivated, especially if it's been a while since I've composed anything. Being able to just write what I want often leads to great things and quickly gets me back into the composing mindset. This leads to more productive days afterward, actually saving me time instead of costing me time.

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hey ben how much would it cost to have your music in my project, we are a small studio and im a big fan of your work! just for some background about the project its like galaga.

Hi! The cost of my work varies depending on the project itself, the scope of the music needed, and how busy I am. Business inquiries should be sent to benprunty at gmail. Thank you!

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Hey Ben, just finished reading your post on “How useful is my degree? Should you go to college?” Do you think aspiring composers/sound designers who go through game development for two years are wasting their time and should instead focus on just write music and only music?

Francisco Ortiz
Do you mean a game development program at a university? Learning about game development is always useful for someone working in games. I was programming and designing games for a few years before I started making music, and that experience in development has been invaluable.
The point of the blog post was to compare crippling debt + degree versus self-teaching, not the advantages of learning different disciplines. Game development brings together a massive variety of disciplines, and the more you know, the better you can contribute to the projects you work on, regardless of what your actual job is. You'll simply make better decisions.
Learning new things always means you are sacrificing time that could be spent on other things. I think spending time on game development in general can be worth it, but yeah, then you are spending less time on music. This is going to come down to your own judgement and how much you think you can juggle in your life.

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Also starting out, is it enough to have headphones for mixing ( I got Sennheiser HD 280 Pro) or should I get monitors? Any recommendations? Thanks! :)

Headphones should be fine for now. Remember the most important aspect of mixing is listening to your work on multiple speaker setups. Make a quick mix down, listen to it in a car, on laptop speakers, a stereo system, anything you can find. You'll find lots of issues that way. Write them down and then fix them when you get back to work.

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Hey Ben, short question. I'm trying to get setup at my deskop with a keyboard. I'm using a picture of yours as a reference. Are you using a wireless computer keyboard infront of your piano-keyboard or is there a way to get the cable underneath or around the Nova Launchkey?

I use a wireless keyboard, just so I don't have to worry about where to put the cable. Thinking of getting a wireless mouse, too, for the same reason.

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Who or what inspired you to make music? Does that still influence you today and in the same way?

There was no single influence as far as I can remember. I spent much of my childhood neglecting schoolwork in order to play and design games of my own: first, single-player roguelike-esque card games, then programming in BASIC, programming for my TI-83, then eventually using Klik N Play.
When everyone else my age was listening to Green Day, I was listening to bands like Orbital and Daft Punk and Underworld, and recording game soundtracks directly onto tape so I could listen to them on the bus to school. Back then you couldn't buy game soundtracks like you can now.
I was already experimenting with building my own games and my own computers, drawing comics, and writing. Experimenting with music, for a while, was just another one of the things I enjoyed doing.
When the time came to consider where to go for college, I really wanted to get into game design. Unfortunately, only 2 colleges in the US offered game development programs, and they were both prohibitively expensive, and there was no way I was getting any kind of scholarship with my abysmal grades. So I went to a 2-year program for communications with a focus on audio engineering, thinking maybe I could one day do audio for games.
I learned more and more about music and music in games, and kept making my own tracks. I got better at it every time I finished a piece, developing a passion for it as I went.
To name some specific, musical inspirations though, these were the biggest ones: William Orbit, EarthBound, OCRemix, Jesper Kyd, and Star Salzman. OCRemix, in particular, helped me a lot later on, as 'getting good enough for OCRemix' turned out to be a very good quality goal to set for myself.

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Early on when you were self-teaching yourself, how did you split your time between practicing piano, learning music theory, and actually making music? I'm in a similar spot now but I have no idea how I should divide up my time.

Hey! Sorry for my late answer. I believe I spent the majority of my time actually making music. Practicing came second and learning theory was third. As you make more music, you're going to want to learn more theory and practice more, and as you practice and learn more, you'll want to apply the things you learn. So the whole process will cause a very productive feedback loop. Keep at it!

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Hey Ben, I'm thinking about moving to Cubase! I know Cubase handles the midi stuff well, I just wanted to ask what the audio recording/editing side of Cubase is like.

I don't use it that much, but I know it's pretty robust and easy to use. Every time I've wanted it to have a particular feature, it had it. Again, I'm no expert on its audio features, but I think they'll serve you well.

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Have you ever thought about sharing some of your recipes with the world? I hear you're quite the taco man.

Hell yeah, I've even thought about doing a cooking show integrated into my livestreams somehow. I have a lot of recipes, but none of them written down. I keep it all in my head, and sort of eyeball the ingredient amounts, which is weird because I don't do that kind of thing with ANYTHING else. At some point I'll write them down on my blog or something and share them with everyone. Just wait till you see Ben's Jamaican Summer Fever Dream Popcorn.

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What's your take on the current state of VR? Do you own any VR hardware / have you tried any?

Alexander K
VR is pretty cool, but it is currently way too expensive to be anything other than a toy for affluent people. I have a retail Oculus and it using has been a cool experience. I played a good amount of Chronos, a really wonderful Zelda/Dark Souls style action/adventure game for Oculus and I love it.
If there is enough support for them, I'll consider getting the Oculus motion controllers too. I'd love to play all the newer, weirder VR stuff that's so prominent on the Vive.

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What was the game you liked most in 2016 so far? Anything you look forward in 2017?

Alexander K
That reminds me to write my annual 'favorite games' list!
So far, my current favorites are DOOM, Duskers, and Overwatch. I'm totally immersed in Dishonored 2 right now. I'm excited to try Final Fantasy XV when it comes out. So I guess I haven't quite decided on a favorite yet!

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Hi Ben! You're amazing! At what point in your career did you start actively promoting yourself and building your name? How did you go about that? Was there a point where you thought, "I can say that I'm skilled enough to do so?"

Victor Cortes
Thank you! I started actively promoting myself around 2008-2009, about 9 years after I started making music for the first time. I wasn't entirely sure I was skilled enough to do it, but I had some hints:
1. I was way more proud of the work I was doing at the time than in previous years. I was less frustrated with how each piece turned out.
2. I had some friends who actually wanted to listen to my music on their own time, not just when I begged them to listen to give me feedback. When I would post things for my friends to listen to, they would leave comments like, "this is actually really good." These were signs that they were genuinely impressed and not just being polite.
These things helped give me the confidence to keep going even if I didn't get any actual work for a while. You can read more about this here: https://benprunty.com/2014/03/03/the-most-important-advice-i-can-give-to-an-aspiring-game-musician/

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What do you think of Kevin MacLeod's work, and royalty-free music in general?

Alexander K
I don't really have an opinion on royalty-free music, because I've never really had any experience with it. My path as a musician was always to make music for games, and making royalty-free music never really had a place in that path.
I know of MacLeod, but I haven't heard his music, at least not that I know of! Sorry!

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Hi Ben! Did you spend time analysing and picking apart music from your favorite artists as a beginner? How did you go about doing it? :)

Hello! I suppose to some extent I was always doing that, but when I got more serious about music making I started analyzing other music more thoroughly. I would listen to music from Jeremy Soule, William Orbit and others, and I would write down everything I heard. You can see the techniques I used for that in this blog post: https://benprunty.com/2014/09/29/color-sky-how-i-composed-metro-molecule/
This helped me understand song structure. In college I also went through training for listening in a more technical sense: how each instrument fills the frequency spectrum, listening for problems in a mix, figuring out what effects were used, etc. This was also really valuable, and it's a skill I use every day. I'm sure you can find books on mixing that will teach you how to listen better.

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You mentioned in a blog post a "mountain of old music" that "I now stand on to create good music." Up until Chromatic T-Rex, how much of that mountain did you share with other people (for feedback or just because)? I'm slowly learning music & I don't know how early is too early to share my stuff.

I shared my music pretty much right from the beginning. Feedback is really useful. You don't need to release an album on bandcamp, or anything really official. You can just share stuff with close friends. Or post on a composer work-in-progress forum under an alias. As you know, Chromatic T-Rex does not represent my earliest work. I was sharing lots of music under a few different aliases and through different services (an old website of mine, the original mp3.com, OCRemix, etc.) When you start sharing is totally up to you, but in general, feedback is always good.
To me, the most important feedback of all is this: whether or not people actually want to listen to your music on their own time. In the beginning, when you get friends and colleagues to listen to your work, they'll say things like "that's cool", "good job", or "not my thing, but I think it's good". These kinds of non-committal response will tell you that you still have a lot of practice ahead of you.
When they start saying things like "this is actually really good", or "wow", or even ask you if they can have your music, or suggest that you should release an album, that's when you know you're approaching pro level. You should now start making music to actually sell to people, be they listeners or game developers or whatever.
If you want more specific feedback, find other artists, or a mentor, and ask them to be honest.
You can even use a little trick to get people to be more honest: say the music is by a friend and they're looking for feedback and you thought they would be a good person/forum/whatever to get it. People are always willing to be more honest with feedback when they're not talking directly to the person.

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How do you stay motivated to keep working when feeling down?

If it's bad enough, I'll simply stop working and read, play games, go for a walk, watch goofy youtube videos (this can help a LOT), or start texting some of my close friends, just to connect with them. At this point in my life I know that the low state will pass at some point and I just need to ride it out.
If it's not *that* bad, I'll often just work on easy, non-music stuff, like writing promotional tweets, answering emails, planning future work, or simply engaging with fans on twitter, all while listening to music. When you're an indie and a one-man operation, there's *always* something mundane and pretty easy you can do to keep the business running.
Sometimes I'll clean parts of my house or organize stuff. This might just be because I get very real anxiety from clutter, but you might find that you feel less depressed in an uncluttered home or work space, so maybe give it a try when you're down.
Tips on minimizing time spent feeling down:
- Eat well! Do not ever skip meals, and eat more unprocessed foods. You will be amazed at how much 'feeling down' is often just 'feeling hungry'.
- Exercise every day if you can. You'll sleep better and feel more relaxed the rest of the day.
- Write down your accomplishments, even if they're just "answered 5 emails" or "exported an album to a new file format". Do it every day, and maybe compile a list of all your accomplishments every week. This does wonders for making you feel like you're spending your time well, and will motivate you to work more.

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Are there any game series (past or present) you would love to work on?

Jay
The idea of working on an established series is actually fairly unappealing to me. I'd much rather make my own sound for something new. That said, I'd love to work on something that was in the style of Silent Hill. Maybe a 'spiritual successor', if you will. I want to work on horror games so bad!
I also love the amazing musical variety found in many JRPGs like EarthBound and Final Fantasy. It would be REALLY fun to work on something like that, having so much freedom to try different ideas.

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There are so many chord progressions and cool little techniques (I recently learned about the picardy third for example). I was wondering, do you keep a personal database of that knowledge? And if so, what tool do you use and how often do you refer to it?

I do have a tag Evernote called 'music theory'. Within that I have a lot of notes that I wrote myself that summarize certain aspects of music theory, in a way that makes sense to me and the way I write music. I've collected a few things about unique methods as well. But it's been a long time since I've updated it. I really need to find a book on advanced music theory.

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Youve expressed your bittersweet attitude towards your work on FTL in the past. How would you feel if you were asked to compose for an FTL 2?

Overall I'm super happy with my work on FTL. :) If FTL 2 were to happen I would be really excited to do it! I would love to revisit those themes and melodies and try to put a new spin on the original style. Plus it would be cool to see fans go nuts for it. :)

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Any update on the Patreon campaign? I have learned so much from you over the last few months and I want to support your streaming.

Thank you! The Patreon campaign is currently on indefinite hold, as I felt it wasn't coming together very well. I'm looking into Twitch partnership as an alternative, and also hoping to release a lot more albums and EPs in the future. :)

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