Writing Music For Video Games

by Jim DeStefano

Vanderbilt University:

Back in July an article written by Axios caught our attention. It was entitled, Vanderbilt teaches writing music for video games. We knew instantly that we would want to feature this news on our website. Video game scoring is a career on the rise, and we’d like to share some information for the prospective music student curious about this major.

Earlier this year, the Blair School of Music challenged young middle and high school students to write music in a most unconventional way. They were challenged to compose a score that would have been played during heroic moments in battle during their favorite video games. In doing this, Vanderbilt is hoping that this could be a way to locate potentially successful students, regardless of their socio-economic status. Due to the success of this initiative, Vanderbilt is hoping to take things one step further and open a video game composition course that could capture the hearts and minds of current music students at their school.

We always encourage our students to push themselves, so we love rhetoric like this coming from a top music school. We should be encouraging students to find new and meaningful ways to make a living in music. Axios reported, “…This work is part of a broader effort to push boundaries at Blair, which focuses on classical music, associate dean Seth Soloway tells Axios.” The article continues to state, “How do we make it so that our students know that if you audition for the symphony when you graduate and you don’t get in, you can still have a thriving career in music?” Soloway says. “You can get legitimate gigs scoring video games, and you can win Grammys scoring video games.”

Berklee College of Music:

Additionally, we would be foolish not to share with our students all resources available in this budding career path. Berklee offers an amazing program, Music Composition for Film, TV, and Games, for their young musicians interested in alternative careers in music. This Bachelor’s degree opens to the door for Composition in Film, Television, Video Games, and Concert/Stage.

What is Video Game Composition?

As Video games can be fluid and immersive, their scores must be complex enough to capture the magic on screen. In today’s market, modern video game scores can be as impressive and important as movie scores; likely because many composers of video game scores are also working in television and film. Like Film composition, Video game composition relies on creating “cues”, or dozens of individual pieces of music that serve to create an atmosphere and mood for the viewer. The difference between these “cues” between genres is massive though. Film scoring can sometimes be a passive experience, as the viewer is on a journey watching/viewing the movie. Video game “cues” are more interactive and engaging, as usually the viewer is also a participant, and actively engaging in the material while the score brings the action to life.

According to Berklee’s website, “Writing music for an interactive framework requires that composers master the creation of rich linear loops, music chunks suitable for resequencing, individual themes for characters, and compositional fragments for use within a generative system (such as in the life-simulation game Spore). Composers who write for top-tier games—referred to as triple-A—may record their scores with full orchestras, while independent developers and smaller titles are likely to use a combination of recorded instruments and samples.”

Additional programs:

Become a Video Game composer or sound designer:

This is a list of many of the schools that have majors our students would find interesting. This exhaustive list can be found on Gamesoundcon.com, and they’ve done a wonderful job adding more details for some of these sections. Another thing about this website that we love is that they have added commentary on how to find jobs in the field. Also, they have additional resources embedded throughout the article our students would love. Give them a read if you want to learn more!

Australian National University

Has a degree in Composition for Film & Video Games

Berklee College of Music:

Berklee offers those interested in-game music and sound several options.

Bachelor of Music in Game and Interactive Media Scoring (launching Fall 2022)

Specialization (minor) in Video Game Scoringthrough their Film Scoring Department

Specialization (minor) in Sound Design for Video Games through their Electronic Production and Design Department

Master of Music in Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games

An online degree in Music Composition for Film, TV, and Game

Champlain College

Champlain offers a Bachelor of Science in Game Sound Design

Clarke University

Clarke offers a Game Audio Track as part of its Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Media


Cnam-Enjmin (France) offers a Master’s Degree n Digital and Interactive Games and Media with a specialization in Sound Design

Columbia College, Chicago

(Chicago) Columbia College offers a two-year Music Composition for the Screen (MFA)

Columbia also offers a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design with a concentration in Sound Design

DigiPen Institute of Technology

DigiPen Institute of Technology offers two 4-year bachelor’s degrees in-game audio

Film Scoring Academy of Europe

Film Scoring Academy of Europe offers an online Graduate Diploma in Film & Game Scoring and a 1-year MFA in Film Scoring

Johns Hopkins/Peabody

Johns Hopkins/Peabody had a degree in Music for New Media

KatarinaGurska (Spain)

Offers a Master’s Degree in Composition for Audiovisual Media

Leeds Beckett (UK)

Leeds Beckett offers a Masters of Science in Sound and Music for Interactive Games dedicated solely to video game audio and allows students to specialize in either interactive music or sound design

New York University (NYU) Steinhardt

Steinhardt’s Bachelor of Music in Music Theory and Composition: Concentration in Screen Scoring includes video games

Northeastern University

Northeastern offers a Bachelor of Science in Game Design with a concentration in Music Technology

Pulse College

Pulse College (Ireland) offers a 1-year Master of Arts in Scoring for Film, TV, and Interactive Media

San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM):

SFCM provides three options for interested students:

A Bachelor of Music in Technology and Applied Composition

A Professional Studies Diploma in Technology and Applied Composition

A Master of Music in Technology and Applied Composition

San Francisco State

San Francisco State University offers either a Bachelor of Music or a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on Scoring for Games.

Savannah College of Art and Design

SCAD has Bachelors and Masters Degrees in sound design, which include courses in sound design for games

B.F.A. in Sound Design

M.F.A. in Sound Design

Thinkspace Education

Thinkspace Education provides two-degree programs

MA Composing for Video Games MA Sound Design for Video Games

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

UCLA offers a Master of Arts: Composition for Visual media which includes video games

University of Southern California (USC)

USC has two programs for those interested in game music or sound design:

Minor in Video Game Audio through their Interactive Media and Games Division.

Masters of Music: Screen Scoring including courses on Advanced Game Scoring and Integration

Contact Us

Did you find this blog helpful? Do you picture yourself in a music career? If the answer to that is a “yes”, your next step is simple. Contact insidemusicschools.com and allow our team of industry insiders to guide you toward your goal of being a professional in the music industry. Through expert counseling and real world experience, we will make sure you are prepared for the journey

Founder & President at Inside Music Schools | Insidemusicschools.com

Head of admissions and faculty member at Berklee College of Music for 40 years, Steve Lipman and our team at Inside Music Schools speak music as their primary language. We approach each client contact with open eyes, ears, and minds. As the country’s premier music school consultant, he advised students from the United States, Canada, China, Australia, Turkey, U.K., Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Israel, and Italy.