How to Make Game Music for Beginners

Learn how to make your own game music even if you’re a complete beginner, using the Korg Gadget app for iPad! By Tim Mitra.

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Update 12/8/14: Updated for Xcode 6.1.1.

So you’ve built a great game with awesome graphics, rock-solid gameplay, and a creative storyline. What more could you ask for?

Even with all that awesomeness, you’ll find the game lacking without some great in-game music.

Hiring a musician is the best bet of course, but if you don’t have the funds for that, that’s OK too. You can easily make your own game music, using some amazing iPad apps!

One such app I really like and personally use is Korg Gadget for iPad. It collects 15 mobile synthesizers and drum machines into a single app and wraps them all with an easy-to-use sequencer.

The only skills you need to compose music in this app are tapping and dragging. You can easily export a finished song from Korg Gadget and add it to your app.

In this tutorial I’ll take you through creating a simple track in Korg Gadget using multiple instruments, exporting the file, and finally including the finished song in your app.

Ready to discover the inner musician you never knew existed? Read on! :]

Getting Started

Download Korg Gadget on the App Store. Korg Gadget isn’t cheap; the current U.S. price on the App Store is $38.99, but occasionally you can find it on sale.

Open the Korg Gadet app on your iPad and tap the document icon in the upper left corner to create a new project, as shown below:


Tap New, enter RW Game Track as the name, and tap OK.

The app then presents you with a list of sequencers, or Gadgets as they are called in the app. Choose the London drum machine as shown below:


The app then takes you to the Mixer view where you will build your song. By default, the top half of the screen displays list of tracks, like so:

Default View

Tap the Track 1 to enter Edit view:


At the top left of the screen you’ll see a Draw icon and a Select icon. Tapping these icons toggles you between “drawing” mode and “selecting” mode.

Tap any of the eight blue pads at the bottom of the screen and you’ll hear the London synthesizer drum sounds in real time. Note that the row names in your grid correspond to the names of each drum “voice”. Alternatively, you can tap on the row headings to hear the drum voices.


Tap the Drum Kit display on the left side of the console to open a popover showing the available drum sets. Scroll down and select 042 Lockeroom from the list.


To add a note to your song, simply tap the screen where you’d like to add the note. For your first attempt, recreate the pattern shown in the image below:


If you’ve placed a note in the wrong spot, just tap the note again to remove it.

Press the Play icon in the bottom toolbar to play your song; each note is played as the yellow cursor scrolls by.

By default the green loop icon is selected, so the song repeats until you tap the pause icon. If you turn off loop mode, the song stops when it reaches the end of the track.


If you want to clear your notes from the screen, press Hold to erase to wipe the notes as the cursor scrolls by.

I uploaded my example to SoundCloud so you can compare your results to mine:

Next, save your work in progress. To do this, tap Back to return to the Mixer View, tap the Document icon, then tap Save.

The basic drum groove is in place; next you’ll add a low drone sound to your track a la Blade Runner or Miami Vice.

Adding a Simple Drone

At this point you should be back in the Mixer View. Tap the circled + in the second grey box to create a new gadget, as shown below:


Choose the Chicago Gadget from the list, then tap the Chicago icon to enter Edit view.

You’ll note that this sequencer has fewer pads than the London synthesizer (7 versus the London synthesizer’s 8). The pads on this sequencer control the pitch of the note being played instead of the instrument voice. The black dots on the first, fourth, and seventh pads indicate an octave change.


Note: An octave normally spans eight whole notes in Western music — you probably know them as Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti and Do. The Chicago gadget provides a subset of those notes — the first, third and fifth notes, or Do, Mi, and So. The pattern then repeats, just an octave higher.

The first key is middle C, which is the center key on an 88 key piano. This pitch is too high for your low drone. To lower the pitch of the notes, scrub the left column downward until you reach G1.

This time, instead of tapping the screen to place a note, tap and drag to the right as shown below — this creates a a note that plays for the entire bar:


Tap on Sound Program and choose 028 Downer Arp — this changes the voice of the note played. This preset gives you a sound like a Roland Arp synthesizer with some modulation using the “arpeggiator” effect settings from the lower right:


Note: Playing the notes of a chord one at a time — in this case, the first, third, and fifth intervals — creates an arpeggio. A “downward” arpeggio starts with the highest note and plays the notes in descending order, while an “upward” arpeggio starts with the lowest note and plays the notes in ascending order.

Feel free to experiment with switches in the Arpeggiator section: try the Up, Up/Down, 2 Oct and 1 Oct settings to see how they change the songs. You can turn off the effect by hitting the On button in the Arpeggiator section of the console.

When you are finished experimenting, return the toggle switches to the Full and Down positions.

You can hear my version here for comparison purposes:

That takes care of the foundation tracks for your song — but most songs need a melody to carry them forward.

If that sounds complicated, consider this: most popular songs only have four to six notes total in the main melody, or “hook”! :]


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