Should anything be done differently when mixing and/or mastering for Video Game music, considering it will play along with various other game SFX?

Should a certain range of frequencies (or multiple bands) be "cut" out of the music to leave room for the SFX to come through during the game?

In terms of loudness during mastering, should you leave more headroom compared to a track that is intended to be played by itself?

I assume this is something that has to be communicated with the Game Designer / Developer to see how many possible SFXs can go off simultaneously at any given time in the game (including what types: low end rumbles, mid-rangy, high-end noises).

Any suggestions / interesting reading on the subject?


  • You shouldn't really do anything to change your mix. The middle-ware (what is used to connect the audio and the game) handles everything. All I can really suggest for game mixing is to stem EVERYTHING. Have stems for your strings, drums, guitars, vocals, etc. That will make the producers love you as an engineer.
    – WLPhoenix
    Sep 25, 2012 at 16:27

3 Answers 3


From the individuals I know in this space, I understand there is an element of side-chaining which is utilised in many high end games, but apparently an equally important aspect is in composing your score to include multiple paths:

I haven't got the right terminology for this, but effectively what they do is use side-chaining to reduce the volume of the music channels when an event occurs (eg a missile explosion) and also reroute the score from a 'steady state' bed through to a more dynamic element which is already mastered to cope with that event.

There is obviously a high level of complexity in this, but it does provide a more immersive audio environment, and allows you to use side-chaining a little less.

  • Perhaps they just use a normal compressor on the music, the threshold of which is pulled down for SFX events, instead of actually lowering the volume? Jul 17, 2012 at 12:24
  • Hmmm - will need to go and check. You could be right - I can't remember the wording they used, but that could fit the description.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 17, 2012 at 12:36
  • For the purpose of clarity: either of these options would mean that the music produced would not need to be tailored to the specific use, correct?
    – horatio
    Jul 19, 2012 at 20:55

Interesting reading on the subject: LucasArts patented the iMUSE (Interactive MUsic Streaming Engine) in the early 90s, which was a (genius) musical system that transitioned between music as the player transitioned between scenes.

Essentially, when the player chose to move from one scene to another, certain instruments would fade out, and new ones (with a more appropriate tone) would fade in, providing a natural transition to the tone.


I am no expert but wouldn't it be nice to create a sound engine that could support something like side-chaining. Although hard to achieve (mostly due to performance issues) I think this would be a killer thing for the premium game industry...

  • it is already done :-)
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 17, 2012 at 11:48
  • @DrMayhem - Where is this being done? Are you talking about a specific sound engine for games?
    – bigp
    Jul 17, 2012 at 11:53
  • I haven't seen enough details about "standard" sound engines. The impression I got was that while they weren't utilising anything as clever as a full on DAW, they were tracking the core music volume against other sounds in a very basic way - I can see if I can get more details from them.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 17, 2012 at 12:00
  • I would really appreciate it. If you find out anything that this side-chaining technique can be used in Flash, I would really love to know what can do this! :)
    – bigp
    Jul 17, 2012 at 13:00
  • 1
    Not to be a killjoy, but this isn't an answer and the comments are turning into forum-style discussion. Please take this to chat if you could!
    – Warrior Bob
    Jul 18, 2012 at 16:41

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