So, today I am sharing with you some of the reasons I teach video game music...and why you should, too! If you have ever wondered how video game music can further your pedagogical goals with your students, this is the article for you!
Click “read more” to learn about the benefits of teaching video game music in your studio!
It is quite possible that many of your students listen to more video game music than any other genre. As video games have surged in popularity, the music from video games has become an important part of popular culture. YouTube videos of video game music garner millions of views; virtuoso pianists perform covers of famous video game themes.
By incorporating video game music into your lessons, you will be including music that is relevant to your students’ lives--as well as instantly recognizable to their friends. That can be a powerful motivator!
The video game genre encompasses a wide variety of styles.
If you haven’t listened to much video game music, you might be surprised at the variety of styles contained within the genre. From the minimalist music of “Minecraft,” to the sweeping, cinematic-style music of “Final Fantasy,” to the big band and ragtime-inspired music of “Cuphead”--the video game genre contains great examples of music from just about every style.
You will even find examples of video games referencing famous classical works, such as J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” (“The Long Dark”), Mozart’s “Requiem in D minor” (“Bioshock”) and even Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” (“Contra III”). If you are looking for ways to expose your students to a variety of musical styles, look no further than their favorite video games!
Video game music is a great vehicle for teaching expression and story-telling.
Since video game music is often written to accompany a specific game character or a specific scene from a game, it is a perfect tool for teaching students how to communicate a story through music. Ask your students to describe what they think is happening as they listen to their favorite video game piece. How did the composer represent that in the music from the game? How will the student perform the piece to communicate that idea to the audience?
Video game music can provide a great introduction to contemporary musical techniques.
There are many gifted, highly trained composers writing in the video game genre these days. The compositional techniques you will find in current video game scores often rival, in my opinion, those you will find in contemporary classical music. If you are looking for interesting music that uses contemporary compositional techniques, consider video game music!
Some examples of techniques you will find:
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There are lots of great examples of syncopated video game themes, including this one: the iconic "Super Mario Bros." Ground Theme.
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Irregular Meter and Shifting Meter
There are entire YouTube playlists devoted to video game themes in unique meters. "Haggstrom," from Minecraft, is a great introduction to 7/4 time for the late elementary student.
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If you want to introduce your students to melodies outside of the traditional major and minor scales, look no further! Examples of pentatonic and modal writing abound in video game soundtracks. "The Legend of Zelda" franchise in particular contains many pieces that explore modes, including this one that features the Phrygian mode.
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Dissonance and Chromatic Harmony
We often introduce our students to twentieth century composers such as Bartok in order to expand their sense of harmony. But the same can be done with video game music! "Lavender Town," from the Pokémon games, is a great example of how the use of tritones can create a haunting sound.
What do you think? Do you incorporate video game music into your lessons? Why or why not? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
And if this discussion has inspired you to check out some game music for your students, take a look at my video game originals and arrangements for all levels (including the pieces in the examples above) HERE!