[Beyond the Dish]: Song Process


Hello, everyone! I’m Josh, Raccoopack’s composer and sound designer. Welcome to the first music blog post, where I’ll be discussing different aspects of the music in Cook to the Beat, including the music theory (presented in an accessible way, of course!), process, structure, and details behind the music, hopefully in an interesting way.

For my first blog post, I thought it would be fitting to start with the first track you’ll hear when you open up the game: the main theme. It’s one of the densest, most busy tracks in the game, and as much as I would like to delve into all the details of the whole track, I think I’ll just talk about the process of developing the 2nd theme for now.

First, let’s quickly listen to the 1st theme:

The melody is busy and constantly moving. There are a lot of notes. This was a sort of catharsis, having only written tracks for the actual levels where I had to pay very close attention to the melodic rhythm. Anyways, a good rule of thumb is to have your themes contrast each other one way or another, so I decided to have the B theme be more relaxed with much longer quarter notes and half notes.

The first step for me is always harmony, or chord progression, and then melody. This is what I came up with for the first 8 bars:

As is, it has a lot of.. Potential. I mean it’s got great voice leading (even though no one cares about that but damn it I went to music school and I’m gonna apply my learning regardless of the fact it’s been irrelevant for literal centuries), but that’s about it. Next step is to add movement in the accompaniment. Let’s spice up the piano and bass lines. And maybe some drums? Drums are good. Here it is with the melody out of the way:

It’s beginning to take shape now. Following that, I added details. A guitar ostinato (a constantly repeating note/group of notes), trombone and synth with countermelodies (a secondary melody played underneath the main melody), and some more percussion that complements all the new material. This is what it becomes with the melody added back in:

It’s starting to sound familiar. Because of the slow, relaxed melody, I decided that there was still room to add one more layer of musical material. For the second half of the theme, I brought the horn section back for a classic call-and-response section, a staple element in jazz. In this case, it’s trombones and saxes against trumpets. At this point, the piano and drums are lining up their accents with the horns to really reinforce the new material:

Underneath all of this, there is another layer of material present. One that’s unique only to this track: sound effects. In this section you can hear dishes setting, knives sharpening, and my favorite, the sound of a microwave being used. Initially, the sound of the running microwave really clashed against the music, but I liked the idea enough. My solution was to tune the microwave to match the bassline. 30 minutes into tuning a microwave, I realized what I was doing and asked myself what was I doing with my life:

Finally, let’s put it all together:

And that’s about it. As far as the process of coming up with this theme goes, that is. If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Next time you use your microwave, try to sing along to it.

Article by Josh Sung

Check out Josh’s Soundcloud

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