(Please note: a great set of headphones or a nice sound system is essential for reading this article.)
To me, music is... I can’t even explain it. I tried to come up with a great analogy for the first sentence, and there are literally no words. If you have some time, look up amazing, supernatural, and effin’ sweet in the thesaurus, and you’ll get an idea. True, the vast majority of the time that I’m driving, I listen to NPR. It really helps to keep a sharp mind when you work in the business world. You learn stuff, you find great conversation topics, and you don’t speed to NPR. See, when I put music on in the car, unless its smooth jazz, I get a lead foot. Music has the power to make you go faster… and faster is better, right? And who doesn’t want to be better?
There’s a fantastic book called Armada, by the writer of the exquisite gaming novel Ready Player One, Ernest Cline. (PS: If you haven’t read RPO, we can’t be friends. I recommend the audiobook.) In Armada, another great gaming novel, the theory is that we’re all secretly being trained by video games to eventually pilot starships and mechs, in order to save the world from an alien invasion. The main character, Zach Lightman, who’s your cliché PC gamer, finds a mix tape in his father’s belongings called Raid the Arcade. This was a playlist of songs that his dad used to play while he was gaming. The idea was, the beats and melodies helped him get into the groove and dominate, because the soundtrack was awesome. Rightfully so, mind you. What would movies be like without the soundtracks?
I find that having a fantastic playlist or mix ready to roll when I’m gaming is essential to me. Sure at first when I’m trying out a new game, I listen to just the audio provided with it. But once I find something I would like to be competitive at, or even if I want to concentrate to beat a certain mission or level, I almost always substitute my own music. The problem is, there’s SO much music out there. What’s a girl to do?
To create the perfect gaming mix, it’s almost like you want a chart-topping techno producer, mixed with a touring classically trained musician, someone who runs a radio station, and a seasoned nightclub DJ as a friend. But where the hell are you going to find someone like that? Well, you’re in luck! Your good buddy Dizzyjuice is all those things, and I’m here to hopefully open your eyes to a few tunes that will help you spread pwnsauce all over that asskick sandwich you’re about to force-feed your enemies.
Open your eyes….. err…. ears. That’s the most important thing to remember. There is a TON of music out there, some of which you may not know exists. Just don’t be closed minded, and you can experience some beautiful things. Experimenting: it’s not just for college. Sure, not all music is for every person, or every situation. If you dominate League of Legends while blasting country music, then hey… go for it. Whatever works for you. My suggestions, however, will be a little skewed towards the electronic genres, simply because that’s what I produce and play.
There are tons of options when it comes to laying down a great mix for gaming. Prefer classic rock? Why not just listen to the original Raid the Arcade playlist right from Armada? It’s actually pretty damn good.
For me, speed and fantastic bass are my bread and butter when it comes to a great K/D ratio. Let’s start with some fast tunes to get the blood going.
- Dusht Yodha
Shameless… SHAMELESS self-promotion, but I don’t care. I love this track, and can’t listen to it enough. My ‘Up All Night’ remix of Dusht Yodha is a tribal techno track designed to play on a big stage at a festival, but it will melt the coil on your subwoofer if you turn it up too loud. Do it.
- For the Time Being
This track by Phonique Erlend Oye is not as loud and obnoxious as the first one, but rather focuses on the deep beat and a light vocal to help you zone out of the real world, and zone in on the crits. Definitely the most chill track on the list.
- Muscle Rollers
Much more energetic than the above, this electro-house track has a little dubstep stank on it in the middle, that, if perfectly timed with a multi-kill in PVP, will send shivers down your spine.
- Unison – Knife Party Remix
Want to melt faces in the arena? Destroy carriers and dreadnaughts in space? Play this track. The intro is a bit tame… but let me tell you, about 1:20 in, and holy shit. This beast turns into a break-beat beast that will potentially cause you neck pain from all the head banging you’ll be doing.
- No Problem
If you don’t know what ‘drum and bass’ is, you obviously have never driven 150mph. Topping the beats-per-minute chart, drum and bass is crazy-fast and energetic. It’s like giving cocaine to a cat and letting it DJ. Fantastic. (please don’t try that at home)
- Power Glove
Other than the cool reference to my fav Nintendo controller in the title, this track always makes me drive fast, and pwn hard. Its fast, its angry, and both your opponents and your mother will wish you weren’t listening to it.
Speed has its place in gaming, for sure. I encourage you to search for Drum and Bass tracks on your own, some dirty Electro House, or if you like that little extra bit of wobble on the low end, Drumstep is a fantastic genre that combines the speed of drum and bass, with the speaker-melting bass of dubstep. Want a taste? Check out this fantastic and amazingly well produced track by Pendulum, remixed by Rob Swire. Frankly, if I could only game to ONE track on repeat for the rest of time, it would be this. https://soundcloud.com/pendulum/witchcraft-rob-swires-drumstep
Now, for those who prefer something a little slower and dirtier, you will want to consider the downtempo Electro-House and Dubstep tracks that are just plain evil, and are almost designed with damaging something (ears, speakers, personal property) in mind. Shit’s about to get heavy.
- Big Boss
Slow and dirty, this track with its syncopated sounds is perfect for just mowing down enemies with a mini-gun. I dare you to listen to it, and not imagine spraying thousands of rounds down-range. I dare you.
- Me and You
This piece by Nero is uplifting and always gets me pumped up before a big match or a boss fight. A great all-around classic to throw in almost any playlist, whether you like dubstep or not. Are you ready?
- Cracks (Flux Pavilion Remix)
Great vocals in this track give it a slightly smoother edge that some other dubstep tracks, but then it gets quiet, and the beat drops, reminding you that it’s time to crush your enemies.
This near-cinematic production by Porter Robinson gives me shivers down my spine. Launch this gem in the lobby about 1:40 prior to a match, and holy shit…. you will be PRIMED for battle when the light turns green.
- Love (The Gagging Version)
Easily the most NSFW song on this list, by FAR. This song is just plain dirty. Once you get past the lyrical intro, it drops very angry basslines and beats. Not only will you get a chuckle out of it, but it should provide sufficient motivation to get that K/D “up” too.
Now, let’s take it down a notch (read again in cliché radio DJ voice.) Not every game or battle requires the filth of the last playlist, or the speed of the first. Sometimes you just want to chill and farm some asteroids. Sometimes you want to level your fishing skills in WoW without a bot. Neither of those need nor warrant a high heart rate. So here are a few chill tracks when you want to kick back and watch TinyMiner shoot some floating rocks. I mean.... wait….. nvm.
- Baby Got Back
Yeah, that song, but…. different. Imagine it sung by a guy in a tiger-print tuxedo and a three piece jazz band. That’s right, Richard Cheese makes his… cheddar… by singing lounge-style versions of popular tracks. He basically has my dream job. Check out his entire discography. You are welcome.
- Nightlife and Journeyman
Amon Tobin makes music worthy of any videogame or cinema soundtrack. This guy is beyond talented, and if you jump on YouTube, you should SEE the projection-mapping visuals that accompany his performances. Browse this guy’s entire track list and fall in love with the complex audio orgy that is his sound design.
- Spider-Man Theme and Decepticons
Ugress is one of those producers that I can listen to almost any time. These tunes are a little funkier and feature more traditional instruments, but the production quality of Ugress tracks are second to none. Check out those two tracks above, and you’ll want to explore what else is out there. Besides, who doesn’t like jazz flute and sound bites from the original 80’s Transformers?
- 6-Hours Starlight
This is way more jazzy and coffee shop than anything else on the list, but man if you don’t at least give listening to stuff like this from Xploding Plastix a chance, you won’t know what you’re missing out.
- Sofa Rockers (Richard Dorfmeister Remix)
You’re going to laugh at me, but I really don’t care. I found this track by Sofa Surfers when I Shazamed some hold music at a fancy hotel. Again, you’re laughing, but I don’t care. This stuff is fantastic. You will be so chill after listening to this. So chill. Let me stress again, there are millions of songs out there that you can discover and fall in love with. All I ask is that you step outside of the mainstream, and at least explore a bit. Who knows, some of this last playlist might come in handy if you ever left the basement and met someone of the opposite sex? Ya never know ;-)
Unapologetically obsessed with music and sound quality, I do not expect you to purchase a rig the likes of which grace my desk. However, I do want to stress that the caliber of equipment that you use to listen to music is actually important. You’ll never hear the gorgeous basslines of some of these tracks with a $5 pair of ear buds from the check-out isle at Walmart. Just don’t do it, man.
First, let me tell you what I, the maniac, use for my gaming/producing sound rig:
Two Behringer Truth B2031A active studio reference monitors – Main speakers
A single KRK 10s powered subwoofer – The bass
The gorgeous Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 external soundcard – The brains
V-Moda Crossfade LP Headphones – When I don’t want to rattle plates in the house.
The setup above ensures that my neighbors can enjoy anything I’m listening to comfortably, and I don’t live in an apartment. There’s a quarter-acre between me and the house next door. There is a very important point to bring up, though. How loud your sound system can get almost doesn’t matter, unless you’re using it to throw a rave. Sound quality by far surpasses loudness when it comes to music. Don’t buy junk.
You don’t have to sink a grand into a sound system for your desk. That doesn’t make sense. You also don’t need to spend hundreds on headphones for a great experience. As a great example of this, Monoprice has their own line of speakers and headphones that are actually really good, and for a fraction of the price. Frankly, their Premium Hi-Fi DJ Style headphones for $15.99 are nearly as good as my VModas for a fraction of the price. Yeah, they’re all plastic and the ear cushions aren’t as nice, but damn…. For $15.99, you’d be hard pressed to find a better set of cans. These out-perform any pair of Beats by Dre any day. ANY day. Break them in for 20-30 hours (leave them plugged in playing some music with bass) and you will be amazed. Combine them with a nice mic for your desk, and you need not worry about some fancy Steel-Series gaming headset.
In closing, I just want to reiterate that browsing new unfamiliar tracks is great stuff. You never know what you’re going to find. Experimentation is literally the foundation of jazz, and once you’ll start looking around and finding and sharing new tracks, you’ll not only open yourself up for new audio experiences, but you will see that your performance at key moments in-game will be awesome. Lost the match? Meh, at least the next track is going to be sick…
Want the above songs and tons more in a simple playlist? Follow my playlist on Spotify and just hit shuffle. You won’t be disappointed.
Prefer a live one-hour mix of fast-paced tunes? Stream this mix I made when I couldn’t sleep one night.
Audio gear purchasing questions? I’m super happy to help: Dizzyjuice on Discord or Steam.