Thursday, 23 May 2024

An Exclusive Interview with Marty O’Donnell: Behind the Music of Halo: Reach

As the audio director and composer at Bungie, Marty O’Donnell has played a crucial role in creating the iconic music and sound effects that have made the Halo series so memorable. In this in-depth Q&A, we delve into Marty’s creative process, his approach to composing music for the Halo games, and his experiences working with local musicians and celebrities.

Crafting the Theme for Halo: Reach

When asked about the creation of the theme from the Halo: Reach trailer that debuted at the 2009 Video Game Awards, Marty explains his vision for the music. He wanted the theme to evoke a visceral, impactful feeling, conveying the sense of importance and tragedy that the game embodies. Marty’s love for timeless instruments like strings and French horns shines through in his compositions. Rather than having specific character themes, Marty’s focus is on scoring the events and the emotions of the game in the moment.

Halo Reach

Collaboration and Early Development

Marty reveals that he gets involved in Halo’s development cycle from early on. He works closely with the team, discussing story ideas, characters, and even casting decisions. However, Marty doesn’t start working on musical ideas until specific pieces are needed. He shares an interesting anecdote about how the very first Halo piece was composed to accompany in-game footage that needed to be presented to the world.

Working with Local Musicians

Marty has always preferred working with local musicians, and when he moved to Seattle, he found a talented group known as the Northwest Sinfonia. This ensemble, which includes members of the Seattle Symphony and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, specializes in film and game scores. Marty describes the process of collaborating with them, explaining how he provides the musicians with sheet music and they come together at the studio to perform. What’s interesting is that many of the musicians have become Halo fans themselves, adding an extra layer of enthusiasm to their performances.

The Northwest Sinfonia

The Art of Sound Effects

Apart from composing music, Marty also oversees the dialogue recording and sound effects. He emphasizes the importance of high-quality voice acting and shares his passion for directing actors. Marty believes that the implementation of audio in the game is just as crucial as the content itself. He strives to find the best way to bring combat and mission dialogues to life, ensuring they never become repetitive or uninteresting.

Enhancing Sound Effects for Halo: Reach

With each new Halo game, Marty and his team strive to improve the sound effects while still maintaining a connection to the familiar sounds fans have grown to love. They start with successful sounds from previous games and then experiment to make them even better. Marty highlights the importance of creating an immersive soundscape, enhancing the explosions and optimizing the mix to take full advantage of the surround sound environment. He promises that the sound design in Halo: Reach will be the best yet.

The Involvement of Celebrities

The interview concludes with a discussion on the involvement of celebrities in Halo games. Marty explains that many voice actors who are also avid gamers and Halo fans express interest in being a part of the franchise. However, reaching out to them directly proves to be more effective than going through their agents. Marty shares how the cast of “Firefly” came to be involved in the game, thanks to Nathan Fillion’s passion for Halo and his recommendation of fellow cast members.

Overall, this interview with Marty O’Donnell offers a fascinating glimpse into the creative process behind the music and sound effects of the Halo series. Marty’s dedication to his craft, collaboration with talented musicians, and passion for creating immersive gaming experiences shine through in his insightful answers. We can’t wait to experience the breathtaking soundtrack and audio design in Halo: Reach.


  • Q: How long has Marty O’Donnell been working on the Halo series?

  • A: Marty has been involved with the Halo series since its early stages in 1998.

  • Q: Will there be a specific theme for each character in Halo: Reach?

  • A: Marty prefers to score the events and emotions of the game at the time rather than assigning specific themes to each character.

  • Q: How do the sound effects in Halo: Reach differ from previous games?

  • A: The sound effects in Halo: Reach have been completely redone and enhanced to provide a more immersive experience.

  • Q: Are there any famous actors who are also fans of Halo?

  • A: Yes, many voice actors who are passionate about gaming, such as the cast of “Firefly,” have been involved in the Halo games.


In this exclusive interview, we’ve had the privilege of gaining insights from Marty O’Donnell, the audio director and composer behind the music of Halo: Reach. Marty’s creative process, collaboration with local musicians, and commitment to delivering outstanding audio experiences have undoubtedly contributed to the success of the Halo series. We can’t wait to hear the incredible soundtrack and enhanced sound effects in Halo: Reach, which promises to be the best entry in the franchise yet. For more information about Marty O’Donnell and the world of gaming audio, visit Wqaindia.