The Changing Sounds of the Slot Machine

Music Notes

As you walk through a bank of slot machines, music might not be the first thing you notice. The neon colours, flashes of light and HD graphics often trump the chimes and dings. But close your eyes and for some, it sounds like a symphony.

“It’s very percussive, high bells and bubbly sounds,” says Aaron Little, lead guitarist for Orangeman, a band that regularly plays gigs at OLG Slots and Casinos. “Most of it is in a range much higher than middle C on a piano, and it has a certain quality that definitely keeps you alert.”

John Acosta, leader and producer of the Bee Gees Gold tribute band, lives his life playing in casinos around the world. He puts it more succinctly: “The sounds of slot machines say, ‘It’s on! Let’s do this!’”

Anyone who’s been on the gaming floor knows the excitement John’s talking about. After all, sound and music reach us in fascinating ways. Over the last few years, several books have delved into this very subject, including Musicophilia by famed neurologist and author Oliver Sacks. “The emotional responses to music can be unbelievably complex and mysterious and deep,” Sacks writes. Consider how many of your best memories involve your favourite songs and friends, and you get the picture of how powerful sound can be.

Traditionally, many of the cascading melodic motifs of slot machine music have been tuned to the key of C Major so that whole banks of machines mesh together sonically. This avoided an effect like listening to two competing stereos, however, time are changing.

Slot Machine
In recent years, slot machine sounds have evolved with the tastes of players. According to Sherri Francis, Slot Operations Manager at OLG Casino Brantford, current machines increasingly incorporate music, dialogue and sound-effects licensed from a vast spectrum of TV and film franchises, including everything from The Walking Dead to the classic Wheel of Fortune. Many machines include the biggest hits of rock and pop icons such as KISS and Michael Jackson, and these artists tend to want their music to remain in the key they intended.

According to Sherri, the variety of slot machines has never been bigger. And when it comes to a player’s go-to machine, you can’t judge a book by its cover. “You can have a young player who likes the Elvis machine and a more experienced one gravitating to ZZ Top”, she says.

“You would be surprised sometimes about the favourite machine of a particular player,” Sherri continues, “If you ask them why they like a particular machine, it’s about how the game plays.”Game play is not just about the mechanics of the game itself, but also the overall feel, which has everything to do with sight and sound.

Today, slot machine sounds are designed with the care and attention given to the flashing lights and graphics and are every bit as important to the overall experience. The technology brought to the sound is now cutting edge, including 3D sound engineering in its creation and surround sound speaker systems in its presentation on the gaming floor.

Sherri points out another recent sonic evolution.

“In the last decade or so, the games have switched over from tokens to tickets, which has changed the ambiance,” she says. “Where you used to hear the clanging of real tokens coming out of the machine during a jackpot win, you now hear the electronic sounds announcing wins and more bonus rounds.”

Either way, it’s all music to the ears of the slot player.

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