Composer, Orchestrator, and Copyist Kyulee Choi Collaborates to Craft Fantastic ScoresPosted by Mike Schuck
Here at Jam Addict, we've talked to a good number of composers working in entertainment, but few are as multi-talented as Kyulee Choi. She works not only as a composer but also as an orchestrator and a copyist, and that's without even getting into her own songwriting work and music production.
Choi is truly passionate about her work, and she remains dedicated to music, whether it's helping to craft media scores, playing music, or analyzing and appreciating the soundtracks of any movie or show she happens to be watching.
You may have even heard some of Choi's work in the original streaming series 'The Eight' or the action-drama feature 'The Woman King', starring Viola Davis.
Choi has been working with the team at Joy Music House to provide seamless music services to major entertainment industry clients, and she's been finding new ways to deliver music that's a perfect match for each project.
But that's enough of our rambling, let's hear directly from this expert composer and orchestrator.
Jam Addict (JA): You've played flute and piano for a long time. Do those skills continue to feed into your current projects? Also, do you still play?
Kyulee Choi (KC): As a composer, my composition process starts with sketching chord progressions and the melody with piano, so my piano skills definitely help me. Without piano, it would take much longer for me to get going!
Also, I use a Digital Audio Workstation, or a DAW, especially Cubase Pro, to compose music, which means my piano skills make my workflow faster, since I record everything with my piano and virtual instruments in Cubase.
As an orchestrator, one of the most important things is knowledge of classical music theory and how classical instruments really work. Since I know how to play the flute, it allows me to decide easily how I should orchestrate woodwinds, deciding whether a technique really works or not and what musical range is comfortable for players. It's definitely better to learn from playing than just reading it in books.
I still play piano and practice, but I don’t play flute right now because I left mine back in Korea. But I really want to get a new one!
JA: We'd like to hear about your work on 'The Eight' and 'The Woman King.' What can you tell us about these productions?
KC: When I was working on ‘The Eight’, my roles for the project were orchestrator and copyist and assisting the main composer, Tree Adams, at the recording sessions. The show has eleven episodes of an hour each, and we had four different recording sessions. We even had a remote recording session for the full orchestra in Budapest!
Since it was my very first project in the industry, I was trying to do the best possible job. When I had my first recording session, I was amazed to hear the orchestra playing parts I'd made. I wasn't only listening to the composer’s awesome music but also experiencing what it was like to be an important part of the show.
When I was working on ‘The Woman King’, I was the copyist. I worked on this as a member of the Joy Music House team. Copyists’ responsibilities are proofreading scores and preparing individual parts for live recording sessions of film, TV shows, and video game music. In this project, we worked for a great composer, Terence Blanchard.
To complete our job successfully, we followed very specific and organized directions that our team created specifically for this composer, and it was great to hear that the recording sessions went very well. Copyists are the last people who proof the scores and parts before the recording sessions, so we were being very critical of our work to satisfy the composer's musical intentions.
JA: Has your entertainment work changed the way you experience shows and movies in general? Do you pay more attention to the score?
KC: Yes, definitely! Ever since I fell in love with media scoring, I always pay attention to scores when I’m watching movies, TV shows, playing video games, and even when watching commercials! I intentionally focused on soundtracks before, but now I find myself listening to the soundtrack carefully even without trying!
I concentrate on soundtracks because I see them as learning opportunities. For example, if there’s something serious going on in a movie, I wonder what kind of music would fit the scene and start listening to the music to see what the composer actually did for the scene.
I can usually hear the chord progressions and intervals between the notes in the main melody by ear, so I sometimes analyze the music while I’m watching a movie.
JA: Is it a necessity for anyone working in entertainment, and music specifically, to enjoy collaboration?
KC: Music is all about collaboration! Even though we can now produce music at a home studio ourselves, I think it’s crucial to collaborate with other musicians. There are a lot of divided steps to create one successful album, and there are people who specialize in each step, such as songwriting, lyric writing, mixing, mastering, etc.
Also, a great team can motivate and challenge each other to improve their work. For example, people in the team I work for are all at different levels of expertise, and we help each other to complete our projects successfully. It's a great way to work!
JA: Tell us a bit about your work with Joy Music House.
KC: I’ve been working for Joy Music House as an orchestrator and copyist for a few months, and so far it’s been amazing. We recently contributed to the movie 'The Woman King' and other upcoming high-profile projects. Unfortunately, I can't share what those other projects are yet, but you can check out my social media to learn more.
I was actually surprised to see just how organized they are and their excellent sense of teamwork. They know how to honor the clients musically and personally, and the clients are always satisfied with the results. I’m so glad to be working with these talented people, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.
JA: In addition to your entertainment work, you've also recently released a single. How does it feel to change gears to solo work?
KC: Yes, I recently released my single, Sugarholic, in September. It’s actually very different from the entertainment work I do. As a media composer and orchestrator, I need to follow the client’s directions and intentions exactly, so I can't add any of my musical ideas or thoughts unless I'm told to do so.
However, as a singer/songwriter I can freely express my feelings with my melodies and lyrics! Since I’m doing a lot of work in the entertainment/media industry, I get less time to spend on my songs than before, but it’s actually easy for me to change from one to another because I’ve been doing it for around ten years now. I just do what I have to do depending on the projects I work on haha. What I focus on is thinking about the story I want to tell with my music.
JA: Any parting words for aspiring composers and orchestrators?
KC: I know it’s hard to get into the industry, but I want to say that there are always people who are willing to help you out. The key is to get to know more people in the industry. I still go to events related to the industry when I have a chance.
Orchestrators and composers aren’t usually hired by employers and almost everyone is working as a freelancer, so it’s crucial to broaden your relationship with other musicians to get more opportunities. Secondly, some students who just graduated come and talk to me about how they're afraid to say yes to opportunities because they don’t think they will do a good job or they’re not ready. I’ve also been there, so I know how it feels.
However, I never say no to any opportunities because, while I might not be perfect, the most important thing is my willingness to do my best and communicate with the clients with a positive attitude, making the projects better together. Also, if we think about what we can learn and how much we can improve our skills from it, there's no reason not to take a chance!
The Jam Addict team is a revolving door of writers who care about music, its effects on culture, and giving aspiring artists tools and knowledge to be inspired and keep on creating.
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