Hillel Teplitzki: Transitioning Into The Music Industry


Image: Hillel Teplitzki

If you dream of success in music, making it into the music industry would be one of your biggest goals. In the previous decade or thereabouts, the best approach to make progress in this energizing and assorted industry has advanced, which means you now have the chance to become a published artist across multiple digital streaming platforms as an indie artist without the need of having to go through a record label.

Hillel Teplitzki works as a music composer and a sound designer for media within the music industry. His main influences starts from his training as classical pianist, and loves to write full orchestral scores, and now has his very own chance to shine in the gaming industry. Networking has been the biggest influence to getting Hillel his start, and it's only the beginning. He has completed his undergraduate studies at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and received his masters degree in Scoring for Film, TV and Video Games from Berklee College of Music.

Image: Hillel Teplitzki

Interview With Hillel Teplitzki

What’s your origin?

"I was born in Tel Aviv Israel, to Israeli/Bulgarian parents. That, together with the fact that the rest of my family is spread out through most of Europe and the United States, made it somewhat challenging to develop a national identity. It was only later in life that it became something I was extremely thankful for, once I understood how enriching it is, both for my music and soul, to be exposed to so many different cultures."

What inspired you to make music?

"I knew from a fairly young age that music was my passion, but for a very long time I was aiming to be a classical pianist not a composer, let alone a composer for video games. Since I wasn’t the most social kid, in my spare time I would mostly play video games, and even though I would have a blast composing new melodies inspired by my favorite games, it just never clicked for me that I could do it professionally.

Funnily enough, the decision to switch from piano playing into composition for video games came from quite an unexpected place. One of my old piano teachers had quite enough of my need to constantly improvise and told me to leave that to the actual composers, so I decided to take his (unintentional) advice and started pursuing composition professionally, and with my passion for video games, it just made sense to specialize in writing for them."

Who are your biggest influences?

"Since I come from a classical background it would be accurate to say that some of my biggest influences are composers like Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Debussy. Their music was always present during my childhood and they had a huge impact on my music. If I were to exclude the great “classical” composers I would say that my biggest inspirations these days are Inon Zur, Yuka Kitamura and Ludwig Göransson. Not only for their wonderful compositions, but also for their constant pursuit of new and exciting sounds."

Image: Hillel Teplitzki

What was your experience like attending Berklee College of Music?

"Honestly it was quite amazing. Besides the fact that the quality of the lessons is superb, for the first time in my life I was surrounded by like minded people who all shared my interests, goals and hobbies. Besides this, Berklee really focuses on preparing you for the industry and in my case actually helped me finance my post-graduation internship in LA (which there was no way I could afford otherwise). I can’t even imagine how different my life would have been if I hadn’t gone to Berklee and I’m so happy I decided to go for it!"

How important has networking been when it comes to working in the music industry?

"I would not be exaggerating if I said that in my experience networking is without a doubt the most important thing when it comes to working in the music industry. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if people are not familiar with you or your music, they will never approach you for projects. But I should clarify because I hear this misconception a lot. There are a lot of people who believe that as a musician you should only network with creators (such as directors or game developers) and that you should not bother with other musicians since they are only competition.

This could not be further from the truth. Not only will it be extremely detrimental to one’s career to view other musicians like this, but in my experience, the biggest gigs that I’ve gotten, such as composing for the feature film “God of the Piano” (for which I am currently nominated for Israel’s version of the Oscars) and working on a AAA game (that I can’t share more information on at the time) actually came from long lasting relationships with other musicians."

Looking back to the very first song you've written, and seeing where you are today, what are your thoughts? How much has changed?

"I still remember my first professional composition very well. It was quite scary to get into the professional world because I had absolutely no experience with orchestration, theory or production yet. So I decided to start by just writing pieces for piano and recording them myself. One day, I got lucky enough to be approached by a friend who asked if I wanted to work on a feature film called 'God of the Piano', which revolved around a family of pianists.

The project already had a composer so all I was asked to do at first was to simply help the actors play the piano for their scenes. During one of these sessions the director asked if he could hear one of my pieces that I was working on at the time. I played for him the piece and he loved it so much that he immediately asked if I could compose something like that for his movie, which for me was like a dream come true.

Not only was I extremely fortunate to get this chance since starting with composing strictly for piano was something I was very familiar with, which made the transition into professional composition much more comfortable, but as I mentioned in the previous answer, after a few years in production, this movie got me nominated for Israel’s version of the Oscars for my music!"

Image: Hillel Teplitzki

If you had the option to go back in time, what music composer would you have loved to have met, or even collaborated with?

"I would probably choose my great grandfather, Binyamin (Benjamin) Omer, who I unfortunately never got the chance to meet. In Israel there is a unique concept called a Kibbutz, which is basically a village of people all working for a common goal (usually agriculture and other similar things). Like many others, Binyamin’s Kibbutz had a choir for which he was in charge of and he would write new compositions for them.

I have to admit that I would have loved to have the opportunity to work with him on a composition like that. Not only because it would give me the chance to interact with a relative that I unfortunately otherwise cannot, but because helping motivate a large group of people who are all working for the same goal is something that I would absolutely love to do with my music."

What was it like to direct an orchestra?

"My first time conducting an entire orchestra was during my final Berklee project which was recording my orchestral composition at the legendary AIR Studios. Not only was I terrified at the prospect of conducting an entire orchestra for the first time, but to do it in these studios felt somewhat overwhelming. Once I got up on the podium all the nerves simply vanished. All the musicians were extremely supportive, very receptive to feedback and really just made it feel like a group effort to create the best performance we could together. I honestly can’t wait for the opportunity to record there again, it was definitely one of the most fun experiences of my life!"

What was your learning experience in learning how to orchestrate?

"I had excellent orchestration teachers both in the Jerusalem Academy of Music and at Berklee College of Music, but really, I don’t think there is any subject in music you ever finish learning. With orchestrating, after working so hard on the classical aspects, I am now constantly working on including more synths and other contemporary sounds in my orchestration palette. Music today evolves so quickly and even pieces that are completely orchestral include synths to some capacity. It’s really an endless world of possibilities and there is always more to learn."

What has been your biggest challenge as an artist?

"While being an artist by itself is already quite a challenge these days I have to admit that I was extremely fortunate in my career. I was constantly surrounded by supportive family and friends and I managed to get projects that I was truly proud of. But if I had to signal out my biggest workflow challenge, I would probably say that it’s time management. 

To be fair, I think this is quite a common issue, since these days it is so hard to escape all the everyday life distractions. But I am doing my best to get better at it which fortunately leads to less sleepless nights. At least in my case, even small things like using apps that block/monitor the time you spend on social media, or just hourly alarm clocks do wonders."

Image: Hillel Teplitzki

What is the best advice you’ve been given in your music career?

"The best career and composition advice I got was from Inon Zur. It was during one of his lectures when he said, ''Every composition of yours should be unique, however, limit that unique element to only 20%!
More than that and you’ll start to lose your audience, but less than that and you’ll start to sound like everybody else.'' This advice really changed my entire perspective on composition and honestly changed the entire trajectory of my entire career because while it was extremely helpful for my compositions, I also applied it to every other aspect of my career. From that moment, whenever I would approach a potential new client, I would always try to do it in a slightly unique way, which was extremely helpful to landing future gigs."

What are your future goals in music?

"My main goal hasn’t really changed since the day I started working professionally. It was, and probably always will be, to simply be able to make a living out of working on projects that I am proud of. I have to admit it is still a bit unreal to me that what I do actually qualifies as a real job since it sounds a bit too good to be true. While it’s true that it is a lot of hard work, I can’t really imagine myself doing anything else. Just the fact that someone out there might be listening to my music while playing a fun new game or watching a new movie/television show is still something that is still hard for me to believe."

What would you like your followers to remember you by?

"I can’t really say that I have such ambitious goals such as to be remembered by followers, but honestly, if I am going to be remembered, then I just just hope to be remembered as a good and kind man. And in the process, if my music can make someone happy, then I know what I did truly mattered."

Listen to Soul of a Hero by Hillel Teplitzki:

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