Cooper Baldwin (he/him/his) is a composer, arranger, producer, and performer currently residing in New York City. During back-to-back internships with the DreamWorks Animation Music Department, Cooper assisted with multiple productions, including the animated feature film Trolls and the animated television series VeggieTales in the House. He continues to work freelance as a music copyist on productions for Netflix Studios and Netflix Animation, including the feature films Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey and The Half Of It and the televisions series Julie and the Phantoms and Centaurworld. As an arranger, his work has been performed by numerous high school choirs across the country, including the John Burroughs High School “Powerhouse” choir (Burbank, CA), the Walsh Jesuit High School “Harmony Gold” choir (Cuyahoga Falls, OH), and the Cosby High School “Spotlight” choir (Midlothian, VA).
1. Please describe your basic setup. (Your technical setup as well as the physical space that you work in.)
My music notation software of choice is Sibelius, and I swap between Logic Pro X and Pro Tools for midi and audio recording/engineering. For midi track mock-ups, I’ll use a combination of EastWest, Spitfire, and Native Instruments VST libraries, and I record vocals with a Shure SM7B microphone and edit them with a combination of Celemony, FabFilter, iZotope, and Exponential Audio plug-ins. Have a Yamaha P71 for my home studio and an Alesis V-Mini MIDI Keyboard for travel. I use a 2018 Macbook Pro for travel, and my at-home computer currently is a 2018 Mac Mini, though I am eyeballing the recently announced Mac Studio – that thing is a powerhouse!
2. What is your process for brainstorming or inspiration-seeking as you start a new arrangement?
It’s rare for me to arrange music for a choir that’s not for a story show, and I find it to be *such* a terrific jumping off point for my writing process. Having worked in musical theater and media composition, I hold musical storytelling in the highest regard and it’s pretty much at the crux of how I approach all of my projects as an artist. I also just *love* transcribing new music and figuring out what makes a song tick – usually if I spend enough time analyzing a piece of music I’ll start brainstorming arrangement ideas. Hearing a director’s excitement about their show and their students is incredibly inspiring to me as well!
3. What is your go-to snack and/or drink when arranging?
My go-to snack move for arranging used to be a cold brew or black coffee and some Skinny Pop 100%, but one of my new year’s resolutions was to cut back on my coffee dependency and I haven’t touched the stuff in over a month. So I guess currently a matcha latte and maybe a banana or an apple? I don’t know who I am anymore!! My sense of self is tenuous at best!! This question sent me spiraling into an introspective crisis ahh!!
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started arranging?
There’s no one right way to do anything! Found that the quality of my work and my joy in making it skyrocketed when I stopped trying to do things a certain way just because “that’s how it’s done” and started exploring and figuring out my own processes. Also keyboard shortcuts in Sibelius, Logic, and Pro Tools are incredibly useful for speeding up one’s workflow and I wish I’d started familiarizing myself with them way earlier than I did!
5. What is your favorite shortcut or time-saving trick in your notation software?
I’ve got a bunch, but the transpose key command is *so* helpful, especially when I’m in a time crunch on a project and don’t have time to figure out the transpositions by hand.
6. What is a favorite arrangement of yours?
Hard to pick just one, but somewhat recently I got to arrange an a capella rendition of “Scarborough Fair” for the John Burroughs HS “Powerhouse” choir and I am especially proud of how it turned out. Got to mix the virtual choir recording for that one as well. Those kids sure can sing! https://soundcloud.com/cooper-