Music & Entertainment


Danny Elfman

Lesson time 3:07 min

Danny reflects on the journey he has taken together with you, as an old miner might tell stories around the campfire to young gold seekers before they venture out into the world to strike (cinematic) gold.

Danny Elfman
Teaches Music for Film
Oscar-nominated composer Danny Elfman teaches you his eclectic creative process and his approach to elevating a story with sound.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - All right, here we are, the end of my little MasterClass. The campfire's burning low. We're down to embers now. The coyotes are howling off in the distance, and we're all getting kind of sleepy. Those sleeping bags are just sitting out there by our horses and we're ready to climb into them. This is the point where I tell you all that are going mining for gold tomorrow morning, next week, next month, that I hope I've imparted, through my wild ramblings, my stories, my experience, my over-excitement, my absurd cynicism, my happiness, and my disgust and all the things that I'm filled with all the time, that through all of this nonsense, I've given you some sense of what you might apply to your own careers. If nothing else, mistakes that I've made that, perhaps, you'll remind yourself, if you're in a certain moment, I don't want to make the same mistake that Danny made. Or, perhaps, you'll find yourself in a moment where you're losing heart and you're starting to doubt yourself. And you go, Danny talked about this moment and the incredible persistence and commitment it takes. And remember this-- film composition is what I love. You know, when I started out, I wanted to be involved with film, I just didn't know what part of film. But there still is a brotherhood, a sisterhood, of all filmmakers. Whether you're a director, whether you're a cinematographer, an editor, a writer-- no matter what part of the field that you end up in, you only have one thing that binds you together, one thing that we all share. It's an intense commitment to wanting to do the best we possibly can. It's tons of hours learning our craft, because it's not just an art, but it's a craft. And that's something I can't say too many times. It's a balance between the two. There's an art and there's a craft. And that craft has to be learned by doing. I wish you all bon and happy careers. Or, if not happy, fulfilling-- because they aren't always the same thing. People think they are. It's like, oh, I had a big career. It's happy, happy, happy. Well, it's not. You have moments of happiness and you have moments of misery that lead to something wonderful. And remember, that's all part of the creative process. So, that's it. Thank you for taking my MasterClass. Good luck. [MUSIC PLAYING] [THEME MUSIC]

Music out of chaos

From The Simpsons theme to the soundtracks of Tim Burton’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Danny Elfman’s compositions are original, memorable, and exuberantly weird. Now the Oingo Boingo founder and four-time Oscar nominee shares his unconventional (and uncensored) creative process. Step into Danny’s studio and learn his techniques for evoking emotion and elevating a story through music.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Danny is a wonderful story teller and I enjoyed listening to him. He concentrated on the process of creating movie music but spent less time telling us about the technique, We could occasionally hear what he created but it would have been very useful to hear what made him select tempos, modes, instruments and so forth in the scores he created.

Danny's reflections on dealing with directors, and producing what they want and how to find it, were most useful to me.

Great stories. Learning from Danny's experience and his total honesty about the ups and downs is extremely valuable.

I'm a music nerd and Danny Elfman fan who wanted to know how his brain worked. Totally fascinating!


Philip S.

Thank you Danny Elfman for being open and vulnerable to help us all learn and do better. The emotional, plageristic, interpersonal and relational guidance was very insightful and I think you took away many of the intimidating mysteries that hold us back and cause fear. As for myself, now I can define myself and the entities I work with a little better for a much better outcome. THANK YOU!!!

victor R.

So enlightening yet heartbreaking. Thank you so much for opening your heart to us! I wanted to learn how to do movie soundtracks. I'm not so sure I can do much more than build guitars now! But wait. If I really want to do it, I have to get up off my ass and just do it! Thanks for explaining what is really involved!

David F.

Very inspirational! Enjoyed it very much. I wish we saw a bit more composition in process, instrumentation, orchestration, recording and the like. But overall really good!! Thank you Danny.

Satyen T.

I've been waiting for this one, and it was amazing! One of my favorite film composers, I loved every story he told. I learned so much, thank you!


Wonderful advice Danny, if you ever add bonus material to this course, watching you compose would be amazing, for instance 30 minutes of you ‘putting pen to paper’ or rather the computer. I greatly admire your craftsmanship over all the movies of your career.

P M.

Tell us more about Back To School! greatly enjoyed this whole class. starting it over immediately. thank you, Danny.

Ishag S.

I very much loved your masterclass. Quite informative. It is you and your movies; Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissor Hands inspired me to the journey of making music especially for film music from the other side of the world where I live. I wish you good luck in your future. Many thanks.

Volker D.

Thanks, Danny. Your Masterclass is very informative and presents the facts very interesting. Much of what you have said could be from my life. A musical set off shortly before the premiere ... Working together with directors who have no feeling for music and their commitment ... But I also have an equally good collaboration with a director, as you do with Tim Burton. I mainly work for the stage, so I face other problems. Often only minimal uses of music. Changes and cuts to short, sometimes just hours, before the premiere. Complete replacement of a soundtrack when it is discovered during the final rehearsals that, due to the never quite equal performance of the actors, some things do not work as planned. This is not only bad. Everything stays so alive, you're always on the story. - And I am glad that I have heard again that this can happen even to great, multiple award-winning and more experienced composers like you, Danny. Thanks again, for this Masterclass !!!

A fellow student

Thank you for this class! Gonna watch every couple of months for some fresh perspective, inspiration and insight from the man, the myth, the legend!

Manuel L.

Absolutely inspiring and informative! Thank you Mr. Elfman and Masterclass. Can we get more of these please?