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Arts & Entertainment


Danny Elfman

Lesson time 02:58 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.


[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]

About the Instructor

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.

Its was great! Little too short... wished there was some additional case studies...

This was a great masterclass. Danny Elfman had lots to say that was solid advice for composers, but he also had some great stories, and some great advice about life in general that stemmed from those stories. Thank you!

I expected this to be good, even though I didn't know much about Danny Elfman beside's his music. A great course, and a nice compliment to Han Zimmer's approach.

An interesting approach to how to compose music in film



Thank you very much for your knowledge. Even If I didn't know what I'm looking for in this class, I can find exactly what I need. Greetings from Polish percussionist, from Bangkok!


What a great class! I enjoyed it so much. I love to listen when Danny is talking about his knowledeg and his experience. Very inspiring and motivating! Well, Mr. Elfman thanks a lot for this! Greetings from Germany.

Sara M.

This class is wonderful. I am not a musician (though I have attempted many instruments over the years) and still found many insights to take away. His stories and his experiences can apply to so many creatives. Great class!

Wayne R.

As a bit of an amateur composer who has appreciated Mr. Elfman's film music over many decades, I entered into this without too many expectations about how it would relate to my own endeavors either musical or otherwise. I found it to be engaging and profound in ways beyond the specifics of music. I didn't expect him to tell me what I should be writing and I don't feel cheated by not dwelling on technical minutia. After watching all the talks but prior to exploring the workbooks I feel it was a rewarding experience and I'd recommend nearly all of it as good advice to many people regardless of their profession. It was fun to hang out with Danny Elfman for a while and the segment opening insert shots of interesting percussion and other tidbits makes me think a studio tour video would be tremendous fun. Where does the line form?

Antonia T.

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful masterclass. Inspiring, poetic, cool, helpful, and amazing. Thanks a lot, Danny. Many greetings from Madrid, please keep creating and composing, and stay safe!

Rolf G.

Thank you Danny for a personal and inspirational Masterclass! I really enjoyed every second of it; from your stories with directors to your background in musical theater. I honestly think many people will find this very useful! All the best everybody!

Laura T.

My husband went through a period of really not being able to do music at all or enjoy it anymore. This lasted about a decade, and he had worked with some big names in opera and on Broadway in the 2000s. But, between the resources of Masterclass and YouTube he was inspired to resume practicing, producing and rehearsing again. Thanks Danny!

Noel H.

Danny, I give you a standing ovation. 5 starts... I am now going to relisten to your class from the beginning.

Kinya P.

I loved Danny Elfman's lesson on Music for Film. Not only was Danny's teaching persona perfect for me, I now feel more confident to pursue the next chapter of my life. I am 64 years old and had dabbled in music performance and teaching Harmonica playing, customizing/maintenance for numerous years. I am not involved with music for film, like my younger brother, Colby Pollard, but my plan is to step back into music performance and do general recording and studio work. Like Danny, my math skills are weak, my music theory skills and chart reading are even less. Even though I was "classically" trained in music, since 8 years old. I too had to learn workaround methods to bypass my weaknesses and tried to play to my strengths. Some of the breadcrumbs that Danny left for me include; 'show invention', 'tell your story through music', 'identify the tone(color) of the song', 'you can turn any song KEY into something you want the listener to feel', understand the distinction between homage, inspiration, plagiarism' , 'to be in the pursuit of originality', and 'learn to balance ART and CRAFT'. Thank you Danny Elfman and the Masterclass series

A fellow student

Danny is incredible! He is so real and explains things so well. I honestly was acknowledging the computer as he was talking because of how much his communication indicated to me. He is so fun and gives great advice. I learned so much and I wish for everyone in the music or artistic field (even if they don't necessarily have an interest in scoring) to take this Masterclass, because jeez. I had such a win :)