Music & Entertainment

Case Study: Frost/Nixon

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 12:59 min

For Frost/Nixon, Hans had to score to a dialogue-heavy film. Learn his approach to creating a minimal but beautiful score.

Hans Zimmer
Teaches Film Scoring
From collaborating to scoring, Hans Zimmer teaches you how to tell a story with music in 31 exclusive video lessons.
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Turns out to be an employee of President Richard Nixon's reelection campaign committee. He is one of five person surprised and arrested yesterday inside the headquarters of Democratic National Committee in Washington. And guess what else he is? A consultant to President Richard Nixon's reelection campaign committee. Trial started today at the Federal Courthouse for the five-- One of the inherent dilemmas of this movie was it came from a very successful play that both Ron and I had independently seen in London and both sort of loved. And we loved the performers. And we sort of went this is a great play. So how can we not ruin the play but make it cinematic? We know the story. We all knew the story. So what new things could happen? What could happen in this? And then lots of new things happened. And I just thought it was really interesting, and I thought it said a lot about-- it never talked down to us. It always stayed at a level that you want movie making to stay at or a play to stay at. It was thrilling. It was a boxing match without anybody ever putting on the gloves. It was-- and it consistently stayed tough. I thought what was really interesting, just from a musical point of view, is that neither of the characters were particularly likable. In fact, they're not my couple at all. And if I ever make them likable, which is such a tendency-- we all have that tendency. We're trying to make things a little bit more likable or a little bit more humane or a little bit more empathetic than sometimes they deserve. And Peter, in his writing, just went for it. He didn't do that. He just maintained this sort of cold, detached here it is. John D, the ex-White House counsel, testified today that President Nixon knew about the Watergate. And actually, it's interesting to me to watch the opening of this movie again, because yesterday we were talking about these suites that I write. That stuff, my diary of every day, writing a little bit further. --145-page statement characterizing a president who was easily outraged over war protesters. Up until you actually get to the actor playing Richard Nixon, it's all just the original suite. It's just laid up against it. And there wasn't-- the editor cut to it. But it gives you the right mode. It gives you the right propulsion. And certain, for Ron, it gave him the right feeling for the way he wanted to tell the story. The president today took his resignation-- All it is me, a bunch of synthesizers, and one cellist. So the whole score-- that was the line up for the score. So starts a bit crooked. It starts with a good riff. And it's just the variations on that riff all the way through that became, sort of, gold as far as material was concerned. And I never knew I was writing the opening to the film. White House aids told NBC News today that impeachment of the...

Tell a story with music

Hans Zimmer didn’t see a film until he was 12 years old. Since then, he’s scored over 150 films, including Inception, The Lion King, and The Dark Knight. In his MasterClass, the self-taught Academy Award-winner teaches how he creates sounds from nothing, composes compelling character themes, and scores a movie before ever seeing it. By the end, you’ll have everything you need to start film scoring.


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

I am not a film scorer. I am just an audience member that has been incredibly moved by Hans' music. I signed up for this course to get the opportunity to crawl into his magnificent mind. I am a performer - and I just learned so much more about how to tell a story. Thank you Masterclass, and thank you Hans Zimmer! ❤

It was such a great and inspiring conversation...Thank you so much!

I love the way he shows that every theme is composed of questions and answers. It's the same with all good music of all genres.

Hanz has given me his expert advice and experience that has been priceless to me as a musician and composer! Love it, thanks Masterclass :)


Dr. Monnie Chan

Our maestro teacher Hans Zimmer live concert in Hong Kong is coming on 26th September 2019. Just 12 days to go. I am going and wonder if there are any classmates I can meet?

Zieliyu Z.

Good invaluable insights But why why the squeaky chair.... I love to appreciate the music and the magnetic voice. Squeaky chair not so much.

Kori C.

I really like the way Hans described each of the characterizations and musical construction within his mind, and what he thought about when creating the music to match the movie, characters, and storytelling. It gives me GREAT insight and inspiration within my musical compositions.


Enjoyed the example and explanation of film scoring for a totally different movie from the previous ones.

Montgomery C.

Never though of the different angles that compositions can play. Many introspective moments about some of my own compositions and seeing the disjunct between sections caused by lack of angle. Many many thoughts about creating original compositions vs honoring a great composers timeless melody. Fantastic work Hans, this tracks keeps me hanging onto my seat.

Judith M.

Not being American, I've never really understood the Frost/Nixon fascination. I mean I do know the reported story of the time, but we all know that only tells part of the tale, and often Frosts connection to the Intel community is left out. What I did enjoy here was strangely where Hans decided not to play any music. What I felt from the transition to and from the periods of musical silence was an enhancement of the suspense built up by the cake and dagger. You knew something was coming, then you get the silence where suddenly you don't know what is going on in his head. That uneasy feeling of is he lying to us still? Or turning points being reached, did he really regret his actions or was he still playing them, taking advantage of the journalist/s. Almost the cold feel of a sociopath whose mind you just can not empathise with. All in all a very thought provoking lesson on how lack of music can make a chilling point.

Roberto C.

Another lesson full of suggestions and advices. Beware of the composer's traps: do not make too much "sugary" music. But not perhaps the case to better define "sugary music" ?.

Marcus M.

"The loudest silence you've ever heard." I like that quote. This was a great lesson on silence and how minimalism (in budget and musical choices) help the story...

Ron S.

Happy to see clips too. I thought for a minute he wouldn't be allowed without licensing.

Christian H.

Fascinating case study! Its really nice to hear the score alongside the film and know Hans' intention behind the music. Looking forward the next case study lessons!