Arts & Entertainment, Music

Character Theme: Batman

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 09:58 min

What makes Batman's theme in The Dark Knight Trilogy so recognizable? Learn how he developed the theme by thinking about the story and character.

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

Topics include: Creating Batman Theme


Part of the problem is when you use something as simplistic as a two-note device you don't quite believe in it. You think you're supposed to do more, you're supposed to write a big, heroic theme. But everything we tried in there always led us back to this. And so that's when we finally figured out, yes, those two notes will work. I mean, we had all sorts of other things playing over this scene. This is when we found our movie. I think it very much defined not just the style of this movie, but it defined the style of how we moved forward. Had it not been for the scene, the Joker's stuff would never have been done that way. As we learned, we can get away with the barest minimum of harmonic and tune. We didn't need a tune to go and play this. [MUSIC - HANS ZIMMER AND JAMES NEWTON HOWARD, "LASIURUS"] I had written a more heroic and more developed Batman theme, and a more, to me, obvious one. And Chris actually really liked it, and he kept saying, can't we use that tune, can't we put that tune in, somewhere. And I kept saying to him, I don't think the character is ready for that tune, in a funny way. And I was hoping that maybe he'll never be ready for the obvious heroic tune. And Chris kept coming back to this, and finally I said to him, it's just not in his eyes. And it was just was just that communication, figuring out how to-- I had a feeling about something, my director had a feeling about something, and it wasn't like he acquiesced, it was just he saw what I was going for, and I just couldn't figure it out in words. But I think, in the long run, it was worth both of our while that we kept coming back to that conversation. How much had the character developed, and how much had he not developed. [MUSIC - HANS ZIMMER AND JAMES NEWTON HOWARD, "VESPERTILIO"] The French horns for Batman is four French horns on the right, four French horns on the left, and they're up in a gallery, up way above the orchestra, in this church. So that's a whole bunch of microphones, because part of what you want is I want the geography of where they are. So they have to be low microphones and they have to be high microphones that catch some of this. Then you have the orchestra, which is basically playing tunes, long notes, whatever they're playing. But not rhythmic parts, because the rhythmic parts I wanted to have really, really, really super precise. So all that [OSTINATO PATTERN] These ostinato patterns, they were all done separately, which seemed like a really good idea at the time. It was painful. And I thought, hey, wouldn't it be interesting to have something that was above the orchestra, so that rather than just doing 3-D, not just do surround like this, but truly try to impose some idea of height into this thing. You know, at least have a go at it. Sometimes it doesn't actually matter if the audience really hears it, but it just helps me to think through the architecture of what I'm ...

About the Instructor

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.

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Hans Zimmer

From collaborating to scoring, Hans Zimmer teaches you how to tell a story with music in 31 exclusive video lessons.

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