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Arts & Entertainment

Character Theme: Jack Sparrow

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 10:34 min

"Pirates were the rock-n'-rollers of the middle ages." Hans breaks down how he created Jack Sparrow's theme by finding the tone for the movie first.

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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Some movies are entirely character-driven. And you know, I mean, if you say Sherlock Holmes, yeah, you know, it's pretty obvious it's about the character. If you say to me, Pirates, actually, "Jack Sparrow's Theme," I've forgotten about Jack Sparrow. You know, it was much more about-- [PLAYS "PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN THEME"] It's, you know, oh, let's invent a lang-- you know, let's figure out a language of how we can describe the movie. And you know, in a funny way, I mean, it's like Gore gave me all the clues. it's, you know, pirates were the rock and rollers of the Middle Ages, or whatever. So it's just a boogie. You know, that's all it takes. You know, that tune. So every secondary tune other than Jack's came out of the-- [PLAYS "PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN THEME"] But Jack's tune starts with that as well. So I thought, you know, if I have a family of tunes that all start with the same three notes, you know, that is a family, you know, that's the set design for this movie in a funny sort of way. So yes, the overall sound of the movie came first. What I tried to do is I tried to find the tone of the movie. I try to find the tone for the movie, more than anything else, and you know, build the set and then put the actors into it. So yeah, I mean, look, I-- some of the characters I don't remember. But the process is usually the same. It's I really try to figure out how that character resonates with me. And then it becomes a game. It becomes a game of-- it's no different than telling your best friend about somebody you met and the impression they left on you. And you're trying to describe a person to somebody else who has never met that person. [MUSIC - "JACK SPARROW"] Set sale in a general that way direction. Captain? Come on, snap to, and make sail. You know how this works. hoy, hoy, hey. Have you noticed lately the captain seems to be acting a bit strange-er. Setting sail without knowing his own heading. Something's got Jack vexed. And mark my words, what bodes ill for Jack Sparrow bodes ill for us all. You know, I just kept watching what Johnny was doing. And I kept watching what, you know, who he was. So I just sat down and, I mean, I didn't sort of quite bash it out, but it didn't take very long. There wasn't a lot of time. And I just tried to put all the-- I wasn't consciously thinking about it, but you know, I knew what I wanted to say. And I just tried to put it into the notes. And then, yeah, at one point, you know, I mean, look I'll play it-- [PLAYS "JACK SPARROW"] I'll probably get it wrong. And if I wasn't so lazy, I'd turn it around and play the harmony. Remember I said I'm not a performer? There was proof. I'm not a performer. So I actually wrote it down at one point and scribbled it down for Gore so he would understand what the thing was. So if you-- should we go into this by examples? Now I actually...

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.

It was very inspirational! I learned a lot about how to approach the creative process. Thank you Hans Zimmer, thank you Masterclass.

Honesty and practicality are the best things about this class.

What a great class, a little slow sometimes but overall very informative and entertaining. I wish I had even a 1/4 of his talent.

This has truly been time well spent. I am grateful


Jeshua S.

Its crazy how he came up with a theme that could kindof move as the character thought and did things

Gerri C.

I have never thought about breaking it down that way, he's a musical genius!

Laura T.

I hear a little Chopin in Jack's Theme- like one of the Preludes or easier Waltzes, especially the #7 Waltz.

Christopher S.

LOVED this lesson. Such great input on how to dig deep and find the personality traits of a character and never make them well rounded.

Corey W.

I truly love how descriptive Hans is with this theme. The Pirates soundtrack was one of the first I learned to play by ear. I even noticed the way that Davy Jones theme is written, when played its fully believable that a beast with a claw and tentacles for hands could play it, as the bass notes can be easily played with two outstretched fingers (the pincers), while the right hand glides over the melody like Davy's tendril-like beard.

A fellow student

I think I understand the idea of no key conveying a feeling any better than an other, but rather an order of notes within a bar or couple bars to deliver tone.

Rachel R.

"Who's gonna catch me in this tune?" haha! Absolutely loved this motif breakdown! I had no idea there was so much depth behind Jack Sparrow's theme!

Robert M.

How refreshing to hear a natural like Hanz discuss some secrets to his creative madness (madness in a great way btw). Definitely my favorite so far as I (and I am sure many of us can) completely relate with many of his methods. Its wonderful to hear a master discuss getting into character for the creation of the story from the musical side. That to me is the ticket. A performer getting into character and holding the character until the show is over. Great lesson. thank you Hanz.

Ethan F.

"Naughty-me" aha. He plays with Jack just the way Jack plays with life ! Get's sexual also that's amazing.

Evan C.

I love this lesson! I wrote everything down. I watched one of my favorite films and studied and dissected the main character's personality. how she thinks, how she sees her self, how she tries to handle her problems. Pretty much a different facet for every four measures. So I'm very happy to listen to my song and hear a song brimming with many different moods and feelings. I'm writing this way from now on. I can only really write songs when I'm watching a film. All the backgrounds and performances, (mostly animated films) the scenes help me to tap into something in me that makes me feel more euphoric than anything else. I found all of what he said priceless. I love the way he explained how he wrote the moods "he's a romantic, heroic, naughty. So I'm coming up with sections for the different emotions and thoughts in a deep thinking way. so the movement of the notes express it, what would capture that specific emotion in the best way I can. how a swirling- downward spiraling melody can express confusion and chaos. and all the techniques on guitar! great for emotions. bends, pinch harmonics, hammer-ons and pull-offs. I don't mean to ramble. Music is all I do. Somehow I am able to stay awake for over 48 hours, and just sit in front of my keyboard, or on my guitar and not get up except for meals. Without music I WOULD die. Music is the priceless source of peace that helps me manage my mental illness. (also medication that has a side effect of abnormally realistic and terrifying nightmares, which is why I sleep about every other day.) When I first saw the ad for his MasterClass, I IMMEDIATELY got it and watched every lesson. I've always loved the last samurai and all his music. unbelievably moving melodies. When I was on a Last samurai binge, I covered A Small Measure of Peace with a cheap keyboard I had at the time. You know, it has flutes and strings and such. On a four track recorder with lots of cassette tapes. Now I have logic pro x and other software to do a better job of covering and analyzing and absorbing his beautiful music. I could go on and on, and please forgive this long speech. I try not to be too annoying. I'm good at music, but suck at everything else. I'm eternally grateful for his music and will always respect and look up to him.