From Hans Zimmer's MasterClass

Character Theme: Jack Sparrow

"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.

Topics include: Creating Jack Sparrow Theme


"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.

Topics include: Creating Jack Sparrow Theme

Hans Zimmer

Teaches Film Scoring

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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. [INAUDIBLE] 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.

I learned that we all are here to create and capture magic.

Best Masterclass Yet. He is very entertaining to listen to and to motivate.

Very inspiring, as a creative director i was blown away by the thinking process, the way hans's makes complicated topics so simple. highly recommended

Great introduction. It left me excited to continue.


Jim P.

This is great stuff!! Wondering what piano sound or library that was played on this video, was it a HZ recorded one from one of his libraries that I could check out possibly?? Thanks for all these insightful videos! Also was the score in the frame actually contained in Hans Studio?

A fellow student

This delightful, fascinating, naughty character - I had never realised just the degree to which music makes him so. Wonderful

Viktor L.

Best lesson so far, and it really illustrates what a mind game composing is. Jack sparrow theme is a master piece, and Zimmer really reveals how a score contains much more than music.

Kenneth S.

Try to find the tone of the movie first... and then it becomes a game... But what is interesting is when he says, remember when I said I'm not a performer... for me, a Session guy, it's validating when you're creating. Also, I like how Hans writes and how he really is telling a story, the way the Pirates' Jack's theme meanders to the resolve fit's the character to a T! Well rounded characters have no place in a movie... and I suppose such is the music... a very interesting lesson.


So gratifying to now understand what he was doing to our brains. I was hooked now I know why. Thanks for letting us in on it.

Fatih Y.

Nice Touch! So much interesting and detailed explanation! Wow! It really does reflect the character of the actor; his emotions, inner thoughts and feelings in a funny, positive way i think. Lot's of nice little, small details about how to construct the music. So many different parts (changing emotion from one frame to the next) and still catching up at such so little time. Wonderful! Like the idea of putting some kind of road-map (plan) for developing the character. All those tiny parts: 'The Naughty Part', 'The So-Called Surprise Part', etc. --> Nice Thinking! Thank's for this class. Opens such a window in my mind. Best Regards, Faith Funk


So, the most interesting characters are always those NOT so PERFECT ones, with potential to make interesting notes and give unexpected surprises to the audience. :)

Bruno D.

First class all the way through, every advice, every idea, every suite of notes, there's so much to learn from Hans.

Ernest B.

Another fascinating look into the genius of Hans. It never occurred to me to use 3 note riffs that capture one essence of a character and then tie those 3 note riffs into a longer melody that completely captures the overall character. This is really is an amazing approach to writing. Thank you Maestro!

Manuel K.

I tried to analyze the chord progression and it goes: D minor, F major, D minor, B flat major, E flat major, A major. The e flat does not fit the D minor scale hence the 'rule breaker'. However the only thing that makes the E flat major break the rule is the D sharp inside the Eflat major chord. Excellent tension building.