Music & 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.

The class has really given me for thought as to how i should approaching writing music and that while there is a lot to learn music theory wise the only thing limiting me is my imagination .

Best money I've invested in years. Incredible!

The whole experience of learning from a Master is extra-ordinary. I just learnt so many things which only Hans could have taught. Pure words of wisdom coming from a man of experience. Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity and I really look forward to learning more like this!

I've learned a lot of valuable information about the film composing process and maybe even more valuable information about being an artist, following your passion, and never ever quitting.


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.


Hans is a passionate guy and it's wonderful to share moments with him. Thanks.

Jessie Y.

Everything is well planned, there's not a single note that doesn't tell what the character is about. That is something which I'm struggling with, and this session encourages me a lot to actually do it.

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