Arts & Entertainment, Music

Learning by Listening

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 16:46 min

Hans discusses the importance of learning how to listen and dissect music when it works and doesn't work.

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

Topics include: How to Listen • Hans's Influences


I never went to music school. I had my miserable two weeks of piano lessons. But the more I do this, the more I think it really is about learning how to listen. I mean, for all musicians. And I think if you observe musicians working together, but you take it for granted that they can play their instrument, but what happens is that they actually really learned how to listen. And just because that's not so visually obvious, it might be more of a secret. I can orchestrate. I can wield pen and paper and actually come up with a fairly decent orchestration without ever having gone to music school. But I learned that, as a kid, listening into the music, finding the [? balances. ?] But I think if you extend this outwards now, and you sit there with your director and the game I play is hey, tell me the story. I listen to his words, and I listen to the story. But I try to listen beyond it as well. No director ever tells you-- no good director ever attempts to tell you what music to write. So what you're doing as you're trying to figure out, you're trying to listen to the subtext. You're forever listening into the heart of the thing. I think if there's anything I learned is I've learned how to listen better. And, including myself, you're playing something on the keyboard, and you're playing what ostensibly is the wrong note, but it's not, it's gold. It's the opportunity, it's the unlocking of a door to something your fingers weren't going to take you to, and if you don't listen you're going to miss it. Because if you're not listening to the other players you're never going to go and get that impetuous, and you're never going to have a conversation. And at the end of the day I do think it's about communication. And even though I have a big mouth and I find it difficult to keep it shut, when we develop these ideas, when we develop what this thing is, I'm trying to listen beyond the words. You know, I'm trying to not hear the words, I'm trying to hear the tune. Duke Ellington said it best, "There are only two types of music, good music and bad music." But I think if I have to teach somebody something, the only thing I can teach them is whatever that piece is you love, go look at it from many different directions. With me it was odd things like Mahler's second. I was fascinated by that. I mean, I would take that apart for a year. I would just listen to it, and get obsessed with it, and, you know, discover more and more about the process. And I suppose, if you want to, Mahler was one of my teachers, because I learned a lot from it. Later on it was things like Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. He's taking you through this tragic love story that goes wild and it goes crazy, and I very quickly realized as well that there was a part in it where he goes to the Dies Irae which is a piece of church music written in 1256. I happened to know this, to other people, a useless fact. If you...

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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