Music & Entertainment

Scoring to Picture

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 12:13 min

Hans discusses how to score to different types of scenes, as well as recognizing when a scene doesn't need a score.

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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First of all, you go and look at the whole-- what is the whole movie? What are we trying to say here? What and where is the style that seems appropriate to tell this story? And what are the instruments that are appropriate to tell the story? OK, now we got this big arc. OK, now we're starting to move in. Is there something between act one, two, and three? Is this something we want to do different in act three. I mean I have this habit of setting up all these themes that you think are going to pay off in act three. And then I always think that's the moment that triggers act three, but when the thing happens that, Gladiator, Commodus finds out that his sister has been betraying him. So rather than going and now all the themes are going to pay off nicely, I just go and whack in something, a completely new theme? Because it's like all bets are off. Everything has shifted. The relationship between the characters have shifted. So I just go out of nearly nowhere, unleash something completely or-- completely new and completely fresh. But as you start, your start-- and you start going down, you go into the scene, into the dialogue, into the color that you want to use. Because here's the thing, if you suddenly stop forward momentum because there's a dialogue scene, how does it affect the rhythm of the whole movie if you're doing this. It's like being a bad driver who's forever, like, on the gas and then coming off the gas. I'm sure you've driven with people like this. You want to smack them. So don't be that driver. Figure out how to keep the forward momentum going. Making a movie as a complicated human exercise. Because basically what you're dealing with is you're dealing with only insecure people at their most insecure. Everybody's worried that what they're doing isn't the greatest thing in the world. And quite honestly, it never is. Otherwise we wouldn't need to make another movie if the perfect had already been made. So in this environment of total insecurity, sometimes it's really hard to say you know something we don't need music here. This scene is perfectly fine. The dialogue is sparkling. Because the writer is going to think, well, if I could have only had another seven years, I could have written this line better. The director is thinking, if I had had a better actor, it could have been delivered better. And the actor, of course, is thinking if I had had a decent director, I could have done a better performance. And then and everybody is blaming the camera man and the sound recordist, because it's too dark. And because they're feeling insecure about the scene, they're turning to the last man standing that's the composer, and they're going this scene needs a bit of help. Can you go and put some music underneath it to make it at least entertaining or something or the other? Or we need more tension, or we di...

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 have learned to be able to expand my creative insight and pursuit into sharing my talent . It is honorable to see how much insight you can gain into understanding lessons theoretically rather than practically. I would suggest more people such as myself to join and learn something that do so passionately to go into masterclass! Thank you so much once again Hans!

I thought this class was very informative and supportive! It helped reduce my fears of attempting to enter the industry and improved my confidence!

It gave me inspiration. It took away the veil of illusion and replaced it with youthful vigour. It let me know that whatever I write will always be better than than what I don't write. Thank you and good luck :)

Even though I will not likely write a film score, there is a ton of stuff in this class that applies to the music I write. Thank you for sharing your mental process as you approach a project. That bit alone was priceless. Everything else was gravy on top


Chris D.

The information is great. I wish it would have cut to some examples of what he was talking about - like removing the hard note in Black Hawk Down. It would have been great to show a clip from the movie as an example of what he did, where and why he did it.

A fellow student

I love this lesson as it endorses the way I've always done orchestration, one instrument or section at a time...sometimes without a purpetual click track to give the arrangement a better ensemble feel. Very helpful lesson, Hans.

Pierre H.

Hi there , I'm just back to music film composition after more than 25 yrs. In between I was just composing and composing songs and instruments. Its great to see this completely different approach around creating your own sound , playing with one hand to enhance the character of an instrument + also the expression aspect. Great insights :-)

Robert S.

I wish he would have explained some terminology. I don’t quite understand what a “cut” is. A scene, part of a scene?

Dr. Monnie Chan

Our maestro teacher Hans Zimmer live concert in Hong Kong is coming on 26th September 2019. Just 12 days to go. I am going and wonder if there are any classmates I can meet?

stepohen seale

You're taking the audience on a emotional journey, and you have to entertain them as well

Ethan F.

What I mostly like here is that Hans goes a step ahead of us. We all try to learn how to take our spectators into a journey, going from one feeling to another. But the fact that he says "let them figure it out", is a very interesting way to stop and start thinking about our relationship with the spectators.


This is the best lesson yet. He really opens the door to the technique of time and placement of the sound in contact to the image. Thinking of the audience's reactions and how to give them space to feel... or no space. Excellent.

Becky P.

These lessons could even be better by inserting example of the music that he is talking about so we can actually hear what he is talking about.

Lord Krishna

Very interesting, indeed. Realise your audience are intelligent beings and produce the music for them in that way.