From Hans Zimmer's MasterClass

Scoring to Picture

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

Topics include: Story • Scoring to the Edit


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

Topics include: Story • Scoring to the Edit

Hans Zimmer

Teaches Film Scoring

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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.

This class encouraged me to pursue my dream career! Thank you Hans Zimmer and Masterclass!

I've learnt to always trust myself regardless of whether I'm 'right' or 'wrong' about something. At the end of the day we're all humans. It'd be nice to have an assignment or something, I'm sure a lot of us would benefit from that, especially if it meant getting us through that door.

Brilliant, unique, very: yeah VERY well made..

Han's taught me things you can't learn in school. Anyone can take a theory class, or a D.A.W. class to learn how to compose in a computer. 5 Stars!



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.

Anna J.

This track is from my newest album which is more technoish, but let me ask you for a feedback anyway. I also did the visuals. :) If you are wondering who is The Dragon Rider let me answer it just right now. It is someone who overcomes her / his fear. To read the full story please go to:

Sharif S.

It's nice to listen about music production from a compositional standpoint like this as well.


Thanks for sharing your tips and techniques on how and when to add music, or not. Enjoying your Masterclass.

Robert A.

I agree, treat the audience intelligent as they as are, let them complete the emotion. Awesome lesson Hans!!!. Thank you again!!!. Onward!!!.

Ryan W.

I like the way you see it all as a story and recognize the power of leaving music out of the equations at times. I have heard of some people just writing something random, and saying, "oh, that will work for this one. Here..." I like it when a composer sees the story and wraps the music around it and intertwines it..

Jonathan S.

Knowing that the others on the project are insecure is great insight. I've seen that in other classes I've taken here. So along with your music writing, you have to deal with that. The part about musicians anticipating the scene change, influencing the music, and ever so subtly giving it away is so true. I think of the times where the music rises up—especially in TV shows—where you know they're going to a commercial. Of course they're trying to convince you to stay on the program, but you don't have to telegraph everything. Trust that the audience will get it. If you keep thinking they're stupid, pretty soon they'll think you're stupid.

Judith M.

I like the way that this ties in with your earlier suggestion about personal effects of musical keys. Suddenly you have an audience who will respond in different ways simply because we are not all the same. However what matters is that the audience responds to the music, their very reaction showing that they have heard the emotion that your music elicited in them. The last sense lost before death is hearing, so the effects of music whether in film or beside the bedside as therapy has the intrinsic ability to reach our souls, no matter how closed off we may be otherwise. Hmmm I tried to think of what I'd do with a scene showing someone walking away that currently just echoes the footsteps. I would have interpreted it as a fading march, but then decided that I preferred the silence. Sometimes silence is peace, a zen like quality or zanshin, but other times it can be quite sorrowful, especially when surrounded by more active compositions in the story. Sometimes we have to let things go, or others have to leave/funerals. It opens a space to be filled by the visuals and personal interpretation. Last man standing. I had a bing bong moment on the synth beginners page, and suddenly had the reinforcement of interpreting music as physics, and the sideways movement of radio comms experience. I'll be travelling back in time to the previous musical parts that I'd skipped now. Thank you!