From Hans Zimmer's MasterClass

Scoring Under Dialogue

Learn how Hans approaches the relationship between music and dialogue, and how music can be dialogue too.

Topics include: Coexisting with Dialogue • Perspective


Learn how Hans approaches the relationship between music and dialogue, and how music can be dialogue too.

Topics include: Coexisting with Dialogue • Perspective

Hans Zimmer

Teaches Film Scoring

Learn More


There used to be all these rules. You're not supposed to write for clarinets, because they are in the vocal range. Well, I don't think I sound like a clarinet. I don't think I sound like a clarinet. So I think it's just be a little bit mindful. I mean, a lot of these rules about how we're supposed to circumnavigate dialogue come from the days before-- I have the picture running when I'm writing and I pop the dialogue up and I can see if I can understand every word. They come from the time before people actually had-- they had a moviola if they were lucky. But, they couldn't sync. It didn't matter their piano playing to the dialogue. It wasn't until they unleashed the orchestra they found out that it's all a bit loud and a bit stepping all over the dialogue. Most screenwriters, if there are any good, will pick just the right words and just the right amount of words to get that story across. So as a composer, you got to do the same thing. Don't pick too many words. Don't pick the wrong words. It's just what's the story you're trying to convey right now? And it doesn't matter if an actor is speaking our efforts. Well, it doesn't matter if it's a car chase because nothing new can happen until the car chase is over anyway. Nobody can hear anything other than the roaring of cars. Look, it's back to the same argument or the same thing I've been saying all along. Be mindful of the story. So if you're getting in the way of the story we're just being told by the character, you're doing something wrong. If you are on story, if you just stick with story, stick on story, that's your safety net. It doesn't matter that you've just written the nicest and most beautiful piece of music of your career. If it interferes with the story, bin it, chuck it, throw it in the trash. You know the Sherlock stuff is actually strange, because it was a bit of an oopsy, not having everything this close, recording everything this close, and not giving it perspective. So that it became really tough the dubbing engineer. And you just want to have real masters backing it. Because quite simply I think it's not the size of the orchestra or the amount of noise you make that gets in the way, if your dialogue is close if your character is close to you or whatever unclear, and you make your orchestra in the right way perspective is just as effective as turning the volume down. So, I think a lot about the perspective of the scene. Where I want to have the players placed in relationship to the actors in a way. But it's not necessarily about volume it is about perspective. So, if we can make sure that your orchestra your musicians sound further away your ear will automatically go to the clear closely mic'd thing. I mean, just as you're about nine milliseconds away from me right now. You're not in real time because of the distance between the two of us. So, i...

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 absolutely love the way he explains what goes on in his head when he begins to work on a project. Very captivating!

Thank you for this! Thank you for bringing in Hans Zimmer, his class was facinating but he spoke about all creative processes, not just music composition and it is relevant to anyone in a creative field. His music is hauntingly beautiful but it is his need to converse and share and bring to life that makes him so compelling. Thank you very much, truly!

This Masterclass has given me a sense of discovery. What I needed to get to work was a little inspiration. Hans Zimmer inspired me to believe that my name can be great as any other.

Hans is a wonderful teacher. It was a pleasure to go through this excellent video series, and to participate in the live office-hour phone call!


Phil A.

Good lesson, but I with we could have seen some more examples, clips of scenes from the films he references for example.

Kenneth S.

Perspective is definitely the name of what you're doing, positioning the music with the scene, but I like Hans also conveying that not all the information is dialogue. But it's teamwork... the music and the actors. Good lesson!

Sharif S.

Cool that he mentioned Jack Nicholson, he'd be amazing to have on here too.


Good to learn it's always about perspective and allow emotions go with the flow, like a river. Sometimes, we just need to feel it and make something fresh and different, depending on what kind of emotions the writers / directors want to create for the audience.

Robert A.

I love that!!!. Awesome lesson again Hans, thank you so much!!!. Onward!!!.

Ryan W.

Music communicating the situation is no new concept for me. Very well said!

Jonathan S.

Just as the writer chooses just the right words, the composer has to do the same thing. Sometimes it's just one note. Very interesting idea he's using to move the orchestra back from the mics to get a subtle high frequency roll-off. (Hope I'm not too far off topic here.) I come from a background of live performing. One of the difficulties in a live setting is being understood at a distance. Audience members further back lose intelligibility because all the bodies in front of them absorb the high frequencies. We know this because we've all driven past houses where the bass is booming and we can't hear the singer. For my live shows I use a compressor to keep the quietest part of my monologue from getting eaten up. I also use a feedback exterminator to keep the squeals out of the PA, which lets me turn the highs up.

Marcus M.

This may have been our theater, but Bane's voice in much of the movie was not clear. We often watch movies at home using captions because there are some things that are said that are not heard...

Carlos V.

That's revealing! I think the course would be much richer if it showed some sample scenes instead of just mentioning them.

Brenda N.

I have to say that, even as a composer, I do want to hear the dialogue. Even if the director wanted the music louder than the dialogue. Why write dialogue if you're not going to listen to it?