Music & Entertainment

Scoring Under Dialogue

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 9:13 min

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

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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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 am a filmmaker learning from the best here. It was wonderful to get a peak into the masters process so I can better comunicate with those masters in the future.

The combination between Hans and his scores are the sole reason I decided to do what I wanted in life: Film Composing.

I thought more was going to be said.. but I'm extremely excited to hear every word Hans has to say and take it to heart.

As a musician and film maker I knew Han's Zimmer's work. I was not prepared for such a unique point of view .


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?

Ethan F.

I enjoy very much all the anecdotes with Nolan, especially here the one about Interstellar having music loud on dialogues just because Nolan is the writer, he does what he wants and dares ! Very interesting way of understanding a good relationship between composer and director/writer.

Matt S.

The balance between music and dialogue is an essential part of the "whole story" - something I have overlooked in my film compositions.

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.