Music & Entertainment


Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 10:12 min

Discover how Hans approaches writing to story and his number one rule for film composers.

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.
Get All-Access


At the end of the day, I can tell you everything you need to know in one word. Story. Stick with the story. Figure out the story, stick with the story like glue. Don't abandon the story, don't betray the story, know the story you want to tell. And in a funny way, it sounds like that is actually very narrow, but it's actually huge and vast because the subtext for the composer is that there is a subtext. Because you don't want to go and tell the story that they're telling beautifully, elegantly in images and words. You want to go and slip in underneath and find that bit that they're not illuminating yet, that takes the whole thing just that step further into sometimes a metaphysical world, sometimes into a more emotional world, sometimes just figuring out how to color a scene in a slightly different way. But at the end of the day, everybody on the film-- if it's a good project, a film become successful because everybody has decided that they want to tell this one story and it's just they're using their different voices to tell that story. I suppose it's a delicious meal, and I suppose at the end of the day, I don't see myself very differently from a chef. He has the task. The guests are coming at 8 o'clock and they want to have an experience. And so I go out and I see what's available. Are there fresh tomatoes? Oh, look, carrots look good. Potatoes. So you get all this stuff, and then you spend an enormous, inordinate amount of time peeling potatoes, chopping onions, and all that sort of stuff. And then at 10 to 8:00, you just put it all in the pot and you have, hopefully, a delicious and fresh meal. So I don't think the process is that different with the one caveat, always, you just always in the back of your mind, stay on story. Stay on story. Stay on story. There's an obsessive quality about the whole thing because what you're trying to do is, you're actually trying to figure out how you're going to live in this world. So there's a bit of method-composing that's going on where, yes, I'm a lot more fun to be around when I work on a romantic comedy than when I work on The Dark Knight. You just don't want to be around me then. I do become The Joker. I do become all of those things. I found over the years I have a strange way of working where when I start on a project, really what happens is, rather than reading the script, I'd much rather sit down with the director and say to him, tell me the story. Because then I know what's in his head, what his emphasis is, where his thoughts are going. He might not tell me all the details, and he certainly won't recite bits of dialogue to me, but I know what sort of a movie we were doing. When Ridley Scott phoned me and said, hey, let's make a gladiator movie, it's 9 o'clock in the morning. I'm no good at 9 o'clock in the morning. I just started laughing because I imagined he was going to ...

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 knew very important things I was really looking for! It was a great experience! Thanks to Mr. Zimmer!!!

The MasterClass helped me to understand the process of storytelling more profoundly. There's a ton of little snippets of info to integrate to your own personal way of thinking and working. Also being able to get to know Hans´ story, influences and ups and downs during his career were a huge eyeopener.

It has been an incredible experience where I have been able to understand much better many principles that I needed. Thank you very much!!!

I am not a composer or a musician, I took this course cause I love Hans Zimmer music. I just wanted to see how he creates such godly melodies. He did not disappoint.


New York C.

It feels so good to hear that my favorite film composer likes the key of D. I am also inspired to go back to my piano to find melodies first and then bring them into Omnisphere.

A fellow student

Loved this lesson, especially questions and answers. I'd be curious to know how the idea/image of the wheat field, in the opening scene, influenced Hans to write the Gladiator theme... whose idea was it, I wonder; Ridley Scott or Hans Zimmer?

A fellow student

The discussion in this lesson is fantastic, and as a novice I wonder...what are some examples of rules? Hans speaks about it in very broad terms. Does this mean staying in a certain key, or a certain genre, having a certain feel, etc.?


I love the example Hans used about "Pirates" and how his own biases and preconceptions led him in a different direction from where the actual story was going. It just goes to show how important it is to understand what the director is truly looking to accomplish with the film so that your music can parallel their vision.

Karsyn P.

I like how he talks about having rules but also breaking them. Like, you have to have certain rules’s just a mess. But you also have to make something new and fresh and....fitting for the story. If you only follow the rules it’s boring and the same old same old. So break the rules that need to be broken!

Irene B.

I love Zimmer's take on the whole adaptation game. These stories we keep going back to in the form of film, lyrics, fantasy novels... they're tales as old as time, and yet we tell them again. I like that he doesn't discount adaptations and instead asks how we can re-invent and re-orchestrate.

Dr. Monnie Chan

Story is everything for creating a tune. Women cry watching Titanic. Men cry watching Gladiator.

A fellow student

Something occurred for me while I was reviewing this lesson. As an historical background, I received my degree in music education 50 years ago. I never actually taught. There was a small conflict at the time which prevented me from starting a career. That conflict is known as the Vietnam War. By the time I got out of the army, funding for the arts in public schools was already drying up, and I could not find a job teaching WHAT I wanted, WHERE I wanted. So my life took a major turn in direction, and I ended up with an MBA and a career in business. Music became a major avocaton for me, but there was a fly in the ointment. In my "mind's ear" I had a constant flow of musical ideas, but I simply could NOT bring what I "heard" into the real world. That was the beginning of a frustration that dogged me for most of my adult life. But then, about 5 years ago, the floodgates opened, and I began to create real music. But, as was the case previously, there was a frustration that was driving me crazy. The last time I took a course in orchestration was 1968. So, although I was now able to turn my musical thoughts into sound, I didn't ever TRY to orchestrate any of it. Now appears this MASTER CLASS and one of the all-time greats, Hans Zimmer. As I was watching this lesson last night I was thinking to myself that this was a nice monologue, but it wasn't going to help me orchestrate anything. Or so I thought. As I finished the lesson I sat down at my keyboard and, for the next 5 minutes I improvised a steady stream of music. Not orchestrated, of course, but still music. I was recording my improvisation into my DAW. I had just finished when a circuit breaker blew. I had not saved the music. When I turned the power back on, my music was gone. Tears, anger, screaming . But I sat down again, started playing, and this time I saved the file at short intervals. And there poured out another 5 or 6 minutes of music. The reason that I am telling you folks about this in so much detail is that I learned that you might not think that your really getting anything out of a given class, lecture or conversation, but that is not necessarily the case. Sure, you might have thought, in advance, that you were going to learn some specific tidbit, and you might feel frustrated if that does not happen. But don't be surprised if that little seed that was planted blooms into a full, fruit-bearing tree. Thank you, Hans!

A fellow student

“Once you define the rules of the’s more fun to watch the game where somebody cheats in a clever way, than where everybody plays it totally by the rules. I think that goes for everything." Love that!

Alexis S.

Curious what he was going to say about Brian Eno, but got diverted to Play-Doh. Maybe Eno made this comparisson?