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Music & Entertainment

Story

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 10:12 min

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

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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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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.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Masterclass has helped me to question my musical point of view. Moreover, Hans is a great instructor and his words have made me think about what is really music. Every lesson has brought me into close contact with a composer's real life and I am sure that I will take with me all masterclass advices and knowledges.

Have listened to the first 6 segments. They are very inspiring, helpful and brilliant!

I hoped to see more technical details but I enjoyed the class.

It was really enjoyable watching him talk about his passion and there were certainly things told that never came to my mind.


Comments

Antonia T.

I never thought of Hans Zimmer as a story teller. But that's what he is. And that's wonderful.

VJ B.

As a hobbyist music producer and professional chef/teacher on a chefsschool I truly love how much simularity's the crafts are. Take for example the balance of the different tastes like salty, sweet, sour, hot, bitter. It's either comparably with filling in the frequencies proparly or the balance of different layers of instruments in which you sometimes bring something out more to make it more interesting, or lay the fundation around the sourness and build around that. Or how some ingrediënts just naturally go well together as do some sounds. Even if its so far apart from each other, theirs always a way to make things work and thats creativity. With food I compose taste, cultures, stories, structure, contrast, tempeture, feelings from suprising, to sad and to nostalgic, colors, shapes, emotion, I start of with an idea and sometimes it takes me somewhere else that I'd expect because that's what I felt it needed. With music I compose sounds, frequencies, volume, emotion, feelings from suprising, to sad and to nostalgic, cultures, stories, structure, contrast. It really has ALOT of simularitys. My creative proces isn't different if I'm either creating a dish or a song.

Ali Rıza B.

Hans Zimmer explains in this lesson that the rules are very important and that breaking the rules is more important when needed, from his own perspective and experience. I share word-by-word notes for those who want to translate or note what is said in a language other than English. Story 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. 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. 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. Live in the World of the 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. Do become The Joker. Do become all of those things. 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 make a movie with men in skirts and sandals. And even though it was a movie with men in skirt and sandals, it wasn't a comedy. It was something completely diffrent. And the same thing happened. I said to him, OK, tell me the story. And as he told me the story, I start-- I don't hear tunes. I hear fragments, I hear sounds, I hear bits, but I'm starting to narrow in a common language that we can use. And there are lots of ways of telling a gladiator story. Thin Red Line is another example where I sat with Terrence Malick probably for a year before he started shooting because lots of war movies had been made, but there was a way of doing this. There was a diffrent way of doing it. There's always something still left unsaid musically and in the human condition. And I think that's the sort of thing we aimed for. Learn the Rules of the Story From Your Director I think the rules come in that firs conversation you have with the director where he's describing what his vision is. And he tells you a story, and as he's telling you the story, he's telling it within the framework of his rules already. I remember really not wanting to do pirates, actually, it was ludicrous. I was working with Gore Verbinski on The Ring and I was sort of going, so what are you doing next? And he said, I'm thinking of doing this pirates movie. Pirates movie, hm? We asked from the rides that Disneyland-- oh, give me a break. What, with the dog? All these. So I was just making fun of him all the time. And because we're working on The Ring, I'said, no way am I doing this. And at a certain point, I said to him, so how is this pirates thing going? And he goes, well, I got Johnny Depp. And I went, hmm, Johnny Depp thinks it's intresting. OK, but I was just being me. So I misheard his rules or he never told me the rules. He never told me the story he was great to tell. I stopped, in my imagination, with, it's a pirate movie based on a ride. What could be a worse idea? And then one Sunday, he found me-- he got into a bit of trouble with the music, and he said, would I have a look at it and maybe help out a bit? And I looked at it, and it was nothing that I could imagine. But there was an absolute world crated, which followed absolutely the Gore Verbinski rules of what this pirate world and how he was going to present this was going to be. And had he told me those rules when we were first trying to talk about it, I would have gone, woah, this sounds really great. This is really yummy. This is fantastic. So the rules are part of that first moment of storytelling. When Guy phones me up and he goes, I'm working on a Sherlock movie and they're putting, as temp music, Dark Knight all over it and I don't like it, he's already giving me a hint to what the rules are going to be. And the way he-- literally, that first sentences in which he basically is going, I don't like your music. That, unbelievably freeing, unbelievably liberating. And us going, mm, Sherlock. What if he thinks diffrently? What if doesn't play the Bach Partita on the violin? What if it's like over there, gypsy music? So now, we're starting to define a new set of rules, and it's a rule of aesthetic more than anything, I think. And you just stick to that. Establish Rules and Break Them Do you know what Play-Doh is? It's like clay, multicolored clay, and comes in all these beautiful colors. And, you know, when you're a kid, you get all these beautiful colors and you'll mushroom all together and it doesn't matter what combination you mash together.You always end up with Brown. And so if you don't have rules, if you don't go, you know, I'm going to use red and yellow and that's gonna be pretty cool over here. And I'm going to use blue and yellow and all. You know what? You have to have certain rules. Otherwise, it's all just brown. And nobody's interested in just brown or beige. If you are even worse. So, you know, for instance, the rules and Sherlock are, you know, maintain some sort of intellectual integrity while at the same time having a lot of fun with it, but not too much fun because occasionally you might want to go. And Tom. Tom sideways and get a little bit of bit serious about, you know, the other rule is, for Christ sake, it's another Sherlock movie. How many Sherlock movies have there been? So let's not go and do certain things. This it's. Go and do the big pretentious orchestral thing, which I break by re orchestrating Mozart in the middle of this. But it's so pretentious. Again, it's a game. So once you've defined the rules of the game. It's more fun to watch the game where somebody cheats in a clever way, then everybody plays totally by the rules. And I think that goes for everything, you know. I can't think of a movie where I didn't set myself really strict rules. Then just at one moment go. Let's break. And because it it adds a fresh start, you know, a bit of cayenne pepper in the middle of this. It's the stew.

Mahi V.

Hans Zimmer is my favourite composer! Loving this class so far. I have recorded and 'semi-wrote' 15 songs thus far (only on piano) and this is what I was looking for -- how to make my music adaptable! :)

A fellow student

I really enjoy the playful and curious attitude he takes towards co-creating with the story. The modern concert composer feels so much pressure to live up to the great composers of the past, yet to not sound like them. I feel that this way of composing to support the story is free of that. For instance I am not interested in necessarily composing for films, but to compose for my own story so to speak. What is it that needs to be created in this time?

A fellow student

Really loved the analogy of question and answer in music, blew my mind. This will be helpful!

Konner K.

Really digging this class so far. Also I noticed in Hans' score for The Thin Red Line, on the track "The Coral Atoll" at 4:33 the motif with the basses is very similar to a motif in Interstellar on the track "No need to come back" at 2:51, also played by basses.

Joachim R.

Guude! Just started the class out of curiosity. Love playing around on my piano but not serious. You immediately cast a spell on me with what you say about film-music and especially how you say it. I'm already looking forward to the other lessons.

Christopher B.

Thanks Hans! Hello Matt, Send me an email if you like. I am finding it useful and entertaining! I am writing an arrangement of a piece I have composed, in progress. Happy to share as it unfolds and this Master Class informs and help. Again Thanks Hans! Oppps ...Matt, my email is cjbrocklebank@icloud.com

Matt S.

https://community.masterclass.com/t/filmmakers-composers-lets-talk-to-each-other/32926/12 It would be good to hear results of those who have been inspired by the class, and work in progress