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.
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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.


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

Humbling and powerful. I'm not a composer but a filmmaker, and I gained invaluable knowledge from this class. Thank you.

Legendary humble man, great mind I learned a lot Sounds great and looks great Loved every second of the class

Insight! Insight! Insight!... And I learned to separate my work from myself.

Profound insights that can be missed without re-watching, taking notes, and trying musically. Amazing and inspiring class!


Matt S. It would be good to hear results of those who have been inspired by the class, and work in progress

Sara H.

I particularly liked the analogy of play dough, which I first thought he was saying with his rich german accent, Plato... smirky smile. When i teach art, the trick is allways to grab that painting away from the kid before he turns it brown. From primal colors to the brown chaos of the black hole. Keeping things seperate creates facets and interactive modules for the yin yang of the mind, ears and process.

Cody C.

I keep thinking of the old saying "You have to know the rules to break the rules" or my personal favorite "if your not cheating you are not trying hard enough". Prior to this lesson I never thought of world building and establishing operating rules as the same thing. World building has been about mood setting and the spirit of a thing in a lot of my work. I always used my rule set as the delivery system for that world. I If the rule set and the world building are the same, I feel like it would end in a more curated, compartmentalized work. Although it may not have the same vast scope of a large world, it may lend itself to volume of produced work instead of vastness. I feel compelled now to try this method to see what happens.

Liam S.

I thought it was really interesting as well his discussion of creating rules and then breaking them. I completely agree with this because you might be working on a film and realise that some of your rules will not work with that part of the story. But you do still need rules or the music will sound 'brown' as he calls it.

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.