From Hans Zimmer's MasterClass


Your editor is your drummer. Learn how to recognize the tempo to a scene and edit to it.

Topics include: Working with the Editor • Deciding on a Tempo


Your editor is your drummer. Learn how to recognize the tempo to a scene and edit to it.

Topics include: Working with the Editor • Deciding on a Tempo

Hans Zimmer

Teaches Film Scoring

Learn More


The drummer for the film composer is the editor. So you need to know your editor, and you need to know how your editor feels tempo, et cetera. I remember in Crimson Tide figuring out this really long scene that Chris Levenson had cut, and I was thinking he must have cut this to a piece of music. It's rhythmically, so accurate. And I finally worked out the BPM, which was just unwavering. I can't remember what actual BPM was. It's a seven minute piece, and I never did a tempo change, and it was quite a slow tempo. And I saw Chris and I said, so what piece of music did you cut this to? And he goes, I didn't cut this to a piece of music. You just want to-- part of who you want closest to you is you want to know the metabolism rate of your editor because they're your drummer. Here's how I start the day. I go the click is your friend. It's reliable. It's the only thing I can rely on. The notes are lying to me. I am lying to me, going yes, today you're going to write a great tune. Well, that's bullshit. So the only thing I can rely on, the only thing that's my friend is the metronome because it's just there. It's steady. It's reliable. So I like being in a grid and it gives me an enormous amount of freedom to lie, and to invent, and to-- if a great idea happens. You're playing something, and there's a great idea in there somewhere, but it's just a free form, floating around in the air, it's really hard to capture and make something out of it. If it's in the grid, you're already a step ahead. Just put up a click and listen to the click, and look at the picture. It's just a click, and it's just a metronome and holes, but if you listen carefully, something in your head-- not maybe a tune, but a texture, or a feeling, or something will come about. The picture will speak to you in a different way when you impose a grid onto it, that isn't the same grid that the editor has. And so if your question is, do you like single spaced or double spaced in your emails, or your type, or your script or whatever? That's the click for me. It feels a certain way. We were talking earlier about how do I start, and part of it is-- and I can sit there forever trying to figure out what my tempo is. What's the pace of the drama for me in this one? Am I going to go against it? Am I going to go with it? And if I go with it, how many cups of coffee did the editor have before he cut the scene? Are the actors moving? What's their speech pattern? And it's not like I consciously work it out, it's just I try to take it in. I've done 100 movies or so, and you don't consciously look for, you just sort of feel it and then just put it in that-- OK, hang on, I know what that is. I used to play this game of watching a scene once, figuring out what I wanted to hit, and then switching the picture off and just writing, and then putting it back up. And I can hit anything you want. T...

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.

Great inspiration! He gives a realistic view of the business, as well as the structure of the stories he is painting.

This MasterClass has taught me a lot about film composing that I have never known before such as talking to your directors for the first time and just the work it requires to film score. I would recommend this class to anyone who wants to be a film composer.

It has opened my mind to possibilities that I never considered and positioning me to hone my skills to play ball in the international film making landscape. Thanks Masterclass.

I've only just began studying music composition. I enrolled in Hans' class because of the quality of his music. I watched all of Hans' lessons in two sittings to give context to my studies. My expectations were exceeded with Hans' discussions of various phases of his process, his aesthetic, and more. Needless to say, I highly recommend Hans' MasterClass.


Stephanie J.

I'm confused by something kind of important here... When Hans says that he picks a tempo for a score, does this mean the whole film? He gave an example - in one of the Batman movies -- where he started a score in one tempo then changed in reel 4. Is that an exception to the rule? If keeping one tempo, I'm curious Why that is? Does that help with the pace of the movie? Is this standard?

Kenneth S.

It's funny, as a former Session Player and a Jazz musician, Hans nailed that relationship that is most essential, knowing each other's tempo. It's more that knowing someone's character... but that bit about knowing the bpm's and how they translates into frames is essential, it's knowing how to play with it....lots to think about and review here, I'll be watching this one again!

Kori C.

I really didn't think about the tempo like Hans described, but it completely makes sense to me. I will be looking at writing music differently with this in mind. VERY cool!


Interesting! I think the next generation will think of TIME not as linear, but as fast, quick and multi-dimensional... Haha.

Ryan W.

The metronome click... Brilliant! That is exactly the type of thing I am looking for. I can honestly say I never thought of using a metronome tap against the screen or the situation. Fantastic!

Jonathan S.

I engineered for Bob Baldori and Arthur Migliazza who call themselves The Boogie Kings. Bob is a fanatic about tempo. He rehearses every day with a metronome and insists that when you lock into the groove, you can drive an audience crazy. He worked with Chuck Berry for 50 years, and that was Chuck's mantra too. Here's a link to a video I did with Bob and Arthur: The Rolling Stones were notorious for speeding up every song they ever did, but that became a problem when they shot movies. It meant they couldn't use sections of performances from different nights. So they started using a click track that was piped to earphones for the drummer and keyboard player.

Judith M.

Well, that was a deep lesson. A journey from BPM to Hz to colour and metabolism. Descending fifths and chord progressions. Thank you. The way that you often transition, usually makes me jump, a bit of a wake up call so to speak. That pause when something is trapped in time/falling and then suddenly hits the ground. I started from Alexander Scriabin and his organ, clavier a lumiere, linking into Writing in Light, the Scriabin Circle of fifths, his Poem of Fire (Prometheus C# circled with last chord E as the blue base of his red flame). Using the octave as a link between scenes. Also his lesser known Poem of Ecstasy and the ideas behind Omni-Art and his dream of the temple in the Himalayas - Mysterium. The whole disscussion over his interpretation of the scale comparison, and how it was made, including the fact that Rimsky Kosakov agreed with him, opening a whole question about synthesthesia and people with different forms of it. Music as the glue that holds the other arts together in a performance. Also an interesting placement of the mystic chords. Just that alone, opens up at least a weeks worth of discussion on transitions because music is found in so many ways. Not all involving instruments. Interesting tempo choices of yours there. Just that little bit of tension. Then to Sir Isaac Newton and his optics. The circle of fifths took me eventually to Heinichens musical circle which contains inspiration for any musician trying to compose for the Celtic world/film. Runes used to be written this way and fit in the circle perfectly (based on research by Kenneth Meadows). Each part of that alphabet was tied to an emotional or psychological theme now seen as fortune telling. Sideways steps for theme and key ideas. You could also chose to change the scale to Draconic. Particularly for flutes. Of particuar interest to me was the transition by descending fifths used by Heinrich Schenker, in Harmony and Counterpoint. Free .pdf can be found here:

Matthew E.

How does a composer change tempo from one scene to the next? Say the tempo is 60 from 00:00 to 00:24, and then 80 from 00:25 to 00:45. I can understand starting new music at :00 and then again at :25, but what's the best practice from transitioning into multiple tempos? Thanks.

Roberto C.

Certainly one of the most interesting lessons we have met so far, very rich of important suggestions that makes us understand the importance of musical tempo and click.

Mia S.

"Dark Knight, we actually talked about, Wouldn't it be cool if Chris shot the movie with a BPM in mind? So the first four reels of that movie are at 96 BPM, and then when we switched, you don't notice that we switched. The trick is, we just give you a jolt suddenly because in one way or the other, even though there's a lot of stuff that's been happening - bank robberies, dialogue scenes, chases - they were all in one tempo, and in a peculiar way you've now gotten used to this. I'm suddenly pulling the rug out from under you - the whole excitement shifts. It wasn't even that radical, it was just - slightly wrong. Slightly wrong is great. Just uncomfortable. 80 BPM, it's just a good tempo because you can go any way. 160 is going to be close to cardiac arrest, and sometimes you want to go up there, but 80 BPM can be quite seductive as well, and it just so happens that the math is easy. Sometimes you've got to go and do - you have to remember that one 4,4 barred, 80 BPM happens to be three seconds. So you can sort of orient yourself. Or 96 us 2.5 seconds. It's just weird baggage you carry with you, you just instinctively know. 140 usually means, 'I didn't have the courage to make your heart burst out of your chest' -142,or something like that, divisible by frames. If you're not divisible by frames, it ends badly."