From Hans Zimmer's MasterClass


Hans has created some of the most memorable themes in film. Learn how he creates a theme, and how simplicity is his best tool to maintain a theme.

Topics include: Developing Themes • Creating a Tune • Key • Sherlock Holmes Study


Hans has created some of the most memorable themes in film. Learn how he creates a theme, and how simplicity is his best tool to maintain a theme.

Topics include: Developing Themes • Creating a Tune • Key • Sherlock Holmes Study

Hans Zimmer

Teaches Film Scoring

Learn More


Nothing means anything until you have a tune. And a tune, that's the job. You sit there in front of the piano. And there are 88 notes on that keyboard, of which only 11 means something before they repeat in the octave. And you know everybody else has played those notes before. And somehow you have to figure out how to write something original with it, but at the same time, not too original, because it has to be appropriate to the story. I'm not doing concert music. I am trying to be telling the parallel story that the filmmakers are taking. So there are restrictions, yet you're supposed to be completely free. So there are contradictions in everything I do. A great example of all of that is actually Beethoven's Fifth, not that I'm comparing myself to Beethoven. But dun, dun, dun, dun, every kid has walked up to the piano and gone, dun, dun, dun, dun. But he knew, somehow, that out of those notes, you could go and build castles in the sky. You could invent something. You could tell a story with those notes. They're so simple. That's what you need to figure out, how to find the simplest thing to set the thing in motion. But you have to, at the same time-- and this is why I sit there, day in, day out, driving myself crazy, you have to know. You have to make a decision that whatever those opening notes are, whatever the first thing is that you have to say, is actually going to hold water, is actually going to somehow take you through this vast arc of a story. And not halfway through the movie, you suddenly go, you know something? I can't make these notes become mournful, happy, exciting, all the different personalities they need to take on. And sometimes you just have to kill your favorite babies. Even though you're trying to write from inspiration, you're trying to be relatively practical. One of the things I don't do is I don't use a lot of exuberant key changes in my music. Or even if I do, I try to always come back to my home key. Part of that is practical. I like writing in d. And everybody thinks it's because I'm lazy, which is true. But it's not the reason I'm write in d. I write in d because, in this modern day and age, the bass can go down to C, which is their open string. But they can't do vibrato on the open string. So D is actually a good note, where they can so do a little bit of vibrato. And it's nice that if you go from-- [PLAYING PIANO] It's satisfying! So if I have to give you an answer, if I have to complete a phrase, and I have to give you an answer, I like when it ends on a note that bass and celli and violas-- violins is a different matter-- can land on in a satisfying way. At least I set myself up to have that possibility. The whole score might never do this. And it might just be up here. [PLAYING PIANO] But I don't know that at the beginning. So if I pick something that gives me ...

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.

Thought provoking to write straight away , a surprise before the course. It feels like the class has begun ,

The experience in this MasterClass has been very positive for several reasons: It inspired me to new thoughts. I have learned that the life of a composer is not easy. What emotions, dialogue and teamwork are basic. It is not necessary to go to a music school, if you want to learn, you can learn by searching and studying for yourself. I especially liked his honesty and spontaneity.

It's interesting to get a fresh perspective from a master who's so passionate about music. I get to take in the powerful life lessons that Mr Zimmer had learned through his journey which not only improved my understanding of composing music, but also inspired me.

Tech is not the most important, from this lessons I found the key of composing, thx.


A fellow student

Thank you for the prompt reply from our masterclass team. Attached is my work with a theme repeated, for the request of lesson 02Themes, with my own playing on the piano. Wish you love it. Oops.... video cannot be uploaded? Only music scores?

A fellow student

Thank you, teacher Zimmer. I can feel your simplicity and humble. Very appreciated. And I love the score examples you presented. I would like to know what kind of attachment is expected to forward here? Any of my work with a major theme? Thank you.

Steve W.

I'm eating a giant piece of creative mental cake right now. I can't wait to get back to this. "What the F#@* sort of question is that??" LOL!!! I know I should be doing this for a living, so watching this at 39 is delightful torture.

Sean P.

Does any one know what type of file an attachment needs to be in order to upload onto this forum? I took a short scene from a movie and I want to upload it and share it here. I used Final Cut Pro to create it. Thanks


Being a tone-deaf, I wasn’t able to distinguish the Q&A melodies there. However, it’s very inspiring when he compared making a piece of music to telling a story. I never thought deeply enough to realize they actually did work the same way. Of cause they did! That’s exactly why I’m taking MasterClass— to learn how to tell good stories in many ways as possible. The classes that I enrolled are great so far— directing, screenwriting, acting, scoring... and I’m loving it. I’m hoping we’ll have cinematography and editing classes too. Could we have Emmanuel Lubezki, Walter Murch and Tom Cross? Fill up MasterClass with all these amazing masters of filmmaking please!

Jessie Y.

The examples made me so much clearer on how can a simple melody can create a compelling story with thousands of tracks.

Graeme R.

How exciting it is to understand how Mr. Zimmer thinks about telling a story in music. It's the first conversation about music that I, as a storyteller, can understand.


The way he condenses concepts in the most digestible and memorable way is SO HELPFUL! My favorite advice is when he tells us to Simplify to the heart of the concept/idea for the melody - which then makes it easier to expand upon. I'm going to write something now!

Jim P.

This is great stuff!!! Hope to learn more in the next lessons that can help me write some good music. I like the notion of the 'core' or heart of the tune. Great lesson!!

A fellow student

I stood speechless at the end of this episode for some time, it was amazing listening to this, i have no idea about music theory or ever been good at music of any sort, but my thoughts and emotions are musical and perhaps there is way for me to express them.