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

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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.

Very illustrative stories about his personal experience.

This was an amazing and very helpful ride. Hans' words were the "little push" (as the Joker said) every musician or composer or producer needs to improve and push beyond their limits, and also to understand that an artist's life has to base about enjoying and loving his or her job, and showing everyone else that music is one of the pillars that define and give human life a purpose. Thanks Hans!!

Hans has constructed a well thought out class that told me everything I needed to know! I have learned so much from him and I cannot wait to get started on my compositions! Thank you for everything, Hans. May your days be long and all your joys complete.

This class has spurred me on to become a better composer - to think deeper about the story I'm trying to tell while not overthinking the technicalities.


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.

Nicolás L.

I loved this class, After this chapter I will never listen and compose the music to the same way.

A fellow student

Question and Answer, and starting from simple ideas that expand. After this lesson, I became more keenly aware of those things in the music I listen to.

Frank S.

Fantastic opening lesson. So passionate and honest. Glad to see the mentioning of Interstellar in there, one of my all time favorites, and one of the few soundtracks in a movie that can honestly bring a tear to my eye!

A fellow student

Perfect lesson. Very accurate and honest! (just my opinion) Thanks master <3

Greg S.

I have an ear for accents and I thought I heard a wisp of Britain in there a few times. Looked it up and sure enough, he lived in the UK for a while. I'm not a musician but as a new director I find this process riveting. And in reality, the question/answer format applies to the script itself as well. The questions are what keep the viewer engaged: some guy's walking slowly down a dark alley with a bottle of JD in one hand and a gun in the other. That's a scene question and now I see how the music would reflect that. Very cool.

Kenneth S.

Ok, lesson two is worth watching over right away! I picked up my Jazz box, watched and listened as he's describing the 'question and answer' ideas.... echo and refrain right? Maybe, but there's more to it... phrasing those question and answers... drawing them out, playing with them... I could sit with this one with a bottle or wine and work through ideas on that theme alone. Cool... on to Lesson 3?