Music & Entertainment

Themes

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 15:51 min

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.

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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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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.



Reviews

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

Excellent masterclass. Wise words from a master, delivered with self-deprecation, enthusiasm and humour.

I love the way Hans teaches. His lessons have abundant information and are presented in the most compact way possible. Very well organized !

I feel Im not done yet. It was very thought provoking and I certainly feel more like composing then before the Masterclass. I wished Mr. Zimmer would have talked a bit more about failing, or how to handle a "Blockade" Situation. However he mentioned that he never had any, although I have trouble to believe that :) Seeing forward to some assignments.

I've learned so much from this course. Hanz is a master and I feel very privileged to have took this class. At 65 I thought I knew it all but now I realize I have a great deal to learn. Very inspiring.


Comments

Cody C.

Outside of his demonstration of music as a language, I found his methodology of how to tell the story fascinating. Listening to the end product it becomes very hard to discern the simple nature of the underlying melody. When he said that he could play almost all of his music with a single finger it totally made me rethink my composition process. It would seem that his process is a trifecta of simple melody, scale ability, and diversification of tension. My favorite quote was when he stated that "The question is more interesting than the answer".

Liam S.

This video was very interesting. I think it was Hans Christian Anderson who said, "Music speaks where words cannot". This is exactly what Hans is saying. I loved what he said about how music is putting our emotions (or the emotions of the characters in film) on the page. It's also interesting how he talked about the fact that it easy to fill a piece with instruments but its harder to keep a simple tune and that is the main focus.

Travis D.

I really enjoyed this lesson and the idea of themes being a question and answer. I wonder if it was intentional that the example he gave on the keyboard had the first phrase end ascending and the "answer" end descending, just like our voices do when we ask a question and when we answer one. I have wanted to write for film for a really long time and never had the willpower to get past anxiety. After watching this the first thing I did was find a film scene and get to work! Now I have done two different scenes from different movies and will be making "rescoring" a regular part of my studio time.

Steve Rogers

Hans Zimmer made some good points, and gave good examples: Interstellar was a perfect one. The mood of the tune affects the mood of the movie. His style is very creative and its cool that he sometimes just shows the music to make his point, and everyone understands it, perhaps better than if he tried to illustrate it in words.

Tom

I'm gonna probably type half this course as quote images, the meaning and effectiveness to transform me, the basic material is worth sharing. Maybe Masterclass should have a meme quote generator ;)

Tulio S.

13:03 "It's easy to get a big church organ[...]" Note to editors, so they can fix the subtitles.

Larissa R.

The lesson is exactly what I was searching for. I started to compose after learning jazz theory and I became overwhelmed by chords. Music became a harmonical flow of complex combinations of sounds, too many at the same time.

Monique

I like the idea of taking a simple melody and building on that - gives me some good ideas to create with in the future.

Dan

this really is great, It shows just how important the question is, the idea of keeping the listener in the moment, wondering what is coming, will it get answered and what's going to happen next, will you get an answer or will it keep you there a while longer, love this.

Simone P.

I think that "the Question" is the really centre of the music! It's a music question and in the same time an human question! Thanks, HZ!