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.

While I am by no means a musician, Zimmer still instilled a bevy of knowledge on the basics of scoring a major motion picture. His personality was lively and his stories always engaging!

I learned so much from Hans. He has opened many doors in my mind about allowing myself to freely compose music. Many thanks to Hans and masterclass.

Nice introduction.already have change my desk configuration.

Fantastic class! Hans inspired me to create my own scores. (I'm still trying to improve) I hope that someday, a director will approach me and ask me "Hey, want to create a score for my movie?" This class overall was an fantastic experience and I had fun! Thank you Hans! Cheers! -Nick


Comments

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!

Lucy

I agree heartily with what Hans says about selecting a proper key for your theme. How certain keys will sound on different instruments is something you don't have to worry about much when using MIDI orchestration, but it is extremely important to live players. Your theme can be great but if it doesn't suit your instruments' ranges, it can fall to pieces. Taking the time to study ranges of instruments and how they sound is extremely beneficial!

Dr. Monnie Chan

Thanks a lot to the Masterclass team. Their effective and prompt reply always amaze me. The team helps me to solve the problem of uploading assignments. Thank you again, and grateful that I meet the grand master Teacher Zimmer online and learn the essence of composing film songs. In 2007 my film songs are published (CD) in Hong Kong. Looking forward to write more for HZ class... YES.

Dr. Monnie Chan

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?

Dr. Monnie Chan

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

Yu-Han

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!