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Arts & Entertainment

Working With Musicians: The Orchestra - Part 1

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 10:37 min

Hans discusses the important of earning your musicians' respect and how to effectively communicate with them.

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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Anybody can learn how to use a computer, and how to make sounds. And anybody can learn how to orchestrate. You can go to music school. You can learn how to play. These are all things that are being taught constantly. But I think one of the great things that's missing is how do you have the conversation. How not to be afraid. It actually takes a bit of getting used to-- like you and me right now having this simple conversation while there's a huge crew floating around, behind us. And we're pretending they're not here. But that's not what we're doing. We're actually doing the opposite. We're doing-- everybody is here to support us, doing something great. And that's the same with composing. So when you stand in front of the orchestra, know that they are there to support you, and make it the best. As opposed to being worried about all that. But it takes a bit of time. And you have to sort of earn their respect as well. I remember the first few times having the orchestra, and it was literally like lion taming. You walk out there, and they're just looking at you going, so what do you know? And the only way you can prove it is just by writing a decent tune, or having a decent idea. There are these two percussionists in London, Frank Ricotti and Gary Kettel. They play pretty much on every movie that ever existed. I think from before Star Wars on. So they played on everything. And secretly, my ambition, every time I record a score there, is to just find one thing that they haven't done before. And usually it's like, well, if you were to hit the temps with brushes. And at first you get, that'll never work. And then if you're lucky, they go out there and they do it. And they go, wow, Hans, that sounds really good. We've never done this before. So every time, just push it forward a bit. And if you push it forward a bit, they love you for it. Because the musicians are your biggest allies. They are the ones ultimately-- this is just me playing around on a computer. Ultimately, the real musicians give it something that no machine can do. When you get to the orchestra session, and this is partly why I do these demos, why I do these suites, why we mocked the whole movie up, why we have showed it to an audience. So that by the time we get to the orchestra section, we are on very, very solid ground. Because when I first got to Hollywood, people were just writing on paper. And the first time the director really would hear the thing would be either somebody had played it to him on piano, which is not quite the same as when you have a 120-piece orchestra blasting away at you. Some people can do it brilliantly. Obviously John Williams could do it brilliantly, because he is an amazing pianist. And the relationship he has with Steven Spielberg allows that, where John can play and go, this is where the French h...

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.

Right direction...this is it..slowly we'll not get to the point because we need to create it. Mr.Zimmer "Sounds" optimistic & well done!

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

I liked but I thought I would learn more, I wish he had showed his process finding: a melody, the next part of the song, creating harmony.More details

This Master Class was so inspiring. I learned a great deal and want to find out more. I'm not a film composure but I would love to be one. It sounds like the best thing in the world.


Antonia T.

"Ultimately, the real musicians give it something that no machine can do". Yeah!

Rachel R.

Amazing perspective, I'm glad I can relate. I love his encouragement to speak/communicate with emotion.

Brent H.

As much as I appreciate everything he is saying and teaching us about working with musicians and an orchestra, this is far beyond my budget and realistic approach. Maybe 5 to 10 years from now! I confess I can only work with a very strong orchestral sampling library at this stage. Hiring a lead violinist or cellist is the only possibility in the near future for my compositions. I do like how he encourages musicians to push beyond the usual though!

Dr. Monnie Chan

Our maestro teacher Hans Zimmer live concert in Hong Kong is coming on 26th September 2019. Just 12 days to go. I am going and wonder if there are any classmates I can meet?

Stephen P.

What is important to take from this lesson is to be clear about the emotional intention of the music. Also, when you describe to your orchestra, how you want the music to be played, be specific by using emotional words or explain the scene. You don't need to talk to them in technical terms.

Graeme R.

I so love Hans Zimmer's honesty and intimacy. A dear friend is sitting on my desk.

James A.

This is solid advice. I remember during a scoring session I had that the pianist was a real jackass, (brilliant but an ass) He didn't feel the session was apparently worth his time. (I didn't hire him.) The next cue I had written was in 7/8 and I was explaining in simple terms - non advanced theory lingo - plain old L.A. street English what I was after. He acted like he was having trouble with the notation, like it was wrong or some thing...okay I tell myself, I got one of these today. Okay. So I'm up on the podium trying to conduct this thing until finally I said. Look man, do you need me to come and play it for you? The next hour you could have heard a pin drop. I had just won over 85 musicians and keep that ass hole from ruining everyone's day. Oh and they appreciated the "real communication of the theme in non-ultra musical terms. "


I do believe COMMUNICATION is the key success factor to do best in everything too!

A fellow student

Wondering here if Hans ever showed the movie to get the orchestra get in the mood? (on top of explaining things)

Judith M.

Thank you for explaining that, I'll admit to never having thought about it, but to share the emotional intention of the music in simple story forms makes a lot of sense. More than that allowing the musicians to get into the attitude or thoughts of the characters, and suddenly what may have been a relatively flat piece of music, if only sight read, now becomes an emotive piece in their minds. Story inspiring music, a little more tension on the bowing or emphasis on a chord and there is all the difference in the world. You also answered a problem I was having, I was thinking basic conversations or psychology, but you raised that to the sound of their emotions and drives. Hopefully that will make life a tad easier now. Al dente, pasta cooked just right, seems a good way of describing musical turning points to me.