Arts & Entertainment, Music

Writing Tips: Part 1

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 16:26 min

Hans gives you the tips and tricks he's learned over the years on how to approach writing music.

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

Topics include: Writing Process • Organization • Breaking Rules


John Powell and I were talking about that, sort of the crisis, at the beginning of a movie when we don't know what to do, and just a couple of weeks of sitting in front of a blank screen and going, oh my god, I have no idea how to do this. I'm not a composer. I'm not worthy. It's all over, because part of the problem with music is, you don't really know where it comes from. So what if they turn off the tap? You know, so there are no guarantees that you're going to go and write the next score. And he very simply said, well, you know, sometimes it takes a little bit of time to get a movie under your fingers. This is what happens to me. When I have to start on a new movie and I haven't worked in a while, which is rare because I never take holidays out of the following reason, it's like, I have no idea where to start. I cannot write. Nothing comes. It's just a terrifying blank sheet with a terrifying desert in my brain. And you know, the screen looks like a blizzard with just white on it. But if you write every day, and it doesn't matter what it is you write, just write something. It's like, I suppose, runners. Not that I'm a runner, not that I even know what a runner is, but pretend I would know what it means to work out or do spots or something like this-- I think you just develop a muscle. And I think if you write every day, you just get into the flow of writing. The way a movie is supposed to work-- and it used to work like this-- in the old days when we had film and when people were cutting on cams and Steenbecks and flat beds, and they were cutting films, there used to be a system in place where you'd come in, the film would be sort of cut, and you'd sit there with the director and the editor and your music editor, and you'd spot the movie. Everything has changed because of technology and the [? avot ?] because there used to be a certain other part to the system, which was at a certain point, they would lock the picture. In other words, they would make no picture changes. And they would now give the composer 12 weeks with a lot picture to write the score. Well, that went out of the window as soon as digital editing came in. So now anything can change at any moment in time, with one other thing that changed everything, which is visual effects. It used to be the composer who was late on things and was holding everything up. Well, the reason I love computer graphics is because those are the guys who are holding up everything. So they are actually buying me time, if I just turn the process around. So now the way I work is, forget the spotting session. Let's just start. If I have the space and the time available, I start when they start shooting. And I stop off that conversation. I start collecting sounds. And I start making sounds. I start coming up with ideas. And I start coming up with tunes. Once we're finish sh...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Hans Zimmer

From collaborating to scoring, Hans Zimmer teaches you how to tell a story with music in 31 exclusive video lessons.

Explore the Class
Sign Up