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Arts & Entertainment

Writing Tips: Part 2

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 11:13 min

Hans provides insights into how to make sure you aren't limiting your creativity when writing.

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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How do you write music? You know, you can write music by sitting in front of a piano. And your fingers will run across the keys. And usually, what happens is they fall into certain patterns of muscle memory. So the way I write is I turn up in my room in the morning. And if I don't know about the tune is, I do it like this. I sit on my hands until I have an idea, and I don't let them stray to the keyboard. Because I know what's going to happen. It's just going to be muscle memory. It's just going to be a thing I did last week or whatever. So the most impossible part is not to touch the keyboard. Because it's so tempting to go and touch the keyboard and play a load of crap. And you know, very often, you can play a load of crap, and people are really happy with it. But at the end of the day, there has to be a sense of adventure in it for me. Otherwise, it gets boring. So there has to be a sense of the new and we've never tried this before. And if it means setting a piano on fire, or going to Africa, and going into a township, and working with an African choir that, you know, none of us speak the same language, or going to Slovakia and meeting some extraordinary musicians, so be it. I think writer's block comes from many different places, but I think one of them is you don't know what you're doing yet. You don't know what the story is you want to tell. Or you feel you haven't done your research yet. I mean, that's one form of writer's block. The other one is just you've been working too much, and you're burned out. You're not enjoying it anymore. But quite honestly, I never have that. Because I love what I do, and I get excited by it. But I can't write until I know what I'm writing about. And that isn't-- that's a little harder to explain. Because weirdly, it's not in the script, and it's not on the screen. It's some weird, strange version, which is my version of the film, my little bit on the-- left-hand side of the corner of the screen, there's something going on that nobody pays attention to. And it becomes really important to me. And that's the story I want to tell, or that's the part I can contribute. So once I know what I can contribute, I know what to write about. And up until that moment, I just sit there in, you know, total panic like a dear in front of the headlights. Budgets-- because this is what people always want to know about. They always think-- they always think that we're either completely rolling in it, and it's just like a gazillion dollars, or what every film composer tells you, there isn't enough money. And of course, none of it is true. At the end of the day, I've done some of the most fun things on movies where I have no budget. And I did the most boring things where I had sort of a bit too much money. So budget-- you know, the budget shouldn't affect the creative process. The creative process takes place in you...

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.

One of the GREATEST lessons of ALL! Thankz..........

All the practical advice was great, but you know? The Compositor's Life lessons were just inspiring and made the whole class be even more worth.

I've learned about some composers to listen to. I've also learned about started simple, picking only 2 or 3 colors (like Play-doh), and forcing yourself to make something with less. Honestly, there's way too much to write here in this little box. This has been GREAT!!

What a rare experience to be able to sit and listen to someone who is a master of the synth and also a master of directing live musicians as "actors" (while warning us to always listen and not get carried away by the theater of it). This has been a rare privilege.


Antonia T.

"Budget shouldn't affect your creativity". True! I'll go even further: create even if you don't get pay for. Because creating is a necessity. Like air.

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?

Markus O.

I like your vision about creativity is not limited by budget. The key is to get paid for the value of what you self think your own work is worth it and not necessarily what other people think how much it’s worth...


I like the humor of adding a banjo to Sherlock Holmes(reminds me of Steve Martin’s also fine Masterclass) and Zimmer’s egalitarian viewpoint in reminding us how easy it is today to record any musical ideas at all! No excuses! Ha


Sitting on the hands to avoid pianistic muscle memory is so cute! I agree that more research on the subject helps generate ideas!

Regnar E.

I can hear that I am not much different from other composers, and it is always good to be reminded.

Quintus V.

I've been seeing a lot of stuff about 'Crimson Tide' from a lot of different sources. This score, of course, is the definitive where Mr. Zimmer incorporates the choir. As I understand it was quite a duel to get the go-ahead to do that. Thank you Mr. Z for your passion.

Patrick D.

Hans you make a very great point about the musician and the budget, ones mind is not limited to sounds; were only limited to when dont have access to the sound for everyone else to here. There is always another way.

Marcus M.

I like the not taking any limitations. In a way, having a big budget is a limitation, much like having every piece of software ever created. I really like what Spitfire is doing with the LABS platform. Some other companies have offered free or lite versions of products that, even with the limitations, can be used to create incredible scores. Even the sounds that come stock with programs like Garageband/Logic, Studio One, and ProTools may be adequate enough.

Judith M.

Perhaps the advice most clear from Hans here was to be passionate about what you are writing. Don't let others take away the joy or determine the course, unless they have given you some solid constructive criticism or are paying you for a specific result. Why? Because you may have just noticed at the side of the screen a single movement or piece of body language that suddenly opens up the idea inside the head of the person that you are creating the scene about or for. I've come across genius level people who are extremely focused, and I've also come across those who aren't sure where they are going. But Hans is correct what defines them or its lack does, is something that stirs their passions and keeps them interested in whatever subject they specialise in. If you take Holmes for example, who is written as a genius, when he is not involved in an intellectually stimulating case he descends into a very negative form of addiction, stealing cocaine from Watson's GP bag for his 7 per cent solution. A very accurate scenario of the tormented genius that is best avoided if possible. Kudos to Conan-Doyle for actually daring to write about it. Writers block is really about how your passion has suddenly been extinguished, and may actually be about your personal life as much as your professional one, physical and mental ailments aside. Loved seeing the piano, I just had to smile, thank you :)