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Arts & Entertainment

The Power of Music

Martin Scorsese

Lesson time 13:38 min

Martin shows how music serves as part of the spiritual lives of his characters and talks about the films whose music influenced him, from director Kenneth Anger's independents to the traditional scores of Hollywood films.

Martin Scorsese
Teaches Filmmaking
In 30 lessons, learn the art of film from the director of Goodfellas, The Departed, and Taxi Driver.
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As I was growing up, music was a very important part of our lives. It wasn't a bookish culture I came from. But there was a great deal of music-- records, radio. Eventually, music everywhere-- in the streets, through people's windows in the summertime. And as I started to put together the impulse to tell a story, I found that very often, the music was something that created that moment of visualization, so to speak. And often, the music that was being heard or being played in the street or in the car radio counterpointed to the scenes I was seeing around me-- created the films. And eventually, this all led to my use of music in "Who's That Knocking" or particularly "Mean Streets" and eventually even "Alice" and eventually "Raging Bull" into "Goodfellas," et cetera. But in an odd way, pulling all those scenes together, hearing that everybody talking about movies at the time, in 1950s. And my father, my uncles talking about certain films and then mentioning other stories that are going on in the family or in the street. And somebody would say something like, oh, they could never make a movie of that. And that's what I wanted to do. So why not? So all this was coming together, and music was so prominent and almost like what you would call the sense memory, in a sense. So it really begins with the music for me. And once I hear the music, I mean, I really start to feel the story. Sometimes a piece of music reflects a character for me, and I start to imagine scenes. It isn't that I sit down and start . They sort of come to you while you're listening to the music. When I finally started making feature films, I knew that my movies would not have a proper score. They weren't meant to have that. In a way, they weren't deserving of that because those films, or the pictures that were made up to that time around the world are- they were something that were unattainable. They were the guides. They were the something we aspired to and couldn't really do something like them, even though you try. So the kind of films I was making just didn't lend themselves to this kind of thinking. At times, not in more negative sometimes in terms of Hollywood scores or traditional scores, sometimes they were coded, and the narratives were very different. There are different ways of indicating emotions and characters in music and in that tradition, and I was not from that tradition, I felt. The only thing trying-- the only thing that-- the only thing that restricted us to a certain extent was that at that time, we did not have the budgets to pay for licenses. And so we did want the films to be shown in theaters, if possible. And so that became a bit of a problem in terms of how much we could use, where we could get it, who would allow us to use it et cetera. Well, for example, the use of Ray Buretto's "El Watusi" and "Who's That Knocking On My Door" was a pivotal moment for me and in trying to shape a film together. Or in "M...

Study with Scorsese

Martin Scorsese drew his first storyboard when he was eight. Today he’s a legendary director whose films from Mean Streets to The Wolf of Wall Street have shaped movie history. In his first-ever online film class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make and watch movies.


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

very inspiring course, helped me mentally to build my vision and organize my mission.

My favorite parts were when Marty reviews the scene from other pictures. Getting his insight and understanding of the craft from specific examples was very helpful and enlightening.

Excellent work really insightful and enjoyable!

I really like Martin's approach to teaching about his art. The Masterclass covered basically all the steps of a film, but I felt that it could have had a bit more depth in several chapters, like for instance in the scenes discussions.


Robert H.

I think it's the music that drives a film. The music can lead you to all kinds of emotions. I believe that music can make or break a film, no matter how good the script is. I have already chosen some music for my film. I think it fits the scene. Great lesson Mr. Scorsese. Thank you.

Antonia T.

"The music I was using was part of the world in which the characters live (...) It was like a physical as well as mental architecture of the world I was trying to create". So interesting.


A great lesson with important guidance for all film makers. One thing to understand is that Scorsese is not going to teach how to set up and run the camera or place the microphones to capture the dialogue or position the lights. He assumes--correctly, I believe--that if you are into film, you are going to make films and will learn to the basics. His lessons lift you past that, so you start to think about the creative potential in each element of the film: the sound, the camera movements, the editing, set design, etc...with the goal being to raise your understanding of the possibilities of each of these elements to add to the film you are making. He is a scholar of the medium--you can't miss the references during the talks and you would do well to look each of them up for further study--and brings a historical perspective to teaching what a film maker should to today which embodies the lessons he's learned over four decades of working in the business. There is wisdom here...not just opinion, wisdom. It was paid for in years of study and low budget films and then high dollar films and it's being shared. This is just great stuff because if you thought film was a great medium before, now you see the potential before for being creative in every single element. And even though having a film scored is a big-time achievement (it's expensive) the statements that can be made with properly sourced music might resonate more effectively with your audience. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful.

Aya A.

this classes taught me things about the art of filmmaking I wouldn't have learned from non other than this great filmmaker , what's great about this class is the fact that you learn from experience , you get inspired by his story and his work,I watched his work for years now and to be able to go behind the scenes of his own work and later go back in memory with him to the times he was still learning was something I cherish. This master class is an absolute investment in great knowledge from someone who all filmmakers aspire to learn from

Teddy W.

Music can change the image. Like the Jaws the girl swimming in the sea if you change the music to the piano, it's beautiful. There is not a little dangers in there. The film music without the image is not the film music.

RJane @.

As I grew up, the music was simple and elegant, and the vocals are authentic. Nowadays, most vocals are auto-tuned by technology. @RJanesRealm


Goodfellas is probably the most obvious example of what he is talking about here.

Anastacia S.

This discussion is so rich with information and it fires my imagination. Hahaha. I would give anything to be able to work on a film with Martin. BTW, the only song song I know of with my name in it is "Sympathy for the Devil." Hmmm...

Jo E.

Music in film...what a great subject...! While writing my script that takes place in 1969 I researched the popular songs that were played during the period. My favorite decade the 60's...great music for a tumultuous period in our history.

Gene B.

The music in a film enhances and reflects the point of the film really well, as well as conveying the emotions of the characters really well and the point the film is at as well. Plus, it also sets a tone and atmosphere that could be used to dive in into the overall theme of the film in a further, deeper​ manner.