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Hans Zimmer Masterclass Review (Worth It?)
The Hans Zimmer Teaches Film Scoring MasterClass is a fantastic resource for any composer at any skill level. It may not dive into the technical aspect of creating music from scratch, but as mentioned, that’s not the point of it.
Quality Of Content
Value For Money
Lots Of Case Studies
Might not be suited for those who only want practical tips.
I am sure most of you are familiar with big blockbusters like Sherlock Holmes, Batman: The Dark Knight and Pirates of the Caribbean. These movies may all be from different directors but the soundtracks are all works of Hans Zimmer.
He is considered by many to be the absolute best in the industry and has won countless awards for his work. Now, thanks to the good people over at MasterClass, we are given the opportunity to dive into the mind of Hans and learn from the master himself.
While you’re here, you might want to check out our other Masterclass reviews…
Now, I am not a score composer, I am a songwriter so I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this. But I discovered that I didn’t need to be a film scorer to understand most of this. There may be some minor details where having a background in scoring might help, but overall, I still found this very enjoyable and easy to follow.
Who Is This Course Best For?
If you are a producer/musician that needs technical content to learn with absolute do’s and don’ts, then this may not be right for you.
If you are brand new to music in general, it may be best to brush up on some of the fundamentals before tackling this MasterClass. But if you already have the passion for composing then I have to say this is a must. For the cost versus the quality of the content, it is well worth it in my opinion.
Let’s set one thing straight before you read any further. This MasterClass does not dive deep into compositional or practical techniques. It is more about Hans’ mindset, how he views each process and obstacle, and why he chooses to do what he does.
There are sections on how he communicates with the directors and helps reinforce the original film ideas discussed as the project progresses. There are sections on how he chooses specific musicians and works with them to help achieve the best possible result. So really, it’s an all-around insight into the entire process of working in the industry as a whole.
That’s not to say that there is nothing technical in the MasterClass.
Here are just some of the more practical teachings included in the Hans Zimmer MasterCass:
Hans goes into his favorite key and why.
He talks about how to effectively match up a scene using the tempo and the film’s frame rate.
Synth building to create custom sound palettes.
It’s essential that you use his teachings as a base for your own learning instead of blindly absorbing these lessons and expecting instant improvement. Once my mindset adjusted to this fact, it made everything in this MasterClass just that much better.
This MasterClass isn’t supposed to make you the next greatest composer, it’s there to inspire you to be your own composer while giving you very helpful tips and tricks along the way.
The fact that this MasterClass has three parts on “directors” shows just how important this aspect is as a professional composer.
Hans also breaks down some of his signature character themes and how they start with just three or four notes. He then goes on to show how those notes can be transformed into almost any emotion the scene requires and then back to its most simple form to reinforce the central character’s theme.
Homework (The Good Kind)
A workbook comes with the course and gives you assignments based on different parts of the MasterClass. For example, in the second video “Themes”, you’re tasked with re-scoring a scene from a movie.
Hans gives some very simple but effective tips on his approach to themes, and he gives you a chance to take those tips and try them out. This is a great way to reinforce learning by taking a simple idea or tip and seeing just how effective it is on your own.
I would like to point out that Hans doesn’t mention this workbook in the MasterClass, you don’t even need to do the workbook if you don’t want to. It’s just something that runs alongside the MasterClass instead of being part of the class itself.
This MasterClass also offers lifetime access to the Student Forum. In my experience, this can be even better than the workbook. It is filled with friendly challenges from other students who have done the same course. You can ask for help, tips and also have a bit of friendly competition with each other. This only further enforces what is learned and helps you grow your skills with some decent feedback from others.
Quality Of Content (8/10)
Hans Zimmer‘s MasterClass touches on sound palettes, tempos, and the concept of music as its own language. Right from the beginning, Hans sits behind his keyboard and plays a simple 1 bar piece, and states “the question”.
You can hear and understand what he means by this without any other context, which I found pretty surprising. He then follows up with “the answer”, and the melody he plays creates a feeling of resolve. This helps demonstrate the concept and function of good film scoring.
As he puts it himself, “There is a natural way in music where you are basically having a conversation”.
In this same section of the MasterClass, he demonstrates an entire array of emotions with a tune that progresses into the next one, changing just one or two notes each time. As he is playing this to you, he reinforces this emotional journey by stating the emotions portrayed by each progression.
” Sometimes you leave it as a question, with another question…a bit of a dodgy question here…I’m being a bit confrontational…and I can take the tension out… I can get happy about it…And kill you”.
Hans also gives fantastic advice on how to handle the other aspects of writing music for films that less experienced composers would not realize are incredibly important.
Though I’ve touched on working with directors and musicians, he also goes into strategies on keeping the producers and studio happy, and how doing private screenings with a real audience can really help with this.
So he covers a lot of very important topics alongside the obvious ones like composing and sound design.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of topics about actual composing as well. Hans dives into “scoring under dialogue”, “creating synths”, and he even goes into the iconic Batman character theme as well as doing a case study of “The Dark Knight” and “Frost Nixon”.
Hans touches on the tempos in “Sherlock Holmes” and its “music diary”. It was very inspiring to get inside the thought process of some of my favorite films. He takes you through the structure of his theme and how he develops it for different scenes.
Hans also touches on how he got to where he is, what inspired him to become a composer, and his influences over the years. This MasterClass really is more than just film scoring and it is really encouraging to see and understand what has made this person great at what he does. It gives a sense of respect and meaning to his work.
The Platform (8/10)
It’s a very accessible MasterClass, you can do it whenever you want and you can do a certain section as many times as you wish. It doesn’t cost you any more to take more time or revisit anything. Of course, there is a trade-off when it comes to questions but keep in mind that you are being guided by one of the best and you still have access to the Student Forum which has the minds of many.
The student forum also touches on the topic of feedback and personalization. Obviously, It’s not Hans Zimmer responding to your questions or viewing your content so there is a bit of a detachment in that regard. When using the Student Forum, you don’t know if these members know what they are talking about as you would with a tutor or teacher. This is probably the only downside to this kind of teaching. But that’s where the value comes into play.
You get the opportunity to revisit certain sections or the whole thing again whenever you please, not just that one hour a week you get with a tutor. It also gives you access to so many more people with the Student Forum and some are even in the industry. Others will have the exact same issues as you so you won’t feel like a newbie.
Value For Money (9/10)
I see four ways to look at this.
The caliber of the teacher.
The content they provide.
Personalization / Feedback.
The caliber of the teacher or tutor is important as you want to be taught by someone who knows what they are talking about. I think it’s fair to say that Hans Zimmer is at the top. He’s undoubtedly one of the most successful and respected film composers.
His proven success makes him ideal to pass on his methods of how he did/does what he does. Comparing Hans to a tutor or teacher, Hans has them beat in terms of experience and methods that work.
Hans covers a lot of why he does things which is fantastic for a learning mind to develop into its own, as opposed to learning someone else’s bad habits and not really understanding why they are doing it. Hans also likes to reinforce the idea of, “you’re not always right” and the need to accept that there are other ways of doing things, sometimes better ways. He shows how to keep an open mind, which is key for creativity.
You can ask the same questions and get many different approaches to your problem, leaving you to craft your own solution. I think this is much more beneficial than having one person “tell” you how it should be done.
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 learnt many of the fundamentals of film scoring.
The MasterClass is a fantastic resource for any composer at any skill level. It may not dive into the technical aspect of creating music from scratch, but as mentioned, that’s not the point of it.
The content alone is rare as he dives into some huge blockbuster scores that you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.
When you crunch the numbers on what you get and for how much it costs, then it starts to show its value.
Not to mention that currently, if you spend $225, you get access to every MasterClass on offer for a year, and that’s over 85 classes from industry legends.
Of course, they aren’t all music-related, but you would still get access to plenty of production and beat making classes with Drake or DeadMau5, or even guitar classes with Santana or Tom Morello. Those 4 alone make it worth the money, plus you can indulge in some of your other hobbies or passions as well.
(Guitarists looking to level-up their skills should check out our review of GuitarTricks, which is one of the best places to learn guitar online.)