Before I begin, I feel the need to say that the nature of any review is to compare the actuality of a product or service to one’s expectation of said product or service. I went into this class with no true expectations though. I strived to keep an open mind throughout the duration of the course. It is also worth noting that while I am not the biggest fan of Hans Zimmer’s music, I am not opposed to it either. Overall, I think I am poised to give a fairly unbiased review. However, I will let you be the ultimate judge of that.
Now, onto the review!
The course is titled aptly, this is NOT a course in composition, and please do not be fooled into thinking so. This course is distinctly aimed at film scoring. Ultimately, this means that this course is geared specifically to film music and its applications in tandem with film instead of concert music. In the course, Hans himself even states this early on, and if you look at the titles of the various lessons in the course overview, it becomes immediately obvious that the course is truly on film scoring. Lessons titled “Scoring to Picture,” “Story,” and a three-part series on working with directors show what this course is truly intended to do: teach one approach to scoring a film.
Now before we discuss if this Masterclass accomplishes its goal of teaching an approach to film scoring, it is worth discussing the overall quality of the class. The production quality is quite high. Crisp video and clean audio make for an enjoyable viewing experience on either computer or the Masterclass mobile phone app. There are a few questionable decisions made in regards to the organization of the class. It doesn’t make much sense to start off the course with classes on “Theme” and “Story” to then jump to “Directors” (Part 1-3) to go on to “Sound Palettes” and “Creating with Synths” to later return to “Character” and “Working with Musicians” (Part 1-2). The course has a weird tempo and cadence, which ironically enough is one of the lessons. If you look at the order of the lessons, it feels like it would make sense to group all of the issues regarding story, themes, and character together; then move into the various writing tips; then talk about the case studies; and finally discuss how to work with the other members on staff in a film. This choppy order really effects the ability to absorb information throughout the course because it simply doesn’t flow, making this at times feel more like a set of individual lessons rather than different sessions of a coherent class.
But what about the content? Well, the content of the course will hold different value to different people, and while that may seem like an obvious statement, please allow me to clarify. As a composer with formal training, I found little to no use for most of what was discussed in this masterclass, but for someone who is interested in music or film scoring that does not have much formal training there is much to be absorbed. I don’t say this to tout any superiority of academic training. Hans openly states that he has no academic training. Yet his resume of films scored including the likes of The Dark Knight, The Lion King, Pirates of the Carribean, and many others, certainly beats any accolades that I have. I simply mean to say that Hans does not discuss the mechanics of music often. There are not a lot of specifics in regards to how to write the music for a film, but there are a lot of tips about how to do the job in general. For example, Hans discusses the idea of theme and making sure that a theme is versatile enough to support the story. However, he doesn’t discuss how to take a theme and manipulate it to arrive at these various iterations of it. The overall discussion does not use a lot of music jargon or theory terms, but instead discusses concepts in broad generic terms. Overall, this is the biggest problem that I have with the class: it discusses a wide array of topics but does not go into much depth with any of it. The best lessons within the course in my opinion are “Tempo” and “Creating with Synths” leading me to the true value of this course.
You get to watch Hans work. The reason why the two aforementioned courses are my favorite, is because you get to just watch Hans work for a longer period of time. It is interesting to watch him create a simple synth sound from scratch, and to show off a scene and how the tempo plays a critical role in it. In my opinion the course almost would have been better, if it would have just been a day in the office with Zimmer while he works, explaining what he is doing. Hearing Hans’s opinion on a number of topics related to film scoring is the true value here, and can be immensely fascinating. I largely agree with what he has to say about topics regarding composing, the creative process, and music in general. Here, he has good advice; unfortunately for myself, these were just things that I already knew, and I imagine that for most seasoned composers or film scorers, they will also know this information.
This leads me to discuss the intended audience for this course. I may be wrong, but I would have to guess that the intended audience here is the novice film scorer, people who lack more formal training, and people like myself who are more curious about Hans’s thoughts that may or may not have experience in the field.
This leads me to my verdict. I believe that the course is worth it, if and only if you have a genuine interest in Hans’s thoughts on music and film scoring and/or you have limited experience and training. Otherwise, if you are looking for a more in-depth course on composition and film scoring, I would look elsewhere.
What do you think? Have you taken this course? Do you agree with my assessment? Please let me know in the comments section below!