Hans Zimmer on how to sound like him
stevelindsay
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29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
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Hans Zimmer on how to sound like him

This is a great post today on another forum where Hans Zimmer replies to a question on how to sound like him. Some good advice for computer-based programmers and musicians....

The link is here if you want to read the whole thread:

v.i. control forum • View topic - Hans Zimmer Sound? [ Guest ]

but the relevant post is snipped below:

"Re: Hans Zimmer Sound?
Posted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:52 am
...To answer the original question a little bit, with some random thoughts:

Start with a concept of your sonic world. Limit your palette to fit the sonic world you're trying to create - you can get lost and never write a note if you scroll through 1000 presets on average sounding synth. I got rid of most VstIs and just work with the ones who's audio engines have real depth and quality, like Zebra and Diva, or the Virus. And yes, I have a lot of great old analogue synth that I bought for next to nothing when everyone ran out to buy a DX7.
Before writing a single note, my team and I spend a lot of time programming new sounds, sampling new instruments.
If you want things to sound big, make sure you limit your upper dynamic range. All instruments - especially percussion - sound bigger when played relatively softly. You can always turn it up. When you hit drums too hard, or any instrument is played too loud, they tend to sound only bright and thin and pingy.

I write very strategically for the spaces I record in. For instance, the Hall at Air Studio has a gallery, so I put my horns up there above the orchestra in Batman. The space you have people perform in is as important as the quality of their instruments. Players respond to good accoustics and will give you a better, more committed performance. The same goes for sampling. A dead room gives an artificially surpressed performance. It's no fun playing in a dead room. Especially brass players like "using" the reverb in the room to give them time to catch their breath between notes, so they'll have the courage and strength to play the next note stronger. I like recording in churches and halls, not studios and artificial reverb. 2000 years of architects like Brunelleschi figuring out how to amplify a sound beats the 20 years we've had of fake reverb development. But if your budget is a bit tight, try a school auditorium. Or an empty warehouse. Use your imagination. You belong to the proud fraternity of poor, starving artists. People expect you to ask them for favors in the name of the great piece of art you are about to unleash upon the world

I got pretty good ears ( I just had them tested...I got the frequency response of a 20 year old. Just luck. I've been listening to music in my studio too loud every day for 30 years). But the biggest thing is to learn how to listen analytically. That takes time. I learned from really good producers and engineers. Two month with Trevor Horn on a bassdrum sound will either drive you crazy, or really make you understand the damn thing (I'm not sure which side I've ended up on...). I know how to engineer, I know what all those knobs do, but I know that Alan Meyerson has a gift and is better at it then me. But at least I can comunicate to him - very specifically - what and how I hear my piece. I think there is nothing worse for a composer to be at the mercy of technology, the players or a recording engineer. It's your piece of music. No one understands it better. (I always wonder...I grew up (?) working on Neves and Trident "A"s, Harrisons, etc. So I know why I pick a 1073 for certain sounds or a DBX 160 in my UAD plug-ins. If you never used the hardware, how do you know?).

I always have my monitors set to the same level. It's the only way I know I'm not kidding myself. I don't use very expensive speakers, I just use what I really know - and can get replaced easily.
Yes, we build our own sampler, because I can hear the difference, but the comercial stuff is getting better. And my career was just fine when I was only using Akai S 1000s with 8 megs of ram.

I'm a bad player, but a good programmer. I'm forever trying to explain to great players that want to become composers that they need to treat learning and practicing the computer as seriously as they practised their guitar or piano. The computer is a musical instrument and the more virtuouistic you get on that, the better you can express your ideas.

The moment I start writing, I start mixing. Since I don't write on paper, I spend a long time making each note and sound convey the right emotion. It helps later with the live musicians. I can be very specific in my language (and I use English, not Italian) to convey to them why I want a note or phrase played a certain way. I don't make changes on the scoring stage, I don't let directors make changes with the musicians there. The recording is about getting a performance, not re-writing the cue. Nothing sounds worse then a bunch of bored musicians that had to wait while someone's changed an arrangement.

Most of the stuff I use on a daily basis is off the shelf software - and not the really expensive stuff, either. The best DAW is the one you're used to.

I don't understand why people don't sample their own stuff. I've been (more then once) asked to judge "young composer" competitions. After a while you can't hear the music for the sameness of the sample libraries. I wonder how directors or producers can tell the difference.

And no, you can't sound like me. You are not me, you are you. Just like I can't sound like any other composer. Not with any degree of authenticity.

I hardly ever get a temp in the movies I work on (Chris Nolan will not temp with anything that's not written for the movie. That whole Francis Lai thing is bull. I'm a fan, but I had never heard that score before. And if the rude ignoramus who was trying to hide behind a question mark when he called me a thief had actually analysed the score a bit, he'd have noticed that the whole thing was based on the notes C and D. Not just that riff. It's a fairly straight forward musical tension device. Seconds, anyone? And the rhythmic figure was - on purpose - a cliche. People can take large chunks of dissonance if you put a groove with it...)

I can get obsessively lost in sound design and just spend 4 days making one pathetic little sound...But it helps me think the whole piece through...

...And i procrastinate from writing by answering this question...

Hz "

end quote
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#2
29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
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Seems like a bit of an ass, especially that quote I saw where he said he can listen to a tune and immediately know if it was made in Logic. Cause it sounded bad.

He makes good music though...
#3
29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
Seems like a bit of an ass, especially that quote I saw where he said he can listen to a tune and immediately know if it was made in Logic. Cause it sounded bad.

He makes good music though...
I disagree. I think this - and that video interview that was posted on here a little while back make him look like a DUDE
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#4
29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
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HDJK's Avatar
Thanks for the link
#5
29th February 2012
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stoltz's Avatar
 

zimmer bump, for the win!
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#6
29th February 2012
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Ivorydom's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
Seems like a bit of an ass, especially that quote I saw where he said he can listen to a tune and immediately know if it was made in Logic. Cause it sounded bad.

He makes good music though...
Where did you find that quote?
nas
#7
29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
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nas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
Seems like a bit of an ass, especially that quote I saw where he said he can listen to a tune and immediately know if it was made in Logic. Cause it sounded bad.

He makes good music though...
I don't get that impression at all. Every interview or seminar type discussion I've seen him in he seems to be very responsive and always open to sharing his ideas and approach.

You don't get that much work (100+ films!) and return clients if you're an ass... talent is only part of the equation and it is way to competitive in that world ... even for the big boys.

Whether he can hear the diff. between Cubase or Logic.. who cares? I doubt it would affect the impact of his music... at least not to my ears.
#8
29th February 2012
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I think most of what he says, at least in this interview, is insightful, on the money, and very cool of him to share. If a guy with Zimmer's credits wants to share some of what he's learned over the years, I'd suggest you keep your ears wide open and grab what you can.

#9
1st March 2012
Old 1st March 2012
  #9
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Hello,
I just worked with Hans and his team and they couldn't be nicer, more cooperative, "understanding of the process" type folks. Really enjoyed it, and he was very open about his processes and even his daw templates. Humorously self-effacing which is always enjoyable.
Hugh
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#10
1st March 2012
Old 1st March 2012
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HDJK's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by HughH View Post
Hello,
I just worked with Hans and his team and they couldn't be nicer, more cooperative, "understanding of the process" type folks. Really enjoyed it, and he was very open about his processes and even his daw templates. Humorously self-effacing which is always enjoyable.
Hugh
Very cool, I'd love to attend a session with HZ
#11
2nd March 2012
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Arksun's Avatar
Great post, would love to spend a day with him in his studio.
#12
2nd March 2012
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I loved it...You cannot sound like me...because I am me.... it's true. Not everyone can record in a real space though...so the fake reverbs with just have to do it for me. He gives some great tips though....

4 Days on 1 sound....yikes. He has too much money burning a hole in his pocket.
#13
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
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zvukofor's Avatar
Thank you for sharing such a good reading.
Hans Zimmer was one of my favourite composers for a while, and now —*he is one of my favourite music producers too. Great tips.
#14
2nd March 2012
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Thanks for this post; great read. I liked the idea of sampling very quiet for a bigger sound, especially with percussion...gotta try that.
#15
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
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Quote:
Hans Zimmer
People can take large chunks of dissonance if you put a groove with it...


#16
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
  #16
Gear maniac
 

Hans Zimmer in my opinion has 1% the talent of Ligeti, 0.1% the talent of Stravinsky, and 0.001% the talent of Tchaikovsky and Mahler.

Pirates of the Caribbeans lol
That music is epic pompous cheapness from an Hollywood medium that's behind times and has only the commercial mass market as a priority.

Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, that's a lesson in composition.
Ravel's La Valse, a lesson in orchestration.
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#17
2nd March 2012
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Hans seems very humble about his fantastic career i feel....admire him greatly!
Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony.....that was done in an MPC so it has a good swing to it.... i agree...
You can say one is superior to another...but i often wonder myself if Lao Tzu would feel very chilled or poetic about life
if he had to cut it in modern London UK..?
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#18
2nd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xill View Post
Hans Zimmer in my opinion has 1% the talent of Ligeti, 0.1% the talent of Stravinsky, and 0.001% the talent of Tchaikovsky and Mahler.

Pirates of the Caribbeans lol
That music is epic pompous cheapness from an Hollywood medium that's behind times and has only the commercial mass market as a priority.

Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, that's a lesson in composition.
Ravel's La Valse, a lesson in orchestration.
Ha Ha Ha Ha ....jealous ..much ?
get over yourself already !!!!
I bet you would like 0.1 % of his royalties !!!
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#19
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xill View Post
Hans Zimmer in my opinion has 1% the talent of Ligeti, 0.1% the talent of Stravinsky, and 0.001% the talent of Tchaikovsky and Mahler.

Pirates of the Caribbeans lol
That music is epic pompous cheapness from an Hollywood medium that's behind times and has only the commercial mass market as a priority.

Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, that's a lesson in composition.
Ravel's La Valse, a lesson in orchestration.
All of that is irrelevant in the real world. You can cherry pic a bad movie out of the almost 200 movies he has scored but Hans Zimmer has had tons of powerful scores in many powerful movies.

Gladiator, Dark Knight, Inception, The Last Samurai, Crimson Tide, The Last Emperor, Rain Main, Driving Miss Daisy, Black Hawk Down, Davinci Code, King Arthur, etc.

Too bad he has no talent.

Anyone who does scoring with live instruments will be able to pick out anything scored with soft synths in a split second.
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#20
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by work2do View Post
Too bad he has no talent.

Anyone who does scoring with live instruments will be able to pick out anything scored with soft synths in a split second.
I'm not saying he has absolutely no talent but instead that his talent is relative to the movie medium. Strictly musically speaking there are thousands of much better composers out there and alive today, and considering the geniuses that have already passed away I don't see the interest at all in Zimmer's music other than the fact it's written by someone who's got rich friends.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gussyg2007 View Post
Ha Ha Ha Ha ....jealous ..much ?
Yes but only of his bank account. I admit in today's world the commercial impact of your art is considered more respectable than the actual cultural value of your art.

Comparing the quality of the music of Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht with the theme of Batman is something I would never have thought possible. Yet here we are.
#21
2nd March 2012
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Zimmer is good at what he does ATEOTD ...he delivers a great product that works for the medium ....The classical geniuses of yesteryear bare no correlation to Hollywierd ....they would more than likely shun that nonsense anyway !!!
MediaMix
#22
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
  #22
MediaMix
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xill View Post
I'm not saying he has absolutely no talent but instead that his talent is relative to the movie medium. Strictly musically speaking there are thousands of much better composers out there and alive today, and considering the geniuses that have already passed away I don't see the interest at all in Zimmer's music other than the fact it's written by someone who's got rich friends.
Huh? Your jealousy is showing hard.

The movie medium is where he works and he shapes his composition to fit the movie as is done in his profession. With those constraints you can't compare it to a so called "genius" who spent years making one composition with no boundaries.

Back on topic: Inception, Gladiator, and the two Dark Knight scores are some of my favorites.
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#23
2nd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaMix View Post
Huh? Your jealousy is showing hard.

The movie medium is where he works and he shapes his composition to fit the movie as is done in his profession. With those constraints you can't compare it to a so called "genius" who spent years making one composition with no boundaries.

Back on topic: Inception, Gladiator, and the two Dark Knight scores are some of my favorites.
Inception! especially the big ending that lasted 45min was powerful.
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#24
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by work2do View Post
Inception! especially the big ending that lasted 45min was powerful.
Loved the movie but at the theatre the sountrack and music I found distracting at times. I don't think it should interfere with the story.
#25
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xill View Post
I'm not saying he has absolutely no talent but instead that his talent is relative to the movie medium. Strictly musically speaking there are thousands of much better composers out there and alive today, and considering the geniuses that have already passed away I don't see the interest at all in Zimmer's music other than the fact it's written by someone who's got rich friends.


Yes but only of his bank account. I admit in today's world the commercial impact of your art is considered more respectable than the actual cultural value of your art.

Comparing the quality of the music of Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht with the theme of Batman is something I would never have thought possible. Yet here we are.
Who are you to judge who's genius is better? I mean, the guy gets results, he obviously works very hard, has good ears, knows his stuff, etc. These are many qualities that were present in any of the great composers... Being totally dedicated (working A LOT) is probably the most important aspect when it comes to composing music. There is no such thing as "Tchaikovsky is better than Hans".

Believe it or not, all my friends who are classical students, performers or composers actually hate most of Tchaikovsky's work.

I am not saying Zimmer is better, just that I stopped seeing music as a "competition" about who is the best, who had the most influence, etc...
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#26
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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It's the same argument all the time:

Is successful commercial music original?
Does it have a meaning?
Is it any good?
Why doesn't Hans Zimmer do something experimental?
Is contemporary music the real musical evolution/revolution?

The arguments are valid. One can argue that Hans Zimmer is cheesy and not ground-braking. Another one can argue that he is great.

I know some very good composers who might be more "proper" composers than Hans Zimmer.
But I am sure that IF they could write music like he does they WOULD do it. They just CAN'T.

It's like posh academic contemporary music composers. They live in their own bubble, the academics praise them and they praise the other academic composers, their concert halls are filled with people who go there because they have to (composition student anyone?) and they always frown upon composers like Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman. Their favourite words are "cliché", "conventional" etc. The point is that I am sure that they know they CAN'T do what Hans Zimmer (or anyone else of that category) can do and they are just jealous. And if they could, trust me, they would do it.
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#27
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ivorydom View Post
It's the same argument all the time:

Is successful commercial music original?
Does it have a meaning?
Is it any good?
Why doesn't Hans Zimmer do something experimental?
Is contemporary music the real musical evolution/revolution?

The arguments are valid. One can argue that Hans Zimmer is cheesy and not ground-braking. Another one can argue that he is great.

I know some very good composers who might be more "proper" composers than Hans Zimmer.
But I am sure that IF they could write music like he does they WOULD do it. They just CAN'T.

It's like posh academic contemporary music composers. They live in their own bubble, the academics praise them and they praise the other academic composers, their concert halls are filled with people who go there because they have to (composition student anyone?) and they always frown upon composers like Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman. Their favourite words are "cliché", "conventional" etc. The point is that I am sure that they know they CAN'T do what Hans Zimmer (or anyone else of that category) can do and they are just jealous. And if they could, trust me, they would do it.
You have spoken the truth...

Many "classical" composers who study in Montreal (University of Montreal, Mcgill, etc) can't even sing (solfege) or hear chords (major, minor, 7, etc). I mean, you've got a few students who are very good, but most of them can't even write a good 4 chord song... When you start being so disconnected to music, theory takes over and you try to justify everything with it.

The institutionalization of music kills it at the same time in a way. Look at jazz, really it's going down the drain (at least here in Montreal). People who study Bebop are living in the past. They are glorifying an era which was glorious and insightful for jazz musicians of that time, but today, when I meet some of my "friends" and they are all: You gotta come to McGill to study jazz or else you will lose all the meaning of music.... jeeezzzzzz

Happy to know that someone else is not overly enthusiastic about the "elite" aspect of music in schools.
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#28
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
  #28
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Hans Zimmer's post is actually very insightful and down to earth. It's always great to read stuff like this, rather than a top producer bragging about his rare pieces of gear and how they shape his unique sound signature.

Music, today as yesterday, is often commissioned, and must conform with the expectations of whomever orders the work. Zimmer does a great job and produces compelling sound tracks. No problem on my behalf.
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#29
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
  #29
Gear interested
Quote:
Originally Posted by brockorama View Post
Loved the movie but at the theatre the sountrack and music I found distracting at times. I don't think it should interfere with the story.
I'm a huge Zimmer fan, However, Inception was the only soundtrack he did that I didn't like. I see a lot people on forums and youtube praising his work on this movie and I just don't hear it. Not even close to Dark Knight or Gladiator in my opinion, but hey, we all know the drill, opinions are like......

I guess I'm a sucker for the big memorable Zimmer Hook, and I didn't get it in Inception.

Again, love all of his other work.
#30
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
  #30
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xill View Post
Hans Zimmer in my opinion has 1% the talent of Ligeti, 0.1% the talent of Stravinsky, and 0.001% the talent of Tchaikovsky and Mahler.

Pirates of the Caribbeans lol
That music is epic pompous cheapness from an Hollywood medium that's behind times and has only the commercial mass market as a priority.

Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, that's a lesson in composition.
Ravel's La Valse, a lesson in orchestration.
I know exactly what you're saying. And even in regards to the current film music industry, compared to the likes of J Williams, M Giacchino, H Shore, (dare i say) even J Horner, Zimmers' scores are... simple. They lack musical intellect found in scores of the aforementioned screen composers.

Hans is a guy that gets the job done, and gets it done very well. For aspiring composers such as myself, his scores create little to no inspiration in terms of musicality and "musical intellect", yet it is a good reminder that our target market is NOT musicians, but in fact everybody else who wouldn't know "good music" from 'All The Single Ladies'. Heck, they wouldn't even recognise the PoTC phrase as being recycled from Gladiator. Or the Avatar score to be recycled from Titanic, Glory, Enemy At The Gates.... etc etc
The current trend is 'simplicity'. I believe this applies to music, as well as fashion.
I will always admire more 'complex' scores for their musicality and ingenious minds behind them, but a hollywood film score is there to evoke emotions. Emotions that are not complex. Emotions that simply need a minor chord with high sustained strings. Or a large brass section (featuring a cimbasso of course) pelting out one note. No melody. No counter-point.

~ End of rant ~
- Just another person envious of Zimmer's success
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