Deconstructing Hans Zimmer’s Sound and Music

Cinematic music is fascinating to me. It moves the story of the movie along and the movie itself is nothing without it (at least it is a completely different movie).

I’m interested in deconstructing the sound of cinematic music and Hans Zimmer is one of the composers at the forefront.

Here I have assembled what little I have learned about Hans Zimmer and his music.

Last updated: 4-February-2019

Shepard Tones and Ticking

Hans Zimmer uses the Shepard Tone auditory illusion along with a ticking sound in several of his compositions:

  • Dunkirk
  • Interstellar
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Dark Night (2 films)

The Prestige scored by Julian also has this as a Shepard Risset Glissando.

Other examples can be found in this YouTube video.

A Shepard Risset Glissando is when there are not defined steps between the notes. It is like a continuous rising/dropping sound that does not go anywhere. It is an illusion.

Shepard tones can be made with Izotope’s Mobius Filter placed on a synth or instrument tone.

Scale and Key

Hans says that D is a good key in his Master Class video.

Hans Zimmer Teaches Film Scoring | MasterClass

Deconstructing some of his compositions, I find this:

  • 160 bpm, A minor, 163 bpm
  • An Ideal of Hope, C major, 80 bpm
  • Call of Duty MW2, F major,  78 bpm
  • Dark Knight Rises, G major, 174 bpm
  • Deliver Us, A minor, 72 bpm
  • Dream Is Collapsing, G minor, 127 bpm
  • Epilogue Crysis 2, D minor, 79 bpm
  • Hoist The Colors, F minor, 103 bpm
  • Interstellar, A minor, 96 bpm
  • Jack Sparrow, D minor, 100 bpm
  • Mombasa, A minor, 145 bpm
  • No Time For Caution, C major, 60 bpm
  • Now We Are Free, F# minor, 68 bpm
  • The Lion King – This Land, C major, 64 bpm
  • The Red Capes Are Coming, A minor, 111 bpm
  • The Rock Theme, A flat major, 84 bpm
  • Time, E minor, 63 bpm
  • We Are Now Free, A major, 68 bpm

So I do not find him using D major in what he has already done.