Compose your own film music - with Hans Zimmer and Ten Pieces

  • Find out how to make music for an animation.
  • Learn about using themes in film music.
  • Discover composer Hans Zimmer and his Ten Pieces composition Earth.

Introducing Zimmer's film music

Music in a film has a big impact on the mood. It can change what you feel when you watch. But how do you get started making film music?

Composer Hans Zimmer has made lots of soundtracks for films like The Lion King, Madagascar and Batman. He uses instruments, voices, recorded samples and electronic sounds in his work.

He has made a new piece of music called Earth especially for Ten Pieces and has a challenge for you to make your own composition in response.

Composer Hans Zimmer has created many compositions for films.
Watch this film to find out how Hans Zimmer composed Earth using some simple ideas.

Music for Earth

In Earth there is an orchestra and a childrens’ choir.

Watch the performance and listen out for the different sounds.

Notice how the music starts with a simple melody. It develops by changing the instruments and the patterns as it repeats.

Watch this performance of Earth, composed by Hans Zimmer and performed by BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus.

Compose your own music for Earth

Now it's your turn to start composing. You can download an animation about Earth here and follow some steps below for how to make music for it.

Download the Earth animation

Watch the one minute animation for Earth (no sound).

1. Start composing - make a plan

Watch the one minute animation and describe the different sections using words or colours. This could be captured in a table or a drawing as in these examples:

Words in a table

Here's an idea for a table to capture what's happening in the music. Try completing the table and add more rows for what happens next.

Colours on a timeline

Draw a timeline. Use coloured pens or paints, choose colours and make shapes that reflect the music while you listen. This can guide the mood you want to create in each section.

Blocks of colour and letters

Use colour blocks to capture the structure of the music. Use letters such as A, B, C to show the different themes.

2. Start to play

Play or sing this theme from Earth.

3. Make new variations

Play or sing the theme again then make some changes to create new variations.

Fit these melodies to the mood and structure you wrote out before.

Here are some ideas for changing the theme by playing it backwards or adding notes.

Listen to the theme from Earth played backwards.
Listen to the theme from Earth with an added repeated note.
Listen to a variation of the Earth theme with an added note at the start.
Listen to the theme ending on a different note.

4. Bring it together

Link the theme and variations together to fit the structure you made earlier.

Here are some ideas for linking the patterns:

  • Play one after another.
  • Repeat one or more of the patterns.
  • Start the pattern a few notes higher or lower.
  • Change the tempo - try it slower or quicker.

Play the piece with the film.

Does it fit the film or do you need some changes?

Perform your piece, record it and listen back.

How to play your composition

You can play your composition in a few different ways. Create the separate parts in music software, play the parts as a group or play each part yourself.

Record your music

When you have finished, create a recording:

  • Export your track from the music software.
  • Record instruments playing your piece.
  • Make a video, putting your music to the film.

Send your music to the BBC

When you have finished your composition, you can send your music to BBC Young Composer competition.

Enter your music to the BBC Young Composer competition

Where next?

Explore more KS3 Music activities from Bitesize and Ten Pieces.

Write your own Doctor Who theme
Compose your own minimalist music
Teacher resources - discover Ten Pieces Trailblazers!