On Getting The Hans Zimmer Or Hollywood Sound

Quite a few people have asked me for the “Hans Zimmer sound” in my arrangements. I’ve studied a lot of composers and styles, and I consider myself pretty comfortable on many of them - everything from the Baroque period to techno. There’s a lot more that goes into a “Hollywood sound” than people realize. I’ll try and break it down in layman terms.

In Eric Whitacre’s post he explains how Hans Zimmer admits that his compositions aren’t something that can be recreated in the real world. Simply put: it’s not all acoustic instruments. A lot of the Hollywood scores you hear are heavily processed and layered to create this “big wall of sound”. You might only hear violins and trumpets, but subconsciously there’s a lot going on that you don’t hear.

As a huge music tech guy, I love Hollywood scores, and I think Hans Zimmer, Harry Gregson Williams, and even Trent Reznor are creating such exciting new textures that I’m in my full glory. It’s combining the old acoustic world of music with this new “digital” world using current techniques. It’s a fusion of acoustic instruments, atmospheric sounds, and sound effects.

This OST displays the atmospheric direction some studios take, and in this video the last :20 shows the “Hans Zimmer sound”.

But when you listen to another style, like the John Williams sound, you’ll hear all acoustic instruments with no sound design. However, like in any recording, there’s an awful lot of mastering and brain power going into even an acoustic Star Wars score. They have the best microphones, best recording acoustic hall, best recording engineers, best post production, and so much more. It’s acoustic, but it’s polished.

In my scores, I try to sit between those two sounds: the polished and the SFX. But more so than that, I’m trying to have my own style - both in the arranging, and the recording itself.

Even Hans Zimmer has openly said that to sound like him is a lost cause because you will never sound like him. Besides, why would you want to? There’s an awesome audio interview with him by FMM, and it reinforces what I’ve said above.

Long story short: Getting another person’s sound is a lost cause. In this example, not only is it acoustically impossible, but it’s also traveling down a road that’s already been traveled. What fun is that? I’ve always felt that a new idea or direction is the highest compliment a creator can give his/her audience: something new.

As I’m strongly influenced by today’s SFX and musical ideas, I plan to continually evolve my sound, but also make sure it’s my sound. Whether I were a painter, photographer, or movie director, I would always strive to go in a new direction. If it scares you, do it.

  1. larkiethings reblogged this from fororchestra and added:
    This is very true. But all the same, last night in my music ensemble thing we played some music from Around the World in...
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  5. plain-dealing-villain said: What do you think of the Sherlock Holmes OST? I heard they took a piano out to a garage and hit it repeatedly with baseball bats so they could get the sound they wanted.
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  13. reflexinthepuddle said: You basically managed to sum everything about audio production (of almost any sort) into one post. Bravissimo!
  14. bethoftheendless said: Klaus Bedalt, Mark Mancina, and other composers who studied under Zimmer intentionally work to get as close to his sound as possible, reusing some of his motifs. So I think he’s a strange person to choose as the example of being uncopy-able.
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