Hans Zimmer on why you should avoid 'Temp Music'


"A successful temp score can stop any forward motion in activity and you just have to fight it".

Hans Zimmer is one of the best known and most inventive film composers of our time. In an interview with Masterclass, he passionately discusses one of the most destructive elements of modern film. The temp score!

You won't find a single composer who doesn't despise temp music. Why?

We all understand how necessary it can be but for any directors or agencies listening, the best work, the work that gets the most accolades and awards is one where you aren't burdened by temp music and you have the freedom to create something unique. If a director listens to something enough times, they become use to it and that makes it extremely hard to beat and even if you do, what have you and the film achieved?

Hans Zimmer says, "One of the problems with temp music is they're all finished tracks and you can just pick the best scores & music ever written and just line them up one after the other. One of my directors put up 'Adagio for Strings' and everybody loved it and I was just going, 'what are you trying to do?! Kill me?!' The burden of that is impossible."

The Dark Knight

One of the greatest movies of all time with one of the greatest scores.

If we briefly analyse the music, in particular the cue used for the joker; it's this scratchy, tense string sound that barely moves between two notes. When the joker is there, the note plays.

According to director Christopher Nolan he was sent "a compilation recording of over 4 hours of string performances between two notes on a cello.. I could hardly listen to it and after I phoned Hans and said, you've cracked it! I'm not sure where it's in there but it's in there".

They used different violin bows, back of the bow, different materials and different playing techniques to create sounds that fit the joker's character, creating this musical version of 'fingers down a blackboard'. It's tense, it's evil and it's perfect! You hear it now and you immediately think, 'it's the joker'.

Imagine now whether this would have been created if Nolan had thrown temp music all over the film..

Hans Zimmer - "Don't use temp music at all. Even if it's not finished.. just little fragments of sound.. then you don't have to use temp music and the film will be dramatically better for it".