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Hans Zimmer and the Wall of Sound

February 27, 2010 at 9:25 pm UTC

A few years ago Hila recorded a bunch of solo vocals for the film The Da Vinci Code. We spent a week or so in London while she recorded, and I got the chance to talk quite a bit with Hans Zimmer. He’s incredibly nice, and funny, and very, very generous with his time.

One of the things we talked about was his approach to writing orchestral scores for films, like Gladiator. I told him how jealous I was that he was able to get such a massive sound out of his orchestras, and he just laughed. He explained that his ‘orchestras’ are always a mix of acoustic instruments and samples, seamlessly blended, and that blend combined with extensive multi-tracking makes for a sound that really can’t exist in the real world. Those horns from Gladiator? All samples, layered and layered, and all close-mic recorded. It would probably take a horn section of 24-30 players to replicate that on a concert stage.

I haven’t seen the new Sherlock Holmes yet, but I just found this, and was reminded again of the power of his approach. Real instruments, mixed with samples, and even in it’s ‘chamber ensemble’ moments it just sounds massive.

Here’s the cool ‘music video’ of the Sherlock Holmes theme:

  • Mike Anderson

    Huh. I wish I could pick his brain on some of this stuff. I'd quite like to know how this works in greater detail.

    Also, that multinecked double bass -freaked me out-.

  • Vitalis Stellmach

    hehe love the guy on the piano! =)

  • Sam

    That double bass is blowing my mind right now.

  • Jody

    I may be making myself look stupid here, but what exactly are "samples"?

  • Teresa Ulrich

    I remember watching that movie and the music suddenly caught my ear. I knew I had heard it from somewhere… that dulcimer sound effect is very akin to his music in Pirates of the Caribbean for the Jack Sparrow theme, which is also very appropriate for the Holmes character. I really enjoy Zimmer’s scoring!

  • Luke Swain

    Ah, interesting! That battle sequence music is still my favorite.

    There were quite a few rehashed themes in Pirates though, but hey, he can cannibalize his own music. :)

  • Jon Fisher

    I love Hanz Zimmer's music. It has always fascinated me, just like it fascinates you, Eric! "Discombobulate" is a gem of music… Yes, it does sound a little like Pirates rehashed, but the orchestration is so much different and the rhythms are fantastic! I also LOVE that Hanz himself is playing the Dulcimer in the video!!!

  • Audio Tutorials

    Huh. I wish I could pick his brain on some of this stuff. I’d quite like to know how this works in greater detail.

  • Sally Goodwin

    “a sound that really can’t exist in the real world” – thank goodness for musicians