Online Master's Degree Course

Film Score Analysis


Authored by Timothy Huling


Course Code: OCOMP-525

Next Semester
Starts April 6

Level 5 - Degree Only

Level 5

In this course you’ll examine the role of music in visual storytelling, explore how film composers establish and use an effective musical vocabulary, and learn to see films through the lens of a filmmaker. Analysis in this course emphasizes thematic and textural development and other musical elements that contribute to the overall narrative of the picture. You will learn how to utilize different dimensions of music—such as tempo, rhythm, timbre, harmonic language, and melodic contour— to support film in specific ways: expressing the film’s narrative structure, the characters’ transformation, the world of the film, the characters’ inner life, and more. We’ll also investigate how musical choices reflect the filmmakers’ visual choices in the making of their movie: shot angles, color palette, editing, and more. Each week during the first half of the semester, the course will cover one dimension of music and how it relates to the film and the story. During the second half of the term, we will deeply explores the music of one film each week. 

Read More

This course will not only help you become a more effective film composer, but a more effective dramatist. This course will cover textural and electronic scores, in addition to traditional scores, and will emphasize a variety of genres and a diverse set of filmmakers and composers.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Explain how film composers establish a particular sound for a film

  • Demonstrate how a film composer’s musical choices support storytelling in film

  • Recognize recurring themes and understand theme transformation in film music

  • Analyze non-thematic film scores

  • Articulate a general breadth of knowledge in film

Read Less
Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors Request Info


Lesson 1: Themes and Thematic Transformation

  • Theme Attribution: Who, or What, Gets a Theme
  • Theme Construction
  • Theme Use and Transformation
  • Non-Thematic Film Scores
  • Assignment 1: Theme Analysis: Avengers: Infinity War

Lesson 2: Harmony in Film Music, Part 1

  • Foundations of Film Music Harmony
  • Jazz and Pop influence on Film Music Harmony
  • Modes in Film Music Harmony
  • Assignment 2: Analysis of Harmony in Film Music

Lesson 3: Harmony in Film Music, Part 2

  • Non-Tertiary
  • Post-Tonal
  • Minimalism
  • Assignment 3: Analysis of Modern Harmony in Selected Film Music

Lesson 4: Tempo, Pulse, Rhythm, and Harmonic Rhythm in Film Music

  • Tempo and Pulse
  • Rhythm
  • Harmonic Rhythm
  • Assignment 4: Analysis of Tempo and Pulse, Rhythm, and Harmonic Rhythm in Selected Film Music

Lesson 5: Instrumentation and Genre in Film Music

  • The Orchestral Film Score
  • Other Ensembles, and Style, in Film Music: Genre Influence
  • The Electronic Film Score
  • Assignment 5: Analysis of Instrumentation and its Relationship to Drama in Selected Film Music

Lesson 6: Spotting and Cue Anatomy

  • Spotting: Where Should Music Go?
  • How Music Begins and Ends
  • Hit Points: Why and How
  • Assignment 6: Analysis of Spotted and Hitpoints

Lesson 7: Gone with the Wind

  • Overview of Gone with the Wind and Max Steiner’s Score
  • Themes and Transformation of Themes
  • Harmonic Language, Instrumentation, and Style
  • Contrasting Material
  • Assignment 7: Final Project Part 1: Spotting, Cue Beginnings and Endings, and Genre

Lesson 8: Psycho

  • Overview of Psycho and Bernard Herrmann’s Score
  • Themes and Transformation of Themes
  • Harmonic Language, Instrumentation, and Style
  • Contrasting Material
  • Assignment 8: Final Project Part 2: Themes and Thematic Transformation

Lesson 9: Patton

  • Overview of Patton and Jerry Goldsmith’s Score
  • Themes and Transformation of Themes
  • Harmonic Language, Instrumentation, and Style
  • Contrasting Material
  • Assignment 9: Final Project Part 3: Harmonic Language

Lesson 10: Joy Luck Club

  • Overview of Joy Luck Club and Rachel Portman’s Score
  • Themes and Transformation of Themes
  • Harmonic Language, Instrumentation, and Style
  • Contrasting Material
  • Assignment 10: Final Project Part 4: Tempo, Pulse and Rhythm, and Harmonic Rhythm

Lesson 11: Road to Perdition

  • Overview of Road to Perdition and Thomas Newman’s Score
  • Themes and Transformation of Themes
  • Harmonic Language, Instrumentation, and Style
  • Contrasting Material
  • Assignment 11: Final Project Part 5: Cue Anatomy

Lesson 12: BlacKkKlansman

  • Overview of BlacKkKlansman and Terence Blanchard’s Score
  • Themes and Transformation of Themes
  • Harmonic Language, Instrumentation, and Style
  • Contrasting Material


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements

This course requires a strong background in music theory, music technology, and the fundamentals of film music. While it is not a composition course, it is designed for composition students.

Completion of Music Theory 301: Advanced Melody and Harmony, Getting Inside Harmony 2, or Music Theory and Composition 4; and Basic Ear Training 1; or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Completion of Orchestration and/or Arranging courses is recommended but not required. Students should be able to:

  • Recognize scales and modes, intervals and chord qualities, instruments, and meters and rhythms in notated form and by ear in audio recordings.

Required Films

You must have access to the following films:

  • Gone with the Wind (1939)
  • Psycho (1960)
  • Patton (1970)
  • Joy Luck Club (1993)
  • Road to Perdition (2002)
  • BlacKkKlansman (2018)
  • One of the following:
    • Star Wars: Episode V - Empire Strikes Back (1980), or
    • Bee Movie (2007), or
    • Atonement (2007)

Film Scoring Rig: Click here for the full software and hardware requirements for the program.

  • This course only requires a notation software from the options listed in the Film Scoring Rig (Dorico, Sibelius, or Finale). A MIDI keyboard controller is also highly recommended.
  • In addition, you will need:
    • A word processor such as Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, OpenOffice (free), Google Drive (free), or other software that allows for importing, editing, and exporting of text documents as PDF files.
    • Equipment necessary to play movies on chosen media (e.g. DVD player, if necessary).

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact for any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of  Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software (available in the course when joining your first chat)
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal Microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection



Author & Instructor

Tim Huling is a composer, orchestrator, producer and educator who works in music for film, TV, video games, the concert hall, and more. His credits include films such as Georgia Rule and Mad Money; TV shows such as Little PeopleBig World and Inside Passage; video games such as Planetary Annihilation and Skyrealm; and installations such as Hunger Games at the Motiongate Theme Park and Great Seattle Fire at MOHAI. Tim has enjoyed concert premieres, including works for symphony orchestra, chamber ensemble, various jazz works, and two ballets.

Read More

In 2014, Tim was proud to return to his alma mater, the Film Scoring Department at Berklee College of Music. There he teaches film music composition, orchestration, and technology. Read Less


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.


Get Info