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Deadmau5 Masterclass Review
(out of 5)
- Over-the-shoulder look at this successful producer’s creative approach
- Raw, unprepared approach to the course – he makes mistakes before your eyes and shows how he works through them.
- Aims at a wide audience and does well at offering something for everyone.
- Excellent lessons on core content creation and synthesized sound
- Full refund if not satisfied after 30 days
- Won’t teach you the technical details of your DAW
- Lessons on Career/Music Business are a bit vague
- You can no longer purchase courses individually
What’s Included? Deadmau5 Teaches Electronic Music Production
- 23 Videos, 6 hours of content
- Snowcone stems: 27 .wav files for reconstructing his track Snowcone
- Two PDFs:
- Workbook/Course Outline
- Fundamentals, basic terminology glossary
- Access to the entire Masterclass online learning library
Bottom Line: Deadmau5 Masterclass Review
An excellent course that will make you want to get creating. It is an honest, raw look at a successful artist doing his thing, warts and all.
See our category page here for future reviews of online learning on music production.
Masterclass have put together a course on Electronic Music Production with Deadmau5, one of the biggest names in EDM. You watch over his shoulder as he creates tracks and plays around with wild synthesized sounds.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’m not a huge EDM fan, but in the end, I learned a lot watching him work through his process.
The course is not one of these excessively edited courses designed to impress us with the genius of the guru in charge. Rather, it shows us the artist, warts and all.
It’s this human side of the course, seeing the fallibility of this guy at the top of his game, that adds a special inspiring-by-accident flavor.
The Best Bits
The Best Bits | Creating Core Content for a Track
In the first quarter of the course, (sections 2-6 – Process: Theory and Practice, Developing Melodic Structures, Turning Melodies into Arrangements) Deadmau5 walks us through his process of creating core content for a track.
What I found compelling about this was how unprepared the presentation is. He is making stuff up before our eyes. He’s annoyed at times with how it’s working or not working out. Underneath it all, there’s a whole lot of self-loathing going on. In this way, it’s a rich experience.
But it’s the rawness of the presentation that makes me trust it more.
It is a little surprising to me that the musical marrow of these songs is so basic. But I guess that’s the nature of EDM – or at least the Progressive House end of EDM. In this first part of the course, he reveals just how basic the foundation of these tracks is.
Deadmau5 walks you through the steps: you can take three chords or four chords (mouse-drawn MIDI chords), use an arpeggiator plug-in to do some magic on those chords, cut and paste the printed MIDI results to form your melody, structure the track into a general ABA structure, set the tempo between 126 – 130 beats per minute and voila! you’ve got yourself an EDM track!
On top of that, he whips it all together with impressive speed. At one point he says, “It would take a long time to write a track with constant changes of original material.” No comment.
The Best Bits | Synthesized Sounds
The group of Lessons 7-10 (Introduction To Synthesized Sounds, Experimenting With Modular Synths, Digital Vs. Analog Synths, Shaping Sounds With Effects And Processing) was my favorite part of the course.
This work is the truly creative part of what he does. While Deadmau5’s core musical ideas are bare-bones, the meat of his stuff is in the creation of synthesized sounds.
For example, the cool repeated bass sound he creates starting around 1:37 in his track Avaritia below:
In these lessons, Deadmau5 shows how to get down to brass tacks with waveforms at their most rudimentary level. Further, he shows ways of manipulating waveform shapes and frequencies to produce an incredible array of sounds and replicate them at different frequencies.
In the lesson on Digital Vs. Analogue Synthesizers, Deadmau5 uses a giant modular synthesizer. Showing us the analog tools first and comparing those sounds to the sounds produced by a VST or digital plug-in, he makes clear the advantages and disadvantages of each tool.
Not knowing anything personally about modular synthesizers, I found this enlightening.
As he experiments, plugging cables into different boxes, Deadmau5 shows how you create truly alive sounds with voltage-controlled analog instruments. Additionally, he shows ways to take poor-quality source material and make it into something interesting with analog synths or guitar pedals.
Your Teacher, Joel Zimmerman, The Human
No matter the syllabus, who the teacher is, is key to the overall value for the student. So we have to consider Deadmau5, or Joel Zimmerman, who he is and what he brings to the table, in the review of this course.
He is one of the highest paid people in EDM working as a solo artist, producer, and label manager. He has signed superstar artists like Skrillex. He has found success and navigated his way out of unfair record deals and all the turmoils of a difficult business.
Confusing Musical Terms
Sometimes I found it annoying that what he refers to as “melodic structure” is actually just chords or harmonic structure. But he wouldn’t be the first to re-invent the wheel on already established musical terminology. Nerd rant done. Almost.
My point is, that his weird terminology at first made me skeptical of the value of what he was saying in the course. At one point he says “Resolving a minor chord to another minor chord just makes sense.” If this guy doesn’t understand what harmony is, can I trust him as a creator of music?
But my doubts faded as I got further into the course. He made me think about artists like David Bowie who never understood traditional harmony either. People break all the rules and still come up with cool stuff.
So what if EDM people call a Verse a Breakdown? Is that so wrong?
Success aside, can I learn something from him?
The raw look at who he is and how he works gives this course its educational value. The course is not edited to make him look cool: we see Joel and all his humanity.
There’s a self-loathing energy to him that comes on quite strong at times. One gets the feeling that Joel Zimmerman feels bound in golden handcuffs. In other words, he would like to make music that he finds more interesting but cannot because he’s worried it wouldn’t sell.
For example, in the Beats lesson, he wishes he didn’t have to use beats at all. He talks about how he uses beats to make his music danceable, “Because that’s what sells and I have to pay for all this shit!”
Furthermore, he goes on to say:
“If you get too polyrhythmic with it, people can’t groove and the masses are stupid, so you have to make stupid shit… or common denominator stuff”
He is outright dissing the EDM genre, the subject of the course, and the genre that made his career. Obviously, he’s not trying to inspire you.
Because he’s not trying to inspire, you know you’re getting an accurate version of who he is, with all his ticks. And paradoxically, I found that inspiring.
Who is this course for?
In the intro, Deadmau5 says this course is for “anyone wanting to get involved in electronic music.”
The course generally succeeds in offering something for everyone. For seasoned pros, it can bring confidence to your own workflow as you become familiar with the workflow of Deadmau5, a leader in his industry. For beginners, the course quickly gets you going creating your own EDM tracks.
Who is this course Not for?
The course is not for those looking for a step-by-step tutorial on how to use a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
Deadmau5 (or Joel Zimmerman) sometimes goes into very exact detail on elements of his work. The focus, however, is on the creative process, keeping the course moving and not getting bogged down in endless technical options.
Is it Worth It?
The latest details of the Masterclass price plans can be found here.
I found this course eye-opening and inspiring even though I’m not a big fan of the music of Deadmau5, although the price made me hesitate.
Considering a lot of courses on music production leave me feeling overwhelmed with details that I’ll never remember, I found this course refreshing because it made me want to go directly into my DAW and start experimenting. I liked the pace of it and the raw, honest view of an artist doing his thing.
The real benefit of Masterclass is that membership includes all classes and new courses are added every month. The names are big and there’s a load of content. In the musical category, the list includes:
- Hans Zimmer teaches Film Scoring
- Armin Van Buuren teaches Dance Music
- Tom Morello teaches Guitar
- Itzhak Perlman teaches violin
- Timbaland Teaches Producing and Beatmaking
- Christina Aguilera teaches singing
- Herbie Hancock teaches Jazz
- Nas teaches HipHop Storytelling
Outside of music, you can learn cooking with Gordon Ramsay, storytelling and humor with David Sedaris, filmmaking with Martin Scorsese, poker from Daniel Nagreanu, screenwriting with Aaron Sorkin, leadership with Bill Clinton, the list goes on…
Perhaps the best feature is the Masterclass 30-day satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not satisfied after 30 days, Masterclass will issue a full refund. This way, you can try out a membership and see if the classes are of benefit to you.
Alternatives to the Deadmau5 Masterclass
Assuming you’ve exhausted the free content on YouTube and are looking for a more in-depth course, here are some options. As you can see above, Masterclass has several related courses, the most obvious being:
If you’re looking for more practical advice, with more hands-on content, the Armin Van Buuren course might be worth a try.
Armin gives you an under-the-hood look at some of his big hits. The course is well organised, with almost 7 hours of content.
For some interesting ideas on storytelling through music, this gives a totally different take on the creative process from one of the most successful film composers. For our full review, see here.
If you are a fan of EDM, you will get something out of this course. Regardless of what you think of Joel Zimmerman and regardless of your knowledge level in music production, there’s some great material in this course for everyone.
If you can find other courses in the Masterclass library that are worth it for you, then it’s definitely worth the cost.
How much does the course cost?
Click here to get the most up to date price on the course.
Do I need software to take this course?
If you’re interested in making EDM, you’ll need a computer (Mac or PC) with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Deadmau5 works exclusively with Ableton Live on this course but any DAW will do. Popular DAWs include: Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubebass, ProTools, Logic Pro, Studio One, Audacity, and Garageband.
What is a Synthesizer?
A Synthesizer is an electronic instrument that creates audio signals through voltage (analog) or samples (digital). Synthesizers create waveforms through a process called synthesis, hence the name, Synthesizer. Using filters, envelopes, and low-frequency oscillators these machines manipulate pitch, gain, and timbre. They can be synched with other equipment via MIDI.
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