This rare chance to learn from this master of electronic music is not to be missed. You don’t have to be a fan of progressive house music to be able to get a lot out of Deadmau5′ masterclass. I am not a big fan of this style of music, yet, I still enjoyed taking his class.
Who is Deadmau5?
I suspect that most of you already know who Deadmau5 is. After all, he is one of the world’s highest-paid electronic music professionals. He has already attracted six Grammy nominations for his work and has had a string of hits.
Deadmau5′ trademark full-faced, shiny black, mouse head mask, with its huge ears and bulging X eyes is without a doubt striking. Once seen, never forgotten. As well as being a music producer Deadmau5 is an iconic DJ and musicians.
In this masterclass, he describes his creative process, in considerable detail. Then shows you how to replicate his success. Even if you are not a musician and have never produced electronic music before do not worry. After taking this course, you will be able to get started immediately.
You don’t have to be a musician to create Electronic Dance Music
Most people skip over the introduction video when they take masterclass.com courses. I would say that you should not do that with this course.
In his first video, Deadmau5 really sets the scene. Watching it will get your head in the right place. This is particularly important if you are not a trained musician.
The way he explains things makes it clear that non-musicians can still create electronic dance music. Of course, it takes time and effort, but it is easier than you think.
Importantly, it can be done without your having to spend a lot of money on equipment. Joel explains how to start simply using eight-bar loops and take things from there.
Learn using the assignments Deadmau5 has created
Before I dive into the course itself, I need to encourage you to take the time to do the assignments Deadmau5 sets throughout the course. I completed the first couple and learned a lot more than I did from just watching the videos. So, I would urge you to do the same. You will find them in the workbook, which, incidentally, is very well written.
How to put together a music studio at home
In this section Deadmau5, shows you how to quickly pull together and set up the hardware and software you will need to create EDM at home. Here is what he covers:
- Setting up your computer for EDM
- DAWs – what they are and whether you need one
- Studio monitors
- Setting up your speakers
I promise you, you do not need much equipment to get started. As Deadmau5 says:
It’s about your ideas not your gear.Joel Zimmerman – Deadmau5 Teaches Electronic Music Production Masterclass
How to create an electronic music track from scratch
I started this lesson and was immediately overwhelmed when I saw him working with Ableton Live. For me, this threw up a mental roadblock, because he does not show you how to use the software.
So, I thought darn there’s no way I can do this. At that point, I nearly gave up. But, instead, I paused, got a coffee and started again.
When I did, I got it all in perspective and just watched the process and listened to what he was saying. Within 10 minutes, I realised he was basically playing around with sound, building it up in layers and arranging them into a pleasing order. Of course, there is a bit more to it than that. But, you can certainly get started that way.
It is worth signing up for a free trial of Ableton, or something similar, and completing the first assignment. If you do that, you will soon know if you want to carry on learning how to create EDM.
You will need to go through the software training first. Fortunately, the community is there to help you. There were literally hundreds of comments under the video, so getting help is not hard.
Essentially all music is is a series of cycles.Deadmau5 Masterclass.com
How to develop melodic structures
In this section of the course, Joel shows you how to work out if your original idea is a good one or not.
The first point Deadmau5 makes is that the best melodies are developed over time. You start with a basic idea and gradually mould it into something that is memorable and sounds great. This process can take hours, weeks or even months. It varies from piece to piece. So, the sooner you get started the better.
Usefully, he explains how to quickly recognise if you have created an initial melody that is worth working on. There are also a couple of exercises that you can use to get your ear in.
How to turn your melodies into full arrangements
Once you have your melodies sorted out, you can start to turn them into layered structures. This involves choosing instruments, getting your bass right, then layering and arranging until you are happy.
Again, Deadmau5 does not give you a tick box process to follow, which is important. If he were to do that, at this stage, it would only suffocate your creative instincts.
Instead, he shows you how he does it. Again, to cement what you have just learned, you will need to do the assignment. When you listen to Cat Thruster, a lot of what you have just learned will crystallise in your mind and everything will make far more sense.
An introduction to synths and synthetic sounds
This is a very important part of the course. Your synth is your instrument, so you need to understand how to work well with it.
Deadmau5 points out that all synths work more or less in the same way. So, which one you use is not vital. The key to getting the most out of a synth is experimenting and practising.
Deadmau5 loves taking a track and backward engineering it to work out how each sound was created. It sounds like an interesting way to practice and build up your synth skills.
In this section of his electronic music masterclass, Deadmau5 covers the following subjects in-depth:
- Experimenting with modular synths
- The difference between digital and analog synths
- The pros and cons of the various synth options
How to shape sounds with effects and processing
In these videos, Deadmau5 shows you how to use different tools to create unique sounds and effects. He covers physical hardware, for example, guitar pedals and crazy expensive modular walls. Mixing outboard stuff with inboard stuff makes a huge difference and enables you to create your own unique sounds.
Creating your beats the Deadmau5 way
The beats are possibly the most important part of any electronic dance music track. So, this part of the course was a real eye-opener. I thought of the beats featured on an EDM track as being just drum sounds. As it turns out you can use all kinds of sounds to create your beat. You can also cut an existing sound into bits to generate the kick you want.
I like the fact that Joel goes into plenty of detail, in this part of the course. He uses a free library to find a kick, nests a sampler into it and creates a unique sound. The two beat videos were very enlightening, at least for me.
Remixes and mixing
Remixing is a great way to practice your skills. Taking another artist’s stem and playing with it is interesting and fun.
If you want to, you can enter mixing competitions. This is a very good way to practice and master your skills. Competing with others pushes you to try things you would not otherwise try.
You can really push the boundaries when you remix for competitions. It is a great way to get your creative juices going and get past the music producers equivalent of writer’s block.
Mastering your electronic dance music
Mastering is not something a lot of music courses cover in any meaningful way. It is still seen as something you need a professional for.
There is no doubt that it takes a lot of practice to master this skill set. But, it is certainly worth doing so. Deadmau5 breaks the process into 3 steps:
- Adjusting the dynamics
- Balancing the overall EQ
- Tweaking the overall volume
Joel shows you his whole process, step-by-step, including the skill of limiting. Then takes you through a case study to cement what he has just taught you.
How to start your producing career
Joel began his career by making music at home. So, there is no reason why you should not do the same.
His journey into turning his passion into a career was a rocky one. It may be for you too. It will take perseverance.
You need to invest in yourself, build your brand and maximise every performance opportunity. Deadmau5 explains how to prepare so that you make a good impression when you are ready to present your music to the world.
Importantly, Joel also covers how to avoid being exploited. Unfortunately, something that still happens a lot in the music industry.
I became business savvy because I learned very early on how people get exploited in the arts.Deadmau5 Masterclass for Electronic Music Production
Preparing to perform live and on stage
Deadmau5′ live performances are always exciting. Unlike some other EDM performers, he uses his DAW live. Instead of recording everything in advance.
He does not like to play it safe and just hit the play button. Manipulating sounds on the fly keeps him engaged and ramps up the excitement.
In this part of the course, he focuses on the following:
- Performing the music
- Nailing the technical side
- Creating a memorable experience for your audience
Importantly, he covers how to make the beginning and the end of your sets memorable. This is one of his signatures and part of the reason his live performances remain popular, years down the line.
Who is the Deadmau5 EDM masterclass for?
I think most people who like music would find this course interesting. For fans of Deadmau5, it is a must.
This course would also be excellent for someone who is new to making music. They, like me, will learn a lot.
But, those who have been producing their own music for a while may not like the course as much. The chances are they will already have their own process in place. One that works for them, so may not be as interested in Deadmau5′ way of working. Although, it might be interesting for them to do the assignments as a way of stretching their creative muscles in a different way.
Ask Deadmau5 any EDM related question
Using the Office Hours facility anyone can ask Deadmau5 a question and get a direct response. Something most EDM performers and fans will definitely want to take advantage of.
That is by far the thing I like the most about the masterclass.com courses. The fact you can ask some of the biggest stars in the world questions never ceases to amaze me. You can find out more about this and the other great masterclass.com features by reading my full review article.
Other Masterclass music production classes to consider taking
If you do opt to take Deadmau5 course, I am pretty sure you will enjoy it. But, you have to bear in mind the type of music he makes.
At the time of writing this article, most of his work has been written to be played in clubs. So, on average, his pieces are 6 minutes long and follow the classic 4/4 format. It may not be a format you particularly want to produce yourself. In which case, some of the other music production courses may be a better fit.
My all-access Masterclass pass enables me to take all 60+ courses, I had already completed several other music production masterclasses, before taking this one. I would strongly suggest that you do the same.
The Hans Zimmerman one is a particularly good choice. He has been working in the industry much longer than Deadmau5 has. So, you could also learn a lot from Hans.
The all-access pass costs $180, which is the same price you would pay for 2 separate courses. So, effectively you are getting access a further 60+ courses absolutely free of charge.
Having said all that, Deadmau5 has just his first film score – Polar. If he carries on writing for films there is no doubt that his work will evolve and broaden. In which case I would love to take further courses written by him.
Hopefully, in a few years, he will do like many of the other masterclass.com teachers have and produce a 2nd course. In which case, I will be at the front of the queue to take it.