Music & Entertainment

Structuring Songs


Lesson time 11:56 min

You've developed your chord structure, arranged it with exciting synth sounds and added drums -- now deadmau5 shows you how to combine all those elements into an exciting song

Teaches Electronic Music Production
6 hours of instructions, 23 video lessons, and a downloadable course workbook.
Get All-Access


So you you've made your eight bars of loopy, loopy goodness. And it just sounds really good if you just let the thing play for hours on end. Making it interesting is about minor, sometimes major variations to that same bar and then carrying that on and adding really interesting breaks or swells and dips. Taking out all the percussion and the drums, and then doing something completely different, but in the same key as your main theme. That's what kind of keeps something interesting. Arrangement in dance music or in EDM is pretty hard coded into the intro, breakdown and then your whole main hook and then break down again. That's the formula. Just like pop has a formula. And just like country has a formula. Structuring a song, you're going to see an arrangement kind of like this. It's very atypical for dance music and EDM, whereas is like just by looking at it, I can already tell you what's going to kind of go on here. Whereas all the little dots and lines and grids and all the pieces are just elements of the song. So it's basically it starts out one way and then there's two elements kind of come in over that amount of time. And then it kind of goes up to the thing. And then you have this like this period in this area here where it's kind of a breakdown or looks like, because obviously not a whole lot of drums and other stuff coming back. And then after that, it comes back. But if you kind of look at this from a condensed view, the whole track is more or less this section right here. And this is how I kind of start. So this is where the song gets built. So here is, like with everything playing at the same time. So this is where the most elements are playing. There's no rule as to how many times you need to have a hook go or a duration of bars or time or something like that. But if it's going to be the prominent in the track, it should take up a third of the whole track, I think. And then the way you would arrange a track is basically, let's delete this whole arrangement. Now, let's say I wanted, oh, let's, here's this piece. If I go through and start soloing elements you can kind of-- You kind of hear every individual element of the track. And this track was surprisingly minimal. So it has a bass, a voice track and there's the lead. So I guess at that time when I wrote the track, I thought OK, well let's just start with-- That. And then as that goes, we'll kind of let that do its thing for one bar. And then we'll bring the kick in. Which is that collapsed. So then there's the kick. And let's say at that point bring in the snare or a high hat. Then you hear the high hat come in there. And then it's just basically deconstructing your main part here and then constructing a sequence out of it. It's really that easy. But then it's going in and making small little variations or stacking parts. Here I have ...

Make better music

Before he was deadmau5, all Joel Zimmerman wanted for Christmas was old toasters to take apart. Now, you can watch him take his music apart. In his first-ever online class, Joel teaches you how he approaches melodies, mixing and mastering to make unique sounds you can't find in a cookie cutter sample pack. You'll not only get his lessons, you'll learn how to create your own music without spending money on million dollar gear.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Very incredible masterclass! I have high admiration for Joel and his music, and seeing him approach various concepts or techniques was such a valuable learning experience. I have definitely taken a lot of knowledge from this class, and I'm so glad that I signed up! Thank you Joel and the Masterclass team for providing this adventure.

Deadmua5's masterclass has helped to fill in some of the gaps that i am missing in my production. Im actually building a track with the concepts that I learned from here. Thanks!! -KiD AntiX

This class had more information than I anticipated. The way Joel talks to the class is humble and intuitive. I really like his approach and teaching style. I've been writing music for years and still took away a lot of great tips and knowledge!

It may sound superficial, but this is a truly inspiring and useful masterclass... All I have to say


Michael U.

Not really adding anything but does anyone know the song snippet at “there’s more to music than drops”. I would really appreciate it. Also every time I watch this I learn something new.


"Phantom Can't Hang" starts out using the song's hook as the intro. From there adding different instruments and building until the "drop" (even though he pretty much says that's pandering to an audience...I say give them what they want...ha!). Using the same hook, he changes the sound by using a different instrument or changing effects. Deconstructing (taking out different elements) tracks gives the song a dynamic feel rather than just pulsating beats and sounds for 6+ minutes. As I'm building songs, I'm thinking about what emotions I'm trying to convey to my audience, how I want them to FEEL during a particular section and how that will change in the next section. Audiences are very smart and don't have much patience. Long intro's tend to bore most listeners. Intro's that last over a minute end up being tedious long to most listeners. This is absolutely true for pop music. Check out some of your favorite pop tunes. You'll find that most intro's are short, maybe a few bars. Radio tunes usually hit the chorus at about the minute mark. EDM is different in that you can stretch out your sections. However, most listeners are used to hearing the above formula and will be able to "hear" your song better with this format.

Kenny K.

About the length of tracks: When DJing with vinyl, there's no ability to "hot cue", beat-loop, or otherwise seamlessly jump around a track like you can with digital DJ hard/software. When you start playing a vinyl, you have to commit to the way the song is structured until you mix into another track with the 2nd deck. That's why a lot of old-school house/techno tracks (or tracks trying to emulate that vibe) are 8-10 minutes of repetition with slight variation. This gives vinyl DJs more time to pick out their next record and find the spot they want to mix into

Jose M P.

Can anyone help me with the structuring of the song. I always have struggled with this and I am a complete beginner and deadmau5 does a great job explaining it. But for the sake of my brain and how it works, what are the very basics that go on those 23 seconds? chords, leads, base line, melody, drums? I just want to know the very very basics and I will add the rest but is this what goes on those 23 seconds? Any help will be great!!

J D.

wow.. What deadmau5 said at the very end .. the last 2 minutes, that was MEGA important information (READ: experience cum wisdom). Hate him or love him, the Amadeus reference was profound. Spot on. That applied to all genres. except maybe jazz .. cuz its jazz LoL

Jessica K.

UPDATE: I have been working more on this song. I am sooo excited about these classes. Anyway, hope you like what I am working on. 4/15/18 Hi Everyone. I have been watching the classes and learning Abelton. What a learning curve, but I have finally got the beginning of a piece. It needs a lot more texture and color, but the foundation is there, a bare foundation. Let me know what you think. (btw this is the first thing I have put together, ever... so totally new to this!) Jessica (aka Dema)

Craig O.

A collab with a Masterclass student...your time and ears are appreciated!

Michael C. Let me know what you guys think!

Isabel B.

you can make a track however you like but in the end when it comes to performing on stage every night you realize people only want the meat and potatoes. i have to edit all my tracks to be 30 seconds sections, intro, 15 sec build, 30 second banger, 15 second build, 30 second banger, 15-30 second outro(where the next tracks 15 second build begins). This is what keeps a dancefloor hot, and then knowing when to throw in a vocal and when to draw out a loop for a minute or so. i just heard this track that pete tong is involved in called maasai by OC & Verde and to be honest, i couldn't play this in china too much, this is more for europe or small club cultures in the Americas, anyways, this track Maasai has a dope sound change without the old outdated 4 bar vocal drop (everybody scream) . you can check out the track here on youtube and see hear the change that keeps the beat high without there being a drop. look at the time marker of 2:04

Wallace-Glenn C.

Acoustic guitar drops were most popular back in the day. Effects, instrumentation, crescendo, layers, more crescendo then a drop to acoustic (with excellent recording quality mind you) and 'interesting'. Powerful stuff, thanks.