From deadmau5's MasterClass

Turning Melodies Into Arrangements

Here's how deadmau5 takes basic chord structures and spreads them out across different instruments to make full arrangements including bass parts and leads.

Topics include: Bass Lines • Lead Lines • Case Study: Cat Thruster


Here's how deadmau5 takes basic chord structures and spreads them out across different instruments to make full arrangements including bass parts and leads.

Topics include: Bass Lines • Lead Lines • Case Study: Cat Thruster


Teaches Electronic Music Production

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When I'm creating things, I'll usually just start with the basic root-note structure of it, where it's, like, just straight-up octaves of the bass playing a series of notes that resolve. And then I'll go back and then layer it until the point where it's like, how much do you want to layer it? Do you want it to be some big, lush piece, a very, very harmonious choral kind of sound? Which I like, so I tend to lean towards that a lot. Or do I want to take that whole big chorale that I've done and then split it up into just, I want a grinding bass doing that, and then this mid-part of the chorus? And by chorus I don't mean a fat chorus as in a multitude of voices all playing different harmonies, like a Gregorian church choir would be, as I want, OK, you guys do this with this instrument, and then you guys do this with this instrument. Or make the decision and say, look, just do it all at once. All use with the same instrument, kind of thing. It's all, like, style options at that point. It's like dress-up Barbie. You got the cool outfit, but you just got to mix and match it. Or just give her a pair of shorts and send her on her merry way to the mall, you know? The bass note is your-- for me, it's the lowest note in the chord structure, right? It's this row of bottom notes. That your key you're in. Now, whether you want to follow that same flat note pattern-- in this case, I did. But if you want to break it up and then repeat some notes and all that stuff, honestly, that's how I do bass. It's the lowest-common-denominator root for the rest of everything else. You can always experiment with going up a fifth or a seventh. So let's actually try that. So let's shut our arpeggiator off, because sometimes this works-- sometimes it doesn't. [PLAYING MUSIC THROUGH SOFTWARE] So if I go up a fifth-- [PLAYING MUSIC THROUGH SOFTWARE] This is a seventh, actually. [PLAYING MUSIC THROUGH SOFTWARE] No, it doesn't work. Sometimes it does. But, I mean, you don't know if you don't try, right? And that's kind of my whole take on it. [PLAYING MUSIC THROUGH SOFTWARE] So the bass would be derived from that. That's basically your bass frequency, where you're probably going to use another synth to do that kind of thing. In which case I tuned my kick drum to that root note and some of these other weird synth notes. [PLAYING MUSIC THROUGH SOFTWARE] And that's all the same chord just being played in a different order. The one thing you kind of do have to be considerate of is your drums, because those are two conflicting frequencies. They're in the same realm, especially your kick drum. So your kick drum and bass note are going to have some kind of phase conflict somewhere in there. So the two ways around it are spacing your bass notes out in such a way that you're not really going to have a kick and a bass note at the same time. But if you absolutely must, make sure you're ducking...

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.

This has made me able to really think about where i want to go with my life and with my music. Thank you :)

Got some direction on how I will pursue a career in music and also inspiration to never give up on what I love to do!

great masterclass, i have learnd a lot about signal processing, mastering, mixing, using effect on EDM and more than that what is really EDM thanks joel

Thanks for doing this kind of online class with one and only Deadmau5!!



Great shortcut, extracting notes in a chord and then adding an arpeggiator to create interesting melodic sounds.


music theory is not his strong suit. He has natural ears for melody but he really is giving some incomplete, wrong and vague info at times.

Naomi W.

A few things are wrong, which I believe were already touched on in the comments. He mentions five and seven semitones. Well, raising something seven semitones creates a diminished fifth, which, yes, can make a unique sound, but you only want to use that in particular situations. I think he meant eight semitones instead of seven, which creates a perfect fifth, which is very broad, beautiful, and nice sounding.

Sean L.

the most interesting thing i find with these whole classes, googling the products he uses. i love how Cthulhu is $40 but so useful. definitely my next buy.

Thomas Mark A.

Others have made similar comments, but I think it's a problem that his terminology is so frequently wrong given how many viewers might be new to music theory. He says "key change" when he means "chord change". He refers to 7 half-steps in an arpeggiator as a "seventh" when that's actually a fourth. He compares the notes comprising a chord as "Gregorian" when a Gregorian chant actually has no harmony at all. (And frankly, he says he's not a keyboardist but I don't believe he can't press three keys down at a time to make a chord instead of copying and pasting and dragging one note repeatedly.)


Cat Thruster - 32/32/96/ Etc What I found interesting... he follows what was preached... the initial drum track and bass play for 4 bars or 32 beat before he introduces the analog keyboard melody, another 32 beats later the drum track changes just added a bit of additional flare with a shaker kind of sound. This part of the track repeats for the next 96 beats with some very subtle ear candy changes that go on in the back ground. The next change is a tweak to the bass line that further driver the analog melody. Viewing the actual wave file show very few dips and valleys in this very 4 on the floor. There are very little Transitional changes in this peace which keeps its energy levels quite high.

Connor L.

Lol just watched this lesson then made this mildly cool song

Damien B.

Those Cat Thruster chords remind me a lot Vitalic who likes to play detuned melodies. Cool stuff in that lesson!

Joshua T.

Looked into this module a little bit further. Here is the result.

Christopher W.

Hehe Just watching Mr. Deadmau5 playing beats in Ableton inspires the heck out of me to get on it! I am learning some workflow style tips for sure concerning Ableton live. For example ctrl+spacebar is how he is playing from the marker he sets with the mouse click... you can only do that in arrangement mode. It is great cause you can do just like he is saying: play a chord progression and just keep tweaking it and copying/pasting it. And with some time invested in the synths/rhythms you can just build songs without playing a single note "like a keyboardist" ; ) ty