Music & Entertainment

Turning Melodies Into Arrangements


Lesson time 15:40 min

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

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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.

Great Class in general. I really had fun listening to Deadmau5 and I've already seen some progress in my work.

I truly feel that Joel taught me knowledge I won't be able to find anywhere else. Turning the complex into simplicity.

I really liked the teacher's classes. It was very original in its presentations and very sincere in its comments, it has its own style. There is something very important that mentions "is that no one will help you; But we have to help ourselves by working hard and with dedication. " I think the class was very good and I just say thank you teacher. God bless you”

This class has given me a new outlook on music and a lot of insight into what goes on in the world of preforming. This was way different than i expected but I am very pleased with the results. I'm excited to continue experimenting and using the inspiration from this class in my own productions. #37


Jessica J.

Also, for class I created a YouTube channel and video inspired by Joel to document some of what I have learned and applied to my own creative (and technical) process

Jessica J.

I get what you’re saying about using the keyboard sometimes but the fact that you would prefer to do it this way and write’s how I feel about bass guitar or drums...I’m not going to sit down and play my bass guitar because it wouldn’t sound so good, and nor would I try to play edm drum loops myself ..I mean, I guess I could, but it is much easier to write beats and bass lines with little pixels :)

Jessica J.

Further, it is also nice to not have to sit there falling asleep to musical elitism and advanced theory terminology. This song is turning out great!!

Jessica J.

Joel says he slept through music class and through music conservatory so that is basically his way of saying he knows he may not be using the exact term to refer to the theory behind his music but he’s showing’s not about his vocabulary. I totally get what he’s saying and it’s fun to watch the speed at which he thinks and does things so easily. Phase cancellation is a concern of mine....I’ve always called it “music getting blurry” and really need to figure out how to change that to refine my craft and now I know the technical term for what is happening. Ps. Joel you are definitely NOT a loser! Oh, and I LOVE NIN and am very much influenced by Reznor’s music!

A fellow student

Wasted my money on the shitty PC port of Forza Motorsport 7. Got a refund and used the money on Cthulhu instead

Kieran D.

I swear some of that visual arp midi data isn't matching up with what I'm hearing, regardless it is still all useful information!


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.