Arts & Entertainment, Music

Turning Melodies Into Arrangements


Lesson time 15:08 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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Topics include: Bass Lines • Lead Lines • Case Study: Cat Thruster


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...

About the Instructor

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.

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6 hours of instructions, 23 video lessons, and a downloadable course workbook.

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