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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.

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

I entered the class hoping for some gold nuggets on producing/mixing/mastering and I got them. Enjoyed it.

Good to see all the different people enrolled. Looking forward to learning. Thanks for the chance for students to introduce themselves and connect.

I learned some things in the mixing and mastering side that I didn't know. Thank you for your advice!! Much appreciated !

I've been a deadmau5 fan for a while and this was a great experience to learn his process and hear in depth what he finds important about making music for a living, I think it could be a good tool for anyone that is getting started in electronic music production.



(8:20) I wonder if he knows you can record arp data at 999 bpm instead of 130 or whatever he was at. He seemed irritated that he had to wait so just saying.


What he's talking about and showing in his videos include way more information and advice than the "lessons" I saw of three uber-rich and successful writers at this site. His lessons are very informative and generous.

A fellow student

When he says a seventh I think he means 7 semitones, which is commonly known as a "perfect fifth", and when he says a fifth he means 5 semitones, which is a perfect fourth.

A fellow student

Woah, so im taking this lesson, and I have a degree in music. The stuff you are talking about is SPOT ON!!!! You even said its all just chords, and that is true!!! In music theory we would have to take a whole segment of melody and define what chord is it. I love how you get it, and you dont even know you just was talking advanced music theory. So awesome dude you are a genious!

Joe P.

Does anybody know which kontakt vst is he using in that kinda bass guitar synth? thanks

Laura T.

Thanks deadmau5 this is incredibly helpful. My husband and I also have some music training, but want to learn how to create original music of our own. We disagree with your assessment that you are not a musician- you are definitely a musician and your instrument is the DAW! If you are inputting notes you are just using the mouse instead of a pick or bow and the computer does not make mistakes. It will sound the same and be exactly right every time it plays.... We lose a little bit of human feel but it's worth it to be a conductor of the orchestra that is in the DAW. With enough time you can input any of the great symphonies and the computer will play it exactly as written.

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!