Deadmau5 Masterclass Review (Still Worth It In 2021…?)

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deadmau5 masterclass review
Deadmau5 Masterclass Review (Still Worth It In 2021…?)
VERDICT
This deadmau5 Masterclass is for anybody interested in music at any skill level. Featuring five and a half hours of technical tips, useful advice, and the philosophy that forms the core of his approach to making music, deadmau5 Teaches Electronic Music Production offers something for everyone.
Quality of Content
9.5
Technical Detail
10
Value For Money
7.5
PROS
Learn from one of the most successful EDM artists of all time
Comprehensive but still easy to follow
Joel is engaging and entertaining
CONS
Masterclass prices can be prohibitive for many
Joel's personality may not be your cup of tea
9
OUR SCORE
MORE INFO

Whether you are a progressive house head or not, chances are you have heard of Joel Zimmerman, also known as deadmau5. As one of the world’s most commercially successful electronic music producers, it stands to reason that Masterclass would want to pick his brain.

In deadmau5 Teaches Electronic Music Production, Joel covers his ideas on everything from building a home studio setup and developing melodic structures to understanding the music business as well as technical considerations for performing music live.

What’s more, he brings his authentic self to the course, which means the audience is treated to deadmau5’s thoughts on a subject, even if they contradict popular understandings and trends. Joel’s slightly sarcastic witty remarks are a constant source of amusement and manage to keep the course constantly engaging and personal.

While you’re here, you might want to check out our other Masterclass reviews…

Deadmau5 Masterclass Overview

This deadmau5 Masterclass is for anybody interested in music at any skill level. Featuring five and a half hours of technical tips, useful advice, and the philosophy that forms the core of his approach to making music, deadmau5 Teaches Electronic Music Production offers something for everyone.

Deadmau5 Teaches Electronic Music Production: Full Review

The course includes an intro, outro, and 23 video lessons altogether, amounting to 5 and a half hours of video content.

Overview

From the very beginning of the course, deadmau5 admits that he’s somewhat socially inept and that his way of thinking about music might not be “super anecdotal or, I don’t know, funny, or, you know, helpful.”

It is clear from the outset that a lot of the filler material that makes it into other Masterclass presentations will be stripped away from this one. There might be some rough edges to this Masterclass, but each lesson will be something that Joel Zimmerman thinks you need to know as a producer of electronic music.

The lessons begin with the “deadmau5 process”: 35 minutes broken down into two equal length lessons, one on theory and the other on practice.

The lessons that follow include (get ready) building your home studio, developing melodic structures, turning melodies into arrangements, an introduction to synthesized sounds, experimenting with modular synths, digital vs analog synths, shaping sounds with effects processing, two lessons on making beats, structuring songs, remixes, mixes, mastering, a mastering case study on “Snowcone,” starting your producing career, understanding the music business, and then finally three lessons on live performance: the music, the technical side, and the show.

The course also comes with two companion PDF documents. One, a 60-page guide for the class has some useful information gleaned from the videos but is mostly filler. The other, a three-page fundamentals guide, is primarily intended for the complete beginner, as it contains some basic definitions and information on where to find free trials of DAWs and plugins.

Deadmau5 Teaches Electronic Music

5 and a half hours of technical tips, useful advice, and the philosophy that forms the core of his approach to making music.

View Course Structure

Target Audience

In the introduction video, deadmau5 suggests that this course is intended as a sort of primer for anybody trying to get into electronic music production. I am not entirely convinced that the class is just for beginners, though. While he offers a lot of advice for someone trying to get started in electronic music production (spoiler alert: every DAW and many plugins offer a free trial version), there are other tips that feel like they could be a part of a conversation between seasoned professionals.

There is a moment in which deadmau5 discusses how electronic dance music is as commercially successful as it is because of how it is written in a formulaic sort of way. He suggests it is “music for everybody,” which parallels the way in which he has organized his masterclass: this is a class for everybody.

Though Joel has strong opinions about creativity and what sorts of copying should pass for original work as opposed to what is less impressive, it never feels as though he is talking down to his audience. Further, his advice for navigating the music industry and finding a niche is likely useful to anybody who has yet to reach deadmau5-level commercial success.

Regardless of where you are in your musical journey, and even if you are not a fan of deadmau5 or electronic dance music, this is a Masterclass worth checking out for any electronic music producer.

Features That Stand Out

Workflow

Beginning in the second lesson, we get to look over Joel’s shoulder as he walks us through his process. This view of a musician’s work from the early, completely unpolished stages, feels surprisingly intimate. In that second lesson, deadmau5 begins with a bass line and builds out a chord structure before walking us through the “Mr. Potato Head method,” as he calls it, of saving out-of-place clips within his filing system in Ableton Live so that he can revisit them later on when he has a place for them.

There is something really organic about this look at the deadmau5 method. Unlike a cooking show, where we see an abbreviated version of each step of the process before a completed project is taken out of the oven, we get to watch and listen as chord structures either work or don’t work in a track. When something isn’t working, we get a window into deadmau5’s problem-solving process.

Joel is characteristically blunt and a little bit cranky – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the episode on developing melodic structures, Joel is working on an eight-bar phrase. He shows us how he pays particular attention to the relationship between the last chord and the first chord, since he is working in a closed loop. When he cannot seem get the last chord to fit in the progression, he just deletes it and turns the phrase into a six-bar loop.

It is these sorts of creative solutions to musical problems that set this class apart from a more polished, cooking show-style lesson in EDM.

Technical Tips

The most common complaint I have heard and read about Masterclass courses is that the lessons are not sufficiently technical to benefit someone hoping to make actual progress in the subject matter covered in the course. Though this is a largely-inescapable aspect of these classes, I would venture to suggest that deadmau5’s masterclass offers the most technical tips of any music production-related course on the Masterclass platform.

From the very beginning throughout the entirety of the course, there are several points at which we get a comprehensive view of deadmau5’s process. Though he never takes us through a single work from start to finish, we do get a look at every step of the process in a systematic way. Having watched through the entire course twice, I have had the benefit of two different perspectives on the course and two radically different experiences.

The first time I watched the course was very early in my experience with music production, so I took more away from the broad strokes of each lesson. Joel’s philosophy stuck with me even though I did not yet have the mental framework to take much away from the technical aspects of each lesson. Some time later, having spent countless hours exploring the technical side of sound design, I am connecting more with the over-the-shoulder and screen capture-driven quality of each lesson.

Useful Advice

Perhaps the most useful piece of advice for anyone looking to get started is just as useful for a more experienced producer looking to tweak their creative process: producing music does not have to be expensive.

Throughout his masterclass, Joel reminds us that dreadful electronic dance music can get made in high-priced studio environments, and incredible EDM can come out of a laptop loaded with cheap or free (or free trial) VSTs. His philosophy comes through very clearly in the masterclass: making music is about more than the gear. If you’re not bringing a good ear and a lot of time to experiment with the process, then no amount of high-priced hardware and plugins will give you good music.

That said, a decent amount of time in the deadmau5 masterclass is devoted to the basics of modular synths. In covering a fairly broad range of the elements that color EDM, some of which may tend to be hidden inside the box for those of us who are more likely to use VSTs that emulate hardware instead of the hardware itself, deadmau5 likely introduces something new to anyone watching.

The Multifaceted Nature Of Joel Zimmerman

I can imagine a reader skimming through this article who already has the technical know-how to glean next to nothing from the “over-the-shoulder” moments in this Masterclass. This hypothetical reader may not even be interested in the philosophical monologues to which we are treated in between more technical demonstrations. What, then, can deadmau5 offer to the viewer who knows it all?

Beginning in earnest in class 18, “Starting Your Producing Career,” Joel the artist trades his metaphorical mouse helmet for his Joel the businessman hat. There are not many individuals out there who could speak as comprehensively to the many stages of artist recruitment, development, and the process of releasing a product as Joel Zimmerman, thanks to his history of work as both an artist and a label manager.

The practical guidance he offers up-and-coming artists as part of the last quarter of the deadmau5 masterclass has just as much to do with professionalism and what professionalism looks like in the music industry as it does with music itself.

This makes his Masterclass stand out even further from other courses offered on the platform, as viewers get a window into the perspectives of not only an artist who has experienced success, but also one who has been taken advantage of, and a label manager who is looking for particular traits in the artists he signs.

Production Value

Though some of the early Masterclass videos were hit or miss in terms of production value, it is clear that the Masterclass production team had hit its stride by the time this course dropped in late 2016.

Even though other content creators on YouTube are catching up to this level of quality, this work nonetheless continues to stand out.

The lighting, the sound, and the rhythm of frame changes all make the experience of this masterclass incredibly aesthetically pleasing. You might come to hear deadmau5 discuss the technical details and philosophy behind his music, but you’ll likely stay for the well-made and entertaining work of art in itself.

Is It Worth The Money?

Masterclass is a subscription service billed annually at $180 at this point. If you are only interested in this course, you will likely not be happy with your investment. If you are like me, you may have some experience subscribing to a monthly streaming service in order to binge a single series then canceling the subscription after. Well, it seems Masterclass is wise to folks like us, and has built protection against this practice into their subscription model.

That said, if there are a few courses that interest you, you might hit a point where the entertainment and instruction packed into each course does become worth the money (for some possible examples, check out our reviews of the Hans Zimmer and Armin Van Buuren Masterclasses).

There are over 100 courses included in the full access pass subscribers buy, so when you have learned all there is to learn from Joel in the deadmau5 Masterclass, you might turn your attention to Danny Elfman’s Masterclass on film scoring, or even something totally different from outside of the realm of music, like Garry Kasparov’s masterclass on chess.

As far as the overall value of the Masterclass platform as a whole, since the user ends up subscribing to a yearly access pass for nearly the cost of Serum (which comes highly recommended by deadmau5, by the way), I would offer only a 7.5 out of 10. It’s not that you don’t get anything for your money – far from it. It’s just that this pricing model is out of touch with what most producers consider to be reasonable.

There is easily a year’s worth of content in place already on the platform, and new courses are added every month, so the question of value at this point has less to do with a single class and more to do with the likelihood you will get some use out of the other Masterclasses.

Nonetheless, an upfront cost of $180 is a major barrier for a lot of would-be viewers, and something Masterclass will have to address if it hopes to reach a broader audience.

Wrapping Up

The question remains: will you get some use out of this class? Yes, without a doubt. Deadmau5 is an excellent teacher with so much knowledge to share. His explanations of all areas of music production are concise, informative, and engaging.

Joel’s personality may be offputting for some as he’s quite blunt and honest rather than warm and friendly. But most will agree that this just makes the lessons more engaging and personal. Overall, there’s no way any fan of electronic music will be disappointed with what’s on offer here! It really just comes down to the price, which is the most divisive aspect by far.

(If you’re also scoping out production courses on YouTube, you’ll want to read our roundup of the 6 Best YouTube Channels For Learning Music Production next!)

Deadmau5 Teaches Electronic Music

5 and a half hours of technical tips, useful advice, and the philosophy that forms the core of his approach to making music.

View Course Structure