If I were to tell you there was a MasterClass in electronic music production led by one of the biggest names in EDM, who would spring to mind?
With his signature mask, impressive equipment and an extraordinary back catalogue of tracks, deadmau5 has consistently remained among the cream of the crop within the dance music scene.
He is also known for his keen ear and excruciating perfectionism, and sharing his audio insights and secrets with the world through live streams and other media. So who better to lead a MasterClass in production?
I took the deadmau5 MasterClass intending to learn more about EDM and how it’s produced. Music has been a massive part of my whole life, and yet so much of the essential production process remains uncharted waters for me.
I certainly did learn a lot I hadn’t known before and got to experience lessons from one of the great masters of the genre. But that said, certain elements of this course mean it might not be what everyone is looking for.
So, to help you avoid disappointment, I’ve put together the following insights into deadmau5’s MasterClass, with hopes of helping you decide whether it's the right course for you.
This MasterClass was over 5 hours, so there’s a lot to cover. If you’re short of time, here are some of the highlights.
You will learn:
- Both the theory and practice behind deadmau5’s process of making a track
- How to develop a melody, and then transform this into an arrangement
- deadmau5’s guide to modular and digital synths
- Structuring beats and songs in EDM
- How deadmau5 mixes and masters his tracks
- What it’s like to work in the music industry, and how to break into that world
- All the intricacies of a deadmau5 live show
- Great coverage of electronic music production
- deadmau5 knows his stuff and is a treasure trove of insight
- A rare, honest take on working in the music industry
- A mix of technical examples and broader advice
- Excellently shot, with a wonderful production value
- Each lesson and the class as a whole is well-structured
- Difficult to know who it’s for
- Would benefit from more explanation of tools and equipment
- Some of the concepts can be found elsewhere
- The performance advice could’ve been illuminated with actual performance examples
Length of course: 23 video lessons totalling 5 hours and 25 minutes
Best for: deadmau5 fans and general enthusiasts of the genre that are serious about improving their ability. Beginners are most likely to benefit but that’s not to say there’s nothing for experienced producers. The latter group will be sure to find the discussion on inspiration, and how the music industry works particularly enlightening.
Overall: Ultimately, whether or not you enjoy this course will depend on what you expect. For me, it was an incredibly comprehensive course that touched on all the need to know information for music production.
While there are no groundbreaking tips revealed, and some more experienced producers may not find a lot to learn from, the course is well put together and I personally took something away from each class. Overall, I had a much better understanding of how the different elements of music production fit together and how the music industry works in general by the end of the MasterClass
In this review I’ll be covering:
- About deadmau5 and MasterClass
- Inside deadmau5’s MasterClass
- What I liked about this class
- What I think could be improved
- Who I think this course is for
- The cost and any potential alternatives and most importantly…
- Is deadmau5’s MasterClass worth it?
Joel Zimmerman, born in Canada, started his career in music as a teenager in his bedroom.
Now, he’s known to the world as deadmau5: one of the biggest names in the EDM scene, a staple at any dance music festival and the owner of his own record label, responsible for bringing us some of the biggest names in 21st-century music.
The recipient of 6 Grammy awards, deadmau5 is one of the few electronic artists to have genuine crossover success outside of the genre.
He is one of the highest-paid producers in the world, and a Google image search of his $5 million Canadian mansion truly certifies this.
Even those unfamiliar with the name are sure to know the face, or rather the mask. Like fellow pioneers Daft Punk, deadmau5 is known for performing with his face covered. That mammoth of a mouse head almost eclipses his mammoth of a career.
Check out the deadmau5 MastcerClass trailer to find out more about your potential teacher.
After launching in 2014, MasterClass is now one of the most easily recognisable learning platforms on the internet.
The site aims to produce high quality, well-produced lessons from world-renowned instructors, with courses ranging from cooking with Gordon Ramsey to acting with Natalie Portman, to performing with Herbie Hancock.
Despite this unique selling point, MasterClass isn’t for everyone, and no course or instructor is the same.
So, is the deadmau5 MasterClass right for you? Read on to find out.
An Inside Look Into deadmau5’s MasterClass
deadmau5’s MasterClass consists of 23 video lessons, which total 5 hours and 25 minutes of content.
In addition to this, taking the class means you receive:
- A 61-page accompanying workbook to help guide you through the lessons
- The opportunity to connect with others taking the course
Here, I’m going to break down each lesson of the course. The aim is to let you see inside deadmau5’s MasterClass, and help you to decide whether or not it’s something you might be interested in.
Before we begin, I should say that most MasterClasses open with an introductory lesson and close with a summary one. As these lessons are fairly formulaic and slim on actual teaching, I’ve decided to exclude them from this list.
Lesson 2: The deadmau5 Process: Theory
deadmau5 kicks off his class with a broad overview of how he puts together a track.
Fans of the genre will likely find this one enlightening. With so many production tutorials being (quite rightly) practical and instructional, it’s not often that we get to hear the theory of what makes a good track.
So this was really refreshing.
This first lesson will take you through:
- Finding a way of “not thinking” when composing
- The ‘mister potato head’ bin
- Why 23 seconds can be a track
- Not copying, but making things your own
- Learning from mistakes
As you can guess from the title of this lesson, everything here is very personal to deadmau5’s experiences and ideas, which is what you can expect from the leader of the MasterClass.
This first lesson gives you an idea of how much of an enigma he truly is. So many of his tips, tricks and statements seem to buck the status quo.
From condoning copying and repetition (no gos in any other genre) to admitting sleep deprivation, to disassociating with the music he makes, a lot of the content here might surprise you.
For some, these difficult truths may make them uneasy about the rest of the lesson, but I liked how honest deadmau5 was and how specific everything he said was to his career.
And hey, he must be doing something right to get to where he is.
Lesson 3: The deadmau5 Process: Practice
A natural lead on from the preceding lesson, here we properly get into the practical elements of deadmau5’s career and process.
Ever heard a deadmau5 track and been curious about what goes into making it? This is the lesson for you.
Here we get to see:
- How to start a track from scratch
- How to put together bass notes
- Why you must become familiar with your DAW
- Starting a song with the root chord
- Using trial and error with the DAW
How often do you get to see a producer working in the studio, in real-time? Well, to be honest, given deadmau5 catalog of live streams and broadcasts, not infrequently. But it's rarely this polished and well-structured.
This lesson is a little light on the explanation. There’s quite a lot of mouse clicking and not a lot of talking.
Beginners might struggle a bit with some of the technical language and jargon. Even so, those with experience might find there aren’t too many golden tips that they don’t already know.
It’s a little hard to know who this lesson was for.
With that said, I think there’s still something to gain from a practical overview like this one.
Lesson 4: Building Your Studio
You would expect an artist like deadmau5 to know a lot about what goes into making a good studio. He spends a lot of time there!
Just looking at the setting of the MasterClass gives you the expectation that deadmau5 is going to teach you everything you need to know about putting together a studio.
You also get the sinking feeling that it’s going to cost a lot of money.
Investing in yourself is part of starting your production career, but you can still take a lot from this lesson on set-up.
Here, you will learn:
- About deadmau5’s complete set-up
- About DAWS and what they are
- Why hardware should come later
- How to work open ear
- About using Studio monitors
- Why it’s about the ideas, not the gears
One of the many positive aspects of the lesson was the focus on health. deadmau5 goes into detail about protecting your ears and listener fatigue, and how it’s so important (and something that’s often overlooked) to look after your health within his business.
It’s advice all musicians can learn from, as is a lot of this lesson.
deadmau5 himself admits you can do what he does on a computer in your bedroom, and a lot of the up and comers these days are doing exactly that.
The computer element is essential, and there’s a brutal bit of honesty about how, if you want to go into this business, you have to accept becoming part of the digital world.
Lessons 5 & 6: Developing Melodic Structures, Turning Melodies Into Arrangements
I’ve put these two lessons together, because they follow on from each other quite naturally, covering similar themes.
This part of the course feels like a real development of the Practice lesson, with deadmau5 taking us through all the bells and whistles he uses to put his music together.
These lessons will teach you about:
- Using drone notes
- Introducing and stacking harmonies
- Bass notes
- Lead lines
- Using an arpeggiator in a melody
The key takeaway from the first lesson is all about resolution. deadmau5 focuses on why you need to look at the first and last bar to resolve a melody and close the gap. This is a lot easier to explain with an actual example of a piece of music.
As a musician myself, I felt that whilst deadmau5 doesn’t go into the theory of why this is necessary, it was nice to see him bring traditional musical ideas to EDM, a genre I enjoy but that’s quite alien to me.
Another fantastic element of this lesson was the case study. It was refreshing to see the style of teaching changed up a bit, and the example used was one of my favourite songs: Cat Thruster.
There was a bit more explanation than before and it was great to be in the throes of all the technicalities.
Lesson 7: Introduction To Synthesised Sounds
deadmau5 is an innovator.
In a genre where everybody seems to be copying everyone else he has constantly maintained a distinct and original sound.
This is in no small part because of his constant experimentation and boundary-pushing composition using synthesisers.
Here we get a tiny insight into that world.
deadmau5’s synthesised sounds introduction includes:
- Creating new sounds
- Waveforms and filters
- Using envelopes and LFO’s
- What you can learn from your first synth
deadmau5’s depth of knowledge is ridiculously big. That’s made evident from the very beginning of this course, but it’s here where he comes into his own.
Sounds and synths can be daunting and abstract, and given the mild lack of explanation in earlier lessons, I was sceptical about how easy deadmau5 would find it to break this stuff down.
But he manages to, and there’s so much I didn’t know about how the sonic scape of deadmau5 music is put together.
Lesson 8: Experimenting With Modular Synth
Have you ever seen those massive machines with lots of knobs and buttons that some electronic musicians use? Have you ever wondered how they actually work, or what they even do?
Believe it or not, these are synthesisers, and they are the machines responsible for creating so many of the sounds that have defined this era of music.
In this practical lesson, deadmau5 takes us through how he uses them.
We come to learn:
- Cross-modulating simple waves
- Adding effects
- Playing sequenced notes
- Getting familiar with the patchwork
It was nice to hear deadmau5 acknowledge how overwhelming the whole thing looks. Surprisingly, you can achieve a very similar thing with limited and cheap essentials.
This whole exercise aims to create sounds that no one has heard before, and that no one can replicate. I thought that was an awesome premise for a lesson.
There were also some cool accompanying visual aids to show you the soundwave of each new synth.
Some may just see this lesson as deadmau5 playing about with a bunch of buttons, but the insight here can actually be really valuable.
It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
Lesson 9: Digital Vs. Analogue Synths
Continuing with the synth theme, here we take what we’ve learnt from our time with the analogue synths, and introduce another core component of electronic music:
deadmau5 guides us through a raging debate where we come to learn:
- How to hear the difference between digital and analogue synths
- Referencing pitch with the digital synth
- Creating unique sounds with the analogue
There isn’t a war between old and new. Instead, as with all music, it is ultimately about preference and what works for the kind of tone you're trying to create.
Lesson 10: Shaping Sounds With Effects And Processing
Effects are the origin of electronic music production and remain an integral component of the process.
Part of what makes deadmau5 music so ethereal and unique are the effects he can create.
Here we learn how he does this, with tips including:
- Thinking outside the box
- Creating original sounds
- The secret to a fat bass
- Using reverbs
- Adding space and depth
- Why bad input = bad output
- Fixing bad output with processing
I enjoyed how instructional this lesson was. There were so many tips that everyone, from novice to natural, could take on board.
You get a real feel of just how inventive the artist you're learning from is, with a great example of the use of a real live guitar pedal to create a new effect on a computer.
Lesson 11 & 12: Beats Pt.1 & Pt.2
Rhythm is a key component of music, and in most modern music this manifests itself as a beat.
No matter how strong the melody or harmony can be, ultimately it’s the pulsing thud of a bass drum that will get us up from our chairs and onto the dancefloor.
deadmau5 is no stranger to getting people moving. Just YouTube any one of his live festival sets for proof. So you can expect him to know a thing or two about constructing a good beat.
Our insight into the art of the beat includes:
- Building a kick sound
- Phase cancellation
- Balancing drums and melody
- Secrets of a good snare sound
- Letting the drums breathe
- Using a transient designer
As a drummer, beats and rhythm are a massive part of my life, so I enjoyed this lesson.
I don’t think producers with a little bit of experience will learn too much from this one, but if you're starting out, who better to help you than deadmau5?
Another real strong point of this lesson was how deadmau5 delved into the theory of what makes a beat work. deadmau5 explains the theory behind why people can get locked into certain tempos and sounds.
For example, a beat that’s too polyrhythmic won’t be easy to move to. With that said, deadmau5 suggests that there’s no bad sample, as everything can be reshaped.
There was also a brilliant mix of explanation, examples and case studies that was somewhat lacking in other parts of the course.
Lesson 13: Structuring Songs
With a style of music aimed at getting people up and dancing, it’s important to have a clear, designed structure.
This means that your track can have a really strong backbone. Know your structure well enough, and you’ll also be able to change things up and surprise people.
The lesson on structure includes:
- Copying, adding and subtracting
- Finding the right track length
- Thinking ahead to the live set
- Why there’s more to this music than drops
EDM has often been accused of being a formulaic genre. This lesson doesn’t necessarily disprove this theory, but it does show you why that’s not such a bad thing.
You can find examples of quite simplistic and repetitive strong structures throughout the entire history of music.
Just because EDM uses new and unheard sounds and instruments doesn’t make it any different or any less worthy of praise.
Lesson 14: Remixing
The title of this lesson is a little odd given that a massive takeaway is that you should aim to rework rather than remix.
Remixing is an often overlooked art in its own right, and I’m sure entire MasterClasses could be dedicated to the process.
But we still have plenty to contemplate.
In this lesson, you will learn:
- Why you should aim to rework, not remix
- Choosing the right track
- How to remix deadmau5
When hearing a remix, deadmau5 doesn’t want to listen to the same track with a few more drums. But it can’t be a completely new song, otherwise, it’s not a remix.
Instead, you should aim to rework something new from one key element of the song you’re remixing.
The absolute highlight of this lesson was deadmau5 taking you through a never before heard remix of his.
Where else do you get to experience that?
Lesson 15 & 16: Mixing, Mastering
On top of being expertly composed and produced, deadmau5 tracks will always have a very crisp and clean sound. Ever wondered why?
The art of mixing and mastering is essentially the refining and finishing touches on a track. It’s a process that spans most of recorded music, but the techniques have taken off in the digital age.
So it’s clear that these lessons are pretty important to all musicians. This makes sense as they are some of the longest in the whole course.
The first lesson on mixing takes you through:
- Using EQ for clarity
- Tracks and groups
- Shaping the bass
- LFO tools vs Compression
- Mixing in a home studio
- Using a limiter on the bass
deadmau5 argues that it’s a combination of mixing and melodic structure that defines whether a track is good or not. A producer and audio engineer needs to understand both.
There are lots of technicalities to understand here, with advice on using compressors, LFO tools and how to manage your channels and tracks.
It isn’t groundbreaking stuff, but a lot of the content here is still eye-opening. A real highlight for me was the attention paid to loudness, and what this concept can mean to different people in different contexts.
Unfortunately for deadmau5, by his own admission, most of us won’t be able to tell the difference between how tracks are mixed. All his labour and equipment is a product of passion.
Following from this, we get a lesson on mastering, where we learn:
- The basics of mastering yourself
- Getting feedback on your mix
The biggest takeaway from this lesson?
There is no magical mastering trick that will ultimately make your track sound good. To do that you need to put in the work before.
Lesson 17: Mastering Case Study: Snowcone
After quite a long and intensive discussion on mixing and mastering, it was quite refreshing to hear a bit of music, and see the above concepts put into action.
deadmau5 uses one of his finest tracks, Snowcone, to take us through some of the ideas he described.
It was a great change-up in the style of teaching, and a rare opportunity to hear a track breakdown plugin by plugin.
I gained a new perspective and appreciation of this song after taking this class.
Lesson 18: Starting Your Producing Career
The entire MasterClass takes something of a turn here.
We go from learning about the nitty-gritty of musical production to broader insights about how the music industry works.
Although some students may be itching to get back to the production tips, for aspiring producers and artists (of whom you can assume there are many taking this class) understanding how the business works is important, and not often talked about.
This deadmau5 class on starting a production career takes you through:
- How to be the total package
- The truth about getting signed
- Why invest in yourself
- Defining your brand
As you can see from the lesson content, what you learn here is best suited for those who want to make a career in music.
And, to be honest, this is a great place to get your advice.
It’s very clear that deadmau5 is cynical about the industry, but anyone who knows anything about how the music business works will probably agree with his outlook. “No one is out to help you” is the mantra he opens this lesson with.
You’ll learn a lot more from honesty than encouragement, at least within the context of entering a cut-throat industry.
Lesson 19: Understanding The Music Industry
A natural follow on from the previous lesson, deadmau5 continues his pessimistic cynicism in this overview of how the music business actually works.
In this lesson, you’ll learn:
- How to make it work for you
- Deadmau5’s problem with major labels
- How to build a team
- Understanding the online marketplace
- An approach to making albums
There are quite a few technicalities in this one. From publishing law to accounting, it feels like the curtain is being pulled to reveal everything that goes into making a successful artist.
One thing you’ll notice about both of these lessons is that they are a lot more anecdotal and specific to deadmau5’s career than the previous lessons.
This makes a lot of sense. There’s no clear path into the music industry and no one career will be the same. People searching for the holy grail for how to be a success will have to keep searching.
The best deadmau5 can do is share his experiences in the hope that we can learn something from them. And I certainly have.
Lesson 20: On Stage: The Music
We’re right in the twilight of deadmau5’s MasterClass at this point, so he decides to take us through a topic untouched until this point:
Those simply looking for production tips might not gain too much from this last round of lessons, but given how much of deadmau5's image derives from his live shows there’s a lot to learn and you can’t expect him not to touch on it.
This first lesson about onstage performance covers the musical aspect, where we learn:
- How deadmau5 programmes his shows
- Playing the DAW
- Crafting a set-list
- Why openings and endings matter so much
One of deadmau5’s biggest tips was to devote a lot of your attention to the beginning and the endings. I’m not sure if I agree with this. Although the opening and closing of a set are important, as an avid concertgoer, my highlights have almost always been in the middle. Surely it deserves just as much attention?
With that said, I am no way near as qualified to talk about this as deadmau5 is.
Like with his equipment, deadmau5 admits his sets could be pre-recorded with him just standing there. He decides to play live instead because he enjoys it.
I think that’s a real testament to his passion.
Lesson 21 & 22: On Stage: The Technical Side, On Stage: The Show
I’ve grouped these final two lessons because they cover the same essentials.
Here we get to see all the intricacies of how a deadmau5 live set works.
- A shows vs. B shows
- Rehearsing everything
- Keeping your equipment running
- Keeping your cool
- Forgetting the crowd
- Putting on a show
Once again, the deadmau5 teaching style is very anecdotal, and a little cynical as well.
He claims to tour with equipment that is either cheap or robust, as things can not only easily break but also get stolen. This is something I had never heard about or even considered before.
The final four or five lessons were a real highlight for me. So much about the music industry is kept under wraps, so it was a real treat to hear one of its biggest names be so honest about it all.
I just wish we could’ve seen some live performance examples to illuminate the points being made.
Maybe I’m just being greedy considering I’ve just spent over 5 hours learning from a world-class DJ.
What I Liked About The Course
If you read up to this point, you probably think that my opinion of this class is all over the place.
There are points where I’m very enthusiastic about what I’ve learnt and how it’s been taught. But there are also times where I’m quite sharply critical about what I think should be improved.
That sums up my opinion on this course:
Here, I’ll go into a bit more detail about why I’ve reached this conclusion and the highlights and drawbacks of this course.
Let’s start with the pros.
With a topic like music production, it’s hard to cover even the basics. With so many things to include, like mixing, mastering, arrangement, equipment and synthesisers, it’s hard to know what to focus on.
That’s not even considering the fact that people will have very different priorities on what to learn going into this course.
So all things considered, I think this course does a really good job of trying to cover electronic music production, and how it works. The key bases are covered, with room left for learning about the music industry and other more external topics, which are still relevant to the life of a music producer.
It was also great to hear some of the theory behind why certain sounds, beats and techniques work effectively within the genre. This isn’t often talked about in EDM, so as a musician who spent a lot of time learning about classical and jazz, it was fascinating to hear some of the ideas from these disciplines brought to electronic music.
An easy follow on from what this MasterClass covers is how well its structured.
I was impressed with how this course was put together. With so many online courses avaliable, especially with celebrities, it’s often assumed that the credentials of the teacher is enough to justify not putting too much effort into the structure of each lesson.
But structure is an essential part of how we learn. How our brains process things will often depend on multiple factors, so teachers of all kinds need to think about at what stage they introduce a particular idea or concept.
A lot of thought went into how to best sequence each lesson of this course. Opening with quite general theory and practice gave a really strong foundation for the MasterClass and made me feel a lot of confidence going into the more technical lessons.
Ending with more anecdotal and personal reflections on performance, careers and show business was also a very smart move. At this stage in the course, we have already spent a lot of time learning from deadmau5, so it makes the personal lessons far more impactful.
Throughout the course, deadmau5 devoted a lot of importance to openings and closings in music, so it makes sense for the opening and closing of his MasterClass to be very effective.
Incredible Depth Of Knowledge
There were times in this course I found myself saying:
“Wow, this guy really knows what he’s talking about.”
And I remembered:
“Oh yeah, he’s the world-famous superstar DJ deadmau5.”
Hardcore followers will already know about Joel Zimmerman’s incredible depth of knowledge about musical production, but casual fans of the Canadian producer who take this class out of interest are sure to be impressed, and a little bit shocked.
There were so many points in the course where I was just in awe of not only how much deadmau5 knew about a certain topic, but also the confidence with which he could command the equipment he was using.
This is a pro that’s common to a lot of MasterClasses. It’s their major selling point after all. But I must admit, the strength of the teachers' intelligence felt particularly strong here.
At the start of the MasterClass, I was a bit uncertain about deadmau5’s teaching style. But you come to realise that this is just part of his enigmatic personality. As you continue through the course, the deep passion he has for music becomes increasingly apparent.
Although some might be put off by the elements of cynicism and pessimism, I appreciated the honesty with which he tackled the music industry. It made the whole MasterClass feel a lot more authentic.
What I Think Could Be Improved
Concepts In The Lessons Aren’t Really Unique
Music production is a very well documented process and deadmau5 himself has covered a lot of ground elsewhere.
A con of this course is that some of the concepts taught here aren’t unique to this MasterClass. There’s no silver bullet or groundbreaking, never-heard-before tips shared.
That said, where the value is, is having someone like deadmau5 curate a syllabus of what he believes the most important things are.
You’re learning the fundamentals from deadmau5, hearing him verbalize his thought process, and getting access to the mental cues he uses.
And don’t forget, a MasterClass subscription will get you access to other music and production courses as well.
Difficult To Know The Target Audience
This class does have a lot of insight not only for beginners, but also experienced musicians.
With that said, it’s hard to know exactly who the intended audience is.
With so many tutorials and live streams for deadmau5 fans to consume, you would expect them to know a lot of this stuff already. For some, this won’t matter, as it’ll always be worth learning from their favourite artist.
But this point applies to most of those individuals with production experience. One thing you learn from just briefly browsing reviews and responses to this class is there’s not much here for those who already know about how electronic music production works.
So, those who already know a lot about the processes of production, but are looking for a magical source of enlightenment within this MasterClass might be disappointed.
This may be a bit of unfair criticism of the course itself, as that’s a little bit of an unrealistic-expectation.
So, if it’s not really for experienced producers, are total novices the target audience?
Well, not really. There’s still quite a lot of technical jargon to understand. deadmau5 doesn’t do a bad job of explaining some of the equipment he uses and how it works, but it's hard to expect someone to gain much from this course without knowing what an LFO tool does.
If you're less experienced, I’d still recommend learning a bit about music production before taking this class.
With these two groups not fitting into the target audience, it’s very hard to know who to recommend this course to. I share a few more thoughts on this in the section below.
Occasionally Light On Explanation
Compared to the other two, this is a minor flaw and only applies to a couple of lessons.
There were just certain points in this class where I felt like there could’ve been more explanation. A particular example of this was Lesson 3: the practical side of the deadmau5 process.
As I said, when the class continues, deadmau5 does a better job of describing how his equipment works. There just were a couple of occasions where I felt he left us hanging, and the MasterClass would have benefited from a few more moments of direct explanation.
So much of what you gain from online learning will depend on expectations. In some people’s minds, a MasterClass should entail sitting down and having everything explained to them directly. For others, visually seeing what deadmau5 is doing on the computer is the best way to learn.
It’s all subjective, but for me and the way I understand things, just a few instances of explanation would have gone some way in improving the whole course.
Who Is This Course For?
As I said above, one of the main drawbacks of this course was figuring out who it was designed for.
But, despite this, there is still a large pool of people that I feel would constitute an appropriate audience for this deadmau5 MasterClass.
- DJs and producers with intermediate experience, who know the basics but are still trying to figure out how this whole production thing works
- Musicians who have developed in a particular genre, but are looking to branch out to electronic music
- Producers and audio engineers who would like to learn more about live performance and the music industry
- deadmau5 fans, and those with a general interest in the genre who want to hear from one of its gurus
- Experienced producers and musicians still uncertain about the technicalities of working in the music industry
Even my previous criticism doesn’t mean there aren’t novices and pros alike who won’t find something in this course.
For some beginners, a baptism of fire is exactly what they need, and being thrown in the deep end won’t phase them as they’ll pick up all the tricks quite naturally.
The same goes for experienced producers who, although they might know the basics, will benefit from a refreshing of their memory, especially as this advice is coming from a real legend in the genre.
My point wasn’t so much that nobody in either of these groups is going to enjoy the MasterClass. It’s more of a warning to people who fit in either category (and I’m sure there are many considering this course) that it might not be what they're looking for.
How Much Does The Course Cost?
MasterClass subscriptions are $180 per year, or $15 a month, at the time of writing.
With this, you receive access to all the 100+ courses on MasterClass.
So, taking more classes means you get more for what you pay.
Finding 4-6 classes you like means you’re effectively paying $30-$45 per course. This makes a lot more sense price-wise already, let alone the fact that you're being taught by some of the biggest names on the planet!
MasterClass also offers a 30-day refund if you’re unhappy with your purchase.
You can buy a course individually if it’s the only one that speaks to you. It’s a bit convoluted, but you can buy a single MasterClass as a gift, and essentially gift the course to yourself. The price here is $90.
However, with so much to choose from, I can’t imagine only one single course will spark your interest.
Alternatives To deadmau5’s MasterClass
MasterClass itself offers many alternatives to the deadmau5 course. With music being such a go-to discipline for many to learn online, it seems obvious they’d capitalise on this with some of the biggest names in the industry.
The clearest alternative is the MasterClass led by Armin van Buuren. A longer course including many of the topics and themes of deadmau5’s lessons, but with a bit more of a focus on DJing.
Although they may seem similar on paper, EDM fans will know that these two artists create very different styles of music, so there’s a lot of divergence in what is taught.
Other musical MasterClasses include:
- Mariah Carey teaches Voice as Instrument
- Yo-Yo Ma teaches Music and Creativity
- Nas teaches Hip Hop Storytelling
- Ringo Starr teaches drumming and collective collaboration
- St Vincent Teaches Creativity and Songwriting
- Itzhak Perlman Teaches Violin
- Danny Elfman Teaches Music For Film
- Herbie Hancock Teaches Jazz
- Tom Morello Teaches Electric Guitar
- Metallica teach Being a Band
If MasterClass isn’t the site for you, don’t worry. You’re still spoilt for choice.
Music production is increasingly coming into the spotlight. Producers are now becoming as big as bands and artists, which has seen a new interest in how it’s all done.
If you're keen to develop your playing skills along with your your production, writing and hustle skills you could check out Soundfly.
Platforms like Udemy and Skillshare are other giants in the e-learning game and offer production classes in abundance.
If you’re one of those who are interested in how electronic production works but don’t have too much experience, Introduction To Electronic Music might be the course for you.
The course offers 4 hours of video lessons, going over the skills, tools and history of the genre, with no software required.
If you’re looking for something a bit more in-depth, SkillShare might be the site for you. Both Learn How To Mix Music With Young Guru, and Music Theory For Electronic Music Producers go into great detail about two specific topics taught by leaders in the field.
If you're still eager to learn from Joel Zimmerman himself, why not check out one of his YouTube tutorials:
deadmau5’s Masterclass: What Others Have Said
We all learn in different ways, and I’ve tried to make it clear in this article that what might be a flaw for me, won’t be a problem (and in some cases might even be a highlight) for somebody else.
Everybody is unique, and a big part of this individuality is responding to advice and instructions in completely different ways.
This is even more apparent when people attempt to teach music – a discipline that is entirely subjective by nature, where the categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ really don’t have much relevance.
With this in mind, it would be a mistake on my part to attempt to create a review that's balanced and fair without considering at least some different opinions.
So I spent some time scouring the internet, exploring the communities that I felt would have the strongest opinion on this MasterClass.
I wasn’t short of content. deadmau5 already has a devoted band of fans and critics who I knew would be itching to share their opinion.
One Reddit commenter suggested this:
“I had purchased this course when it came out. Mind-blowing? No, but that’s ok. It got me thinking new things and trying new approaches so I feel like I got my money's worth from it” - Reddit commenter
This was one of the more balanced statements on the site, and certainly the opinion closest to mine. Even ignoring the celebrity instructor and production value, there are still some tips or tricks that even top producers can learn from.
It’s more a question of whether a few new ideas are worth the investment.
Others were more scathing. When asked whether the course was worth taking, one individual said:
“No, don’t. You will learn nothing of value, you can do more with just YouTube tutorials and some books.” - Reddit commenter
This isn’t necessarily a wrong opinion (no opinion on education can be wrong really), but I don’t agree. Whilst, yes, the content can be found elsewhere, and that should be a major consideration before taking the course, I think it’s a mistake to compare the two.
Yes, the content is a really important aspect of any online course, but you’re also paying for well-structured lessons, beautifully shot videos and to spend time learning from deadmau5 himself. It’s difficult to replace these qualities with a book of any kind.
This isn’t to say everyone was negative about the course:
“I strongly recommend it. Even if you know Ableton and Serum pretty well, you’ll walk away with some tricks. I didn’t get much from the modular breakdown but it was cool to look inside his studio and see his methods with hardware. And lastly, a more qualitative benefit I got was massive inspiration and it swept away my creative blocks at times.” - Reddit commenter
This just goes to show that, despite the many showing mixed to negative feelings towards this MasterClass, some still gain a lot from the same course. This truly reflects how dynamic opinions on learning methods can range.
One fantastic point I haven’t considered here was the idea of inspiration. It’s very true, as it is with most MasterClasses, that just seeing deadmau5 in action, watching him tinker away in his expensive, expansive studio, is enough to make anyone eager to become an EDM producer themselves.
Is deadmau5’s MasterClass Worth It?
It feels like we’ve inspected every nook and cranny of this MasterClass, so with all of the above considered it’s time to finally ask the question:
Is the deadmau5 MasterClass worth it?
Before we dive into my answer, there’s one thing I should note: just as there isn’t any magic spell from this MasterClass to turn you into a music superstar, there also isn’t a magic way for me to tell you whether this is the right course for you.
As we can see from the plethora of online responses to this course, people respond to learning very differently. So, with that in mind, I’d say the answer depends entirely on your background, experience and expectations.
The concepts taught here are not entirely unique, and that might put some of you off. Although it assumes some knowledge that will be tricky for total beginners, advanced producers won’t be likely to find anything groundbreaking in the fundamentals covered here.
However, this course does distinguish itself with a comprehensive, expertly curated syllabus. For some, this structure, and the wonderfully produced quality of each lesson will certainly be worth the investment.
You won’t walk away with groundbreaking insight, but you’ll get the building blocks for your own success.
And don’t forget. With a MasterClass pass, you get access to over 100 courses, including this one. So if other MasterClasses have piqued your interest, and you're thinking of getting an access path anyway, why not check this one out?
If it’s not for you, MasterClass also offers a 30 day refund policy if you purchase directly through them.
Frequently Asked Questions
A MasterClass all-access-pass costs $180 a year ($15 a month). This gives you access to 100+ courses, including Armin Van Buuren’s Masterclass
Sadly no. owever, there are multiple offers and refunds if you’re not happy.
Yes, MasterClass operates a 30-day refund policy if you purchase directly through them. If you purchase through other providers, their returns policy may apply.
You can buy the course by itself by using the MasterClass “gift” option. The course costs $90 as a stand-alone.
Charlie is a student reading politics at King’s College London. He is also a passionate musician with over 14 years of experience. In his free time, he also enjoys cinema, long-distance running and learning new things.