Timbaland has been revolutionizing music for over a quarter of a century. There can be few prominent artists whose musical careers haven’t been transformed by his genius. So this Timbaland MasterClass represents a unique opportunity to learn from the very best.
I’m reviewing the Timbaland MasterClass as a beginner in producing and beatmaking. I was excited to take the course and see if applying Timbaland’s tips to my own work could breathe life into it.
I’ve packed in a lot of detail into this Timbaland MasterClass review to help you decide if it’s what you’re looking for. If you’re pushed for time, or only interested in key points, here are the headlines:
You will learn:
- How Timbaland makes a beat from nothing
- Practical tips to help you compose and expand on a beat
- Ways to use various plug-ins to enhance your music
- How some of Timbaland’s greatest hits were created
- The importance of collaborating with others, and how to go about it
- Timbaland teaches by showing, not telling
- See the team at work and gain insight from a range of experts – not just Timbaland
- You can download stems and work on exclusive tracks
- Punchy and engaging lessons
- Excellent workbook
- Not particularly financially accessible due to needing DAWs, plug-ins etc
- Teaching style not for everyone
- Too much beatboxing!
Course length: 15 videos, 3hr 2m
Best suited to: Anyone with an enthusiasm and passion to learn about beatmaking and producing. You don’t have to have a project on the go, and you don’t have to be a huge Timbaland fan.
Overall: A well crafted MasterClass, interspersing real life examples with teaching, and ending with strong encouragements that made me stop and think about how I was going to react to my experiences in the music industry.
Moving on to the more detailed review, here’s what’s in store:
- About Timbaland and MasterClass
- A look inside Timbaland’s Masterclass
- What I liked and thought could be Improved
- Who it’s for and how much it costs
- How long it takes, alternatives and what others have said
- Verdict – Is the Timbaland MasterClass Worth It?
Let’s start with the basics.
Timbaland (aka Timothy Zachery Mosley) is an American musician, known for his award winning production credits and unique beats. He’s a four time Grammy winner who has been nominated for an award 21 times!
Timbaland himself is a household name, but his collaborations need no introducing either. He’s worked with numerous high flyers, including Jay-Z, Rihanna, Madonna, Missy Elliott, Justin Timberlake and Drake.
Some of his greatest hits include the chart toppers Sexyback (Justin Timberlake), Say It Right (Nelly Furtado) and Try Again (Aaliyah).
If you haven't seen the trailer for Timbaland's MasterClass, I highly recommend you watch it:
MasterClass is a platform where you can “learn from the world’s best instructors”.
Unlike other learning providers, MasterClass tutors are all celebrities who have achieved their status through outstanding performance in their field of expertise.
The production quality of each MasterClass is superlative and unrivalled by other online learning providers. And with over 150 classes to choose from in topics as diverse as cooking with Gordon Ramsay or writing with Dan Brown it’s a tempting offer.
However, it’s important to recognise that there are some disadvantages to the concept and this review is here to alert you to those, in case they are deal breakers for you.
Inside The Timbaland MasterClass
Timbaland’s MasterClass is made up of 15 videos ranging from approximately 5 to 20 minutes. The total length of the class is a little over 3 hours.
His MasterClass doesn’t easily split up into individual lessons. Instead, any sections you find are intertwined with each other so that the course can flow naturally.
So, for the purpose of this review, I’m going to break the lessons up into four key components.
1. Making A Beat: The Foundations
Unsurprisingly, the theme of “making a beat” is prominent in this MasterClass. Because there are so many sessions that pick up on this theme, I’ve split them into two key areas: “the foundations”, and “expanding a beat”.
Timbaland’s main foundation for beatmaking comes in the form of beatboxing.
In his introduction Timbaland explains why and how he uses his mouth as an instrument to articulate rhythms he can hear in his head. Either to ‘fill’ space, as with “Are you that somebody?”, or even to provide a framework for a new song.
He then demonstrates how to create an entire track using voice, finger snaps, a microphone and pad controller.
2. Expanding A Beat
Once the foundations are laid, Tim introduces the next step to creating a beat: expanding on it.
These lessons focus on the work of Timbaland’s team, with Tim overseeing it. This is where the real magic happens: effects are built up, toplines are written and you can see the different characters of different team members through their creativity.
We learn how to:
- Build off a basic chord progression
- Tweak and layer drums in order to fill out the beat
- Edit and manipulate vocal samples so that they can sound exactly how you want
- Create a breakdown
- Add a topline, or a melody across the top of the work we’ve produced
Naturally, these follow on from the strictly beatmaking sessions. Tim gives us a good insight into how we can bring the skeleton of a song to life with these basic tools (view more details).
3. Song origins
Tim breaks down some of his biggest collaborations and tells you how he created the sound in them.
These lessons provide insight into how certain songs were created. These “song origins” cover:
- Dirt Off Your Shoulder (Jay-Z)
- Pony (Ginuwine)
- Gossip Folks (Missy Elliott)
- Are You That Somebody (Aaliyah)
It was exciting to see such well known songs thrown into the MasterClass – how often do you get to learn about song origins from the celebrities who wrote them?
It was also great to see (in pre-recorded footage) such a range of artists, Tim really emphasised the importance of collaborations here, instead of taking credit for them.
4. Tim’s experiences
Every great artist has their inspirations, and Tim introduces us to his, explaining exactly what inspired him.
He guides us as to where we might find our own inspiration and encourages us to be inspired by an influence, but not to copy.
Timbaland is no stranger to difficulty. His final lesson in the course is “How to Persevere”, something that is incredibly important in the music world.
On days when you want to give up, he encourages you to keep working hard, to be better than you were yesterday and persevere, even when others are encouraging you to do something else.
My experience of Timbaland’s MasterClass
My producing and beatmaking skills are minimal.
I maybe know more than the average person, having worked with DAWs* and played around with home-recording. But when it comes to layering and actually making it sound good? I’m a novice at best.
Timbaland’s producing and beatmaking course promised to help me with that, giving me the skills to flesh out my songs.
It goes without saying that no course is perfect, so I’m going to unpack some of the pros and cons to this MasterClass, and help you to decide if you think it’s worth it for you.
*DAW = Digital Audio Workstation. This is the basic software which is used for recording, editing and producing audio files.
What I liked
Show Not Tell
“I would like to show you instead of telling you how I make a beat“
Right off the bat, Tim does just that; he shows us how he personally lays down a beat, instead of reeling off a whole load of jargon and expecting us to get on board.
It’s a real advantage when it comes to teaching a practical subject, as we can see the techniques in practise. It would be a lot harder to understand how to create a beat from someone who sits in their seat and describes different drums and plug-ins without ever showing you why, or how it would sound.
Easy To Follow On-Screen Info
When you’re teaching singing, you can demonstrate then and there. But beatmaking? That’s completely different. Because of the technical nature of producing and beatmaking, you can’t always see or hear exactly what is going on.
To combat this, little pop ups appear explaining technical terms, what different team members are doing in the studio and whose screen you can currently see. Knowing whose screen you were looking at made it easier to follow and to see what different production techniques might look like on your own screen.
The green box at the bottom of the screen tells us whose workstation this is, so that we’re not confused about who’s doing what.
Furthermore, the pop ups sometimes act as signposts to where things will be further explained or demonstrated.
This was such a practical way of learning as it meant that if I didn’t quite understand something, Tim’s captions explained it for me, or told me where or when I could learn more.
Learn From The Team
Many MasterClasses are given from the point of view of just one person. Of course, that works well if you’re learning from a chef or an author, but music is rarely made alone.
While Timbaland’s name is attached to this course, his team is unmissable throughout. He asks their opinions continuously, and they all play a large role in teaching you.
This is such a key advantage to this course, as it eliminates any bias that might accidentally creep in. The team doesn’t agree on absolutely everything; they use different equipment; they come at the same piece of music from different angles. It gives us much more of an insight into the music industry and means that we’re actually paying for a MasterClass from several experts, rather than just one.
Technical Terms Are Clearly Explained
There’s a lot of jargon used in this course, but Tim doesn’t expect us to understand it.
Definitions were often introduced as pop ups, but can also be found in a glossary of technical terms within the workbook. They really helped me to understand exactly what effect they had on my music, and why I would want to use them.
Download Exclusive Songs and Stems
I was really impressed by this MasterClass addition: you can download stems* and tracks from the resources box so that you can have a play around yourself.
It gives real hands on experience to directly apply what you learn in the MasterClass and see what you can create from it. This is a major advantage particularly if you don’t have any music that you want to experiment with and are looking for somewhere to start practising your skills.
*If you’re new to producing, stems are a way in which music can be broken down. These can often just be single tracks, e.g. lead vocals or drum kit 1, or may be put into groups, e.g. drums and bass or vocal harmonies.
See Timbaland Work In Real Life
He’s in his natural habitat: it’s easy to see. He spends a lot of time talking, but he also spends a lot of time just doing his thing. It’s real insight into how he collaborates with singers and it’s exciting to see the real process of how so many of his hit songs were created.
There’s no pretence or trying to be something he’s not. He interrupts when he sees inspiration and listens to the suggestions of his team. He’s the mastermind that incorporates all of the different ideas together, and it feels like such a privilege to watch it come to life.
This gives real insight into what the music world is like: full of collaborations. It helped me to understand just how a team could bring to life a simple beat, and turn it into something exciting and irresistable.
The Length Of The Lessons
A lot of my production learning has happened via YouTube. Most of the videos on here are long, meaning you have to sift through 30+ minutes of material to find what’s useful to you. However, Timbaland’s longest lessons were just over 20 minutes long, which meant that I could stay engaged throughout the length of each video.
Get Inspiration From Everything
In music making, it’s often easy to get into a mindset of being inspired only by other artists. Tim encourages us to get inspiration from normal life, showing us just how everyday sounds can make chart topping beats.
Particular examples of note include Tim standing by the sea and clicking his fingers along to the sound of the rolling waves, and sampling a sound from the video game, Q’bert. It really made me stop and wonder what everyday sound I could be implementing into my music to step it up a notch. I found myself listening to the grumbling of a lawn mower for inspiration!
I was a big fan of the workbook for this course.
It reads a lot like a textbook, with extra information on specific songs Timbaland has worked on, what the instruments he uses are, or how to learn the specific software that the team uses. You can match up video lessons to additional information in the workbook, and it’s very coherent to follow.
What I think could improve
Not Necessarily Financially Accessible
Producing is an expensive game: everyone knows that. My own budget version involves an upgraded version of Studio One (which originally came free with a pad controller). The plug-ins I use are usually free; Tim doesn’t tell us where to buy the plug-ins his team use, but I imagine they are expensive.
It’s probably a far fetched dream, but I would love to see someone of such expertise teach us how to produce well without all the expensive additions that some of us can’t afford.
Timbaland’s Teaching Style Isn’t For Everyone
“It’s just a vibe”. Not so helpful when you’re trying to craft the next hit song. Timbaland himself admits that “I’m not very good at describing” and honestly, there are points when this really shows.
He’s great at demonstrating, which is a huge bonus, but at times, it can be a lot of watching Timbaland do his thing without him actually breaking it down with an explanation.
This is a key message from this review, because if you go in with the wrong expectations, you’re going to be disappointed. Timbaland isn’t like the teachers you had in high school or college: he’s a celebrity and an expert in his field, but he is not a trained teacher. He is not going to hold your hand and tell you to do XYZ.
However, he teaches by letting you into his world and demonstrating – and this he does well. If this works for you, then you’ll enjoy this course. But if you’re looking for someone to strip back techniques and teach them to you personally, you won’t find it here.
Too Much Beatboxing!
I didn’t expect this to be such a beatbox fest. Tim starts making music by beatboxing whatever comes to his head, but I can’t beatbox to save my life. I cannot create the sounds I hear in my head with my mouth, and it’s not like Tim taught us how to do this, either. There was no alternative offered on how to create a beat without this as an initial step, which I struggled with.
Who is this course for?
This course is appropriate for producers and beatmakers of all levels.
If you’re a total beginner, I would personally suggest having a basic knowledge of producing or beatmaking before taking this course. This might be as simple as downloading your own DAW and having a play before starting. If you don’t know what a stem is, or how to record a track, then you may find the amount of jargon (however well explained!) overwhelming.
On the other hand, Timbaland and his team are experts in their field, and no matter how much expertise you have, there is always something you can learn from them. Tim takes a unique approach to producing and beatmaking and involves his team in the process, something which you don’t often get from a MasterClass.
Most importantly, this course is for anyone with an enthusiasm and passion to learn about beatmaking and producing. You don’t have to have a project on the go, and you don’t have to be a huge Timbaland fan (although if you are, I would definitely recommend this course!) to benefit from Tim sharing his experience with us.
How much is Timbaland’s MasterClass?
At the time of writing MasterClass had three subscription offers. The cost of these (per month) is:
- Individual (1 user) $15
- Duo (2 users) $20
- Family (6 users) $23
All are billed annually, which at first glance may seem pricey.
However, you can considerably reduce your costs by taking as many courses as possible.
With over 150 courses on the platform you’re likely to find quite a few to interest you. Even if you buy an individual membership and find only 10% of the courses of interest this still works out to only $12 a course:
$180 (annual individual membership fee) / 15 courses = $12.
Bearing in mind that these classes are taught by global leaders in their fields the value is unbeatable. You can pay over $100 for an online course taught by someone you’ve never even heard of, never mind the calibre of teachers on MasterClass.
What’s more, MasterClass also offers a 30 day refund if you’re unhappy with your purchase.
You can also purchase MasterClass as a gift.
If you’re interested in learning more about producing, but Timbaland isn’t what you’re looking for, then it’s worth checking out the following MasterClass courses:
- Deadmau5 offers an electronic music production course.
- Armin Van Buuren teaches how to create dance music. This MasterClass has been highlighted by users as one particularly relevant if you’re looking to delve a little more into the technical side of producing.
MasterClass features several other masters in the music category, including:
- Hans Zimmer
- Yo-Yo Ma
- Mariah Carey
- Tom Morello
- Herbie Hancock
- Christina Aguilera
- Carlos Santana
- Itzhak Perlman
- Sheila E
- Jake Shimabukuro
- St Vincent
- Alicia Keys
If MasterClass doesn’t sound like the right platform for you, don’t worry. You can still learn about producing and beatmaking on different sites:
- SkillShare offers multiple courses on beatmaking, run by several different teachers. You can start learning here for free, with the option to upgrade to premium.
- Udemy offers 1.5 hours of video tutorials alongside other resources for around $40, covering beatmaking, producing and home studios. It’s particularly good if you’re an absolute beginner, as it breaks down the basics.
Timbaland MasterClass: what others have said
Most of the comments from people who have taken the course are positive.
"I just finished watching all of the videos and I must say I enjoyed it quite a lot. Timbaland has a great energy and it’s contagious as you’re watching the videos. It feels like you're there watching over the shoulder… I would recommend the Timbaland MasterClass." - Comment from the community
Most of the negative comments came from Timbaland’s lack of explanations.
"I bought the full access instead of just Timbo’s course and I’m glad I did.. He didn’t show me anything new. It was cool for beginners who don’t know much.. I learned better techniques from the Armin Van Buuren Course." "Timbaland’s classes are good, however, he doesn’t teach, he just vibe lol." - Comments from Timbaland MasterClass Reddit
This may be partially down to Timbaland’s easy going nature: he makes it very clear that you should be creative in your own right, instead of simply imitating other people, and is very relaxed about the whole thing!
How Long Does Timbaland’s MasterClass Take?
The overall course adds up to a little over 3 hours. I completed it over the course of a week, watching a few videos a day and in between, having a play around with the skills I was learning.
I would personally recommend taking this course at a slower pace. This will allow you more time to experiment, something which I believe is really important when it comes to creating music. Furthermore, it gives you a chance to play around with the stems provided by Timbaland, something which can be time consuming!
However, if you are a quick learner and are already experienced in producing and beatmaking, then you may find that a few days is enough time to complete the course. It’s all dependent on your previous experience and your learning speed!
Is The Course Content Unique?
Honestly, there are thousands of different producing and beatmaking videos out there. Home recording has become popular in recent years, and everyone wants to learn how to polish their own work.
Because of this, a hundred different online producers publish their videos trying to teach you the same key parts of producing and beatmaking that TImbaland does. In fact, a quick Google search produces over 440,000 results.
But how many of them are multiple award winners?
Personally, I have watched many producing videos, and Timbaland’s isn’t like the others. His MasterClass comes from the perspective of his team, rather than solely one person, like most other online tutorials.
Timbaland himself has no other courses like this on the internet. If you’re wanting to learn from the best, you’d be hard pressed to find another one like this.
What you will need
If you’re looking to learn but not necessarily practise straight away, then all you need to take the course is the workbook and a device to watch it on. However, there are a few things I would highly recommend having to get the most of the course:
- Notebook: The workbook doesn’t leave much room for jotting things down, and it’s helpful to remember exactly which plug-in was used where, and the kind of effect it had.
- A DAW: If you want to do any practical work whatsoever, you’re going to need a DAW. If you don’t already have one, GarageBand is available free for Apple products. Reaper, Studio One and Logic (Apple only) all offer various free trials and are also worth exploring.
- Plug-ins: Your DAW should come with a range of free plug-ins, such as basic reverb. These may not be the most exciting or high quality, so it’s worth having a quick Google do see which free/cheap plug-ins are compatible with your DAW.
Timbaland’s MasterClass: Is It Worth It?
This course is excellently suited to people like me: not-quite beginners, who are looking for some inspiration and guidance.
However, there is still a lot that can be taken from Timbaland’s MasterClass, even if you’re a seasoned expert, who speaks Ableton as a first language.
Overall, I believe that Timbaland’s MasterClass has helped me to improve my own beatmaking and producing. As I’ve said before, I’m not particularly strong in this area and I’m always scared of making beats “wrong”, which is something that Timbaland has helped me to overcome. If I’m inspired to write it, then why not?
I’ll pay more attention to everyday sounds coming out of this course. It’s highlighted that this is where the real magic lies: in turning the mundane into something that you can’t help but dance to.
I thought that the structure was excellent, interspersing real life examples with teaching videos, and ending with strong encouragements that made me stop and think about how I was going to react to my experiences in the music industry.
It was a really interesting insight into how Timbaland has become such an iconic producer, and how I should try and experiment with my own music.
I think Timbaland’s course is worth taking. It’s especially worth investing some time into the workbook and the accompanying tasks, and this is where you will see real improvements.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can purchase an annual all access pass for $180 which enables you to take every MasterClass on the platform.
Unsurprisingly, there is no way to get Timbaland’s MasterClass for free. The closest you can get is if someone purchases it for you as a gift!
It’s 15 videos totalling 3 hours and 4 minutes.
MasterClass operate a 30 day refund policy if you purchase directly from them.
Hannah is a singer, song writer, harpist, pianist and guitarist. She's also a fully qualified physiotherapist as well as an aspiring author. It's fair to say she knows a thing or two about learning!