A few years ago, before eLearning, distance learning, Zoom, and Skype calls moved from the background of the education world to the forefront of available options, Yanka Industries launched MasterClass - a collection of classes covering various topics in different fields, taught by leading professionals in those respective industries. The goal was to provide people with access to the world’s best, and for everyday people to be able to learn skills they wanted to develop from the people who exhibited them at an extraordinary level. For example, if it had always been your dream to someday learn how to cook with the help of world-class chef Gordon Ramsay, or learn how to prepare and smoke a brisket with barbecue extraordinaire Aaron Franklin, or maybe get a little more niche in the food world and learn about wine appreciation from James Suckling, you may have thought that you would never get that chance. You’d have to get lucky, pay a lot of money, appear on a television program alongside them, or who even knows how that would work out. MasterClass gives you the chance to sit down and watch video lessons taught by Ramsay, Franklin, Suckling, and dozens of other respected innovators depending on the topic, and walk away feeling like you have truly learned something from people who know what they are doing. MasterClass is built on a platform that will walk you through the steps of the process, provide you with “coursework” and things to experiment with as you move forward, and then come to a conclusion that will leave you confident and prepared for taking the next steps in whatever adventure you have chosen.
It should be easy to understand why this approach may not attract everyone. Sure, on paper the chance to learn how to play tennis with lessons from Serena Williams sounds like a path to guaranteed success, but the online learning model does not work with everyone. Let me assure you, though, if you can watch Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, or any other streaming or video hosting service, you can do MasterClass. The production quality of each class is so high that it will feel like you are watching an interview that was recorded specifically for you to sit in on. No, you aren’t in the room with your instructor, nor are you able to reach out to them to ask them questions; two incredibly valuable aspects of a healthy learning environment. But even with those two things missing, the remaining things that are available to you combine to form a wellspring of knowledge and information that is invaluable. While we’re on the topic of value, let us first take a look at what something like this will require from you.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, MasterClass is not free. While it would be an unbelievable act of kindness and generosity to display to the world to make all of this available for no charge, this kind of platform with these A-list personalities and teachers definitely does not come cheap to produce. Fortunately, though, it does come cheap to consume. If you are looking to learn skills and abilities from people who have decades of experience and are widely regarded as the faces of their fields (Tony Hawk teaches you how to skateboard, what more could you need?) then MasterClass is most assuredly worth the money. They could easily charge two or three times what they charge for a subscription now and it would still be a good deal for the level of access and the production quality of these classes. Each instructor shares stories of their past, the things they did right, the things they did wrong, and they teach you how to overcome obstacles and avoid making the same mistakes they did - or at least how to work through them should they arise in your own journey. Ultimately, of course, the question of “is it worth it?” comes down to you and what you are able to afford, what you are looking for, or any other of a number of factors. What might be worth one price to one person may not be worth it to the next, and that is just a fact of life. Take a look at everything that is included in a subscription and make the call. Researching and building your own opinion is one of the best things anyone can do for themselves.
To determine whether it is worth the money, it might help to know the cost. The current cost of a subscription to MasterClass is $15 per month. For the sake of transparency, the $15 per month is billed annually, so the upfront cost of a subscription to MasterClass is $180. That subscription cost will give you access to over ninety classes across nine different topics, taught by a handful of professionals within each topic, with a total video lesson count numbering in the thousands. If you are wondering how much it would cost to sit at a table and learn screenwriting from Aaron Sorkin for several hours and covering a multitude of subjects, I actually have no idea what that would cost. This is the next best thing to that and in comparison to what I would imagine that experience would go for, it’s nothing.
With your subscription you are paying for one year of access to the platform, so a calendar year after your initial payment your subscription would end. However, like a lot of places so kindly do for us, they automatically renew payment. Be sure to make a note somewhere of the date that you subscribed so if you don’t want to be hit with another $180 charge you may have forgotten was coming, you can cancel your subscription. Perhaps you want to continue with your subscription and learn some new skills you may have developed an interest in, or life has made it so that you have no choice but to take your time learning and you can only do a lesson every couple of weeks, rolling into another year is entirely up to you.
MasterClass does not have what most people would consider to be a free trial, but they do offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If, for whatever reason, you make it to 29 days and decide this isn’t for you, or it only took you eight days to finish the class you wanted to do, you have no intention of doing anything else or learning anything else so now you’re done with MasterClass and this tactic doesn’t bother you from a moral or ethical standpoint, you can reach out to them and they will give you a full refund of your money. In short, no there is no free trial, but youcanget your money back if you cancel within the first 30 days.
The only subscription model that MasterClass currently offers is the yearly subscription. As of the time of writing this they do not offer a monthly subscription, or the ability to pay for access to just one class, or a handful of classes, or one topic. If you would like access to MasterClass then you need to pay for the yearly subscription. If you want to look at it this way, a yearly subscription to MasterClass comes out to roughly twenty-two trips to Starbucks. Hope that helps.
As of the time of writing this, what the company is offering is the MasterClass one-for-one deal. If you pay for a year’s subscription to MasterClass, they will give you another year’s subscription to send as a gift to someone else. All you need is the email address of the person or family that you are gifting it to and you are good to go. What could be better than sending the gift of education and knowledge? Do you have an aspiring chef in your life? Give them a year’s subscription to MasterClass so they can take the next steps towards cooking the way they want to cook. Do you know someone looking to get into writing? A gifted subscription to MasterClass could open up their creativity and take something they do as a hobby in their free time and turn it into a serious career option. A subscription to MasterClass would make an incredible gift for any occasion, and could potentially introduce people to things they did not even realize they would enjoy.
If you are reading this article then the chances are pretty good that you are searching for information on the many music-related classes offered by MasterClass. While the non-musical options are just as enticing and showcase names that just about anyone would recognize, MasterClass have compiled an impressive list of contributors when it comes to the world of music, with classes taught by composers, producers, instrumentalists, and singers that span across multiple genres and styles. The amount of notes you could take from just one of these classes could give you enough ammunition to tackle any musical project, but the fact that there are multiple should give you things to chew on for quite some time if you choose to go through all of them. With names and topics such as Timbaland teaching production and beatmaking, Carlos Santana teaching the art of guitar, Tom Morello teaching electric guitar, Usher teaching the performance side of music, Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman teaching film scoring, and many other topics and teachers available to you, you should be able to form a well-rounded view and knowledge of the many aspects of what it means to be a musician.
A MasterClass can range anywhere between two and five hours in total length, with episodes within the class as short as five minutes and as long as 25 minutes. On top of that you are provided with a course guide that gives you exercises and prompts to work on should you choose to incorporate that into your class, or you can just watch the video content and learn that way. I would recommend that you do supplement your learning with all of the materials that are provided, as the videos are designed to go hand-in-hand with the textbook-like files that are included in the class. While there is nothing stopping you from ;earning how to play guitar just by watching Tom Morello and listening to what he has to say, actually picking up your guitar and playing the exercises he created for you will take your guitar playing to new heights, and will also make you a better student in general.
With all of that said, let's take a look at a brief overview of a handful of the musical classes that MasterClass has to offer should you choose to subscribe to the platform.
In total there are fifteen music-related classes available on MasterClass. With each one clocking in anywhere between two and five hours, this could be around 45 hours of material taught by leading professionals in the music industry. Covering topics such as playing the violin, composing music for film, the various techniques of singing, aspects of a live performance, drumming and percussion - there’s even one on how to increase your musical creativity. With all of these different classes accessible in your subscription, there should be at least one class, if not multiple, for you. The classes are filmed somewhat in the style of an interview, with the teacher sitting and addressing the camera, but each presenter allows their personality and perspective to shine through their lessons. Teachers will share stories, tips, shortcuts, successes, failures, and many other things over the duration of their class, and the teaching will be supplemented with files containing exercises to work on after each episode. Don’t worry, there’s no deadline or turning in assignments or grading in these classes, the additional work is entirely optional should you choose to do it that way.
Let’s take a look at just a few of the musical presenters and classes that MasterClass has available as a part of their subscription.
Joel Zimmerman, known to the world as deadmau5, provides one of the best classes on this entire platform with his electronic music production course. The recipient of six Grammy Award nominations over his illustrious career, deadmau5 is not only a prolific musician and producer, he has also established a branding and marketing appearance that is one of the most recognizable around the world. Zimmerman has been one of the few producers to bridge the gap between the production process and fans, inviting viewers into his studio space by occasionally streaming his writing process - one of the first big-name music producers to do this. Even when streaming his studio sessions, deadmau5 knows how to hold an audience and entertain. While MasterClass offers a similar class taught by Armin van Buuren, which was discussed earlier in this article, deadmau5 has a different approach to the world of electronic music. Where van Buuren may seem more intentional in a way that would be similar to that of a composer, deadmau5 leans towards the experimental side. Despite admitting that his writing sessions are mostly him just goofing around and trying to figure something out on the spot, anyone who is familiar with his discography knows that when he does figure out something he likes, he nails it. What might surprise people the most is that deadmau5 tracks are almost entirely written using software instruments. On the record multiple times stating he doesn’t have much knowledge or familiarity with actual instruments, his tracks are instead primarily composed using MIDI and software, and yet he is still able to write engaging music with very beautiful elements. As the landscape of modern music production shifts more and more into the box and the world of software instruments and sample libraries, learning from someone like deadmau5 seems like one of the best things you could do.
In addition to being a tremendous writer and producer, deadmau5 is also a top-tier performer in his own right, playing electronic music sets to thousands upon thousands of people, all while wearing a mouse head helmet. If that doesn’t say enough about his multifaceted skill set then I don’t know what does. This class will teach you how to get from a blank project screen to having something resembling music in a short amount of time, encouraging you to use these ideas and principles as building blocks on your way to figuring out your sound and style. Out of all of the classes on music at MasterClass, I would personally consider this to be one of the top two available if someone were to ask. Zimmerman explains everything in a way that is very conversational and fun, while still being informative at the same time. His musicality and knowledge of his software and workflow are inspiring by themselves, but the way that he showcases that knowledge by creating the type of music that he does makes it that much more inspiring to watch.
The writing and producing credits of Timothy Mosley, known as Timbaland, would be more than enough to just end his part of this article right here. Sight unseen, no other information needed. He has worked with so many people and had a hand in so many tracks and albums over his time as a producer that you might not even believe that it was the workload of one person. Responsible for hits from artists like Jay-Z, Ludacris, Madonna, Rihanna, OneRepublic, and Drake (to name a few), Timbaland has put his signature sound and process on music spanning decades. At one point in time Entertainment Weekly said of Timbaland that “just about every current pop trend can be traced back to him.” A truly influential producer and musician with 21 nominations and 4 Grammy Awards under his belt, Timbaland continues to add to an already impressive resume of tracks and collaborators.
In his class with MasterClass, Timbaland breaks down his entire creative process from the beginning of a project to the end. He will share notes on past recording sessions and tracks from throughout his catalog, with an array of insight and tips that will have you producing music for yourself or for other people with a newfound level of confidence. His production sessions often involve stripping tracks down to a basic and simple skeleton, then figuring out how to spin those into something that seems complex to the listener. He shows how he sketches out songs and beats using his voice, a trick that anyone with a cell phone and a voice memo app could do, then he brings that sketch into his computer to create the track around it. Making use of this method of writing could make it easier for you to stop losing those track ideas and start getting them into your digital audio workstation so they can actually become songs. Timbaland makes a bold statement by claiming that you don’t need a big studio to produce great music, and that all you need is a computer and a microphone. As those are two of the most basic parts of a studio setup it’s easy to assume that just about anyone has those things. He takes it a step further, though, and practices what he preaches by teaching the majority of his class seated at a simple setup with just a few MIDI controllers, a microphone, an interface, and a laptop. From the vocal melodies to the beats, recording audio to incorporating samples, Timbaland will guide you through the process that he has used time and time again, refined over the years by working with some of the biggest names in the history of music across all genres. With his barebones setup and his vast skills as a producer, Timbaland will show you everything you need to know to become a confident producer and a creative, musical storyteller.
Tom Morello is a Grammy Award-winning electric guitarist known mostly for his work in the rock bands Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Morello’s approach to the electric guitar isn’t quite the same as what you might see from Carlos Santana in another one of the MasterClass lessons. In fact, in most ways his approach couldn’t be more different. Morello’s style of guitar playing is commonly associated with pitch-altering effects pedals like the Digitech Whammy and the MXR Phase 90, effects that allow his guitar’s sound to jump around and shift as he plays, either at a fixed ratio or by using an expression pedal with his foot. His creativity and innovation in regards to his pedals and playing, combined with his riffs and sense of what sounds and feels right and fits well in a song, could inspire even the most seasoned veteran of electric guitar to start looking at things differently. Tom’s setup hasn’t changed much over the decades, and his ability to continue to write new and creative songs with the same guitars, pedals, and amps he’s been using for countless tours and albums lends credence to his natural musical ability.
If you’re going to be sitting down and learning the guitar from Tom Morello, be prepared to go into it with an open mind. You may be expecting one type of thing from him, but he will certainly send your guitar for a loop. Morello makes great use of manipulating his guitar’s tone and volume knobs to change his sound, he has a guitar with a switch that cuts his signal to his amp so he can “helicopter” in and out of the mix, he bends strings in odd places to get specific sounds, and he can often be seen jumping around the stage during a performance while still maintaining a consistent level of playing. His energy and excitement is infectious, and his knowledge of his gear and its capabilities will make you want to sit and learn the ins and outs of what you own in a way that will make you able to find a specific sound at a moment’s notice. Morello’s writing blends contrasting genres in a way you may be completely familiar with, or you may have never heard before. If you aren’t familiar with his work with either Rage Against the Machine or Audioslave, I would encourage you to type his name into the YouTube search bar and spend a few minutes getting to know his resume. He promises that at the end of his class you’ll be able to write a song and play a guitar solo, even if you’ve never touched a guitar before. Spending a couple of hours hearing and seeing what he has to offer could be the best thing you could do for yourself as a musician and a guitarist, no matter where your talent level is at going into it.
Armin van Buuren is a platinum-selling DJ who hosts a radio show, A State of Trance, that is heard by 40 million listeners in 84 countries across the world. Armin’s ability to engage audiences of cheering fans and listeners is unrivaled in the genre. He was lauded as DJ Mag’s top DJ a record of five times, including four years in a row. He is one of only four trance artists to ever be nominated for a Grammy, and he holds the United States record for most entries on the Billboard Dance/Electronic albums chart with 21.
If electronic music interests you and is your wheelhouse when it comes to music production then this MasterClass with Armin van Buuren will give you exactly what you need to take your tracks and production techniques to the next level. If you are an up-and-coming electronic producer, a veteran looking to make the jump into the next level of professionalism, or simply someone with an outside interest but you want to know what all goes into it, this MasterClass is packed with knowledge and insight for anyone who lands somewhere in that spectrum. Electronic music is some of the most intricate to produce, with its many layers and techniques. The subgenre of electronic dance music, especially, can be challenging to write and arrange, much less bring into a studio where you need to know how to manipulate the tracks so they hit just right when they finally reach a crowd.
With nearly two decades of experience in the studio and in front of live audiences at venues ranging from small clubs to massive festivals, Armin van Buuren knows what it takes to craft a song that will get people energized and moving when listening at home or at a concert. Armin will walk you through the steps you need to take to get everything sitting in your mix just right. From composition to arrangement, writing to producing, and all of the steps woven between, Armin van Buuren will show you everything you need to know to get the elements of your track working together to lead up to the drop, then come back around to finish the song. From kick samples to snare drums, synthesizers, and even delving into the elements of being a live DJ, Armin van Buuren is the perfect instructor for this class. While MasterClass does offer another class for electronic music, the world of electronic dance requires a specific type of ear and talent. If you are ready to work on becoming the best electronic dance music producers you can be, jump into this class taught by Armin van Buuren and get to work on your next track with a new and invaluable set of skills.
Annie Clark, better known under her stage moniker St. Vincent, has been a studio and touring musician for nearly twenty years. At the beginning of her career she was a part of the touring band for Sufjan Stevens, a creative mastermind in his own right. In 2007 she released her debut album,Marry Me, which, upon hearing it, led to Stevens asking her to sign on as a part of his touring band. At the end of the tour cycle with Sufjan Stevens, Clark broke away in heightened pursuit of a solo career. She didn’t begin work on her next album until a year-and-a-half long stint of touring led her to sit down and start writing again, but her circumstances found her in a limited scenario. Without access to a studio or a dedicated writing space, and like many who are just starting out, she found herself limited to composing and arranging her album in GarageBand with sample instruments and MIDI tracks, citing the many noise complaints from neighbors as the reason for choosing (or rather, being forced into) this route. Despite her limitations she pushed through and wrote tracks that were inspired by Disney movies and other classics such as The Wizard of Oz, saying that when she was writing the music and lyrics she imagined them going with specific scenes. Clark then released her second album as St. Vincent, titledActor, in 2010, and has gone on to release six studio albums, go on eight tours around the world, and win two Grammy awards - one for Best Alternative Music Album for her self-titled albumSt. Vincent,released in 2015, and the other for Best Rock Song for her track titledMasseduction,the title track off of her 2017 album with the same name. Near the beginning of everything that has gone into that impressive resume is her time in her New York apartment, writing tracks in GarageBand; a scene that should be familiar to just about any musician writing in the digital age.
Praised for her ability to write songs that incorporate unusual instruments, Annie Clark has established a reputation for pushing the boundaries of her compositions in creative ways. Whether it be using an instrument that you might not expect, or using an instrument you do expect in an unexpected way, or through a production technique or use of a certain effect, Clark continues to wow critics with arrangements that are anything but ordinary. Having an opportunity to take a class on creativity and songwriting from a musician with this category of reputation should be just the jolt anyone would need to begin to look at things differently. If you constantly find yourself stuck in a project and not knowing where to turn next, or facing writer’s block like you’ve never felt it before, learning from someone who is known amongst the journalists of various top publications for being a writer who takes arrangements and songs and spins them into something unique and memorable is quite the opportunity. That kind of thing may never be available to most people in a classroom environment, but MasterClass opened that door for you to be able to learn from one of the most creative songwriters on the scene right now and that is well worth the price of admission. Clark will walk you through one of her songs, breaking down the many layers of what went into the composition. Analyzing the structure, rhythm, vocal melodies and lyrics, and what all goes into creating a compelling song, Annie Clark will show you exactly how to take your tracks and turn them into a more creative display of the talent you already have.
Sheila Escovedo is commonly known as “The Queen of Percussion”, and when you see the way she controls every piece of a drum kit you will know exactly why she earned that nickname. With a career that spans decades, dating back to the mid 1970s, Sheila has recorded and released seven albums between 1984 and 2017. Her collaborators include the likes of Beyonce, Ringo Starr, Marvin Gaye, Snoop Dogg, Whitney Houston, Gloria Estefan, Lionel Richie, and Herbie Hancock to name a few. As a true multi-instrumentalist, Sheila not only drums on her records but also steps up to the microphone for lead vocals, and even has credits on bass guitar, strings, keyboards, you name it - she can do it. In her appearance on MasterClass, though, Sheila is behind a kit, right where she feels most comfortable. Promising to have you successfully playing drums in less than two minutes, Sheila takes her class through everything you need to know in order to become a competent drummer.
If you have ever told yourself, or if anyone else has ever told you, that you had no sense of rhythm or musical timing, this class is for you. Snap-aligning audio clips to grids in a digital audio workstation is one thing, but when someone hands you a pair of sticks and puts you behind a drum kit then the lights will really have you sweating. Taking some time to learn from Sheila E. will have you at least looking like you know what you’re doing. After she completes the segments of her class where she teaches you the fundamentals of drumming and percussion, you might be able to fool a few people into thinking you’re a drummer. Then when she finishes off her class by showing you how to be a part of a band, what the drummer’s multiple roles are in that aspect of being a musician, and how to perform… well then you just might be a drummer when all is said and done. As with all of the classes in MasterClass, this one is perfect for someone brand new to the world of drumming or for someone who has been hitting the skins for years. It can never hurt to get a new perspective on something that might seem so comfortable and familiar to you, that kind of thing will help you construct your own unique voice and style no matter what instrument is being spoken about or what instrument you play. There is always something to learn. Sheila E. and her drum abilities translate all across music, whether you play in jazz, metal, or anything in between. Having a rudimentary understanding of what it takes to be a drummer from the practice space to the studio and onto the stage will apply universally, and your bandmates, present and future, will thank you for it.
Hans Zimmer has become a household name among bigtime composers, and for good reason. Rain Man, The Lion King, Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, the Batman trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, Dunkirk - the list of films Hans Zimmer has worked on is one of the most impressive in the business. Hans Zimmer has joined the ranks of Danny Elfman and John Williams in the elite class of modern-day composers. Known for stepping outside of the box of composition and scoring, Hans tends to blend the world of acoustic instruments with electronic instruments and sound design in a way that could tell the story of the movie even if the screen were blank. Often incorporating sounds from aspects of the films he’s working on, Zimmer‘s compositions truly become part of the movie rather than just complementing it or sitting underneath it. Throughout the duration of the course Zimmer will teach you how the world of composing for film and television is more than just notes on a page or a screen - the notes tell the story. They ask questions, they give answers, they work against or with each other, they support what’s on the screen - everything has a hand in what is ultimately being accomplished by the movie.
One of the main themes that runs through Zimmer’s course is the idea that the story is the most important component of any film. Whatever is going into your project has to assist the story and the way that it is being told, at least according to Hans. This is so clear in the way he approaches his music and how carefully composes, and despite his works sounding so complex and intricate, if you really listen you will realize how simple they actually are. Zimmer will take you through the composing process, from the initial talks with the director on establishing a tone and feeling for the music, to deciding what instruments you want to use, to actually writing the music, and then getting it ready for orchestration and recording. He talks about sound design and how to add non-musical elements into your score, and what that can do to elevate your work to the next level. But the importance of the story remains at the core of his message. Assisting the director in executing their vision, and working towards a common goal - telling the story.
If any of this sounds like it would be something you’d like to be a part of, or if you’d like to see what else MasterClass has to offer, click here to go to their website and sign up for a subscription. Not only will you get a subscription for yourself, you’ll also be able to send one as a gift to someone else, and what a gift that is indeed. Whether your interest is in drumming, electronic production, guitar, composing, or a handful of the other subjects covered in MasterClass, there is bound to be be something for you.Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.