Deadmau5 and Synthesis


Deadmau5 (DeadMouse) AKA Joel Thomas Zimmerman Born 1981 is one of the world's most favorite EMP producers. I had the privilege to see him live many years ago and I was really impressed with his music and show.

Deadmau5 has rolled with the times of music, never getting stale or left behind, rather pushing the boundaries of experimentation, managing to stay fresh and modern. A quote from Deadmau5s’ web bio is “The most impactful revolutions aren't planned, plotted or premeditated They simply happen” (Deadmau5, 2012).

I think that quote reflects his style and attitude toward music production. By not getting caught up in what everyone is doing and focusing on what he is creating is a big part of  his success.

A big part of Deadmau5s’ overall production style is dictated by the types of instruments being used and whether it's a live concert, gig, festival or production.  The analog synthesizers he uses in producrion doesn’t allow for information recalls or saving of projects, making Deadmau5 commit to a sound, which in turn dictates workflow and inspires creativity, though this can also be a limitation to re-creating sounds for live sets.

Deadmau5 has a lot of studio gear, consisting of the regular outboard gear you would see in top professional studios around the world. What isn’t very conventional is his collection of synthesisers. Deadmau5 owns a Macbeth Studio Systems MSN which “ are in fact more rare than the 30 year old 2600! To date only about 90 M5s have been produced and sold, as they are all hand built to order at MacBeth Studio Systems” (Vintage Synth Explorer, 2015).

This unit like many of his other analog synth’s allows for FM synthesis (oscillators which can be used to modulate each other), subtractive synthesis (built in filters) and granular synthesis “there is an external audio input pre-amplifier for bringing in other sounds for processing through the M5” (Vintage Synth Explorer, 2015).

This example shows Deadmau5 playing around with some MIDI sequences triggering a Macbeth among others. While this style of experimentation may not always make to to a  mix tape, it certainly inspires further ideas.


In that video Deadmau5 is incorporating the use of a CV (control voltage) and a gate, a technique that’s been around since 1960’s.

This entails using  a sequencer to send analog information to the synthesisers (or other analog instruments) to trigger pitch (CV) and how long the signal stays on for (gate). This is similar to the commonly used MIDI technology in the digital domain.

Another synthesiser in Deadmau5's’ collection is the Buchla 200e System 5. 

Building upon his collection is a 8 month build of modcan modules. These modules consist of varying oscillators and options which allows for more monophonic sounds to be layered, Deadmau5 refers to this rack of modules at the “happy accident machine” (Tony, 2014).

So as you can see Deadmau5 would rather create than use someone else's creation. This alone makes his music stand out from the millions of EMP artists around the globe.

Here is a track with a bit of everything


Deadmau5. (2012). Bio. Retrievd from

Equipboard. (n.d.). Deadmau5. Retrievd from

Synth Head. (2012, July 25). Deadmau5 Build a Lair of Unadulterated Synth Power. Retrieved from

Ware, Tony. (2014, June 30). Deadmau5. Retrieved from

Vintage Synth Explorer. (2015). Macbeth Studio Systems. Retrieved from