Mad Zach is not giving you a paint-by-numbers Deep House set. He wants you to play and tweak - and he's going to help us learn how to do it. Photo courtesy the artist.

Mad Zach is not giving you a paint-by-numbers Deep House set. He wants you to play and tweak – and he’s going to help us learn how to do it. Photo courtesy the artist.

It’s “the science of being imperfect” – and Mad Zach is one heck of a mad scientist at it.

We all know Ableton Live productions, even sometimes from fairly skilled music makers, can get painfully stuck on the grid. If that’s the disease, Mad Zach has the cure. Armed with Ableton Live and together with releasing a very special, very useful sound pack, this insanely-prolific DJ, producer, writer, and educator has some advice for how to get the soul and groove back in your machines.

CDM teamed up with our friends at Beatport Sounds to work with Zach on an instructional video that goes deeper into the craft of the groove. And I love what Zach has done with the tutorial. If you’re still learning your way around Live, I think you’ll still like it — just follow along the beginner and intermediate tutorials first before you tackle it. At the same time, if you’ve got a bit more production under your belt, it won’t insult your intelligence. I learned something, and I’ve been using Live since 1.0.

Highlights, as we “escape the grid”:
How to use the (oddly underused, misunderstood) Grooves section in Live
Extract an original TR-909 shuffle
Drawing in swing
Recording MIDI controllers

Now, some background:

Zach has been hard at work with Beatport on his Deep House Project, a sound library and construction kit both for live performances and music creation. It couldn’t come at a better time, I think: saying “Deep House” is only marginally more specific than saying “Techno.” It’s like saying “cheeseburger” or “pizza” – quality can vary.

The Deep House Project isn’t just a sound pack, a big box of LEGOs for making a generic toy. It’s a set of instruments, a gig and a half of material with hundreds of loops and analog synths and the like, and it’s designed around controllers so you can tweak everything, modify everything. You get 24-bit samples of the TR-909, Juno 106, Moogerfoogers, and British tube channel strip, drum racks, macros, synth racks, the lot.

In other words, you get a tool set that is tailored to the genre, but once you start twisting knobs and changing patterns and actually playing, you can come up with something that sounds … well, that sounds nothing like Mad Zach, in a good way.

I hope it catches on. The Beatport Sounds section is working with some great producers, but I know my heart sinks a little when I read the top ten list on some days – only because any producer expecting to download some top drops and make a track work is probably in for a rude awakening. And, worse, they’re missing out on half the fun. Now, not every piece of music needs to be experimental; there’s something beautiful about the way styles and genres build communities. But it should be possible to be original inside that genre, and this is that.

It’s that for one good reason: it’s built in a way that invites you to dig in and play. And Zach is one of the most active people on the planet carrying that gospel.

Here’s a look at the pack:

Have a go at that sound pack – it’s a stunningly-good buy:
Mad Zach’s Lab: Deep House

And do check the full tips/tricks/tutorials page with Mad Zach. It’s a tutorial on Deep House, but it’s also an Ableton Live tutorial, and offers insights whether you’re curious about dabbling in this genre or could care less (though it might get you hooked before you’re done watching, fair warning).

We’ll have Q&A with Zach tomorrow on CDM, because I really wanted to know more about his work.