Timothy Zachery Mosley aka Timbaland is responsible for many of pop’s most memorable hooks from the 90s and 2000s (“SexyBack,” “Promiscuous,” and “Wait a Minute,” among many others) and his work extends well into the present day, which finds him working on the webcast series Verzuz with Swizz Beatz.
His production work and distinctive rhythmic style has earned him widespread acclaim, and he has won four Grammy Awards and has been nominated for many more. He also won ASCAP Songwriter of the Year three times, BET Hip Hop Awards Producer of the Year, Vibe Awards Producer of the Year, among other major accomplishments.
But can Timbaland teach you his production secrets? Can he show you his process in such a way that you can emulate it? And most importantly, can he help you make your own string of chart-breaking hits?
We’ll be looking at all this and more in this hands-on review of Timbaland’s MasterClass.
What Can The Timbaland MasterClass Help You Achieve?
The trailer to Timbaland Teaches Producing and Beatmaking shows Timbaland himself animatedly grooving and bopping his head to his own beats (a sight that becomes quite common in the masterclass).
His audacious claim? That you don’t need a big studio or expensive gear to make great beats. Rather, it’s all about the energy you put into your productions. It’s all about having fun.
If you’ve seen the trailer, then you may even recall seeing Timbaland singing his ideas into a mic before using his MIDI controller to bring it to life. This gives you a good sense of what to expect from the course.
In the introduction, Timbaland promises to talk about making music, discuss some of his hits and his thought process behind them, and how to structure a melody while working with an artist. He also shares that music is more about feeling and grooving than anything else. The technical side of VST plugins and the exact steps to take in your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) aren’t covered in vivid detail here.
Bottom line – there are many definitions of what it means to be a producer, but in this highly insightful course, you will discover what it looks like when Timbaland takes the helm. You get to learn about collaboration, technology, samples and loops, drum sounds, directing vocalists, overseeing the vision of a project, and more.
Overview Of Timbaland's MasterClass Content
So, what can you expect when you sign up for MasterClass? How is the content presented upon entering Timbaland’s MasterClass?
In this section, we’ll give you an overview of what to expect.
What Is The Format Of Timbaland's MasterClass?
The masterclass is primarily delivered via video (15 videos to be exact). There is, however, an accompanying workbook, which we will offer an overview for here.
The workbook is 47 pages long and features colorful graphics and photos. It packs quite a bit more information than you might even expect as it is organized like a magazine (with text arranged in two columns along with a sidebar).
Some of the information includes terms you should know (like bounce, chorus, compression, echo, EQ, etc.), Timbaland’s co-producing team, production techniques, assignments, and “dive deeper” sections that teach you about instruments, point you to Timbaland’s sources of inspiration, and have you watching documentaries.
It’s worth doing all the extra work if you’re taking the masterclass seriously, as you will have the opportunity to go considerably deeper into the realm of producing, beat making, and music in general.
The PDF workbook is dense, to the point where, in our opinion, it would even make for a great standalone eBook.
We will be looking at the remainder of the course content in the sections that follow.
How Is The Timbaland MasterClass Delivered? Stream Or Download?
You get instant access to the entire course (15 videos and workbook once you’ve created an account with MasterClass.
How Much Training Is Available Inside The MasterClass?
There are 15 videos inside the masterclass, and most are 22 minutes or less, though some are a little longer. Here are the included lessons:
- Introduction (12:29)
- Studio Session: Making a Beatbox Beat (27:56)
- Building Beats: Tim’s Process (13:02)
- Making a Beat: Getting Warmed Up (14:40)
- Song Origins: “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” (06:51)
- Making a Beat: Starting With a Chord Progression (12:14)
- Making a Beat: Tweaking and Layering Drums (09:45)
- Song Origins: “Pony” (05:02)
- Making a Beat: Manipulating Vocal Samples (09:02)
- Making a Beat: Creating a Breakdown (19:21)
- Song Origins: “Gossip Folks” (04:51)
- Making a Beat: Adding a Topline (22:12)
- Song Origins: “Are You That Somebody?” (09:38)
- Tim’s Influences (07:28)
- How to Persevere (08:04)
That means there’s a total runtime of 3 hours, 2 minutes, and 35 seconds.
As you can probably see from juxtaposing the promises of the course and the included lessons, the masterclass clearly delivers on what it claims to be able to help you do.
Some Actual Lesson Titles And What They Help You Do
In this section, we’ll cover a few lessons and what you can expect to learn in each.
Building Beats: Tim’s Process
In this lesson, Tim explains:
- How to personalize your workflow. Whether it’s in your DAW, VST presets, MIDI controller or otherwise, setting up your workflow how you like it can help you streamline the creation process. Here, Timbaland talks a little bit about how he sets up his drums. He deliberately doesn’t organize his drum sounds on his pads, so he can be surprised every time he loads up a new patch. This allows inspiration to flow naturally, and you will find that Tim leans on this approach in virtually every way.
- How to find the perfect simple. Timbaland finds anything can inspire him, including the click track. If something just works, he rolls with it. Which just goes to show that there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to choose a sample, or even start a project for that matter. It’s a matter of choosing what inspires you and messing around with it until it feels right. This allows the project to unfold in a collaborative environment.
- How to build on a two-bar loop. There isn’t necessarily anything concrete to learn here. You can watch Timbaland in action, showing how he can quickly build layers on a kick drum. If you’re a producer and want to work more rapidly, it would be good to find a workflow that makes sense to you and master it, just as Tim has. We find this to be a theme with some of the world’s top producers – they know their gear inside and out and can create fast.
- How to resample a loop. Timbaland shows how he resamples the loop he’s created in the previous part to create more variation, or simply to put into the archives for later use. You never know when a loop might come in handy later.
Making a Beat: Starting With a Chord Progression
This lesson shows Tim and his team in action. One of his co-producers shows Tim the chord progression he’s created, along with the effects he used to shape its tone.
The team then proceeds to, in Tim’s own words, “jam out” the parts. Timbaland starts adding a drum beat with his unique sense of rhythm while the co-producers start working out other parts.
Essentially, what this lesson demonstrates is how a beat can start with a simple chord progression, and how the layers start coming together when everyone starts riffing on it and bringing their own ideas to the table.
Tim also explains a little bit about his rhythmic approach and how it can create a unique feel in his tracks.
Making a Beat: Manipulating Vocal Samples
In this lesson, Tim and his team start making a beat out of a heavily effected vocal sample (a vocal sample Tim wouldn’t even think to use but his co-producers felt inspired by).
His co-producers then show the various layers that were added to the beat, as well as the exact VST effects they used.
Something you can learn from this lesson is that vocal samples don’t necessarily need to form the foundation of the track or the melody necessarily. They can be used for interest and even to complement other layers or chord changes. Vocal samples can shape the mood and feel of a track.
Here Tim discusses the idea of influences. Tim’s personal philosophy is that he wasn’t influenced by anyone, but rather that he was interested in them and how they created certain sounds (which might just be semantics, but we figured we would honor how he phrased it).
Some of the people who interested Tim include Dr. Dre, Teddy Riley, Pharrell Williams, DJ Premier, Rodney Jerkins (“Darkchild”), and Nas, among others.
In this lesson, Tim also covers a bit of his philosophy, which is to build on what’s already been created instead of emulating and duplicating what already exists. In a word, innovation.
This is a key lesson unto itself. Although you always have the option of emulating what someone else has done, if you want to create something fresh, and new, you’ll want to build on what has been done instead of repeating it.
Skills You Will Learn Inside This MasterClass
In Timbaland’s masterclass, you won’t necessarily learn the ins and outs of how to use a DAW, how to mix tracks, which VSTs to use at what settings, how to use a MIDI controller, and so on.
These items are certainly hinted at, and are explained to an extent, but they aren’t the focus of the masterclass.
If that’s what you’re interested in, you can certainly browse our site for more information on various music production related topics.
So, what skills can you expect to learn from Timbaland, and how can they translate to your own productions? That’s what we’ll be looking at here.
Note: By no means should you consider the following list comprehensive. If you are inclined to master these skills, you’ll want to take the masterclass and practice your craft. There are no shortcuts to getting what you want out of the course.
How To Sketch Out Your Beats By Beat Boxing
As you may have figured out from the trailer, Timbaland’s beat making process involves getting ideas out of his head by “beat boxing” – singing melodies, using finger snaps, emulating hi-hats with his mouth, vocalizing drumbeats, and so on.
He doesn’t necessarily lean on this approach or use it every time, but it does go to show just how quickly an idea can turn into a beat with an unforgettable hook.
Any beat created using this process can be enhanced later. You can replace the organic layers with drum samples and loops, add effects to the existing tracks, or some combination thereof. Nothing necessarily needs to go to waste using this process.
That said, you can certainly use beat boxing to “sketch out” your ideas before turning them into full on beats. And that seems to be Timbaland’s basic approach.
Timbaland effectively collaborates on all his tracks with his co-producers. This plays a major role in developing a song and working quickly. Others can bring ideas to the table and quickly pan tracks, add effects, or push them to the background. They can also create on the fly and suggest their own ideas.
While viewing this masterclass, you get a better sense of how this all works. And if you were to set up your own collaborative environments, you can also get a feel for what that might look like, and what sort of tools you might need to make it all work.
Collaboration, in this instance, is better witnessed than explained. By watching Tim and his team in action, you’ll discover more for yourself than merely reading a review like this.
Another key learning is that it’s important to surround yourself with people you vibe with – people who you find yourself exchanging ideas on music for hours. Working with people you don’t gel with is just an uphill battle.
Developing Your Personal Workflow
This isn’t necessarily covered in exacting detail. There is no one showing you exactly how they set up their DAW working environment or MIDI controller, although you do get to see their screens and some of what they’re during, including the effects they’re adding to certain tracks.
That said, the concept still resonates. It inspires you to work on your own production workflow so that you can create what you hear in your head instead of trying to force something or constantly wrestle through trial-and-error style.
Of course, sometimes experiments and mistakes lead to inspiration, so you can’t discount what might come out from messing around with your beats and tracks.
Timbaland admits that he doesn’t necessarily know all the ins and outs of music theory. The best way he knows how to express himself is by vocalizing his ideas, whether it’s a beat, a bassline, or a particular sound. And it works for him.
He finds that a lot of people like to keep everything “to the grid,” but Tim has found that he can change the mood or feel of the beat by taking the bass line off the grid, for example. And this can create a surprising effect.
This, in part, should be credited to his sense of rhythm, which has been developed by taking inspiration from a variety of rhythms not typically used in North American music. But it’s clear he isn’t afraid of working intuitively to give his beats a different feel either.
The point is – don’t feel like you’ve got to keep everything to the grid. Experiment and see what you can come up with. See if you can create a unique feel in your tracks without being tied down by the grid. This will prevent your process from growing stale.
In this course, you discover that there’s no one right way to make beats. You can start with a chord progression, drums, vocal sample, beat boxing… literally anything that inspires you and gets you grooving. There’s no right or wrong.
Some producers like to start with a melody. Others like to start with a bass line. Tim, however, likes to find a connection with the beat. It doesn’t matter much what it is, whether it’s a click track, kick drum, or melody. So long as it moves him, he sees it as worth developing further.
The lesson here is to not let things get stale in your creative environment. Start fresh. Try different things. Explore different avenues. Layer sounds. Remove sounds. Resample beats and change their pitch. Add effects.
There’s so much you can do that you might not even think to do, and Tim offers a lot of great ideas on what you can do throughout his masterclass. Watch him in action and we think you’ll agree.
Taking Inspiration From Unexpected Sources
One of the reasons Timbaland feels and “hears” music a little differently is because he listens broadly to music outside of North America, especially music that features a bit of a different rhythmic feel.
When you love music, this tends to come naturally. You discover artists you like, and then you go and listen to who they were influenced by. And if you keep tracing it back, you discover some unique and interesting music.
This type of in-depth study can go a long way towards keeping your producing efforts fresh.
Adding A Topline To A Track
If you’re a beat maker, chances are you’ll be working with vocalists at times. Wouldn’t it be great to know how this process works? Wouldn’t you love to be prepared for it?
In this masterclass, Timbaland talks about his process, which generally involves turning the lights out in the studio, so the vocalist can follow their inspiration instead of being distracted by the producers or anything else that might be happening in the studio.
In a way, his process of working with a vocalist is quite similar to his process of working with his team.
Additionally, he lets the song tell the singer what the song is to be about. He doesn’t necessarily start with any preconceived lyrical ideas.
In this masterclass, you will also discover how Tim himself feeds off the energy of the vocalist he’s working with.
There are no guarantees in the music business. Just because you make great beats and put them out in the world doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to succeed.
The only thing you can do, as Timbaland points out, is to keep going. Keep creating. Keep following your inspiration.
It’s easy to lose sight of your gift if you ever achieve fame, and Tim believes you’ve got to stay focused on the music if you want to keep making art that matters. When something else becomes more important, you’re not as inspired in your creation efforts.
Price – How Much Does The Timbaland MasterClass Cost?
MasterClass offers three plans to access their entire content library. This information is not readily found on their homepage and takes a little digging to find.
All three plans are billed annually (though they are broken down into monthly pricing) and will give you access to 100+ classes across 11 categories (including courses on budgeting, mindfulness, script writing, the deadmau5 MasterClass and more).
The main incentive for upgrading to higher priced plans is that you can watch on more devices simultaneously. You can also download the content for offline viewing on iOS devices.
The plans are as follows:
- Standard: $20 monthly cost (billed annually)
- Plus: $27 monthly price (billed annually)
- Premium: $30 monthly cost (billed annually)
Timbaland MasterClass Review, The Verdict
Producers at every skill can learn something from Timbaland. That said, intermediate to advanced producers are probably the ones that have the most to gain from this masterclass. The exact details of how to work within your DAW environment, how to use VST effects, what settings to use, and other technical aspects of production are not covered here. That makes it less practical for the beginner.
But if you have a solid foundation in all these things, you will obviously benefit from this masterclass, Timbaland’s approach, as well as his philosophy behind making beats and hit songs.
The idea that you can make a beat from anything is rather compelling. In this masterclass, you will see exactly how this works in practice, and how working with a team can help you develop a beat with rapidity. Tim is not a one man show, even if he started that way, and while he certainly has his strengths (vocalizing beats, his sense of rhythm, etc.), they stand out even more when surrounded by the contributions (the right parts) of others.
Developing your personalized workflow is essential to this process. Without that (and taking time to master your gear), you can’t work fast even if you wanted to. This masterclass doesn’t necessarily teach you how to set up your project environment, or how to optimize your workflow, but it does offer plenty of ideas on how you can suss out what works best for you, some of which will likely come through experimentation.
Of course, you will also walk away with a good sense of how Timbaland works, how inspiration moves him, and how talented he is in sketching out ideas and committing them to hard drive space. Seeing him in action, in many ways, can teach you more about how he works than reading long explanations or hearing secondhand.
The masterclass does deliver on all its promises. And while you might not be able to figure out everything you need to do to be at Timbaland’s level, some additional learning and research can help you sort out all the technical details.
For $20+ per month, what you get here is incredible value. And it’s a lot of fun watching Tim and how he creates memorable beats. Will you learn to make your own chart-topping hits? Perhaps, but there are no guarantees. But will you be inspired to begin creating more? We wholeheartedly believe you will.
So that's our review of Timbaland MasterClass; give it a go, I'm sure you'll pick up a lot of valuable advice from a world-class music producer.