In this tutorial I'll show you the ideas, tips and strategies that Mat Zo uses as a producer and DJ in the music industry.
About Mat Zo
Born in 1990, his real name is Matan Zohar. Mat Zo comes from London though now lives in Los Angeles. Mat is a Grammy-nominated producer, composer and DJ.
His early musical pieces were progressive trance and progressive house tracks. Later Zo became increasingly eclectic. Since 2012, the Daft Punk and French house influence can be heard clearly in his records. This includes pitch bent and vibrato sounds, vocoder, and robot sounds or high pitched female vocal snippets.
Mat released two albums:
- Damage Control, 2013, Anjunabeats, Astralwerks
- Self Assemble, 2016, Mad Zoo
He also made Drum and Bass musics under the MRSA alias for Hospital Records.
Mat Zo has collaborated with artists including:
- Porter Robinson
- Kill the Noise
- The M Machine
Mat Zo knows himself as an introvert and he thinks this helps being in the studio for many hours making music.
Get Out of the Studio
To balance out the days spent in the studio Mat likes to collect experiences and do programs with friends and travel to the close mountains surrounding the city.
Getting Into Electronic Music
When Zo was eight years old, his mother listened to Canadian radio stations, allowing him to listen to electronic music hearing Daft Punk tracks for the first time.
Three years later he acquired a PC for music production. When he was starting out, Zo made Daft Punk imitations.
Early on, Tiesto played one of his bootlegs, and then asked Mat to do a remix. This was the first time he thought about a possible career in music.
Zo likes to do and listen to a wide range of styles. Music is the basis, but categorising into genres is an artificial process.
It used to be that musicians shared knowledge on the Internet forums, but it has changed and now social media is everywhere. Zo uses social media to his advantage and to engage fans.
Each social application has its advantages and also supports different groups and niches.
Zo reads all opinions, but doesn't take them to heart. As long as a criticism is objective it can be used for self-development.
Zo used to play at many festivals, but now prefers smaller clubs with around 200 to 1000 people. At these places the vibe is great and Mat can interact and connect with the people more easily.
Zo practised so much in the last eight years, that he doesn't need to so much now. Although he rarely does it for special or bigger occasions.
Better DJ Mixes
Mat Zo uses harmonic mixing. For this, all tracks are marked with the musical scale keys. This way it sounds better for making musical transitions.
Mixed In Key and Recordbox are be used for making these key data appear in Pioneer CDJ players.
Zo likes to spend more time in studio as opposed to DJing. He also likes learning new production and mixing techniques. Zo usually finds new ways for making different sounds and styles.
Zo stresses the importance of doing the music he likes and avoiding external pressure and trends.
He uses several tips for mental health:
- connecting with friends, meeting new people
- having activities outside music
- constant learning and experimenting
- giving back free music occasionally
Listening to Music
Zo often listens to music when driving his car. His favourite genres are usually classical, Latin and other radio friendly tracks.
Having such variety helps influence differently and is an antidote to too much electronic dance music.
Fortunately, Zo enjoys the business side of things.
He founded his own label, this helps him to control publishing and allowing musical freedom. Zo also states making music never works, when he starts from a business standpoint.
Zo uses Ableton Live for production. He also does a lot of separate sound design sessions, just making sounds.
Usually he doesn't know the end result, so he later uses these sounds for composition. Big part of his work is based on improvising melodies, harmonies and drums with his own samples.
Zo never forces music making and he often watches interviews with other musicians and also Pensado's Place.
He usually doesn't record external sounds, but uses the Serum VST synth a lot. Interestingly he made a bass sound from vocals using the Ableton Vocoder plugin.
This is a solid and reliable technique to design sounds with more depth and details. For example, he can make a bass sound with three different parts:
Each part can be effected differently or used with different oscillators. When combined into one sound, it can make more interest for any music.
Zo uses a lot of samples and creates his own as well. With samples he can get organic and alive sounds.
Pitch Bending and Vibrato
To make sounds more alive, funky and groovy Zo uses glide, portamento and vibrato.
Mat Zo's main synth weapon is Serum. This instrument is a modern, advanced wavetable synthesiser. It features morphing oscillators, flexible unison modes, and built-in wavetable editor.
The sound is large, extra ordinary, super clean and powerful, but this comes at the price of large CPU hits. Even the biggest computer can't handle too much tracks of it.
Mat uses these tools:
- Pioneer CDJ players
- Pioneer DJM 900 mixer
- Audeze headphones
- USB drives for storing music
Studio Kit List
- Adam A7x monitor speakers
- Beyerdynamic headphones
- Focusrite Scarlett series audio interface
- ROLI Seaboard GRAND instrument
- Ableton Live DAW
- Xfer Serum synth
- Native Instruments FM8 synth
- Native Instruments Massive synth
- Native Instruments Absynth instrument
- Native Instruments Kontakt sampler
- Lennar Digital Sylenth1 synth
- Sonic Academy Kick 2 kick synth
- iZotope VocalSynth
- iZotope Trash2
- iZotope Ozone 5
In this tutorial, I've shown you Mat Zo's methods for a successful music production career. I presented his beginnings, talked about inspiration, production, sound design and business as well.
I advise you to try these tips, but only one method at a time. You can continue, further when you got enough experience with it.