From Self-Taught to Chart-Topping: An Interview with Zbeatz

Prepare to be inspired as we dive into the story of Zbeatz, a self-made music producer who has made it to the top of the Billboard charts.

From Self-Taught to Chart-Topping: An Interview with Zbeatz

Zack Burke, better known as Zbeatz, is a music producer, engineer and musician who got his start in production by learning from YouTube tutorials, and through experimentation, hard work, and passion for music, has come to success – working with famous artists and climbing to the top of the Billboard charts.

Now Zack is not resting on his laurels; he continues to work hard, collaborate with musicians, and create music – you can find his beats, guitar loops, and samples freely available on the internet. In addition to traditional production programs, Zbeatz actively uses innovative tools such as AI-powered stem splitter LALAL.AI.

Zbeatz recently became an ambassador for LALAL.AI and we did a joint Instagram live where Zach shared his musical journey and how LALAL.AI is helping him along the way. For those who were unable to watch our conversation live, we're posting a text version of the interview.

Zach and his first Billboard plaque for his work on “Pound for Pound” by Berner.

First things first, why did you choose the name "ZBeatz"?

My producer name came from taking the first letters from my real first and last name. I combined “Z” from Zach and “B” from Burke, and since I’m a beatmaker, I naturally added “beats” and stylized the last letter as “Z”. This is how I created “ZBeatz.

How did you get into music? How long have you been in production?

I started playing in bands growing up in middle school and high school, which led me to start writing songs and then music production years later when I was in college. I’ve been producing for 8 years.

What is the process you go through to find the perfect tune?

I always try to experiment with production ideas and figure out what parts best fit the vocal melody and song. Ideally, I want to have just enough to make the song feel full but not too much that it feels distracting.

Did you study with classes, online, or just by trial and error?

I learned online by watching YouTube videos and mostly from experimenting by myself and with friends in the beginning.

Those new to music may wonder what they need to begin. What was the first set of equipment/software you ever bought?

I started out with a MacBook, Logic Pro X, a cheap midi keyboard, a Steinberg interface a friend gave me and a pair of Yamaha speakers. Gradually as I got better and better, I started upgrading my gear.

What have been some of the biggest lessons for you in terms of production?

One thing I’ve learned is less is more. I used to think that I had to put as many different parts as possible into a song to make it better. I’d layer so many different instruments on top of each other, trying to get it to feel full, but it ended up having the reverse effect; it felt overstimulating and thin. So I learned to only include the parts that are necessary to the song and mute everything else.

What inspires you and what makes you want to keep producing music?

Getting to work with and meet people from all over the world inspires me. I have so many friends internationally now that I’ve met through music and it’s awesome to work together and succeed with them.

Left: Zach’s 2022 end-of-the-year stats. Right: Cover of the album “Pretty Boy” by hip-hop artist White 2115, from which the song “18” was produced by ZBeatz. The album went platinum in Poland.

Are there any artists you are inspired by? If so, who and what kind of music?

One artist who’s very inspiring to me is John Mayer. He has such a vast knowledge of music and is an amazing guitar player. What I love most about his work is his ability to simplify his songs down to really simple melodies that are easy to sing a long too.

What makes a great producer? Is there any one thing that’s more important than the rest?

A great producer is someone who does what’s needed to serve the song. If the song needs minimal production, they do that. If the song needs to be a massive wall of sound, they do that. They’re able to listen and feel what the song needs.

What was the song that made you a Billboard-charting producer? How did that happen?

A song that I worked on that got on the Billboard charts is called “Pound for Pound” by Berner feat. Mozzy, Conway The Machine, Styles P and Benny The Butcher. The song came together in a really cool way. I connected with another producer Daniel Cruz on Instagram about 5-6 months prior, and we had been working together.

Then in September of 2021, he hit me up and said he was going to be doing sessions for Berner’s new album. He asked me to send a pack of guitar loops for him to bring in and cook up with for the album. He and Cosmo ended up picking one of the loops, pitched it down and put some crazy drums and production on it.

The song was on Berner’s album “Gotti,” which was released in December 2021 and went to #3 on the Billboard Top Album Sales Charts and #23 on the Billboard Hot 200. It was a great experience and I’m so grateful to Daniel and Cosmo for bringing me in.

You can listen to Pound for Pound by Berner on Spotify and all other streaming platforms.

Tell us about your experience working with LALAL.AI. What do you use it for? How does it help in your music journey?

I found out about LALAL.AI a year ago, and I love using it to help me produce beats. I use it primarily to get acapellas, which I layer over beats I’m working on. This helps me see if my production has enough room for an artist to sing or rap over. It’s so helpful!

Learn how LALAL.AI also helps other creatives. Check out our interviews with music writer Kevin Moore and online karaoke-making service HARK.

We hope that this interview and Zach's story inspire the next generation of aspiring music producers to embrace their unique voices, explore new technologies like LALAL.AI, and follow their dreams relentlessly.

Check out the latest Zbeatz production on “My Vision” by Seaning released on June 29, 2023.

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