Suppose you’re a music producer, and you haven’t heard of Hannes Bieger. In that case, you must be living under a rock as he’s one of the industry’s most well-respected mixing and mastering engineers, having worked with some of the biggest names and on the most significant tracks and records throughout the modern generation of dance music.

But you might not have recently heard that he launched a record label of his own, elektrons, and we were a massive fan of his initial release and we couldn’t be more supportive of his label’s sophomore release; a vocal track featuring Shrii called ‘Rising.’

So we invited Hannes on to talk about his favorite tools in the studio, what soft synths he used to make this track, and all sorts of other nuggets of music production wisdom in the latest edition of ‘How It Was Made.‘ Make sure to give the track a solid listen below to hear exactly what we’ll be discussing (I suggest listening a few times, and returning back to the track as a sonic reference as you read this article)! Now let’s pass it off to Hannes as he explains how he made his latest record…

U-he Diva

How It’s Made: Hannes Bieger – Rising feat. Shrii (elektrons)

Diva by u-he is widely regarded as one of the best VST instruments ever created. Modeled after the venerable Minimoog, it offers a lot more in terms of oscillator and filter options and modulation routings. The plug-in also offers a wide range of possibilities to make a patch sound more organic or even a bit unpredictable. In short, there are many reasons why it’s a favorite of so many producers, including myself…

For “Rising,” Diva was one of the main ingredients in creating the tune. I used it for the bassline, the trombone-like lead that comes in later in the main part, and the acid synth after the breakdown. The bassline is a fairly simple but effective syncopated line playing an octave. I have used Soundtoys Decapitator to give it a little bit of an extra edge.

No doubt Diva is one of the pivotal VSTs for producing Melodic Techno.

There are countless preset packages available by third-party vendors, some of which are very good and inspiring. However, I recommend digging a little deeper with this one. There is nothing wrong with starting with a preset, but I’d encourage anyone to start tweaking to make it sound more personal. Diva is complex in some aspects but still fairly easy to understand, given its general architecture, which is heavily borrowed from the Minimoog. Also, don’t forget to automate parameters, either by way of recording adjustments with a control surface, via channel automation, or both – after all, that’s what’s going to make the track sound alive!

Waves API 2500

How It’s Made: Hannes Bieger – Rising feat. Shrii (elektrons)

The API 2500 is one of my favorite compressors. I own the hardware version for 15 years, and it has been living on my drum buss ever since. Widely regarded as one of the most legendary compressors of all times, it is indeed one of the few VCA compressors that I really like, and that is, among other factors, because of its discrete 2520 op-amps, the core building block that API employs throughout their entire line-up of analogue classics.

The 2500 is famous for its solid, powerful performance, the snappy VCA compression, and its gloriously thick-sounding discrete circuits, as opposed to the more sterile results of all the cheaper VCA specimens employing integrated circuits in the signal path.

All of these capabilities make it the ideal drum buss compressor for me.

I usually use it with a long attack, short release, not too strong ratio, and the threshold set high, so that just the bassdrum transients are crossing it. The punch I’m getting on the drum group even with very little gain reduction is unreal. Even if the compressor is just “kissing” the transients a bit, I wouldn’t want to miss this at all. However, I’m not a big fan of the “Thrust” circuit, the infamous filter section that made sidechain EQ famous. Personally, I prefer to employ EQ in the audio path and not in the side chain, and that’s why my hardware API 2500 is followed by a Dangerous Music BAX EQ.

Surely I can’t take my entire studio with me while I’m on the road, and that’s why a 2500 plug-in comes in handy. There are several great options, including those by Waves and Universal Audio.

For ITB work I started using the Waves 2500 before the Universal Audio UAD version was released, and even though I have that one too, I kind of stuck with Waves out of a habit. Both plug-ins are great, and while they ultimately can’t touch the hardware unit, they still remain some of my most indispensable software compressors, and I can only recommend checking them out for drum buss duties.

Moog Minimoog Model D

Speaking of the Minimoog, this is arguably the most legendary monophonic
synth in history, and it has earned this status as the first portable, non-modular synth ever
designed. Albeit quite the chunky instrument, it’s much smaller than the big modular synths of
this era, hence the name… it was my absolute dream synth in the 90s, but I never could afford
it, until I was finally able to take the plunge in the early 2000s, and since then it probably
remains my Desert Island synth for its incredibly thick, warm sound and its surprising versatility
given the somewhat limited user interface.

Even though Diva quite literally plays the lead role in “Rising” as far as
synthesizers go, I have also used a few analog instruments after my return to my Berlin studio. I
have used the Minimoog for these warm, thick sub bass tones in the breakdown section of the
track. As far as I am concerned, no other synth excels at delivering these subby gut massaging
frequencies as much as the Mini does. It just sounds so punchy and powerful, it effortlessly
provides the sonic anchor to this section of the track. In my experience it’s not an issue these
days to build a whole arrangement mainly with VST instruments. But if you sprinkle the whole
thing with a couple “real” analog sounds this can catapult the result to a completely different

I think what makes the Minimoog so great is the fact, that it was the first of its
kind. There was no example to model it after, so it took Bob Moog’s genius as well as the input
from many musicians he was talking to to create an instrument for the ages, without a
manufacturing/controlling department trying to streamline production cost or a marketing team
pushing the designers to add more features and functions. The result is a pretty ideal user
interface that’s also perfect for learning analog subtractive synthesis – because it’s versatile
enough to offer a lot of tonal options, but at the same time so clear and focused that the front
panel does not overwhelm the player with too many options. My advice to anyone with the
desire to dig deeper in terms of synthesis is to get a Minimoog or one of its many many clones
or copies, preferably in hardware for intuitive tweaking. This piece is not just an increcible
instrument, but also a very capable teacher!

Audeze LCD-XC

“Rising” is the first track I ever wrote while being on tour. I had a few days off in Goa between shows in the spring of 2023, and as I was traveling with my whole live setup, I had some nice gear at hand so set up shop in my hotel room – or on its balcony… I usually never leave the house without an Audeze headphone, and my favorite for traveling is the LCD-XC, my audio monitoring solution of choice for touring.

Generally, open back headphones are the more recommended option for critical listening, as its easier to optimize them for clarity and linear rendition of the audio than their closed back counterparts. However, while traveling they are not a good option, as they do not offer any isolation, and that goes both ways – they do not suppress ambient noise because of their open shells, and that also means whoever else is in the vicinity will get to enjoy your music too. And thus it goes without saying that closed backs have their merits, too.

I would go so far and say that the LCD-XC is the best sounding closed back headphone I have ever heard, and this particular headphone is one of a limited edition of only 40 units that was given to me by the Audeze CEO when he visited me in my Berlin studio.
Monitor choices are highly subjective and personal, so I would never say that a pair of speakers or cans is “the absolute best”.

In fact, everyone has to figure out what works best for them. But regardless of that, I strongly encourage every producer who takes their job seriously to actively choose their favorite open and closed back headphones. I certainly found mine, and like I said – I never leave the house without them!

Genelec 1038B

Since I went, quite literally, out of my comfort zone writing this track, it was even more important for me to wrap the process up in my Berlin studio. Having been limited to my live setup and the software on my MacBook while creating the basic elements of this track, I had to make sure everything sat in the right place in my usual workspace. I know the acoustics well after working in my new studio for three and a half years already, and I actually changed the arrangement of “Rising” quite a bit during this process.

Upon reviewing what I had done on the road I noticed that I had added to many elements while working on the headphones – probably because all these layers and textures sounded so good on them.

My studio setup with the big Genelec 1038B speakers helped me untangle the project and bring it to a nice focus on the main elements, ensuring that the groove, the punch, the funk wasn’t buried under layers of ultimately unnecessary sound design. I have recently also installed the ProAc Studio 100 again which some people might remember from my old studio. Nothing beats a pair of good nearfields when working on the balance of the different elements, especially in the midrange.

I also moved the project from Ableton Live to Cubase after I returned to Berlin, as Cubase is my studio DAW of choice, and I prefer its features and also its audio engine for finalizing my projects. Ableton is great for playing live, and also super intuitive for tossing around initial ideas early in the process, but for serious production work I still prefer the layout and concept of a more traditional DAW.

At the end of the day “Rising” was a learning experience for me. I know that many of my colleagues work on their music very successfully while being on the road, and for me this was a starting point that gave me some clues about the pitfalls when working outside your regular environment. It goes to show that nothing beats experience with whichever setup you’re using, and I’m looking forward to the inspiring moments on one of my next tours, translating those experiences into new music.

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