Studio Essentials: David Keno | Soundspace

Studio Essentials: David Keno

Studio Essentials: David Keno

The music industry can be a merciless place, as genre trends come and go, fans can be quick to move on to the next sound that all their mates can’t shut up about. But one talent who has absolutely remained on the right side of the tipping point is Swiss born, Berlin-based DJ, producer and label owner David Keno.

Over the years the house-leaning artist has put his productions out with labels like Toolroom, Katermukke, Dirtybird, Lauter Unfug, Suara, and more, and since 2006 he has ran his own imprint which boasts records from Oliver Schories, Phonique, Lexer, P.A.C.O. and Beataminnes.

Our latest edition of the music-tech focused Studio Essentials series lets us discover the tools that have brought David Keno so much success in the studio, with mentions of everything from his go-to studio monitors to his favourite synthesizers. Get the full list with words from David Keno himself below.

Amphion One18

Studio Essentials: David Keno

I worked with lots of different monitors over the years, starting with Genelec, then Neumann and Adams. After I read some incredibly good reviews on Gearslutz I decided to try them out. At first I wasn‘t too impressed. I mean everything was there, they have a lot of detail and everything is placed perfectly in the room, but it didn‘t blow me away.

But after working with them I realized that everything I produced was just better in the end. The results sounded good everywhere. They kind of force you to keep working with them.

U-he Diva

Studio Essentials: David Keno

There are a lot of plugins and synths to pick, but this is the one I use the most. After using a ton of soft synths and always being a little bit underwhelmed by them, I was blown away when this first came out. Perfect for fat and warm basses that sound like a Moog or aggressive lead synths that cut through every mix. I also love the flexibility. Lots of different filter types, routing and modulation options. Not the biggest fan of too many fx on basslines, so I tend to disable or turn down the delay and reverb here.

Acoustic Treatment

Studio Essentials Acoustic Foam

Not the most sexy choice for the gear lovers but this was the most important investment I made in my professional career. For years and years I was experimenting with the acoustics in my studios. Mostly there was too much bass and I couldn’t really hear what I was doing. Getting a track to sound good was always a bit hit and miss. It sounded great in my studio but when I listened to the track on a big sound system or in the club I heard parts that were just wrong. Either not enough bass or there was an element that sounded off.

After I had someone come to my studio who measured the room and who told me what I had to put there to make it sound neutral this all changed. He installed some resonators, diffusers, and set up the monitors perfectly. After this treatment I knew exactly what to do to make a track sound right. I took a finished mix to the club and it sounded exactly how it was intended to sound. Now I could mix for other people because the results were just better.

So before buying synths or the best monitors you can get, let a professional help you with the acoustics in your room.

Ableton Push 2

Studio Essentials Ableton Push 2

Working with a mouse isn’t the greatest workflow for making music. The Push 2 helps me stay in the flow and to see the computer more as a real instrument. Especially with software synths and effects it helps to have real knobs and buttons. A great feature is also that you can play in the right scale. If the track is in C minor you can set the Push to C minor and just start jamming. I play a little bit of piano but with this new approach to melodies and harmonies you just get different ideas than before. Sometimes I prefer the piano, but it is good to have both choices.

The Push also helps me with the arrangement. When writing a track I mostly start in the vertical live view of Ableton Live. This means I have different scenes in front of me like intro, main part, breakdown, etc. Later on when I think I have everything I start the track by starting and stopping clips and recording the whole jam. Like that it feels more natural than dragging single clips in the arrangement window with the mouse.

Modular Rack

Studio Essentials Modular Synth Rack

This is just an inspirational toy for me. Sometimes I just start plugging in wires and waiting for something interesting to happen. I heard stories from people who never released a track after they started going modular but this is different with me. One of my first experiments on the rack was released on Dirtybird (David Keno – Fallout), the main synth is a dirty oscillator being modulated by different LFO’s. Something I probably wouldn’t have achieved with software.

My rack is just medium sized and I am refusing to buy another chassis to host more modules. If I see a free spot in the case I can’t stop thinking about what to buy next. It is an addiction.

Roland Space Echo

Studio Essentials Roland Space Echo

If there is something like machines having a soul, the Roland Space Echo definitely has one. After switching it on you can hear the tape running inside. It has a lot of noise but that is all part of its charm. I sometimes just use it to get some grit on a drum track. Especially running 808 or 909 through it makes so much of a difference. I used the UAD version a couple of years ago but it has none of the dirt from the original.

If you turn up the delay intensity (feedback) it goes into a self oscillation that I love using for breakdowns and effect sounds. I like playing around with it and record the whole jam. There is always something great happening that I can use later on in a track.

In times where everybody works with sample libraries it’s important to stay original. I don’t have anything against using these samples but you still have to record and create your own sounds.

David Keno’s Resonate EP is out now on Dirtybird Records.