At some point, every gear-hungry film composer must have wondered: what equipment does Hans Zimmer use?
Hans Zimmer uses two different DAWs assigned with two different tasks, a touchscreen command center, a Doepfer MIDI Keyboard, a Bösendorfer grand piano, and modular synths from Moog, Roland, Waldorf, and many more. In addition, he uses virtual instruments (VSTs) from companies like u-he and Arturia.
I wanted to put together an easy to read, up-to-date, detailed list for you, in case you are looking to model your music studio after the studio of the German film composer legend.
So, enjoy discovering the equipment Hans Zimmer uses in his studio as of 2021.
Let’s begin with the one place it all starts – the digital audio workstation. This is the software where you create, edit, and record your music. Hans Zimmer actually uses two DAWs; Cubase and Pro Tools, for various purposes.
But why do Zimmer use both Cubase and Pro Tools when he scores a film?
I work on Cubase because I’ve always worked on Cubase.Hans Zimmer in Masterclass
Zimmer uses Cubase Pro mainly to compose and edit his midi tracks. Cubase was created by fellow germans Manfred Rürup and Karl “Charlie” Steinberg, the founders of Steinberg. Zimmer has used Cubase since it first arrived on the scene.
Cubase is the main DAW, the sequencer, where Hans creates his individual cues. It is in Cubase all the actual music creation and experimentation is being done.
Using two DAWs is a result of a composer wanting to create the best possible workflow. That is why Hans Zimmer also uses Pro Tools when he scores a film. This DAW speaks with Cubase and takes care of tasks Cubase shouldn’t need to be doing.
For example, Pro Tools is a great DAW for working with the audio and video tracks, in addition to efficiently monitoring and oversee the full project.
Other useful usage areas of Pro Tools:
- Handles multiple video files in the project, (which is great for working with TV series or multiple scenes)
- …and because of this, the video files won’t put too much pressure on the project file you’ve got running on Cubase. All in all, combining the two DAWs results in a more stable, efficient, and safe workflow.
However, Cubase, Logic Pro, and other DAWs are perfectly capable of handling video files within your projects. Unless you are working on multiple TV series episodes or a full-length feature film, you won’t really need to prioritize this setup.
Hans Zimmer uses Doepfer LMK4+ as his main MIDI keyboard, which you can see in many of his interviews, including his Masterclass.
Doepfer is a brand that is very popular among several other composers. The LMK4+ is used by several composers, such as Christian Henson at Spitfire Audio and the film composer Junkie XL.
However, Zimmer also uses the Komplete Kontrol MIDI keyboards by Native Instruments, as you can see at around 17:30 in this video:
I’ve played this MIDI Keyboard several times. It is, without a doubt, a fully professional keyboard that is also a little more affordable than the Doepfer.
Native instruments sometimes launch awesome special offers on their products, so be sure to check out the Komplete Kontrol on their website to see if you are in for a good deal.
An even more affordable alternative
The Doepfer and Komplete Kontrol are without a doubt great MIDI keyboards/controllers. They are quite expensive though. So, if you are looking for a great, full-sized MIDI keyboard with fully weighted keys, I recommend you take a closer look at Yamaha P45 – a digital piano I own myself, which I am absolutely overjoyed with.
I wrote about the differences between a digital piano and a MIDI keyboard in this article if you want to read more about it.
Zimmer uses multiple studio monitor brands and is a big fan of Quested Monitors. In his line-up you will find monitors like:
- The 1st gen Quested VS2108 Studio Monitors
- The 2nd gen Quested VS2108 Studio Monitors
- Quested HM415
- Quested VS210 Speakers
- Dynaudio BM5 MKII
Quested is a very popular brand among film composers. Harry Gregson-Williams is another film composer who really likes Quested Monitors, also using the VS2108 model.
Quested are definitely worth their price, but if they are outside your price range, I recommend having a look at a very solid and affordable pair of Yahamas which I discuss in this article.
Junkie XL mentions Hans Zimmer’s touchscreen in the video I’ve embedded below. It is built by Mark Wherry, and it works as a control/command center for Cubase.
For example, the touchscreen can:
- Select, hide, and mute groups of tracks more efficiently
- Make it easier to navigate in huge projects with hundreds of tracks
- Doing in-depth MIDI adjustments with pre-coded shortcuts
- …and much, much more
Have a look at the video below to see all the usage areas of the touchscreen owned by Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL).
Hans and Junkie XLs touchscreens are completely custom made and not for the general public. It is Wherry’s own code and he uses Windows touchscreens.
However, if you want to build a setup like this, you could use either iPads or Windows touchscreens.
And there is no need to be adept at coding either. There are apps that will help you out, which you are going to find out now.
So, do you want to build yourself a setup like this? Hans has a big screen, and I recommend you have the same, to work more efficiently.
A great option is this affordable 11.5-inch monitor which you can find on amazon.
The app you need to download is Lemur, a MIDI controller app that now is available for both Android and iOS. The Lemur app is around $25 as I write this article. Lemur is the preferred option if you want your control interface to resemble the touchscreen that Zimmer has.
So for a little over $100, you too can get the touchscreen workflow that Hans Zimmer uses. Check out the video by Brian Rivlin for a helpful tutorial on how to make yourself one.
A natural part of Zimmer’s studio is a grand piano. He owns a Bosendorfer 280 VC, the old, well-known maker of concert grands. Bosendorfer is based in Vienna, Austria, and the signature sound of their pianos are tender and sonorous, with warm bass, colorful middle tones, and soft, angelic tremble.
Naturally, getting your hands on this concert grand would require both a lot of space and money, so I thought I could provide a way cheaper option (which also happens to be my new concert grand VST favorite) “Noire“, by Native Instruments.
With Noire, you will have a fantastic concert grand basically in your pocket. The one thing I like the most with Noire is how effortless it kickstarts your creative process. Be sure to check out Noire on the Native Instruments website.
Check out my favorite music production tools
Music production equipment could be expensive. That’s why it’s important to really think things through before buying the “latest and greatest” equipment out there. Over the years as a film composer, I have used a lot of different music production equipment. Want to see my favorite music tools?
I have always felt that the computer was my instrument.Hans Zimmer
Hans said this in an interview with Mashable, where he talked about a lot of things, including his programming abilities – which are world-class, if you ask me.
A computer is something that can be changed and upgraded continuously, so the exact computer model and specs that Hans Zimmer currently uses can vary greatly from the information you found online last month.
But here is my advice:
- Look for a computer with a minimum of 16 GB of RAM
- Look for a computer with a minimum i5 CPU
- Buying second-hand is definitely okay – just be sure you know what to look for.
You can read helpful advice on how to get a powerful PC for music production in this article.
Synthezeisers are a wonderful creative outlet. Synths are perfect for creating and experimenting with sounds – which can give you as a composer a whole new sound signature.
Hans Zimmer creates music in a gothic, atmospheric studio, with dimmed lights. One of the walls in the studio is a huge modular synth. The man is all about playing around with synthesizers, and what follows is a selection of what he uses:
- Yamaha CS-80
- Minimoog Voyager
- Moog 953 Duophonic
- Roland MKS-80 Super Jupiter
- Waldorf Q
- Waldorf Microwave XT
- Waldorf Wave
VIRTUAL INSTRUMENTS (VSTs)
If you had to splash the cash on just one of his many VSTs, your money would be best spent on the VST that follows.
Hans Zimmer likes to experiment with sounds – and especially synths. When Zimmer is not using analog, modular synths like his Minimoog Voyager and Arturia CS-80, he swears by ZEBRA by u-he, the German maker of synthesizers and effects.
This VST lets you play around with different sounds, waveforms, and effects, helping you create new sounds, effects, and atmos.
In Masterclass, Zimmer demonstrates how powerful Zebra is by creating a one-of-its-kind, unique sound that you cannot just buy out of the box.
Tip: u-he also offers Zebralette, a lite version of the Zebra for free. You can check it out here.
I hope this post was of help to you. If you know a friend who would like to read this, be sure to share it!