Mixing Bronze Radio Return’s “Melting in My Icebox” with UAD Plug-Ins
F. Reid Shippen is a Nashville-based music producer, engineer, and mixer who’s been fortunate to have mixed 10 Grammy-award winning projects, as well as hits in multiple genres such as pop, country, R&B, and CCM. He’s worked with such luminary artists as Ingrid Michaelson, Dierks Bentley, India.Arie, Death Cab for Cutie, Matthew Perryman Jones, Shania Twain, the Temptations, and, of course, Bronze Radio Return.
Here, Shippen details how he used UAD-2 plug-ins on the Bronze Radio Return track, “Melting in My Icebox” from the album Up, On & Over.
Bronze Radio Return makes such fun, celebratory music, and their producer, Chad Copelin, is a badass engineer in his own right, so it’s always such a pleasure to work with fun and talented people, and this record was a career highlight.
BRR is a very quirky band, which is part of their charm, and then they turn on you with these massive, glorious hooks. The challenge in mixing this record was maintaining the band’s unique identity while making sure the hooks paid off.
“Melting in My Icebox” is one such earworm and we were all very happy with how it turned out.Bronze Radio Return - Melting in My Icebox
I mix a lot of music in a lot of different genres, and I turn to UAD-2 plug-ins constantly for the character they impart. One of the things I like about them the most is that they have strange tricks and “weirdnesses” just like all of my favorite outboard gear. The first thing I’m going to show you is a bit of a secret trick — especially for electric guitars.
The Middle Finger on Guitars
Ok, so the old Helios EQ modules are awesome, as one knows, and the UAD Helios™ Type 69 EQ plug-in is a really great emulation of that hardware, right down to the unique tricks that make this my "go to" EQ for electric guitar.
Trick 1: Knock the bass EQ up one notch to 60 Hz. I don’t add any gain but the bottom end will instantly get thicker. (Rumor has it that Richard Dodd made the UA cats get this right. Sure, it makes no sense, but it’s how the real Helios works and it sounds great!
Trick 2: Turn the 10 kHz all the way down, and then crank up the midrange EQ between 10 and 15 dB. When the frequency is set to one of the top three choices, the midrange will stand up and give you the middle finger as you inch the gain up.
Here’s the guitar dry.
And here it is with the Helios EQ tweaks.
It’s like magic and it’s my favorite way to get some attitude into guitars. I added the venerable Teletronix® LA-3A Classic Audio Leveler plug-in behind it to catch the peaks and level things out. Granted, this example is a looped phrase, but the UAD plug-ins really helped it step out.
Something in the Air
Bronze Radio Return does amazingly textured vocals, and they have to sound interesting. There are a few things going on in this stack that I wanted to have happening.
First, the live vocals needed air, presence, and some space. But there’s also a synth choir blended in behind them, and I wanted to separate it out from the vocals in a way that would enhance the “stack” sound without being an obvious “synth” part.
I love the Cooper® Time Cube Mk II Delay plug-in for messing with soundfield cues. I use it constantly. I ran the synth choir through that to spread it out behind the vocals using the “Guitar Bloomer” preset. Then I ran the whole vocal stack through the Neve® 88RS Channel Strip plug-in, the Neve® 33609 / 33609SE Compressor plug-in, and the EMT® 140 Classic Plate Reverberator plug-in.
Here are the background vocals dry.BRR Icebox BGVs - Dry
And here they are with the UAD plug-ins.BRR Icebox BGVs with UA
The “trick” with the Neve 88RS is to crank up the high band of the EQ — as you can see I’ve dimed it — and then back the HF Filter down until you get some nice air in the top-end that has a lot of detail without being too crazy bright. This move also works very well on acoustic guitars.
The Neve 33609 behind the EQ gives me some level control and a touch of thickness, while the EMT 140 plate gives me a just a bit of space.
Space Jam Hand Claps
The thing I love most about the UAD-2 plug-ins is that they allow you to be subtle. For far too long a lot of digital processing sounded very “all-or-nothing” to me, but with UAD-2, I can do a lot of the little things that I believe add up to a lot.
In this case, I used the Teletronix® LA-3A Classic Audio Leveler plug-in and the Cooper® Time Cube Mk II Delay plug-in with the preset, “Haas Effect Left” to give the track’s hand claps a cool 3-D feel.
Here are the hand claps without UAD.BRR Icebox Claps - Dry
And here they are with the Copper Time Cube and LA-3A plug-ins.BRR Icebox Claps with UA
The Cooper kicks the hand claps out to the sides, away from vocals and kick and snare, and the LA-3A has a natural brightness that always sounds great on percussion. I may have let the LA-3A clip the output a bit to get a little more snap though — don’t tell the clients!
Visit F. Reid Shippen at robotlemon.com.
— F. Reid Shippen