Tips & Tricks — Top 5 UAD Plug-Ins for Mixing Guitar
Whether you're looking to pay homage to the breakthrough tones of guitar gods such as Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, The Police's Andy Summers, and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, or to create your own trailblazing new sounds, the UAD-2 Powered Plug-Ins Platform offers a wealth of guitar processing treasures — including software emulations of classic Roland units like the Roland® RE-201 Tape Echo, BOSS® CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, and Roland Dimension D spatial effect. UA even offers a plug-in version what is perhaps the Holy Grail of guitar echo effects: the awesome EP-34 Tape Echo, a spot-on recreation of the legendary Maestro Echoplex, a favorite of Hendrix, Van Halen and other greats.
For this feature, we'll take a look at ways to exploit the magic of these plug-ins while mixing your guitars, and we'll also explore how to use the UAD Neve® 1073 and 1176LN plug-ins to sculpt and refine those sounds with EQ and compression. What's more, we'll be creating an original track from scratch to help illustrate how these plug-ins can work together during mixdown to deliver a wide range of tones and textures.
In fact, before we get started, here's a listen to the final result.Final Mix
Be sure to give a thorough read to the UAD Powered Plug-Ins User's Guide to familiarize yourself with the functions and workflow of each of these plug-ins. And please note that UAD plug-ins are best used during mixdown, not tracking. In the meantime, let's journey back through the '60s, '70s and '80s, and dive into a few of UA's coolest guitar-centric effects.
To get our track started, I've imported a nice drum groove and a solid bassline into stereo tracks in my favorite DAW, Logic Pro 9, both loops courtesy of the excellent Pro Sessions Liquid Cinema: Hollywood Players collection from M-Audio. The first guitar part that I'll play over our groove is a simple Cm9 to F9 change, using the kind of arpeggiation that Andy Summers used on classic Police songs like "Message In A Bottle" and "Every Breath You Take." Here's the completely dry part without any chorus effect at all.Guitar Dry
I began shaping my sound with the CE-1 preset "Mellow Chorus," but then upped both the chorus Depth (literally, the amplitude of the LFO) and Rate (the frequency of the LFO) to achieve stronger pitch modulation, which sounds nice on these longer, hanging chords. I also notched up the Intensity (essentially, a wet/dry control) a few ticks to make the effect more pronounced. The result sounds a bit seasick at first, but adds a nice shimmering texture once it's in the mix.
An instance of the UAD 1176LN Limiting Amplifier Plug-In helps round out the sound's top end, and gives it a little extra punch, without tapping out my CPU or creating latency. I started with the 1176LN preset "Guitar Shine," which has a slow attack, so that the notes punch nicely, and I increased the Release time just a bit to let the notes swell.Guitar Wet
The UAD Boss CE-1 really captures the analog quality of Summers' late-'70s and early-'80s tone, as well as the sounds of players like King Crimson's Robert Fripp and Robert Smith of the Cure. Chorus was so ubiquitous in the Eighties, in fact, that the sound of the CE-1 (later replaced by the more compact design of the Boss CE-2) could be heard virtually everywhere, from The Fixx to Crowded House to Flock of Seagulls.
The CE-1 is as revered for its lush vibrato sound as its killer choruses; it does a wonderful job of approximating a Leslie rotating speaker sound, as heard on tracks like Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," The Beatles "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and many other classics. For my picked minor chord extensions, I called up a "Medium Lush Vibrato" preset, turned up the Intensity for more color, and panned the sound a bit to the right to play off the Summers-y straight chorus part. (It's easy to tweak the CE-1 in real-time, too: switching from Chorus to Vibrato is as easy as "stepping" on the right hand footswitch!)
Andy Summers was fond of using the Maestro Echoplex tape echo device for his delay sounds. The original tape-based echo boxes literally had a loop of magnetic tape in them, and it was the distance between the devices' playback and record heads that determined the delay time. The Echoplex EP-3 and EP-4 featured a sliding lever that allowed you to change that distance in real-time, and the UAD EP-34 plug-in preserves that function. For now though, we're simply going to thicken and spread out our Summers-y part a bit with the UAD EP-34, which brings together the best of Maestro's classic EP-3 and EP-4 models.
In homage to Summers, the UA engineers even created a preset called "Can't Stand Losing You Tape," which uses a short delay time of 269 milliseconds, a moderate low-end roll-off and high-frequency boost, and a slight pan of the echo to the right. I've kicked up the Echo Volume so that the effect is more pronounced. I've also added an instance of the EMT® 140 Plate Reverberator Plug-In to my auxiliary bus to add a hint of classic plate reverb to the stereo spectrum.Guitar EP-34
Since its invention in the late-'50s by Mike Battle, the Echoplex has been popular with virtually every generation and style of players. Its applications span rockabilly slapback, to dub-reggae sound effects, to psychedelic-approved ambience, which is how Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour often employed it. Eddie Van Halen was likewise fond of adding dimension and vibe to his sound with the Echoplex. Let's see how the EP-34 sounds on some heavy '70s-style lead guitar.
I've used the EP-34's Sync switch to line up my echoes in eighth notes to my track tempo (a feature you won't find on the old hardware units!), and I've started with the preset "Sir Echo," which features a fairly short delay time, cuts out low-end frequencies and cranks the highs. Again, notice how panning the echo slightly to one side really opens up the sound, and allows my dry signal to cut through.70s Guitar
Though it has reportedly been popular with artists from Peter Gabriel to Rush's Alex Lifeson to INXS, no one is quite sure why the Dimension D sounds so darn good. Technically a stereo chorus effect, the Dimension D's real strength is the way it creates doubling effects that seem to exploit the width of the stereo field, adding "dimension" to guitars, keyboards, and even vocals, without the pitch modulation common on most other choruses. I like to think of it as "invisible reverb" or "ghost doubling."
Here I've chosen to use it on a funk guitar part, much like how it was likely used by the Talking Heads in the '80s on tunes like "Burning Down the House."
Try throwing on some headphones; you'll hear just a hint of the sound seemingly coming from the hard left and the hard right, when in fact, I've only got it panned just a touch to the left.Fun Lick
The controls on the Dimension D are pretty bone simple –– five colored buttons that engage the different "dimension modes." They can be used in various combinations, and range in intensity as you select from left to right. For my mono guitar figure, I've chosen to combine 2+4 in Mono mode, but the effect is decidedly stereo-like.
To lift my funk guitar out of the bass frequencies, and help it cut through, I've added an instance of the Neve 1073 Classic Console EQ Plug-In to the channel insert to sculpt the sound with equalization. I've moved the 1073's blue right-hand knob to a low-frequency cut at 100 Hz to lose any woofiness at the bottom, added a bit of gain in the midrange at 3.2 Khz for articulation in the mix, and kicked the highs up just a touch to create "air" on top.
A little 1176 compressor also helps fatten and smooth my guitar figure; I've chosen a fairly quick attack and release time.
While the RE-201 has three tape heads, instead of just playback/record like the EP-34, it shares many of the same basic feature set of the EP-34, and it excels at gritty tape delay textures and big ambiences, as well as shorter rockabilly-style slapbacks. The RE-201 is especially famous for those cascading, regenerating echo clusters that dub reggae producers like Lee "Scratch" Perry liked to use on snare hits and vocals. Technically, these are "self-oscillations," created when you raise the Intensity level past a given point at which the echoes repeat back on themselves, creating a feedback loop.
You can hear this effect in bands as disparate as The Congos, Jane's Addiction, Air, and it also shows up in Radiohead's music. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood makes no secret of his beloved original RE-201, which is heard all over the classic LP OK Computer, notably on the lovely mandolin-like lines and lurching effects of "Airbag."
Like Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt, King Crimson's Robert Fripp, and many other art-rock players, I've opted to pair the Echoplex up with an EBow in order to create ambient, sustaining textures and melody over my track's intro. Like Greenwood, I'm going to tweak the Intensity and Repeat rate knobs to high levels on the RE-201 during my performance, in order to create some dramatic self-oscillating effects. I've gone ahead and automated these changes in my Logic arrange window; no doubt your DAW will allow you to do the same.EBow
Using the big Mode Selector knob, I've set my RE-201 to Mode 9, which exploits the plug-in's Echo and Reverb circuits simultaneously, using tape heads 2 and 3 for more complex oscillations. My part benefits from the RE-201's lush reverb, panned hard left, and Echo, panned hard right. With headphones, you can really hear how these reflections spread out.
(One note: the RE-201's Peak Level LED will light, and the VU meter will hit the red, if your input signal is too high. Try to keep this level down, especially when pushing the Intensity levels, and watch your overall volume, as these "self-oscillations" can suddenly become very loud.)
Less glamorous perhaps than the echo effects, the Universal Audio 1176 Limiting Amplifier makes all of these great effects sound even better. That's why I've added it to every guitar channel in my humble little production here, including the bass. When my Hendrix-inspired solo needed a little extra boost and presence in the mix, the 1176 gave it what it needed. When my Police-y ninth chords needed a little more warmth and "pushed-air" effect, the 1176 gave them that. Likewise, it helped my funk comping find its place in the mix, and it was exactly what I needed to tame some of the harsher peaks in the self-oscillating echoes from the RE-201. While UA's presets are good places to start, you'll find that the plug-in's front panel is very simple, and useful sounds are easy to come by. Partnered with an EQ like the Neve 1073, it's a significant tool in the guitarist's kit.
And what the heck — since we're paying homage to classic rockers, let's strap a Studer® A800 Multichannel Tape Recorder Plug-In to the master output for some sweet tape saturation, using the preset "Classic Rock," which emulates the sound of Scotch 3M 250-style tape at 15 IPS (inches per second).
My final track — let's call it "The Voodoo Radio Police" — combines all of these plug-ins, textures and tones over the course of its arrangement:Final Mix
So there you have it. And these are just some of plug-ins on the UAD platform that can help you easily get classic and cutting-edge sounds for your guitar.
Production Notes: The drums and bass were constructed using beats and fills from M-Audio's Liquid Cinema: Hollywood Players Vol: 1.
All guitars by James Rotondi. Produced and mixed by James Rotondi.
"UA Guitar Demo: The Voodoo Radio Police" Copyright 2011, by James Rotondi, RotoSongs, Ltd. (BMI) All Rights Reserved.
— James Rotondi