Learning to Plug In — Getting Started with Apollo Twin
Whether you’re a newbie or a multi-platinum producer, UAD plug-ins ignite your tracks in powerful and unexpected ways.
Like many of you reading this, I rely on Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin interface as the cornerstone of my travel-ready production setup. Apollo Twin — along with my laptop, headphones, and small collection of microphones — fits nicely in a backpack. So with little warning, I can jump on a train and collaborate on music anywhere in New York City.
After a few months of ownership, my Apollo Twin has already helped me not just record, but sonically elevate, several projects that I’m very proud of.
Much of this is due to Apollo Twin's included Realtime Analog Classics plug-in bundle. By experimenting with these plug-ins, which offer amazing emulations of vintage gear, I got results that are effective and nuanced, flexible and, most importantly, inspiring. Here are a few examples.
APOCALYPTIC STRINGS, SEARING DISTORTION
“Happiness,” a track I produced for Shaman and MGT, ends with an ominous instrumental section, somewhat inspired in feel by The Beatles' “A Day In The Life,” as well as Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited.” I described the overall vibe of that section to Grammy-winning engineer Ken Lewis, who mixed the track, as feeling like the listener is “in a stagecoach to hell, but with a nice blanket and a cup of hot chocolate along the way, enjoying watching the swirling firestorm outside.”
The core of that section comes from a chromatically-evolving string part that I improvised on my Nord Electro, initially using a vintage analog string patch and a ring modulator effect for unsettlingly rapid vibrato. You can hear the raw, unmixed string track here:
As the outro progressed, I wanted it to grow in edge, heat, and momentum, so experimenting with distortion seemed like a good next step.
To that end, I dialed up the UAD Raw Distortion plug-in, an emulation of the classic Pro Co Rat guitar distortion pedal, and was immediately impressed by the thrash and chaos that it produced.
And here’s the string track running through the Raw Distortion plug-in:
I wanted the distortion to enter the soundscape gradually and subtly, helping the entire piece crescendo towards the climax, and Ken did a great job of combining the clean and distorted versions to accomplish that goal in the final mix. You can hear a snippet of the results here:
ADD TAPE CHARACTER
At the beginning of demo production for a new song, I wanted to start with a basic but propulsive drum pattern, a little bit punk and a little bit Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
I pulled a kick and snare sample that I’d recorded for an earlier project and put them together, unprocessed, like this:
Decent, but the sound needed to inspire me to build more of a track on top of it.
The tool that I turned to was the Oxide Tape Recorder, the first UAD plug-in beyond the Analog Classic Bundle that I experimented with. With its intuitive controls and colorful textures, I simply assigned the kick and snare each an Oxide preset shown here:
Here are the results:
While there’s still more to be done with these drums production-wise, Oxide Tape Recorder added the initial depth, warmth, and earthiness needed to get my demo to the next level — and it did it in seconds.
I look forward to hearing what happens as I progress with this track, and seeing what additional UAD plug-ins I use as I go.
IN THE END
If you’ve been recording pristine audio with your own UA Apollo Twin, wonderful — but don’t stop there. The bundled plug-ins offer tons of sonic flexibility and inspiration.
Keep in mind that you can demo any UAD plug-in for 14 days, absolutely free.
Have fun, and best of luck on your own sonic adventures.
Michael Gallant is a musician, composer, producer, writer, and entrepreneur living in New York City. Follow him at @Michael_Gallant and Facebook.com/GallantMusic.
— Michael Gallant