Tchad Blake Interview

A friend of mine recently recommended an interview with producer/engineer Tchad Blake on Pensado’s Place.  Tchad’s resume is long and diverse, but I know it best from the recent Black Keys records, which sound incredible.  I found the interview interesting, and thought the following points to be especially noteworthy:

  • There is a fair amount of discussion in the interview about Tchad’s transition to mixing primarily in the box, and using plug-ins extensively.  I was glad to hear this, because I’m a big fan of working in the box, and think it gets far too bad of a reputation from audio engineering purists.  It turns out that even world-class engineers use digital recording, plug-ins, and the in-the-box workflow to make world-class records!
  • Tchad claims that he hasn’t used a bass amp in 20 years, preferring to record basses direct and tweak the sounds afterwards (usually in the box).  As a bassist, I appreciate nice bass amps, but as an audio engineer, I definitely prefer to record bass direct.
  • It’s interesting to hear all the different uses Tchad has for the SansAmp plugin.  It goes far beyond coloring guitar sounds.  To me, this reinforces the importance of experimenting and of not being afraid to use a tool for something other than its intended purpose.

Drum Miking Techniques

I’m currently doing some recording with my band, and I was looking for some ideas on how to mic our drums.  We decided to dedicate a recording session to drums alone, so I knew I would have more time and input channels than usual to devote to drums, and I wanted to make the most of that opportunity.  I figured I’d want to close-mic the kick, snare, and toms, and put up some overheads, primarily for capturing cymbals and the overall stereo image of the kit.  I decided to spend some time investigating overhead miking techniques to try to get the best overhead setup possible.

I found useful articles (with audio examples!) on RecordingHacks and on the Shure blog.  The audio examples in both articles are excellent and do a great job illustrating the resulting sound of each technique.  Here are my thoughts after listening to them:

  • X-Y sounds very good, but results in a very narrow stereo image.  I would probably decide against it for most pop/rock-type drums.  It seems like it’d be best for jazz, and for songs that want more of an understated drum sound.
  • Spaced pair results in a really nice, wide stereo image.  It definitely seems like a great choice for rock drums.  The high risk of phase issues suggests that this is a technique that requires a lot of attention to get right, but the results seem worth it.
  • ORTF results in a somewhat narrower stereo image than spaced pair, but sounds very natural.  It seems like a technique that can get very good results without too much setup hassle.

A friend of mine also suggested that I try the Glyn Johns method, but it sounds like an advanced enough technique that I’d probably save it for a later session, once I’ve had more drum recording experience.