How to Record a Live Band in Small Spaces

By Engineer Kevin Harp

My friend Nick Ratliff asked if I could record three songs for his band Devastating Karate. He was hoping to record in the bass player Chuck Pasarell’s music room which was in his apartment in Marina Del Ray. The challenge for me was how to keep my rig small while still being able to record the band live in the apartment.

I am a big supporter of having a full band play live in the studio while making an album and I wanted to do the same with Devastating Karate. I have always found this to lead to better and more exciting performances. This is even so if we are going to overdub most of the parts.

Here is the setup I used:
For recording, I used a Pro Tools HD Accel system with an Apogee AD-16X for the inputs and two Mini-DACs for the outputs. The AD-16X was in Advanced Routing Mode and the Mini-DACs were connected via the AD-16X’s AES outputs. One Mini-DAC was for the bands headphones and the other was for monitoring on speakers.

For mic-pres, I used a portable 8-channel Neve console and an Apogee Mini-MP. This gave me a total of 10 inputs to record drums, bass, guitar, and a scratch vocal. I connected one of the Mini-DAC’s outputs to a 4-channel headphone amp for the bands headphones.

Because everyone would be in the same small room, I recorded the bass and guitar direct. If any of these bass and/or guitar takes were keepers, I would just re-amp them later. Since I was not using amps while recording the drums, I used amp plug-ins on the DI signals to make the band feel more comfortable while they played.

I set up the recording rig in the dining room which was just down the hall from the music room. I put the singer in the hallway and the rest of the band in the music room. The music room had been constructed with soundproofing materials so I didn’t have to worry about outside noise or making the neighbors angry.

With the Neve, I used 7 channels for the drums and one for the bass with a DI box. With the Apogee Mini-MP, I recorded the scratch vocal and guitar. The guitar used the Mini-MP’s DI input.


We set up, recorded all the parts for 3 songs, and broke down, in 2 days.

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