A decent recording area for your guitar always comes in handy when you’re composing songs or simply jamming with friends.
But finding the ideal setup for your home recording studio may be difficult, especially if you’re still a newbie.
From the equipment to buy to the insider techniques to master, the list seems to go on FOREVER!
But the good news is that spending tons of cash or time is unnecessary to make a basic recording setup for your guitar.
You can do it YOURSELF if you have some fundamental tools and experience!
In this guide, we’ll show you how to record guitar on PC so you can fulfill your guitar lead dreams. And by the end, you’ll see how EASY it is to record your own riffs.
Beginner’s Guide to Recording Guitar
Visiting a professional studio and asking for help from sound engineers was the only way to create high-quality recordings.
But thanks to modern technology, you can now produce the same quality (or even better) at home. No need to rent an entire recording studio!
With a few pieces of equipment, you can start recording AWESOME music!
But before we show you how to record guitar on PC, you need to know what you’ll need. Here’s a brief rundown of everything you should have in your recording studio.
What You Will Need
Well, this doesn’t come as a surprise.
Whether it’s an acoustic guitar or electric guitar, you’ll definitely need one to do some recording.
Based on our experience, there is no correct answer on which guitar type is better. However, there are certain things you need to consider, such as:
- Playability and feel
- Ease of learning
- The guitar sound
- Type of music genre
However, at the end of the day, it’s still the musician’s call to decide which is better for their audio recording.
2. Computer or Laptop
Which is better? PC or laptop?
To be honest, there are advantages and disadvantages to either option.
Using a PC when recording guitar is often expensive but more efficient than using a mobile device or laptop.
You can even record numerous tracks and add TONS of effects to the sound recording without worrying about any lag in your music’s editing and digital processing.
As such, it doesn’t come as a surprise if PCs are the go-to equipment of recording studios.
While laptops may not be as powerful as PCs, it’s more convenient and portable to use. It is a wonderful companion during vacations where all your creative juices flow.
However, you must remember that heavy editing and processing can be a bit sluggish when you’re using a laptop.
For the most part, it’s great for basic composing, recording, or looping!
3. DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
A Digital Audio Workstation or DAW is a recording software designed to perform the majority of activities associated with:
- Instrument recording
- Audio editing
- Music production
It is the most VERSATILE platform to tinker with sounds. So, investing some of your time learning to use one is worthwhile!
There are tons of quality DAWs out there that can make your music mastering and mixing dreams come true, like PreSonus Studio One, Guitar Rig, and Positive Grid BIAS FX 2.
However, a Digital Audio Workstation is NOT AN ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT when you connect your guitar to a PC or laptop.
There is still some reliable recording software out there that lets you loop or add different effects to your music that work well with Windows and any iOS device.
4. Audio Interface
Audio interfaces let you plug studio microphones into your computer. While they appear to be tricky, they’re actually simple to use!
It’s the microphone input and output (I/O) part that most beginners get confused about.
Usually, the computer can’t identify where the microphone is plugged in. So, you need to tell it where to look.
To solve this, you must modify the setting in your DAW that tells the computer where the mic is (the input) and what you’re using to listen (output).
And by the way, since we’re talking about how to use an audio interface, we suggest using USB audio interfaces.
While it is a tad expensive, you can expect a high-quality solution. After trying them, we’re sure you’ll never go back to guitar cables!
5. A Pair of Headphones
You’ll need a way to listen to your signal after you’ve run it through the audio interface.
While you can get passable results using your laptop or PC’s speaker, it is not enough to faithfully reproduce the sound of your recording.
You can still achieve the best results with a decent headphone output or speakers.
It’s because they’re designed to deliver a flat response curve, meaning you can hear the actual sound of your recording as clearly as possible.
6. Multi-Effects Pedals Setup
Without a doubt, the most efficient way to connect your bass guitar or electric guitar to a computer is through a dedicated audio interface.
But, sometimes, you have to roll with the tide and do what you can in your setup.
This is where your digital multi-effects processor with a USB port comes in handy since it can serve as an alternative to your audio interface.
Another good thing about multi-effects pedals is that manufacturers have been building audio interfaces into digital stompbox-sized pedals.
This means you can check out what you have on your pedalboard and save yourself a few bucks if you just want to connect your guitar to a computer and lay out a few riffs.
7. Guitar Amps (optional)
Guitar amplifiers have become more affordable in recent years, with even far superior sounds available than in the past.
Apart from this, many amplifiers contain USB ports that transform them into audio interfaces.
So, if you have a guitar amp with a USB port, check the manual it comes with to see whether it can also function as an audio interface.
And save your thanks later because we’re pretty sure we just helped you save a few bucks!
8. Microphones (optional)
You won’t need a microphone if you only want to play electric guitar, and plug your guitar directly into your audio interface.
But if you plan on recording your guitar amp or any acoustic instrument, you’ll definitely want to record using a decent microphone.
There are a lot of amazing mics on the market, such as the iRig Mic Studio and the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
However, you must know that there’s no need to spend a fortune on this equipment.
A high-quality recording gear will not produce great music if you don’t know how to operate it.
We suggest buying inexpensive microphones first and learning how to make them sound amazing.
How to Record an Electric Guitar in 5 Different Ways
When you’re recording your guitar to a computer, there are cases where you end up with bad sound quality, or your guitar tone might seem off.
It’s because there are different ways to correctly record your guitar!
Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of methods online on how to do it, like using a portable digital recorder or connecting USB audio interfaces.
Here are FIVE effective ways to record electric guitars to avoid any difficulties.
Method#1: Record Directly From Your Guitar Into Instrument Input on an Audio Interface
- Connect your audio interface – Make sure you follow the audio interface’s instructions and connect your guitar to the instrument input on the interface.
- On the first try, you might not like the sound produced. You can adjust the dry signal from your guitar with various plug-ins.
- Invest in a decent audio interface – A typical audio interface can analyze your recording and convert it to the appropriate format. This type of technology generally includes the ability to alter sound recorded.
- Prepare and record electric guitar. At this point, it’s time to get your materials ready, such as your DAW, guitar lead, and guitar amplifier.
Remember, even if you have the finest equipment set to an optimized setting, if you fail to tune your guitar, the guitar sound won’t turn out as you hoped.
So you need to make sure that your guitar is ready for battle!
Method#2: Using a Direct Box
- Choose between an active and passive DI. The obvious difference between the two is that an active DI requires a power supply to function, whereas passive DIs don’t.
- Because it has variances in design, each type has its strong suits that should be considered.
- For instance, the transformers used in passive DIs are more resistant to the hum produced by ground loops, making them perfect for on-stage performance.
- Get your DI. Several DI options are available, some of which come with features that you may find handy.
- For example, amp simulators may be placed on top of your DI recording to make your track sound more like it was made by an amp.
- Hook up your DI. Always read the instructions that came with your DI. But, if you’re someone who can’t be bothered to read, we found that most DIs are set up when you connect your guitar with a 14″ output cable.
- Afterward, hook up your DI output (which is most likely an XLR connection) to your mixing console, audio interface, or computer.
- Play and record electric guitar. Set your audio interface to “Record” and start playing music. When you’re finished, stop recording and listen to what you’ve played using headphones.
- Keep in mind that your DI will only have recorded the sound of your guitar, so your recording may sound thin or lack something.
- Tweak your guitar amp simulator settings, if possible. If you have an amp simulator, you may add its effects to your recording to make it sound more natural.
TIP: Listen to the modifications you make using headphones, and use the simulator’s interface to tweak the recording’s sound quality until you’re happy.
Method#3: Mic Recording Evaluation and Setup
- Assess your amplifier. You may need a sizable amp to capture higher and lower ranges of your ax and features like distortion and sizzle, depending on the sound quality you want in your recording guitar.
- Determine which amp best delivers the required sound quality.
- Estimate the target volume of your amp. You might not be able to record your killer guitar solo at home without being interrupted by family, neighbors, or outside noise.
If your area does not let you record at the volume you wish, you may want to consider:
- Changing your location
- Dampening the sound (e.g., blankets, sound absorbing foam, etc.).
- Using amp volume-output control equipment (e.g., power soak or speaker chamber).
- Create a sound closet for low-cost microphone recording. A DIY “sound closet” will allow you to turn up the volume on your amp without worrying about exterior noise or neighbor complaints.
- Find a large closet or cabinet to hold your amplifier, and insulate the walls and door with sound blankets to deaden the sound.
- Consider the use of a power soak. A power soak is an add-on piece of equipment that is used in-line to lessen an amp’s volume output while preserving the tone and sustain.
- The signal travels through the line to the power soak, which absorbs a portion of the amp’s full power.
- This adjusted signal is sent to the amplifier, resulting in quieter volumes.
TIP: A Power Soak transforms your amp’s power into heat and may get quite hot. For optimal results, use care and follow the instructions that came with your power soak.
- Purchase a speaker chamber, if necessary. A speaker chamber is a wooden box that has its own speaker and microphone stand. On a smaller scale, this box operates in the same way as a studio isolation booth.
- Examine the quality of your microphone. Different microphone designs can record different ranges or qualities of sound. Some microphones are specifically intended for recording a guitar cabinet. You can test your mic by:
- Checking the mic placement and positioning it 6 to 8 inches away from the speaker
- Setting it slightly off-center from the speaker cone
- Using headphones to test the sound quality of the microphone
- Adjust the mic position till you reach the “sweet spot.”
TIP: Closer mic positioning (usually 2 to 5 inches) is ideal for capturing low-end sound.
- Purchase a more suitable microphone, if needed. If you discover that your mic isn’t recording sound as you need it to, you’ll need to research to find the best one for your needs.
- For example, you may utilize a large diaphragm condenser mic to record crisp rock tones or electronic music.
- You should be able to get consistently decent recordings by using either a common: dynamic microphone (also called a dynamic mic) or a ribbon microphone.
Method#4: Using a Microphone to Record
- Warm up your guitar amps. Before connecting your recording guitar, put your amp into sleep mode with no input for at least two minutes.
- Plug up your guitar and turn on the amp after it has warmed up and it is ready to rock.
- Adjust your amp settings and dampening measures. You may alter the tone of the music your amplifier produces by adjusting the volume of your amplifier.
- Set your amplifier to its maximum volume, and if loudness is an issue, ensure you have enough sound for dampening measures.
- Check all the hardware and guitar cable. Due to wear and tear, a standard guitar cable and its connections may need some fine-tuning.
- Check that the guitar, amp, microphone, and audio interface are also properly connected.
- Stress test your electrical supply. Audio equipment can consume a substantial amount of power. A circuit breaker trips, and the power supply is switched off when an electrical circuit consumes too much current.
- Warming up your electrical supply is a good strategy to prevent this from happening during a guitar recording.
- Check that all of the equipment you wish to use is switched on and warmed up and that the recording volume is set.
- Double check the sound of your electric guitar with headphones. Double-check your tuning. If you find that the tone of your guitar is too “honky,” or has a country twang to it, you may change it by decreasing the Mid knob.
- If the sound is too heavy or indistinct, like in electronic music, turn up the Mid knob.
- Record your guitar. With everything in place and calibrated perfectly, all that remains is to switch on your audio interface and begin recording. Once you’ve finished playing, stop the recording and double-check your work.
- Use filters to improve sound quality. You may now use your portable audio interface to fine-tune your recording. You’ll most likely use a computer for this.
- After you’ve done your recording, you can apply filters to it to highlight certain aspects, such as:
- Clarity and concentration. A high pass filter set to 100, 150, or 200Hz can serve to focus the sound while minimizing bass muddiness.
- Sound foundation. You can highlight this by adjusting the frequency range of your recorded sound by 700-800Hz, increasing the grit to 3-4Khz, and reducing the boxiness to 300-400Hz.
- High frequencies are softer. A soft 12Khz low pass filter might help to reduce piercing high frequencies.
Method#5: Record Directly From Your Guitar Using the Guitar-USB Interface
- Get a guitar-USB. As the name suggests, you’ll need a guitar-USB like the iRig Digital Guitar Interface to make this work.
- Record your guitar. Connect your guitar directly to your computer, and BOOM! You’re done. This is an excellent low-cost option that is quick and simple to use.
- However, these devices do not receive as many positive reviews as audio interfaces.
- If you wish to record vocals and other instruments now or in the future, you should consider investing in an audio interface or USB mixer.
How to Record an Acoustic Guitar in 4 Easy Ways
We’re now done talking about recording electric guitar. Now, let’s see how to record acoustic guitar.
Here are our four tried and tested ways:
Method#1: Record With a Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone and Audio Interface
When you start recording, the ideal way to capture the depth of a guitar’s tone is by using a large-diaphragm condenser microphone.
There are tons of ways how you can position this type of mic. Each position highlights distinct aspects of the instrument’s sound.
Don’t be frustrated if you don’t get it on the first try!
We suggest beginning by positioning the microphone around 3 feet away from the instrument and pointing it squarely at the sound hole.
- The rich sound from the sound hole and the strumming of the strings will be captured at this distance.
- However, you may notice some ‘booming,’ so you should reposition the mic slightly further toward the neck.
Remember that the surrounding environment has an impact on the sound you record.
So, once you’ve gotten to know your new recording gear, determine whether you need to think about acoustic treatment.
Method#2: Record Directly From Your Acoustic Guitar Output Into Instrument Input on the Audio Interface
If your recording acoustic guitar is an electro-acoustic guitar with a 1/4′′ output, you may record directly from it.
Connect it to an audio interface’s instrument input to start recording!
The downside is that the signal you capture will be rather “dry” and will most likely not sound the same as you hear it when you play.
You also won’t be able to record the sound of your fingertips striking the fretboard.
The advantage is that you don’t have to worry as much about the acoustic challenges of your recording area.
Method#3: A Combination of 1 and 2 – Record Using a Condenser Microphone and the 1/4″ Output of Your Guitar.
You’ll need an interface with both an XLR mic input and an instrument input. And it must have at least two channels so that you may capture both signals simultaneously.
The beauty of this approach is that you catch a good clean signal directly from the guitar.
With this signal, you can blend with the tone coming through the sound hole and the fingerboard sound.
Method#4: Record Your Guitar With a USB Microphone.
If you are on a limited budget, obtaining an audio interface, microphone, cables, and so on may be expensive.
In such a scenario, you may invest in a high-quality USB mic.
The great thing about this is that you don’t need any additional equipment! Everything is incorporated into the microphone!
As a result, there is no need for an audio interface or anything else. However, remember that this method is not as versatile as the other alternatives.
How to Record Guitar on Mobile Device
Say goodbye to connecting your guitar on PC!
Thanks to modern technology, you can now record your guitar on your phone, too! You don’t need multiple inputs and numerous audio interfaces for this.
Here’s how you can do it:
- Grab your recording guitar. The connection to play the guitar through a smartphone or tablet consists of three parts:
- The instrument
- The phone
- The speaker or headphone output
- If you have a guitar, it means you already have the input device (i.e., the tip of your guitar jack).
- Get a speaker or headphones. You must listen to your guitar using an output device, such as amp speakers, a 5+1 surround system, and earphones, among others.
- Also, while using your phone as a guitar amplifier and pedalboard, you may use anything that can play music as your output device.
- Have an interface to connect your guitar to your Android or iOS device. We now have the guitar and speakers. So how do we put the mobile device between them? This is where interfaces come in.
- These connectors act as a hub between the 3 components mentioned earlier.
- For guitar players, there are hundreds of popular interfaces. The most common are USB connectors and input and output slots for various instruments.
- Basically, they take the sound from your guitar, transmit it to your phone to be processed, and then get the processed signal from your smartphone and deliver it to your output device (headphones or speakers).
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use a Microphone Without an Audio Interface?
A USB microphone is one technique to use a microphone without an audio interface. This is a condenser mic that connects by USB rather than XLR.
You may alternatively use an XLR to USB converter to connect your XLR device to a USB port.
What Is the Best Software to Record Guitar?
Many music recording software today can help you record vocals or record multiple instruments with minimal effort.
Some we recommend are:
- Magix Music Maker
- Pro Tools
- Cakewalk By Bandlab
- Bias FX
Now that you’ve got all the fundamentals down on how to record guitar check out these extra tips for getting amazing guitar recordings.
Getting Rid of Hum or Buzz
There may be cases where you hear some electrical buzzing in the background when you’re playing at your home recording studio.
It won’t be easy to eliminate the hum and buzz from a recording, so your best bet is to eliminate it before recording.
There are several ways to correct a buzzing guitar or amp.
However, note that the solution lies in the cause of your guitar’s buzzing. The following are some of the most frequent solutions:
- Make sure your amp is grounded
- Using humbucker pickup
- Adding a noise gate to your effects chain
- Using a ground loop exterminator
Using a Second Mic
Using two microphones when recording an amp is an EXCELLENT technique to improve your recordings!
When recording amps, we recommend the SM57 and ribbon mic combo.
However, condensers and other dynamic microphones can also produce excellent results. This is because different mics emphasize different parts of a sound.
An SM57 will get more of the crunch, while a ribbon will get more of the warmth. So if you put together two mics on your amp, you can mix those two tones together.
Using Room Mics
You can also use room mics with your recording acoustic guitar or other instruments.
These microphones are set further away from the amp and record the amp’s sound from within the room.
A room mic is a great way to add space and DEPTH to your guitar tone.
However, when doing this, you need to follow the 3:1 rule. This rule means that the room mic should be three times further away from the amp than the first mic.
By the way, other multiples of three work, too!
The room mic can be nine times farther away from the amp.
So, let’s say I have an SM57 2 cm away from the amp. You can put the room mic away from the amp at 6 cm, 12 cm, 18 cm, or 24 cm.
This can be a great help when you want to minimize phase cancellation!
Using Condenser microphone
If you’re using a condenser microphone, you must activate the phantom power. Without phantom power, the condenser mic cannot function well.
Simply look for a button on your interface that reads “Phantom Power” or “+48v.” Once the phantom power has been turned up, you’re good to go!
NOTE: Phantom power activates microphones without the usual bulky external power. It is a method of transmitting the necessary DC electrical current over a balanced XLR cable.
That’s a wrap!
Hopefully, you now have the confidence to connect your guitar and show off that killer performance on stage.
Sure, recording may seem a lot at first but trust us when we say it’ll get easier and easier with enough practice and hard work.
Just follow the tips and techniques in this article, and you’ll be recording your own riffs in no time!