How to Record Guitar on a PC, Laptop, iPad or Mac: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

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In this tutorial, we will go through step by step how to record guitar on a PC and Mac at home.

To record your guitar on a PC and Mac, you will need either an audio interface or direct box and some decent microphones.

If you are recording electric or bass guitar, you can use a direct in (DI) or record the sound of your guitar through an amp…

We’ll cover what you need in detail below…

What you Will Need

Here is what you will need to record acoustic, electric and bass guitar on a PC or Mac:

  • Condenser mics
  • Dynamic mics
  • Audio Interface
  • Direct Box (for DI only)
  • Mic stands
  • Guitar amp (electric / bass guitar only)
  • Audio cables
  • Reamp (optional)
  • PC with DAW installed

We will go through each instrument in detail below.

How to Record Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic guitar is one of the most complex instruments to record…

There are many different types of sounds you can record with an acoustic, including:

  • Plucking of the strings
  • Tapping the soundboard
  • Squeaking of the strings
  • The bass from the soundhole
  • The clipping of the frets

All these sounds involve detail and nuance that are best recorded by a condenser mic to capture the true sound of your acoustic guitar.

There are generally 3 ways to record acoustic guitar:

  1. Recording with a single condenser mic
  2. Recording with two condenser mics
  3. Acoustic DI method

1. Recording with a Single Condenser Mic

This method of recording acoustic guitar with a single condenser microphone is the most popular method used by home musicians.

Because acoustic guitar tends to be brighter than electrics, we use condenser mics to record those crisp high frequencies.

What you will need:

  • A good large-diaphragm condenser mic
  • An audio interface with XLR mic input and phantom power
  • XLR cables
  • A mic stand

A large-diaphragm condenser mic is the preferred way to capture acoustic guitar because they are more sensitive and capture a greater amount of detail from your guitar.

Position the mic in such a way that you can record the detail / nuance that you want from the guitar.

The general rule of thumb is to place the mic 3 feet away from the guitar and point it directly at the sound hole to capture the rich sound of the sound hole and the attack of the guitar strings.

When recording acoustic guitar:

  • To get more bass from the guitar, point the microphone closer to the soundhole. This increases the proximity effect and the low-end response.
  • For more brightness and treble, point the mic closer to the fretboard.

Dynamics can also be used to record acoustic guitar, but because they are less sensitive and capture less detail, you will have to bring it closer to the guitar to get a clearer sound.

2. Two Mic / Stereo ‘XY’ Miking

A two mic setup gives you way more control over the sound quality.

One of the more popular ways to do this is the XY ‘stereo’ technique using two condenser microphones.

To use this method, you will need to:

  • Align the microphones so that they are at a 90 degree angle to each other
  • Place the tips of the mics on top of each other
  • Align their axis around the twelfth fret of the guitar

This stereo recording method is effective because it provides a wide stereo image and a wider sonic spectrum for your guitar.

Alternatively, you can:

  • Place the first mic at the 12th to 14th fret
  • Place the second mic at the bridge for more bass

By capturing sound with two mics, you allow your guitar to sound “larger than life” and much more engaging…

What you will need:

  • Two large-diaphragm condenser mics
  • An audio interface with XY inputs and phantom power
  • XLR cables
  • Two mic stands

3. Recording Direct in (DI)

Recording with a condenser mic may not be ideal if you have a room with less than ideal acoustics…

This is because a condenser mic will pick up reflections and standing waves that could make your recording sound really bad.

Although not ideal, a simple way to avoid these issues is to record with an acoustic DI (direct insert) by plugging in your guitar directly into a DI input.

There are 2 ways to do this:

  1. Plug into the audio interface – since most audio interfaces come with DI inputs, you can try to plug your guitar into the audio interface and play directly
  2. Use a Direct Box – if the Dis in your audio interface aren’t power enough, this may create too much noise. Use a direct box instead for more power.

Specifically, an acoustic DI box is recommended because they have more power and can capture the high-end detail and frequency nuances of an acoustic guitar.

Here’s what you need:

  • Audio interface with DI inputs, or
  • Acoustic Direct Box

With that said, recording acoustic DI can make your recordings sound dry and stale. It’s still not a substitute for good old-fashioned miking.

How to Record Bass Guitar

There are generally 4 ways to record bass at home:

  1. Miking the bass cabinet/amp
  2. Recording the line-output of an amp
  3. Recording with a DI
  4. A combination of DI and miking

1. Miking the Bass Cabinet

Miking the bass cabinet / amp is the old-fashioned way of recording bass at home…

By doing this, you can record the actual sound of you amp. If you love the sound of your amp, this is one of the best ways to record guitar.

What you will need:

  • Bass amp/cabinet
  • DI Box (optional, but recommended)
  • Dynamic / bass mic
  • Audio interface
  • XLR cables
  • Cable Stand

For better sound, we recommend placing the mic between 2 – 6 inches away from the cabinet with the mic pointing at the center of the amp.

Although dynamic mics are better for recording bass amps (due to their lower sensitivity), there are some mics that are designed specifically to record bass…

These are known as bass mics.

2. Record the Line-Output of the AMP

To record the line output of the amp, you will have to:

  • Connect the guitar to the amp
  • Connect the amp’s line output to the line input of the audio interface
  • Connect the audio interface to your PC

This is a good option if you want to record the sound of your amp but don’t want to go through the trouble of miking the amp…

However, you will need to tweak the volume on your guitar, amp and audio interface to get optimal sound performance…

What you will need:

  • Bass amp/cabinet
  • Audio interface
  • XLR cables
  • Cable Stand

The greatest benefit of recording line-out is that it will add the amp’s color to the sound before recording it.

If you are using a DI, you can also compare the amp line out with a miked amp by recording both at the same time.

3. DI Only

The simplest method of all…

Recording your bass via direct in simply involves plugging it into a direct box or audio interface with DI inputs. This allows your bass to be recorded directly into your DAW as a dry track.

What you will need:

  • DI Box
  • Audio interface
  • Guitar cables

When choosing a DI Box, you will need to consider:

  • For passive bass, use an active DI
  • For active bass, use a passive DI

Why this difference? Because:

  • On a regular passive bass, the electrical current from the pickup passes through a single tone/volume control and out through the lead to the DI box.
  • On an active bass, the electrical signal comes out from the pickup and runs into a powered pre-amplifier, so you don’t need an active DI

Since most audio interfaces nowadays come with DI inputs, you can also plug in your guitar into the audio interface directly if it is DI input supported…

Reamping the DI

Alot of musicians like to record the performance DI and then reamp it. In this way, you can send the recorded bass signal back to the amp and record that through line-out or using a mic…

This allows you to get a clean performance and change the tone or volume with the knobs on the amp.

4. Combination of Condenser Mic and DI

Because the sound of a DI can sound rather dry and uninteresting, some musicians like to record guitar using both DI and condenser mic signals to add flare to the overall recording.

The beauty of this method is that you can capture BOTH the clean signal from your guitar while capturing the tone coming from the sound hole via the mic.

How to Record Electric Guitar

Recording electric guitar essentially follows the same techniques as recording bass.

We will briefly summarize the most common 3 techniques…

  1. Recording DI
  2. Miking the guitar amp
  3. Reamping

1. Recording DI

By plugging your electric guitar into a DI, you can record the sound of your guitar either through an audio interface or amp.

Having said that…

Since the DI box allows you to split the signal into two separate outputs…

You can actually record two tracks with a single take.

To do this, you can:

  • Plug the guitar into a DI and connect it to an audio interface to record the ‘dry’ sound, and
  • Plug the guitar into a DI and connect it to an amp for direct miking

This method is particularly useful if you want to re-amp your guitar tracks later on…

Because recording DI via an audio interface can cause your tracks to sound ‘dry’, consider using an amp simulator to add sound effects.

Here are some good options worth checking out:

Despite using an amp simulator, some musicians still prefer to hear the ‘real thing’, which is why some musicians insist on…

2. Miking the Guitar AMP

This is essentially the same technique as recording a bass amp.

The main difference is that you should use a dynamic instead of bass mic for recording electric guitar…

Dynamic mics are the recommended option for miking cabinets because they are not as sensitive as condensers and won’t likely cause any noise during recording. They are great for a getting a punchy rock sound.

Condensers can also work if your room is sufficiently treated enough. A small diaphragm condenser such as the AKG1000s will record a clean and full-bodied sound from the amp.

If you are using the classic Shure SM57s, you will need an XLR lead to connect the mic to the audio interface input.

How to position the mic/amp?

Start by pointing the mic towards the amp speaker in the center with around 2 – 6 inches distance.

From there, you may want to do the following:

  • Adjust the angle and position of your mic to get the desired sound
  • Reposition the amp away from reflective walls or corners to minimize bass/reflections
  • Tilt the amp at an angle to adjust the tone and change the way you hear the sound

You may be surprised at the different sound combinations you can come up with just by repositioning your mic/amp in your room!

3. Re-amping

Reamping is basically the process of taking an existing signal from your instrument and sending that signal out through a device that changes the line level signal into an instrument signal.

This allows you to take an existing signal and re-record it through an amp so that you can get the right sound for the song.

The process of reamping is a 2-stage process:

  • Step 1: Record the guitar to your PC
  • Step 2: Reamp by sending the guitar signal output back to the amp

By doing this, you can move the mics around, add sound effects and change amps until you get the desired sound that you are looking for.

To do this, you will need a reamping box.

A reamping box converts low-impedance line signals (from your PC) to high-impedance, unbalanced instrument level signals to the amp. This allows the guitar amp to sound the same way as a live guitar would when recorded.

How to Set-Up the Input Signal Source When Using an Electric Guitar?

In GarageBand on your Mac, select an audio track.

Press the Smart Controls button to open the Smart Controls panel.

In the Recording Settings area, select one of the following options from the Login pop-up menu.

If the guitar is connected to the computer’s audio input, select “Built-in Input”.

If there is no “Built-in Input” option in this menu, select “GarageBand” > “Settings”, click “Audio/MIDI” and select “Built-in Input” from the “Audio Input” pop-up menu.

If the guitar is connected to the USB connector, select the microphone.

If the guitar is connected to an audio interface, select the channel number for the microphone.

If there are no audio interface channels in the menu, select “GarageBand” > “Settings”, click “Audio/MIDI” and select the audio interface from the “Audio Input” pop-up menu.

Make sure that the selected format matches the input format. Choose mono for mono instruments (with one channel) or stereo for stereo instruments (with two channels). To change the input format, click the Format button to the left of the Input menu.

Use the recording level slider to change the volume level at the input for the audio source.

If the “Recording Level” slider is not available, changing the input volume in GarageBand is not possible. In this case, use the volume control of the device.

Enabling Monitoring for Electric Guitar or Bass Guitar

In the “Recording Settings” area in GarageBand on your Mac, click the “Monitoring” button.

The “Monitoring” button lights up orange, indicating that monitoring is enabled.

To avoid feedback interference, monitoring should only be turned on while playing or singing. Using headphones (not speakers) when listening to a project can help eliminate feedback.

How to Record Guitar on MacBook Pro?

Also, how do I record an instrument on my Mac? In GarageBand for Mac, select the software instrument track you want to record to. Move the playhead to the point in the ruler where you want to start recording. Set the metronome and count-in to hear a steady beat while recording. Click the Record button in the control bar (or press R) to start recording.

Also the question is, how do I record my guitar to my computer?

  1. Connect your guitar into your amp, then connect your amp’s line output to the line input of your audio interface. What you’ll need:
  2. Record the sound of your amp with a microphone.
  3. Connect your guitar to an amp simulator, then from the amp simulator to the instrument input.
  4. Consider a Portable Digital Recorder.

Correspondingly, can I plug my guitar directly into my computer? To connect your electric guitar to a computer, you need to use an audio interface that will safely process your guitar‘s signal into something your computer can use. If your computer has audio input jacks, you cannot directly plug your electric guitar into it and you must use an audio interface.In truth, it is entirely possible to record your music without an audio interface device. This is true with both vocals and guitar playing. … And also think about whether you want to release your music in the future. Most professional artists do end up using an audio interface to record their music.

How to Record Guitar on MacBook Air?

Best answer for this question, how do I record guitar on my Mac?

  1. Connect an audio interface to your computer’s USB or FireWire port, then connect an electric guitar to the audio interface.
  2. Connect the electric guitar to a channel on the audio interface or the adapter cable, using a standard 1/4-inch tip-sleeve instrument cable.

You asked, how do I record my guitar to my computer?

  1. Connect your guitar into your amp, then connect your amp’s line output to the line input of your audio interface. What you’ll need:
  2. Record the sound of your amp with a microphone.
  3. Connect your guitar to an amp simulator, then from the amp simulator to the instrument input.
  4. Consider a Portable Digital Recorder.

You asked, how do I record an instrument on my Mac? In GarageBand for Mac, select the software instrument track you want to record to. Move the playhead to the point in the ruler where you want to start recording. Set the metronome and count-in to hear a steady beat while recording. Click the Record button in the control bar (or press R) to start recording.

Likewise, how do I use my Mac as a guitar amp?

  1. Visit your friendly neighborhood electronics store and buy a 1/4″ -> 1/8″ audio jack adapter.
  2. Plug your guitar or bass’ amp cable into the adapter and plug the adapter into the audio-in jack on your Mac.

How do Plug Guitar Into my MacBook?

It might seem complicated, getting a signal from your guitar into some software on your MacBook, but it is actually really simple. All you need is a USB audio interface . This is what makes it all possible.

There are MANY USB audio interfaces available. They all range in price, although you don’t really want to bother with 90% of them – they’re just cheap, ineffective devices that sound terrible.

In this respect, “cheap” is not good.

With a cheap USB audio interface, you’ll get noise on the track, crackling, and audio dropouts.

You will also experience connectivity issues and if that wasn’t enough, the components inside a cheap USB audio interface are not up to the task.

If you want to record professional-sounding guitars on your MacBook, you need a suitable and well-respected USB audio interface.

Connecting your guitar to your MacBook is simple enough, especially when you have a USB audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.

Here’s how you connect the Focusrite Scarlett Solo to your MacBook:

  • Take The Focusrite Scarlett Solo and the provided USB cable, connect the USB to the rear of the Focusrite Scarlett Solo and the other to a USB port on your MacBook
  • Your Mac will automatically recognise the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
  • If you’re using a DAW – Ableton, Cubase, Reaper, or Pro Tools – go to the Settings Menu and look for Audio Input options. Your Mac should automatically recognise the input, however, so only do this step if it doesn’t show up.
  • Once everything is connected, you should see a signal inside your DAW whenever you hit a string. Now all you have to do is get your tone dialled in and start recording some riffs.

As I noted in the introduction to this post, setting up the Focusrite Scarlett Solo is immensely simple. Your MacBook – in most cases – will do all the hard work for you.

All you have to do is connect the Focusrite Scarlett Solo to your MacBook via the provided USB cable, and then connect your guitar and start playing.

You will need a DAW to record, however, and I would use either Pro Tools or Ableton that comes with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.

If you don’t want to use these, or you’re using a different audio interface, just use Garage Band – it is a great piece of software that is simple to use and is actually used by plenty of professional musicians to demo and jot down ideas for new songs.

FAQ for Record Guitar PC or Mac

Can plug my guitar directly Into my computer?

To connect your electric guitar to a computer, you need to use an audio interface that will safely process your guitar’s signal into something your computer can use. If your computer has audio input jacks, you cannot directly plug your electric guitar into it and you must use an audio interface.

How can plug my guitar into my laptop without an interface?

You could plug your guitar into an amp or a preamp or multi-effect unit that has a line-out (or, failing that, a headphone output) and run that into your computer’s analog line-in connector (blue receptacle), if it has one.

Can you connect a real guitar to garageband?

Get Your Guitar Connected Connect your guitar to your iOS device (we’re using an iRig), get your headphones on and turn up the volume on your headphones and guitar. Open GarageBand. It’ll detect your guitar and automatically open the Guitar Amp.

Garageband’s premium version, Logic, costs around $200, but Garageband itself has always been free.

How good is garageband?

Garageband is a great DAW for recording and editing audio because it has many features that other more sophisticated DAWs have, albeit in a more simplistic and stream-lined format. The user interface is incredibly friendly and it also has things like Apple Loops and drummer automation.

How do make my guitar sound professional?

  1. Use a “prepared guitar”
  2. Use an acoustic as a phantom guitar.
  3. Record your electric unplugged.
  4. Use a low-frequency mic on your guitar cabinet.
  5. Use a bass cabinet.
  6. Double your tracks with different guitars.
  7. Use an octave pedal.

How do record myself playing guitar?

Depends on your goal.

Do you want a high end recording? Find a decent studio and pay for time.

Record yourself at home? Get a good interface, microphone and DAW.

Just to hear yourself? There are some cool usb microphones as well as mics that connect to your phone.

I find that a very good, versatile solution are the Zoom handheld recorders. I would recommend an H5 or H6 as they have built-in attenuators which allow you to record directly from a PA if you are doing live recordings. The H4n is good too if you don’t red to record from a PA and are on a tighter budget. Nothing wrong with the H2 either.

How do you record direct input on guitar?

Routing. You plug your guitar into the instrument input of the DI-box and go from the balanced XLR-output directly into your microphone-preamp. From the second, unbalanced output of the DI-box, you go into your amp and capture it with a microphone. Just as you usually would.

How do connect guitar hero to my computer?

Plug the USB end of the adapter into your computer’s USB port. For the Xbox version, you can simply plug the USB end of the controller cable into an available USB port on your computer. Windows will download the necessary drivers automatically for your controller and will tell you when the controller is ready to use.

How do connect AMP to my computer for recording?

  1. Turn the amplifier and computer off.
  2. Locate the PC’s audio connectors.
  3. Locate the RCA audio connectors on the back of the amplifier.
  4. Turn the amplifier on.
  5. Turn the computer on.
  6. Play a music selection through your favorite media program.
  7. Turn the amplifier and computer off.

Do need audio interface if not recording?

Yes, you can record without an audio interface. Instead, try recording with an adaptor plugged directly into your computer, a USB microphone, virtual instruments, or a tape recorder. While these methods don’t require an audio interface, they typically result in lower sound quality.

Does iRig 1 work with MacBook?

If your Macbook Pro has the single 3.5mm jack that can take input and output then iRig should work just fine for you. Someone asked a similar question here. If you’re looking for something ultra cheap you could always get a 1/4″ to 3.5mm adaptor to plug your guitar into your Mac.

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