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 Windows or Mac computer.

To record your guitar on a PC and Mac, you’ll need an audio interface or a direct box with some high quality microphones.

Here’s how you can use a DI to record electric or bass guitar: First, plug your guitar into the DI (Direct In)…

In this post, we’ll cover what you need to know in more detail.

What you Will Need

Here’s a list of the equipment you will need to record acoustic, electric and bass guitars on your computer:

  • 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 take a detailed look at each instrument in the following paragraphs.

How to Record Acoustic Guitar

Playing the acoustic guitar can be a difficult process to lay down in music, however the nuances of this instrument can over-shadow the challenges.

There’s a lot you can do with an acoustic. You can record a lot of different sounds, like…

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

All of these sounds involve details and nuances that are best captured by a condenser mic because it makes sure the music is true to sound when it’s recorded.

Here are 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 is the most common method home musicians use to record acoustic instruments using a single microphone.

Condenser microphones are used to record the crisp high frequencies of acoustic guitars because they tend to be brighter than electrics.

What do you need:

  • Good condenser mic for large-diaphragm applications
  • An audio interface that supports XLR mic inputs and phantom power.
  • XLR cables
  • Mic stand

Large-diaphragm condenser microphones are the best way to capture an acoustic instrument. They are more sensitive and can capture more detail.

Place the microphone so that the mic can capture the nuance and detail of the guitar.

To capture the rich sound and attack of the guitar strings, the microphone should be placed 3 feet from the guitar.

Recording an acoustic guitar:

  • You can get more bass out of your guitar by moving the microphone closer towards the soundhole. This will increase the proximity effect as well as the low-end response.
  • You can increase brightness and treble by moving the mic closer towards the fretboard.

You can also use Dynamics to record an acoustic guitar. However, because they are less sensitive to sound and capture less detail you will need to bring the instrument closer to the guitar in order to get a better sound.

2. Two Mic / Stereo ‘XY’ Miking

Two mics give you more control over sound quality.

This is possible using the XY’stereo” technique with two condenser mics.

To use this method, you will need to:

  • Place the microphones at 90 degrees to one another.
  • Place the microphone tips on top of one another
  • Place their axis at the twelfth fret on the guitar

Because it creates a stereo image of your guitar and provides a wider sound spectrum, this stereo recording method is very effective.

Alternatively, you can:

  • Place the first microphone at the 12th or 14th fret
  • For more bass, place the second microphone at the bridge

Two microphones capture sound, allowing your guitar to sound larger than life and more engaging.

What do you need:

  • Two condenser mics with large-diaphragms
  • An audio interface that supports XY inputs, phantom power and has XY inputs
  • XLR cables
  • Two microphone stands

3. Recording Direct in (DI)

If your room has poor acoustics, recording with a condenser microphone may not work well.

Because condenser microphones pick up standing waves and reflections that can make your recording sound bad,

It is possible to record with an acoustic DI (direct insert), by connecting your guitar to a DI input.

There’s 2 ways to do it:

  1. Plug your guitar into an audio interface. Most audio interfaces have DI inputs.
  2. A Direct Box is a good option if your Dis are not powerful enough. This could cause too much noise. For more power, use a direct box.

Acoustic DI boxes are recommended as they can capture the frequency nuances and high-end detail of an acoustic guitarist.

Here’s what you need:  

  • Audio interface with DI inputs or
  • Acoustic Direct Box

Recording acoustic DI can leave your recordings feeling dry and stale. However, it is not an alternative to good old-fashioned miking.

How to Record Bass Guitar

To record your bass at home, there are 4 options:

  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

The old-fashioned method of recording bass at home is to mike the amp / bass cabinet.

This will allow you to record the sound of your amp. This is a great way to record guitar if you love the sound of your amp.

What do you need:

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

We recommend that the microphone be placed between 2 and 6 inches from the cabinet, with the mic pointed at the center of your amp. This will give you better sound quality.

While dynamic mics work better to record bass amps because they have lower sensitivity, there are mics specifically designed to record bass…

These are also known as bass microphones.

2. Record the Line-Output of the AMP

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

  • Connect the guitar to your amp
  • Connect the amp’s output to the line input port of the audio interface
  • Connect the audio interface with your computer

If you don’t want the hassle of miking your amp, this is an excellent option.

To get the best sound performance, however, you’ll need to adjust the volume of your amp, guitar and audio interface.

What do you need:

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

Recording line-out has the greatest benefit: it will add the amp’s color to your sound before you record it.

You can compare an amp line with a DI by recording both simultaneously.

3. DI Only

This is the simplest of all methods.

Simply plug your bass into an audio interface that has DI inputs or a direct box to record it. This allows you to record your bass directly into your DAW as an untracked track.

What do you need:

  • DI Box
  • Audio interface
  • Guitar cables

When you are choosing a DI Box, consider the following:

  • Use an active DI to produce passive bass
  • Passive DI is best for active bass.

This is why there is a difference. Because:

  • A regular passive bass has an electrical current that flows through one tone/volume control, and then out through the lead to a DI box.
  • An active bass is an electrical signal that comes from the pickup and goes into a pre-amplifier. You don’t need an active DI.

Most audio interfaces today have DI inputs. This means that you can plug your guitar directly into the interface if it supports DI inputs.

Reamping the DI.

Many musicians prefer to record their performance and then reamp it. You can then send the bass signal recorded back to the amp, and then record it using line-out or a microphone.

This allows you to achieve a clean performance while also changing the volume or tone with the knobs.

4. Combination of Condenser Mic and DI

Some artists like to use to DI alongside a condenser mic when recording guitar. DI gives a dry sound, which is often uninteresting. Recorded this way, it can sound much better and add flare to the overall recording.

This method has a lot of benefits, including capturing a clean signal AND picking up on the sound coming from the sound hole.

How to Record Electric Guitar

Recording electric guitar is basically the same process as recording bass.

We will quickly cover the 3 most popular techniques…

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

1. Recording DI

You can record your electric guitar’s sound by plugging it into a digital interface (or amp) and recording it.

That being said…

The DI box can split the signal into two outputs, which allows you to make…

Two tracks can be recorded in one take.

You can do this by:

  • To record the “dry” sound, plug the guitar into a DI.
  • For direct miking, plug the guitar into a DI. Connect it to an amplifier.

This is a great method if you need to re-amp your tracks later.

An amp simulator can be used to enhance sound effects, as recording DI via an interface can make your tracks sound dry.

These are just a few of the great options that you should check out:

Some musicians prefer to hear the real thing, even though they use an amp simulator. This is why some musicians insist that…

2. Miking the Guitar AMP

It is basically the same method as recording a bass amplifier.

You should use a dynamic to record electric guitar, and not a bass mic.

Because they are less sensitive than condensers, dynamic mics are a good choice for miking cabinets. They won’t cause noise during recording. These mics are perfect for creating a rock sound.

If your room is well-treated, condensers may also be used. A small diaphragm condenser, such as the AKG1000s, will produce a clear and rich sound from the amp.

An XLR lead is required to connect the Shure SM57s to the audio interface input.

How do I position the microphone/amp?

Point the microphone towards the center of the amp speaker at approximately 2 to 6 inches distance.

You may then want to do the following:

  • To achieve the sound you desire, adjust the position and angle of the microphone.
  • To minimize reflections and bass, move the amp away from corners or reflective walls.
  • To adjust the tone of the amp and alter the sound, tilt the amp at an angle

It’s amazing how many sound combinations you can create by simply repositioning your microphone/amp in your space!

3. Re-amping

Reamping refers to the process of taking an existing signal and sending it out through a device which changes the line level signal to an instrument signal.

This allows you take an existing signal and record it again through an amp to get the perfect sound.

Reamping is a two-stage process:

  • Step 1: Record the guitar on your computer
  • Step 2: Send the signal from the guitar back to the amp and reamp.

This allows you to move the microphones around, change the amps, and add sound effects until you achieve the sound you desire.

You will need a reamping device to do this.

The reamping box converts low impedance line signals (from your computer) to high-impedance unbalanced signal levels for the amp. This allows the amp to sound exactly like a real guitar when it is recorded.

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

GarageBand for Mac allows you to select an audio track.

To open the Smart Controls panel, press the Smart Controls button.

Select one of these options from the Login popup menu in the Recording Settings section.

Select “Built in Input” if the guitar is connected directly to the computer’s microphone input.

If you do not see the “Built in Input” option in this menu, click “GarageBand” >”Settings”, then click “Audio/MIDI” to select “Built in Input” from “Audio Input”.

Select the microphone if the guitar is connected via the USB connector.

Select the channel number of the microphone if the guitar is connected via an audio interface.

If you do not see any audio interface channels, click “GarageBand” >”Settings” and then click “Audio/MIDI”. Then select the appropriate audio interface from the pop-up menu.

Check that the format you select matches the input format. Select mono to play mono instruments with one channel or stereo to play stereo instruments with two channels. Click the Format button at the top of the Input menu to change the input format.

To adjust the volume at the input audio source, use the recording level slider.

GarageBand cannot adjust the input volume if the slider “Recording Level” isn’t available. If this happens, you can use GarageBand’s volume control.

Enabling Monitoring for Electric Guitar or Bass Guitar

In the “Recording Settings” section of GarageBand, click the “Monitoring” button. The ‘Monitoring’ button will turn orange to indicate it has been activated.

To avoid feedback, make sure to turn your microphone off before you start singing. Using headphones (rather than speakers) can greatly help eliminate unwanted feedback.

How to Record Guitar on MacBook Pro

How do I record an instrument to my Mac? Select the instrument track that you wish to record in GarageBand Mac. Place the playhead at the exact point on the ruler where you wish to begin recording. To record a steady beat, turn on the metronome. To start recording, click the Record button (or press R) in the control bar.

The question remains, “How do I record my guitar to my PC?”

  1. Then connect your guitar to your amp. Finally, connect your amp’s output to your audio interface’s line input. Here’s what you need:
  2. Use a microphone to record the sound of your amp.
  3. Connect your guitar and amp simulator. The amp simulator will then connect to the input of the instrument.
  4. You might consider a portable digital recorder.

Also, is it possible to plug your guitar into your computer directly? An audio interface is required to connect an electric guitar to a computer. It will convert the signal from your guitar into something that your computer can use. An audio interface is required for any computer that has audio input jacks. You cannot plug your electric guitar directly into your computer.

It is possible to record music without an audio interface device. Both vocals and playing the guitar are possible. Also, think about how you plan to release your music in future. Professional artists use an audio interface to record their music.

How to Record Guitar on MacBook Air

Answer to this question best: How do I record guitar on my Mac?

  1. An audio interface can be connected to your computer’s USB port or FireWire port. Then connect an electric guitar.
  2. Use a 1/4-inch tip-sleeve instrument cables to connect the electric guitar to the channel on the audio interface.

You wanted to know how I can record my guitar to my computer?

  1. Then connect your guitar to your amp. Finally, connect your amp’s output to your audio interface’s line input. Here’s what you need:
  2. Use a microphone to record the sound of your amp.
  3. Connect your guitar and amp simulator. The amp simulator will then connect to the input of the instrument.
  4. You might consider a portable digital recorder.

How do I record an instrument to my Mac? GarageBand Mac will allow you to select the instrument track that you wish to record. Place the playhead at the exact point on the ruler where you wish to begin recording. To record a steady beat, turn on the metronome. To start recording, click the Record button (or press R) in the control bar.

How can I use my Mac to power a guitar amplifier?

  1. Stop by your local electronics shop to purchase a 1/4’’ -> 1/8’’ adapter for your audio jack.
  2. Connect your bass or guitar amp cable to the adapter, and then plug it into the audio-in port on your Mac.

How do Plug Guitar Into my MacBook

Although it might sound complicated, it’s really easy to convert a signal from your guitar to a program on your MacBook. You only need a USB audio interface. This is what makes all this possible.

There are many USB audio interfaces. All of them are priced differently, but you won’t want to spend 90% on any of them. They’re cheap and ineffective, and they sound horrible.

This is why “cheap”, in this sense, is not good.

You’ll experience noise on the track and crackling with a cheap USB interface.

Connectivity issues will also occur. As if that weren’t enough, components in a cheap USB audio interface may not be up to the job.

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

It is easy to connect your guitar and MacBook, especially if you have a USB audio interface such as the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.

How to connect the Focusrite Scarlett Solo and your MacBook.

  • Use the Focusrite Scarlett Solo with the USB cable provided. Connect one end to the USB port on your MacBook and the other to the back of the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
  • The Focusrite Scarlett Solo will be recognized by your Mac automatically
  • You can use a DAW such as Ableton, Cubase or Reaper. To find the Audio Input options, go to the Settings menu. The input should be recognized by your Mac automatically. However, if it does not, you can only perform this step.
  • After everything is connected, you will see a signal in your DAW when you hit a string. You can now dial in your tone and begin recording some riffs.

The setup of the Focusrite Scarlett Solo was very simple, as I mentioned in the introduction. Most cases, your MacBook will handle all the work.

Simply connect the Focusrite Scarlett Solo via the USB cable provided, then connect your guitar to start playing.

To record, you will need a DAW. I recommend either Pro Tools or Ableton, which comes with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.

Garage Band is an excellent piece of software. It is easy to use, and professional musicians use it to create demos and to jot down new song ideas.

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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