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

Want to record guitar on a PC or Mac? This tutorial will walk you through the process step by step. You’ll need either an audio interface or direct box and microphones to get started. Let’s begin!

Whether you’re playing electric or bass guitar, you can go straight in with a DI or capture your sound via an amp – we’ll look at the details below…

What You Will Need

If you wanna record guitars – acoustic, electric, or bass – on your computer then here’s what you’ll need to get going:

  • 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

Let’s explore the individual instruments a bit deeper below.

How to Record Acoustic Guitar

When it comes to acoustic guitar recording, you can achieve some really impressive and creative sounds. You can even record things like…

  • Plucking of the strings

  • Tapping the soundboard

  • Squeaking of the strings

  • The bass from the soundhole

  • The clipping of the frets

To get the full sound of your acoustic guitar, you should opt for a condenser mic. It’ll capture all the details and make it sound better.

There’re 3 primary 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

If you want to get a bright and punchy sound for your acoustic guitar, then condenser mics are the way to go! Home musicians love this method as it gives their tracks great clarity.

What you will need:

  • If you’re looking for a good microphone, check out a large-diaphragm condenser mic

  • If you’re looking for a mic to record sound, consider an audio interface that offers XLR inputs and phantom power

  • XLR cables

  • A mic stand

If you want to get that unique acoustic guitar sound, then a large-diaphragm condenser mic is the way to go. This mic will pick up even the subtlest aspects of your playing; just point it towards the soundhole and put it 3 feet away for the ideal result. With this approach, you’ll make sure to capture all nuanced tones that will make your strumming sound amazing!

When recording acoustic guitar:

  • Get more low-end out of your guitar by positioning the mic closer to the soundhole. It will liven up the bass and make it stand out a bit more

  • If you’re after a brighter, more intense sound, just move the mic closer to the fretboard.

2. Two Mic / Stereo ‘XY’ Miking

With two mics, you can get incredible control over the sound quality of what you record – it’s pretty amazing! The XY “stereo” technique can be a great choice for people who use it. All you have to do is put two condenser mics facing each other and you’re good to go – that way, you can get high-quality audio with an impressive stereo effect.

  • Place the mics at a right angle to each other

  • Stack the mics’ ends on top of each other

  • Positioning the strings at the 12th fret of the guitar

Stereo recording is a great way to boost your guitar’s sound and make it more vibrant. You get an expansive stereo effect and it captures more frequency ranges than mono recording.

Alternatively, you can:

  • Put the first mic in between the 12th and 14th fret

  • Move the second mic closer to the bridge of your guitar to boost up the bass

Double tracking with two mics can give your guitar playing a ‘larger than life’ quality that’ll be more captivating and engaging. It’s totally worth it and the difference is clear.

What you will need:

  • Two mics with big diaphragms for condenser recording

  • Grab an audio interface with XY inputs and phantom power to complete your recording setup

  • XLR cables

  • Two mic stands

3. Recording directly in (DI)

If the acoustics in a room aren’t great, it’s best to steer clear of using a condenser microphone as it can pick up echoes and annoying sound waves. These reflections can really affect the quality of your recordings. For guitarists, though, it’s possible to plug straight into the session using direct insert which reduces the chances of technical issues arising but still allows you to get a fantastic tone quality.

There are 2 ways to do this:

  • Connect your guitar to the audio interface – It’s a great idea to plug your guitar directly into the DI port on most audio interfaces. Try it out and see how it works!

  • If your interface doesn’t have enough power, you might end up with too much noise – a direct box can help amplify the signal and avoid that.

Acoustic DI boxes are the way to go if you want to capture the nuances of an acoustic guitar’s sound and frequency. They have more power, too, making them ideal for getting better results.

Here’s what you need:

  • Audio interface with DI inputs, or

  • Acoustic Direct Box

Despite all its benefits, acoustic DI recordings can sound pretty bland and boring. They still don’t really match up to the quality of sound you get when using regular miking techniques.

How to Record Bass Guitar

If you’re looking to lay down bass lines from the comfort of your home, there are usually 4 choices you can consider:

  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

Get the unique sound of your bass amp right and bring it to life using an age-old recording technique. Microphone your bass cabinet so you can save that amazing tone for any future projects, making sure it is here to stay in all the music you create!

What you will need:

  • Bass amp/cabinet

  • DI Box (optional, but recommended)

  • Dynamic / bass mic

  • Audio interface

  • XLR cables

  • Cable Stand

Bass mic recording is the way to go if you want to get the amp sound just right. The best is to position it about 2-6 inches away and aim it directly at its center – that way all the little details won’t be missed out!

2. Record the line output of the amp

To get the sound of your amp, you gotta:

  • Connect the guitar to the amp

  • Connect the line out of your amp to the line in of your audio interface

  • Connect your audio interface to your computer

Struggling to get the right sound for your amp with mics and cables? You can always record directly to an audio interface. It will take some time and effort to adjust everything from your guitar volume, amp settings, and interface settings – but when you do, you’ll get a great tone!

What you will need:

  • Bass amp/cabinet

  • Audio interface

  • XLR cables

  • Cable Stand

Experimenting with a line-out recording is an awesome way to give your amp its own unique feel. Record both miked and direct sounds for more variety of tones, then mix ’em together for something really cool!

3. DI only

Want the easiest way to get that bass sound? Directly plug it into a direct box or audio interface and you’ll get that pure tone without any effects – super quickly!

What you will need:

  • DI Box

  • Audio interface

  • Guitar cables

When choosing a DI Box, it’s important to consider:

  • For passive bass, use an active DI

  • For active bass, use a passive DI

Why are the results so different? It’s because:

  • Passive basses are routed through a volume/tone knob and then directed out to the DI box. Pretty simple!

  • If your bass has active pickups, the sound is already being sent to a powered preamp, so you don’t need an active DI.

Boost your guitar record session with direct input and ramping. Plugging in directly lets you get a perfectly clean sound, plus turning the knobs on an amp allows you to customize the sound even more. Musicians are getting real creative with their music, why not join them and create some sound magic of your own? It’s the perfect time to explore new musical possibilities!

4. Combination of a condenser mic and DI

If you mix up a DI with a condenser mic, guitarists can access loads of interesting tones and nuances. This pairing creates a great balance between clarity and the atmospheric tone of the instrument, adding vibrancy to any recording!

How to Record Electric Guitar

Rock out and lay down some killer guitar riffs with pro-level recording methods. Recordists often combine miking, DI’ing and amp simulators to get an electrifying six-string tone. Keep it powerful, consistent and vibrant!

  1. Recording DI

  2. Miking the guitar amp

  3. Reamping

1. Recording DI

Double-track recording your electric guitar is now a breeze! All you need is a DI box and an audio interface/amp – no more single-take recordings! And the best part? Your sound will still be awesome.

To do this, you can:

  • Get the ‘dry’ sound of a guitar by plugging it into a DI box and then linking it to an audio interface

  • Connect the guitar to a Direct Injection box and then send the signal through an amp for recording

Get really creative with your guitar tracks by using an amp simulator. It amplifies the sound and adds some great effects you wouldn’t get otherwise, plus you can re-amp later if needed.

Here’s what you should consider:

Even though digital amps are the go-to for many, some musicians still prefer the classic sound of a real amp. They tend to stick with what they know and love, and don’t shy away from using real amps!

2. Miking the guitar amp

Need to get that professional rock sound? Dynamic mics are the answer! They’ll give your electric guitar recordings that extra punch and help eliminate any unwanted noise. However, if you’re looking for a clear, full sound, then condenser mics are a great option. Just make sure your space is soundproofed before hooking up the XLR cables!

Setting up the mic and amp is a breeze – just aim the mic towards the center of the speaker and keep it 2-6 inches away.

Now, you could do the following:

  • To get the sound you desire, try changing where and at what angle your microphone is placed

  • You should position the amp away from walls and corners to help reduce any undesired bass or echo.

  • If you want to switch up the tone, try angling your amp – it can bring out a whole new sound! Give it a tilt and see what happens.

You won’t believe the impact of simply moving your mic or amp around the room! It can make quite a difference to the sound you get. Incredible what a few small adjustments can do!

3. Re-amping

Reamping gives you the flexibility to take any sound and revamp it with a totally different vibe. You can take an audio signal from your instrument and use specialized hardware to convert the line level of your sound into an amplifier output. That lets you control exactly how your recording will sound!

Reamping is a two-part process – the first part involves…and the second stage entails…

  • Step 1: Record the guitar on your PC

  • Step 2: Reamp by sending the guitar signal output back to the amp

Reamping boxes are a must-have if you’re looking to nail that authentic guitar sound on your recordings. With this technology, you can easily move mics around the amp to get a different mix and incorporate effects for all kinds of sounds – from subtle changes to powerful ones!

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

Mac and GarageBand make recording music simple – just pick the audio track you want and then hit the ‘Smart Controls’ button. You’ll find a whole host of sound options in the ‘Recording Settings’ section. Connect your computer to the audio interface or USB cable then head over to Garageband and Audio/MIDI settings. Choose either “Built-in Input”, microphone selection, or channel number assignment from the pop-up menu options according to which connection you have.

Having a hard time trying to get your audio stuff and GarageBand connected? Knowing which options to look for in the “Audio/MIDI” setting can do wonders. When recording audio, decide whether to go for mono or stereo depending on the number of channels you’re dealing with. You can adjust levels either inside GarageBand by using the recording level slider, or directly from your device if it has that capability!

Enabling Monitoring for Electric Guitar or Bass Guitar

In GarageBand, you can easily hear yourself while you record by clicking the “Monitoring” button in the Recording Settings. It’s like performing live! Remember: when playing or singing, headphones are best & speakers should be avoided to reduce feedback. This will guarantee better results!

How to Record Guitar on MacBook Pro?

Make your next masterpiece on GarageBand for Mac! Choose the right software instrument to create the perfect track and hit record, starting at wherever you set in the ruler. Get the beat going with a metronome to start, then count in and hit ‘Record’ (or press R) for some quick progress.

Trying to figure out how to record your guitar sound onto your computer?

  • To jam on your guitar, connect it to an amp then link the amp’s line out to the line in of your audio interface

  • Invest in a mic and record the sound of your amp!

  • If you want to get the best sound out of your guitar, connect it up to an amp simulator. Then plug the simulator into the guitar input

  • Consider a Portable Digital Recorder.

Believe it or not, you can record music without an audio interface. But if you want the best sound quality and plan on sharing your tracks with others, then a pro musician would usually use one. To get the best sound from your guitar, you need to have the right audio interface. Hooking it up to your computer will let you make great music no matter what instrument you’re using or how experienced you are as a musician!

How to Record Guitar on MacBook Air

If you’re using a Mac computer, the best way to record guitar is to use recording software. You can find various free and paid programs available that’ll help you capture your sound accurately.

  • If you want to connect your guitar to a computer, you’ll need an audio interface – just plug it into the USB or FireWire port of your PC. Then, link the guitar directly to the interface.

  • Connect your electric guitar to the audio interface or adapter cable with a 1/4-inch tip-sleeve instrument cable. Easy peasy!

You wanted to know how you can record your guitar on a computer?

  • If you want to record your guitar, connect the guitar to an amp, then use a cable to link the amp’s line output with the audio interface’s line input.

  • Plug a mic into your amp and start recording the sound.

  • Put your guitar into an amp modeler and then connect the modeler to the instrument input port.

  • Consider a Portable Digital Recorder.

Ready to lay down some music on your Mac? Just fire up GarageBand, pick a software instrument track and slap on a countdown timer so you don’t get stuck with an awkward silence. Press the R key on the control bar and let the music flow!

Wondering how to turn your Mac into a guitar amp?

  • If you’re in need of an audio jack adapter, swing by your nearest electronics store and grab a 1/4″ to 1/8″ one

  • If you own a guitar or bass, it’s easy to get your Mac connected to an amp – just plug the output of the amp into the adapter and then plug that into your Mac’s audio-in port.

How do Plug the Guitar Into my MacBook?

Figuring out how to turn your guitar into digital audio can be tricky but it’s actually quite easy if you get the right USB audio interface. Low-budget sound interfaces are not the most reliable and often produce poor audio quality – crackles, bad noise and sometimes don’t even work. 90% of them aren’t designed for long use. If you’re looking to get great recordings with no glitches, then investing in better quality interface is a must. This is especially important when recording digitally from instruments like guitars. The sound quality needs to be top-notch in order for everything to go smoothly.

With the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, you can create a strong and dependable connection between your guitar and laptop speakers. It’ll bring your music to life and deliver powerful sound every time. Get professional-quality audio recordings with this user-friendly USB interface – plug it in for smooth sounds that make all the difference.

If you’ve got a Focusrite Scarlett Solo and want to get it working on your MacBook, here’s whatcha gotta do:

  • Setting up the Focusrite Scarlett Solo is super simple – just plug one end of the USB cable into the device and then connect the other end to your MacBook’s USB port. Done!

  • Your Mac will automatically detect the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.

  • Before you can record audio on a DAW such as Ableton, Cubase, Reaper or Pro Tools, make sure to check the Settings Menu to ensure that your audio input is detected. If you’re using a Mac computer this should most likely be automatic but it never hurts to double-check if nothing shows up.

  • Once you’ve connected the cables, a notification will come up in your DAW when you pluck a string. Now it’s just a matter of fiddling with the sound and get ready to shred some awesome solos!

Setting up your Focusrite Scarlett Solo is so easy – just plug the USB cable into your computer and connect your guitar. Your Mac should do the rest in no time! If you’re just starting out and don’t want to invest in Pro Tools or Ableton, then Garage Band is a great option. It’s a brilliant program that’s used by both amateur and professional musicians for creating new music or producing a demo. You won’t have to wait long to start rocking out with phenomenal sound quality thanks to this awesome audio interface!

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