It’s no secret that recording music has become easier over time. Gone are the days when musicians had to rely on bulky recording equipment and expensive studio sessions to capture their performances.
Nowadays, you can create music without ever needing to touch a physical instrument.
But what if you want to combine live recordings with the convenience of computer software? Maybe you're working on a new song, or simply want to upload a great jam session.
If you're recording your guitar at home, it can be hard to know where to start.
The good news is, recording your guitar onto a PC is actually much easier than it might first appear. You don't need any fancy gear to get started, either. All you really need are a few pieces of simple gear and some music editing software
What You'll Need
You'll need to gather a few things before you can start recording. Here's a list of what you'll need:
- Input and Output Cables
- Audio Interface
- An Amp (optional)
- Any effect pedals or other hardware you'd like to use (also optional)
- A Pair of Headphones
- A DAW/Digital Audio Workstation (a form of music recording and editing software)
- A Computer
- Your Guitar
You might be wondering what all this is for, so let's break down why each piece of kit is important. First of all, you'll need your guitar for obvious reasons.
The ways you can record electric and acoustic guitars are slightly different, but we'll take a closer look at this later.
In addition to your guitar, you'll need some microphones to actually record it. Don't feel like you need to get studio mics to get a good recording; if you're recording at home you can easily get away with a fairly good-quality microphone.
You might want to get two, and place them at different distances away from your guitar (one close and one further away). This will give your recording more depth, and you can blend the two recordings together for a better sound during mixing.
You'll also need some headphones. These will let you filter out any noise while you're playing, hear your guitar as you play, and make it easier to listen to the playback of what you've recorded.
Input and output cables will let you plug the guitar into the amp (if you're using one) and from there into the computer, and an audio interface will let you connect the output cables and microphones into the computer itself so you can record the guitar onto your PC.
Amplifiers are optional, as you can simply record it directly onto the music software, but you can also choose to mic up or plug in the amp and record your guitar that way.
The DAW is one of the most important things you'll need, as this will be where your recording is saved, as well as where you can mix and edit the recording.
There are many DAWs out there, but some of the most popular are Ableton Live, GarageBand, and Logic Pro.
You don't need to shell out for studio-level gear just to record your guitar. That's not to say you shouldn't use quality equipment, and a decent mic and good headphones can make all the difference to the sound of your recording.
Acoustic Vs Electric
As mentioned before, there are some slight differences between recording an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar.
Electric guitars are better equipped to work with cables, and you can record your electric guitar directly onto your PC if you want. You can also plug it into an amp for the recording, either to connect it to the PC or to use a microphone to record the amp itself.
Acoustic guitars have fewer options to work with, and your best bet is using microphones to record the guitar as you play. You'll have to have the microphone close to the guitar to pick up on its acoustics, but be careful not to peak the mic by playing too loudly.
You can keep an eye on this in the DAW, letting you re-record or edit the guitar to avoid any unpleasant interference.
How To Record A Guitar On A PC
With everything prepared, now it's time to start recording your guitar! We've compiled a step-by-step guide to recording both electric and acoustic guitars onto your PC with ease.
Recording an Electric Guitar
Set Up Your Equipment
Plug your guitar into your amplifier, then plug the cable from your guitar into your audio interface. If you're using an amp, you may already have these cables, and they should have been included when you bought your amp.
Plugging the cables into the amp allows you to record the signal directly into your computer.
If you're not using an amp, or if you're recording the amp with microphones, you'll need to plug these into the audio interface instead.
Open Your DAW
Now, boot up your music studio software. Follow the instructions in the software for starting a recording (these are different for every DAW, so pay close attention).
Adjust the settings to ones you're happy with – you should have a few practice strums to make sure you're happy.
It's time to record your guitar! Jam out in any way you want, and keep an eye on the DAW's display to make sure that the audio is looking good. If you aren't using an amp, use headphones to listen to the audio playback as you play.
Don't worry if there's blank noise at the start or end of the recording, as you can cut these in post.
Edit And Mix
From here you're free to adjust the sound as you wish. You can mix the recording to a better pitch, add and/or remove effects, and clean up any parts you aren't satisfied with – the world is your oyster!
Recording An Acoustic Guitar
Most of the steps for recording an acoustic guitar are the same as an electric, but there are a few changes you need to consider – including in your setup.
Because you aren't using guitar leads or an amp, all you'll really need to plug into the interface is your microphones and any optional gear you want to use.
The two-mic setup is preferable for acoustic guitars if possible, but at the very least you'll need to keep the mic close to the guitar.
Have your DAW fired up and ready to go, and you're good to start recording.
Record And Edit
Again, most of the steps here are different. Record your guitar playing onto the DAW, and monitor it to make sure it's coming through clearly.
You don't necessarily need headphones while you're recording, but depending on how quietly you'll be playing they may help you hear the guitar better.
Polish up the recording when you're finished, and you'll have a great acoustic piece you can really be proud of!
Recording music at home can be intimidating at first, especially if you're unfamiliar with recording equipment and software. But by following the steps in this guide and trying it out for yourself, you'll have some great guitar recordings in no time.
You might not have the best results straight away, but after some time practicing and learning your way around your DAW and other recording gear you'll soon get the hang of it.
When you're recording your music at home, you have the freedom to experiment and practice as much as you want. A lot of it comes down to learning as you go – so grab your guitar, set up your gear, and (most importantly) have fun!