5 Best Ways To Record Guitar On PC In 2023 | Complete Guide

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5 Best Ways To Record Guitar On PC

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Want to record guitar on PC but don’t know where to start? This guide will show you the 5 best ways to get started, common practices of how to connect your guitar to your PC, plus offer helpful tips on how to record your guitar properly.

The best way to record guitar on PC is to connect both via an audio interface. Plug your guitar into the input jack of an audio interface using a ¼“ cable and connect the audio interface to your PC using its connection standard (USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt). Install a recording software, select your audio interface as the playback and start recording.

Even though connecting your guitar directly to an audio interface is the most convenient and common method,  there are several other ways to record guitar on PC. Let’s take a look at the most suitable methods in order to get the best recording results!

    Table Of Contents

    1. What You Need To Record Guitar On PC

    2. The Best Way To Record Guitar On PC – Connect An Audiointerface

    3. Recording Guitar On PC Using A Guitar Preamp

    4. Recording Guitar On PC using An Amplifier And Its USB-Out

    5. Recording Guitar On PC using An Amplifier And A Microphone

    6. Recording Guitar On PC Using A USB Microphone

    7. Helpful Tips On How To Record Your Guitar On PC

    1. What You Need To Record Guitar On PC

    There are numerous reasons why you might want to record guitar tracks on your PC. Maybe you have a computer-based home recording studio and you’re looking to expand your setup by adding acoustic guitar. Or maybe you’re a beginner guitarist who wants to record some of your first song ideas. Whatever your reason, we’re here to show you how to record guitar on a computer.

    Depending on the gear and instrument you already own as well as on the desired recording solution you need different things in order to record guitar on PC. This list below covers all of the recording methods we are about to discuss in this article.

    Even though you won’t need all of the items, it is a good opportunity to get an overview of the options you have. Here is a list of things that get you started:

     

    • Guitars Of Some Sort (Electric, Acoustic/Classical)
    • Personal Computer / Laptop, Suitable For Audio Processing
    • Recording Software / DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
    • Audiointerface
    • Microphone(s) And Microphone Cables (XLR Cables)
    • Guitar Amplifier Or Preamp
    • 1/4″ Guitar Cables And/Or Wireless Guitar Receivers
    • Studio Headphones
    • Studio Monitors / Speakers

      2. The Best Way To Record Guitar On PC – Connect An Audiointerface

      The Best Solution To Record Guitar On PC: Connect Both Via An Audiointerface:

      Record Guitars On PC Using An Audio Interface

      Plug your guitar into the input jack of an audiointerface using a 1/4” guitar cable. If you want to record a guitar, which doesn’t have a pickup like a classical guitar, you need to plug a microphone via an XLR microphone cable into a dedicated input jack of your audiointerface. Most audiointerfaces have hybrid input jacks which can handle both line signals and instrument signals.

      Connect the audiointerface to your PC using its dedicated connection standard (USB, FireWire or Thunderbolt)and make sure it is powered correctly. In case you have the option to install a separate power supply, we recommend you do so. Install any necessary drivers for your audio interface on your PC.

      Now its time to install a recording software of some type. Most people use dedicated so called digital audio workstations (DAWs) which offer nearly unlimited opportunities regarding audio processing. But it is totally fine to opt for simpler recording software solutions.

      Open your recording software, and choose your audiointerface as the playback engine, so the software identifies your interface as the input and output device. Make sure to select a fairly low so called buffer size (samples) to avoid latency issues while recording and listening back.

      Connect any suitable headphones or studio speakers to your audiointerface using the headphone input jack and the line output jacks in order to hear the playback.

      Finally, hit the record button in your recording software and start recording your guitar! There is a vast variety of ampflification simulation software or short “amp-sims” that can alter your direct and “dry” guitar tone like Amplitube, HelixNative, BiasFX to name a few.

      3. Recording Guitar On PC Using A Guitar Preamp

      Another convenient way to record guitar to PC is to use a guitar preamp. Modern guitar preamps are often designed to function as a standalone hardware unit in order to process and distribute your guitar signal. They often function as audiointerfaces as well, even though they are designed specifically for guitar (and bassguitar) players, so they are not as versatile as a “standard” studio audiointerface.

      Modern Guitar Preamp | Source: Picture: Thomann GmbH

      The advantage of the standalone design is the combination of the integrated (specific) audiointerface and the processing units inside of the device. In other words, the guitar signal is processed and altered right inside the unit and doesn’t necessarily need to be routed into a PC – most units have the option to playback audio themselves (for example in live venues).

      Nonetheless, a lot of guitar players are connecting their guitar preamps / multi-effect pedals either directly to a PC via USB, or into the input of an audiointerface in order to record to PC.

      4. Recording Guitar On PC using An Amplifier And Its USB-Out

      Similar to the method of using a guitar preamp you can use some type of modern guitar ampflifiers to directly record your guitar signal into PC. These amps can also be routed into an audiointerface (and then in into your PC) via their line output jack.

      Modern Amp With USB Out | Source: Picture: Thomann GmbH

      Just like modern standalone guitar preamps, these amps were designed to offer a maximum of versatility. They can be used as rehearsal amps, in live scenarios as well as a convenient recording solution to record your guitar to PC.

      The direct connection between the (pre)amp and the PC is also often used, to modify internal settings of the device via a separate software (like presets or firmware updates).

       

      5. Recording Guitar On PC using An Amplifier And A Microphone

      In case you want to record the “original” tone of your (analog) guitar amp you need to capture its tone by placing a microphone in front of its speaker cabinet. On average, guitarists often use a combination of two different microphones (like a ribbon mic in combination with a SM57) in order to get a more pleasing recording tone. But it is totally fine to only use a single microphone as well.

      Guitar Amp With Microphone

      The captured signal is routed via the microphone XLR cables into the input of an audiointerface which is again connected to a PC in order to record it.

      On the one hand, this more “true to the tone” and “old-school” approach is more difficult to set up and control and quiet recording isn’t possible. On the other hand it can deliver excellent results and is used in nearly every recording studio.

      6. Recording Guitar On PC Using A USB Microphone

      An additional option to record your guitar into PC is using a USB microphone. These microphones can directly be plugged into your PC and don’t need an audiointerface to be connected. Even though this seems to be very convenient at first, this method is the least suitable one and should be avoided.

      USB Microphone | Source: Picture: Thomann GmbH

      USB microphones are designed to mainly process voiceovers and vocals. Many podcasters and voiceover-artists use these types of microphones, often as a versatile mobile recording solution. This is also a scenario a guitar recording artist can benefit from while being “on the road”. It is fairly easy to just plug in a usb microphone into a laptop via a usb cable and start recording your let’s say acoustic guitar.

      Despite being some kind of helpful in mobile scenarios, these microphones often don’t come with an input jack for electric / acoustic guitars with pickups. They are also not optimal for capturing the sound of a speaker cabinet.

      7. Helpful Tips On How To Record Your Guitar On PC

      After reading this article, you hopefully got an overview of suitable guitar recording options on PC. Here are some additional helpful tips while recording your guitar:

       

      •  To get started: get a common audiointerface and a microphone in order to record both electric and acoustic guitars
      • Keep an eye on gain staging your input levels on your audiointerface, recording too “hot” or too quiet can hurt the quality of your recordings significantly
      • Make sure your PC has enough processing power (at least a 6-core processor and 16 GB of RAM) and its fan noise isn’t interfering with your microphone recordings
      • When recording with a microphone, keep in mind you are also capturing any room sound
      • Always invest in high quality cables
      • In case you are having problems with latency while recording your guitar, try to lower the buffer size of your audiointerface
      • Keep playback levels fairly low in order to better perceive nunances in your recordings and to prevent ear fatigue and hearing damage
      • Over time, familiarize yourself with a DAW (digital audio workstation) of your choice. A daw provides the best recording options.
      • Keep in mind that your recorded audio files need to be edited and processed afterwards
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