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How To Record Guitar on PC

Headphones, Microphone And Man Playing Guitar

As a new or avid guitarist, one question you may have pondered is how to record guitar on a PC effectively. It’s pretty simple as your aim is to get as much of the guitar sound quality in digital form as possible. Sound in digital form gives you the benefit of using several editing effects to get the best sound.

Quick Answer

Ultimately, to record guitar on a PC, you need a hardware audio interface capable of processing the guitar’s sounds to digital signals. This interface could be a microphone, guitar amplifier, or an effect board. In addition to the interface, you need a digital audio workstation (DAW) software to process the PC’s digital signal.

It doesn’t matter the instrument you play; the above applies to recording any instrument on a PC. Note that even though there are different methods of recording guitar on a PC, they vary in sound quality they produced and the cost of achieving it.

We’ll cover the steps to follow to record guitar on PC effectively below. But before we get into that, let’s talk about what you need to get to record guitar on PC.

Step-by-Step Instruction

Essentially, there are three main ways to record guitar on a PC. Each method depends on whether you use an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar for the recording. So, let’s get right to it.

Method #1: Guitar To Amp > To DAW

If you own an electric guitar, one of the ways to record it on a PC is with an amp. The amp serves as an audio interface that effectively processes your guitar’s signal into digital format.

Note that not all guitar amps allow you to record on a PC. So, when shopping for an amp, go for one that has a USB port or audio jack port so you can easily connect it to your PC. You’d also need a DAW, of which there are several you could download for free or purchase.

Here’s how to record guitar on PC with an amp:

  1. Plug your guitar to the amp and the amp to your PC via the USB cable or audio jack cable.
  2. Install a DAW on your PC, open it and find your way to the option where you can select the amp as a preferred sound source.
  3. Test the sound to ensure your guitar is properly connected to your PC, and then make necessary adjustments before you start recording.
Note

Setting up an amp to record guitar on PC may come at a high price, but it’s worth the price as you’d get cleaner and sonorous sound. You could even connect the amp to multiple instruments to produce a more beautiful sound.

Method #2: Guitar to Microphone >  To audio interface > To DAW

Another way you can record guitar on a PC is with a microphone. This method is ideal when using an acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitars don’t come with pickups like electric guitars to convert the strings’ vibration to digital signals. Hence, the only option is to use a microphone to pick up the vibration and convert it to digital signals. 

Using a microphone to record guitar on a PC is quite challenging as you have to consider the brighter sound of acoustic guitars and sound distortion from the background. A noise-canceling pad and a condenser microphone will make the job much easier.

Here’s how to record guitar on a PC with a microphone:

  1. Position a microphone on your guitar to convert the string’s vibration to digital signals.
  2. Connect the guitar to an amplifier which will serve as the audio interface.
  3. Plug the amp into your PC via an audio jack port or USB and use a DAW for recording
Note

The way you position the microphone to record guitar on PC matters greatly. Depending on the song’s mood, the microphone is often positioned in front of the guitar soundhole or pointing to the 12th or 15th fret. However, feel free to experiment with the microphone placement.

Method #3: Direct Audio-in Connection

As technology is advancing, so is the music industry. Today, electric and semi-electric guitars come with a headphone-out or jack port. You can easily connect the guitar directly to your PC for recording with such ports.

However, be careful when connecting your guitar directly to your PC. Not all guitars can be plugged directly into your PC. So, ensure the guitar you use is compatible with this method before using it, so you don’t damage your PC or guitar.

Here’s how to record guitar on PC using the direct audio-in:

  1. Purchase the correct cable with a ¼-inch jack on one end and a 1/8-inch audio-in port on the other end.
  2. Plug the cable to your guitar and then to your PC, often located at the side of your PC.
  3. Launch the DAW and select your PC audio port as the default input source.
Note

If your PC does not have an audio-in port, you may have to buy an interface or a special cable that plugs into your audio-out port. For example, if your laptop does not have a recording headphone jack, you could buy an adapter that plugs into a USB port.

Conclusion

The decision to record your guitar on a PC with a microphone or input jack is entirely up to you. However, some people prefer to use a microphone because it produces a beautiful harmonic tonality. At the same time, other people prefer to use an input jack because sound distortion from background noise is eliminated, while string bends and vibration are much better.

You should always connect your guitar to an amp or sound card regardless of the method you decide to use. This will help you get the best sound quality from your recordings. Using an amp will help amplify the sound from your guitar. However, this will mean you have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars investing in a quality amp. But it is money well spent!

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