Lately you have been composing wonderful instrumental guitar parts and you would like to be able to memorize the tracks on your PC, in order to eventually make them listen to your friends or members of your band or, again, to start composing a more complex piece. perhaps enriched by voice and other instruments. You have realized, however, that it is absolutely not easy to transfer the sound of your 6-string, full-bodied and rich in nuances, into the computer recording software without losing too much quality.
That’s right: if you don’t use the right precautions and the correct instrumentation, you risk obtaining an audio result that is not up to your performance. How do you say? Is this exactly what is happening to you and do you feel a little demoralized by this situation? Not to worry at all: I wrote this tutorial specifically to show you how to record guitar on your PC , taking into consideration all the various alternatives you may find yourself.
Whether it’s a powerful riff or a virtuoso electric guitar solo or, again, a strumming or fingerpicking accompaniment for acoustic guitar, I’m sure that in the following paragraphs you will find all the useful information for transferring your sound to the computer while maintaining its more salient sound characteristics. Are you ready? Yup? Then all I have to do is wish you happy reading and have fun!
How to record guitar on pc
The best way to record a guitar on the computer is, undoubtedly, to use an external sound card , to be connected via a special USB cable to the PC (although, as we will see in the following paragraphs, it is also possible to take advantage of the one integrated in the computer itself) .
The choice of the latter is absolutely subjective, and is based on a completely personal economic and performance evaluation, but I advise you to check that it is equipped with special high-impedance inputs (often indicated with the acronym Hi-Z ) for TRS jacks and XLR .
TRS jacks ( if you have an electric guitar you will know them very well) are cables that have pins at their ends consisting of a 6.35 mm central pin and specially made for the transmission of a balanced audio signal. The XLR cable , on the other hand, is used to transmit a signal (always balanced) coming from the microphone, and is generally equipped with two connectors, one male, cylindrical and with three pins inside it, and one female, also cylindrical but with three holes. Many modern sound cards have Combo Jack/XLR inputs (capable of accepting both XLR and Jack).
Normally, the sound card drivers are installed automatically when you physically connect the hardware to the PC via the USB cable, but if something doesn’t go as expected, you can always find them on the manufacturer’s website. For example, to get the drivers for the Behringer UMC202HD sound card for Windows 10 (which I used for this tutorial) you need to access this page.
To proceed with the installation, you must then extract the zip archive obtained, launch the setup file inside it and click on the Yes , Next , Install , Next and Finish buttons to complete the setup. A special box will then appear indicating the need to disconnect and reconnect the sound card to start hardware recognition.
As mentioned, this is just an example, but generally installing drivers is done in a very similar way for all devices. The important thing is to only download software from the manufacturers’ official sites (to avoid malware and other unpleasant “surprises”) and carefully follow the instructions on the screen . More info here.
Much of the quality of the final result undoubtedly depends on the sound card, as I have just illustrated, but the program used to equalize the audio source also plays a rather important role in defining the signal, i.e. the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Some of these, in fact, are more suitable for the purpose, in particular due to the availability of specific functions capable of optimizing the sound parameters of a guitar (possibly also in post-production), such as presets , audio editing tools , plugins and integrated mixers .
Among these, therefore, I would recommend Ableton Live 11 , which has a very intuitive interface and a good range of extremely effective audio recording tools. You can also download a free trial version to test all its features from this page of the product’s official website. For more information on how it works, read my dedicated tutorial.
Another DAW you can rely on is FL Studio , which integrates some very interesting features and allows the installation of a wide range of additional plugins, some even specific for guitar. Also in this case you can test FL Studio by downloading a free trial version for Windows and macOS operating systems from this page. For more information on how the software works, read this guide of mine.
If you own a Mac you can’t help but consider Logic Pro X , an excellent program developed by Apple, or Garage Band , which you can find pre-installed in the Applications folder of the macOS operating system and is characterized by a decidedly user-friendly but at the same time professional tempo and equipped with specific effects to optimize the sound of the guitar.
As for free software, I suggest you evaluate Audacity , which is open source and has excellent potential as audio editing software (I explained how to use it in this guide) and Pro Tools First which, despite having many limitations (such as the number of tracks and projects that can be saved), maintains many of the features that have made Avid products famous and can be considered an excellent starting point for those who want to approach this world.
Having said this, once you have chosen the program that best meets your needs and with which you are most comfortable, installed any sound card and performed one of the connections that I will suggest in the next paragraphs, there are some preliminary operations which is essential to do in order for your guitar’s source audio to be processed and recorded correctly.
- Check on the audio settings of your DAW that the sampling frequency of the audio source is set to at least 44,100 Hz and that the sound card used is regularly recognized as an input device.
- Still in the settings of the recording software, identify the entries relating to latency (i.e. the delay deriving from the analog-digital conversion times ) and try to set a low buffer value (indicated in samples ), so that even the milliseconds of delay they go down. Also consider that if your PC’s CPU isn’t performing enough, the audio quality could suffer, especially if you also use plugins while recording.
- I strongly advise you to lower all volumes (instruments, amplifiers, pedals and sound card) and then gradually raise them, in order to find the right balance and avoid volume peaks that could damage all the audio interfaces involved.
- Check your recording software’s graphic equalizer that your guitar’s input volumes don’t exceed the peak threshold, usually represented in red. Going beyond these limits would lead to unpleasant distortions or audio clipping (noises that occur when digital audio is overdriven).
- On many DAWs it is necessary beforehand, as they say in technical jargon, to arm the track , i.e. enable it for recording. Let’s take Ableton Live as an example: to arm a track on this software, click on the relative button (characterized by a white note inside a black dot) present in the mixer to the right of each individual track, so that it lights up red. You will notice that the level indicator, present next to the aforementioned key, will begin to dynamically show the input signal.
- Activate the metronome on your DAW to synchronize your performance with the right tempo.
- Position the time cursor (usually an arrow pointing downwards in the central area of the DAW) at the beginning of each track by pressing the ◾️ (Stop) button twice and click on the record button in the command bar (it is usually represented with a red circle). Click the ◾️ (Stop) button again when you’re done recording.
How to record electric guitar on pc
You have an electric guitar or an electrified acoustic , therefore equipped with special devices called pickups , capable of transforming the vibrations of the strings into electrical impulses: in this case, the solutions you can refer to based on your stylistic needs there are really many, but below I will show you the ones that I think are the most valid.
Let’s see, therefore, how to record the electric guitar on the PC using an external sound card as a means to convert the electric signal into digital and make sure that the computer can subsequently process it in the music production software.
The first option is to use a cable with two TRS jacks at the ends: the first connector is connected to the guitar input, the second is inserted directly into the audio interface socket. The substantially clean sound can then be worked on using the DAW plugins.
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If pedal or rack effects are used , however, it will be necessary to connect them first, by inserting the Jack terminal into the Input of the first pedal. If you have more effects, you will need to connect them in cascade using short TRS jack cables, so you will need to equip yourself with an additional TRS jack cable which you will connect to the output socket of the last pedal and terminate on the TRS jack input of the sound card . This way you will be able to recreate your personal sound more faithfully even on the computer.
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If, on the other hand, you have created your own even more defined sound using a guitar amplifier , it is possible to record it on the PC using a dynamic microphone . For this specific circumstance, I advise you to prefer it to a condenser microphone, as it is better able to withstand the sound pressure generated by an amplified speaker and has a frequency response compatible with that of the instrument.
The microphone should be positioned a few centimeters (about 10) from the main cone of the amplifier. You can eventually move it towards the edges of the latter to try to obtain a more mellow sound and change the angle of inclination to moderate the characteristics of brightness and clarity. The dynamic microphone is then connected via a cannon XLR cable equipped with a female XLR connector to be inserted into the microphone socket and, at the other end, a male XLR connector or TRS jack to be inserted into the MIC In socket of the sound card.
How to record acoustic guitar on pc
If you want to understand how to record the acoustic guitar on the PC , whether it is folk (with metal strings ) or classical (with nylon strings ) and therefore exploit the amplification of the sound box, the best solution is represented by the use of a condenser .
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In fact, the latter, precisely because of its ability to capture all ambient sounds and the extreme sensitivity that characterizes it, lends itself better to capturing the depth and natural timbre variations of the acoustic guitar. The condenser microphone must be positioned at the height of the sound hole using a special support, but moved slightly higher, approximately towards the last frets of the neck, to avoid excessive rumble which could derive from the harmonic box.
The distance that I advise you to maintain between the guitar and the microphone to obtain a “moderate” compromise is about 30 centimeters, in order to capture more sound characteristics and limit the noises deriving from the use of the hands (when using the pick or fingers in case of fingerpicking).
Given these opportune premises, it is fair to say that in reality there is no perfect position for the microphone. It’s up to you to move the latter lower or higher, arranging it more or less perpendicular to the hole, based above all on the sound characteristics of your guitar, your musical style and the effect you want to recreate .
Generally speaking, directing it towards the fretboard produces sharper timbres, more mellow and gloomy towards the bass. The condenser microphone must then be connected via an XLR cable equipped with a female XLR connector that must be inserted into the socket of the same and with a further XLR connector, this time male, to be inserted into the MIC In socket of the sound card.
How to record guitar on pc without sound card
You don’t have an external sound card and you just want to record and keep the ideas and harmonies made with your instrument for future use. Consequently, you would like to understand how to record the guitar on the PC without a sound card , using the one integrated in your computer.
The good news is that the operation is absolutely feasible, but obviously the result will be much poorer from a qualitative point of view: the sound card integrated in the computer is not designed for this type of use, but you can preventively update the sound drivers of the systems Windows operating systems by downloading the ASIO4ALLs from this page. The latter allow you to optimize latency and represent an indispensable requirement if you use a low quality sound card.
Then click on the most recent ASIO4ALL version, the download will take place automatically and, once finished, run the ASIO4ALL.exe file obtained. Then click on the Yes button in the first window that appears, then click on the Next button and, in the next screen, insert the check mark on the box to accept the license conditions . Afterwards, click the Next button again twice, then click the Install button to start the process. On the last screen, click on the Finish button to complete the installation.
Connection to the integrated sound card is via an unbalanced 3.5 mm jack socket . Obviously neither the 6.35 mm TRS jack connector nor the tripolar cannon connector are compatible with this input, so it is essential to have a reducer that also allows the connection to be made mechanically.
Therefore, if the terminal part of your cable is a TRS jack connector coming from the guitar itself (or from a dynamic microphone), there is a specific cable formed by a TRS jack type input to which to connect the connector indicated above and by a 3.5 mm mini jack to be inserted into the line in socket of the computer (note: the latest generation PCs have a combined input which performs both input and output functions for microphone and headphone).
Same thing if you need to connect an XLR cable, coming from a microphone (dynamic or condenser): you will need to equip yourself with a special adapter with female XLR input (to facilitate insertion of the male XLR connector located at the other end of the aforementioned cable) and a 3.5 mm mini jack plug for plugging into the PC audio interface.
There are many other alternatives that we could define as “secondary”: you can, for example, buy a USB adapter with TRS jack input, so you can connect directly to a USB socket on your PC, or use a TRS jack cable that ends at other end with a USB connector.
Another rather functional solution is represented by the use of a mixer as a link between the instrument and the integrated sound card of the PC. You can find all the information about it in my dedicated guide.