An important part of setting up your music production studio is being able to record your guitar. With most music including tracks from a guitar, the ability to record one will be vital to your setup.
There are a few different ways you can record a guitar on your laptop. There is of course the traditional way where you place a microphone in front of the guitar for an acoustic guitar, or in front of the amp for an electric guitar.
But if you have an electric guitar, you also have the option of being able to connect it directly to your laptop.
In this article, I’m going to cover all the different options available so you can choose the best option for you and your budget.
How To Record A Guitar With A Microphone
If you have an acoustic guitar, recording with a microphone is really going to be your only option. But if you have an electric guitar, recording it with a microphone could still be something worth considering.
Choosing Your Equipment
First off, you’ll need to choose a microphone. If you’re on a budget, you can get a good USB microphone for around $100 – $200. It will plug directly into your laptop and that’s all you’ll need to buy.
If you have an acoustic guitar and want to record it with a USB microphone, you’ll want to get a condenser microphone like the Samson Meteor.
But if you have an electric guitar and would like to record it with a USB microphone, you will be better off with a dynamic microphone like the Samson Q2U.
Click here to read my article on the best USB microphones.
If you’ve got a bit more to spend, you could get an XLR microphone and an audio interface. You can get a good quality XLR microphone for sometimes even less money than a USB microphone.
But in order to connect an XLR microphone to your computer, you’ll need an audio interface which will cost around $300 making an XLR microphone the more expensive and slightly more complicated option.
But XLR microphones are usually better quality than USB microphones so if you have a higher budget and don’t mind the complication of having an extra box, an XLR microphone will probably be a better option.
If you have an acoustic guitar and want to record it with an XLR microphone, you’ll want to get a condenser microphone like the sE Electronics X1.
But if you have an electric guitar, you’ll be better off with a dynamic microphone like the Shure SM-57.
If you plan on using an XLR microphone, you’ll also need an audio interface. An audio interface is a box that receives the analog signal that comes from XLR microphones (and other instruments).
And converts it into a digital signal your computer can understand. It then sends the signal into your computer through a USB cable.
If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface. It has two XLR ports so you can connect two different microphones (or other instruments) at the same time and has all the features you would need.
But if want to be able to connect more different microphones at once, you might want to go with something like the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface. It’s pretty much the same as the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 but it has 4 XLR inputs instead of two.
Once you’ve got your audio interface, just connect the microphone to the interface, and connect the interface to your computer, and you’re ready to go.
Now once you’ve chosen your equipment, whether it’s a USB microphone or an XLR microphone with an audio interface. The setup will be fairly simple.
First, connect your microphone to your computer if it’s USB, or connect it to your audio interface and then connect the audio interface to your computer if it’s XLR.
Next, you’ll need to find a good position for your microphone. If you’re using an acoustic guitar, you’ll need to position it in front of the guitar. You could set it on a table or desk and then sit in front of the table to play, but the easiest way is probably to use a microphone stand.
If you don’t have one, you can get one on Amazon for around $20 and you’ll then be able to position your microphone in the perfect position to get the right sound. When shopping for a microphone stand, it’s important to make sure it fits your microphone.
If you’re using an electric guitar, positioning your microphone is much easier, as the sound will be coming out of your amp, you can simply place the microphone in front of your amp.
You might want to try moving it around a little bit and pointing it in different angles to see what gives you the best sound, but overall it’s quite simple.
Once you’ve got everything positioned and plugged in correctly, it’s just a matter of selecting the microphone as an input for in your DAW. I won’t go into detail about this because it is slightly different for every DAW but it is usually fairly straight forward.
If you don’t have a DAW, take a look at my list of the best free DAWs
How To Plug An Electric Guitar Into A Computer
So now you know everything you need to know about recording a guitar with a microphone. But if you have an electric guitar, you also have the option of plugging it into your laptop.
There are two ways of doing this, there’s the cheap way, and then there’s the expensive way.
The Cheap Way
The cheap way very much lives up to its name, you might even have everything you need already lying around the house.
All you need is a 1/4 inch to 3.5mm audio adapter which you can get in a two-pack on Amazon for under $4 if you don’t already have one.
And that’s it! that’s all you need. Now all you need to do is plug the adapter into your guitar, plug one end of the cable into the adapter, and plug the other into the headphone/microphone jack of your laptop.
Then it’s just a matter of choosing it as an input in your DAW.
So as you can probably tell, this is a very cheap and easy way to connect your electric guitar directly to your computer. But the audio quality when you do it this way is not the best.
The Expensive Way
If you want better audio quality and are willing to spend a bit more, this more expensive way is for you.
For this method, you’ll need an audio interface. If you already have one, this method will actually be completely free, but if you don’t, buying one will cost upwards of $200.
If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface. It has two ports so you can connect two different microphones, electric guitars, or other instruments at the same time and has all the features you would need.
But if want to be able to connect more different devices at once, you might want to go with something like the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface. It’s pretty much the same as the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 but it has 4 inputs instead of two.
Once you’ve got your audio interface, it’s just a matter of plugging your guitar into the interface (as though it’s an amp), and then plugging the audio interface into your computer.
From there, all you need to do is select it as an input in your DAW, and you’re ready to go!
So there you have it, several different ways you can record your guitar with your laptop. Hopefully, you found a method that suits you, and feel free to let us know your favorite method down in the comments section below.