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How to Connect Your Guitar to a Computer

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If you ever want to do any recording, whether it be for recording for a song or just for practice purposes, you’ll want to connect your guitar to a computer. In today’s modern tech world, this is really simple to do and can be accomplished with just a couple of tools…an audio interface and a DAW.

Let’s take a look at how you can easily get this set up.

1. Audio Interface

To connect your guitar to a computer, the first thing you’ll need is an audio interface. An audio interface is what takes the signal from the guitar and sends it to the computer.

There are many options available for an audio interface and what you should go with depends on your needs. The table below includes a few options.

PreSonus AudioBox 96Affordable 2-channel audio interface that provides great value for cost. Dual inputs allow both mic and instrument cable connectionsLearn More
Focusrite Scarlet SoloPopular audio interface that comes with two inputs, one for mic and one for instrument cable.Learn More
Behringer U-Phoria2-channel audio interface. Like the PreSonus AudioBox 96, this interface accepts both mic and instrument cable connections for each input.Learn More

Personally, I use the PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 audio interface.

PreSonus AudioBox 96
PreSonus AudioBox 96

I don’t do any professional recording, so I just need a simple plug-n-play solution that delivers quality sound at a reasonable price. The PreSonus AudioBox gives me just that.

For this article, the examples will use the PreSonus AudioBox, but the process is similar for the other audio interfaces as well.

Connecting the PreSonus AudioBox

To connect the PreSonus AudioBox audio interface to the computer, you simply plug the USB cable into the back of the interface and to the USB port on your computer. The PreSonus AudioBox is powered by USB, so there isn’t separate power cord that needs to be plugged in.

Connect Guitar to Audio Interface

The PreSonus AudioBox is a two-channel audio interface, which means I can plug in a mic and a guitar or two mics and two guitars. The inputs accommodate the standard instrument and mic cables, which means you don’t need an adaptor. Both can be plugged directly into the interface.

You have two options for connecting the guitar to the interface.

  1. Plug the guitar directly into the interface via instrument cable
  2. Mic the guitar amp and plug the mic into the interface

Connect directly to the interface via instrument cable

If you plan to take advantage of the multitude of amps and effects typically included in the DAW (see next section), then you’ll want to plug directly into the audio interface. This will give you the cleanest sound and full access to mix and match any combo of amp simulations and effects.

To do this, you simply run the instrument cable from your guitar directly into the instrument cable input on the audio interface.

Connect a mic’d amplifier to the audio interface

If you want to capture the raw sound of your own guitar amplifier and effects loop, you can use a microphone to mic the amp and plug the microphone cable directly into the interface.

If you go this route, you’ll want to use a quality microphone to capture the best sound you can. You’ll still have access to all of the tools on the DAW to tweak the sound a bit, but it starts with the quality of the input. A Shure SM57 is a great mic to use for this and an industry standard. It’s a high quality mic at a really good price.

The other aspect of getting a good tone out of a mic’d amp is how the amp is mic’d. Mic placement is a major factor. Here’s a great video from Reverb that goes through the process of mic’ing an amp to get the sounds you want: 10 Ways to Mic A Guitar Amp with Brian Deck

2. DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

The DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation, is the software application that allows you to record on the computer.

DAWs are typically equipped with multi-track recording capabilities, many guitar amp simulators and tons of effects. Some audio interfaces come with a DAW, but you’re not limited to just using the one that ships with the interface. You can choose to use any DAW you want. Some of the more common DAWs are listed in the table below.

GarageBandGarageBand is Apple’s free DAW. I’ve used GarageBand since it first came out and still use it today. It comes with loads of presets for guitar, loops and drum tracks that allows you to get up and running and recording tracks quickly.Learn More
Studio One 5 ArtistThis DAW comes with the PreSonus AudioBox, but can also be purchased separately if you use a different interface.Learn More
Logic Pro XApple’s professional grade recording studio.Learn More
Pro ToolsPro Tools is a professional grade DAW used in music studios throughout the industry.Learn More

Recording Guitar in GarageBand

Recording guitar in GarageBand is really simple and only takes a couple of steps to get started.

GarageBand audio input selection

Step 1: Set the Audio Input Device

Make sure your guitar is connected to your audio interface and that your audio interface is plugged into the computer. Launch GarageBand and go to Preferences -> Audio/MIDI. Under Input Device, you should see your audio interface in the dropdown list.

Select your interface as the input device and close preferences.

Step 2: Create New Project

Create a new project in GarageBand. If you plan to play around with different amps, the Amp Collection template is a good place to start as it create multiple tracks with different amps by default.

GarageBand Amp Collection project template

Once you’ve created your project, you can select whichever track you want to work on to record for that track. When you select the track, you want to check to make sure your audio interface is selected as the input device.

GarageBand track select audio interface

Once you confirm your audio interface has been set as the input device, you’re reading to record your guitar track.

Wrap Up

With today’s modern technology, plugging your guitar into a computer to recording tracks is super easy. There’s a bit of cost involved with the audio interface, but there are some quality products like the PreSonus AudioBox 96 that offers great value for a fair price. Plus, you can save on costs by going with a free DAW like GarageBand, which gives you all you need to create high quality recordings.

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