Great Guitar Sound in Your Home Recording - dummies

By Jeff Strong

Do you wanna know how to get the absolute best, richest, most engaging guitar sound on your home recordings? Well its something you need to figure out by listening as you tweak your gear. That said, you can record sound into your computer in four ways, and each way has its plusses and minuses, as described in the following list:

  • Directly from your guitar into your instrument input: The instrument input in your system could be located in your analog mixer (stand-alone systems), your recorder (stereo in a box systems), or your audio interface (computer-based systems). This assumes that your instrument input can handle a direct connection from a guitar. By using this method, the sound you get from your guitar is pretty much the same sound you’re going to get recorded.

    You may not like the sound — in fact, I’ll bet you won’t. The solution to this unfortunate state of affairs is to use a plug-in (or more than one) in your recording program to get the sound you want.

    This is a common way to get a guitar sound, and tons of good plug-ins can help, including plug-ins for providing distortion, delay, chorus, and even special amp simulators that are designed to sound like popular guitar amplifiers. One advantage to this approach is that you can tweak the sound of your guitar as much as you want after it’s recorded.

    The disadvantage is that you can easily become afflicted with indecision disorder and be unable to pick the sound you want. Also, many guitar-tone connoisseurs feel that getting the sound this way isn’t as good as miking up an amp with the sound you want.

  • From your guitar to an amp simulator and from the amp simulator into your instrument input: Amp simulators are like the plug-ins that you can get for your software, only they’re stand-alone units that already have the various sounds in them.

    A bunch of stand-alone amp simulators are available on the market, and most offer decent simulations of the most popular guitar amps. This can be a good solution for many people, but the disadvantage of doing this — instead of adding your effects in the computer — is that after you record your sound through an amp simulator, you’re stuck with that sound.

    Of course, if you often get hit with indecision disorder, this may be a good solution for you.

  • From your guitar into your amp and from your amp’s line output to your instrument input: Recording a guitar this way is great for people who have an amp that they like the sound of but who don’t want to mic a speaker.

    When you follow this approach, you have three volume controls to adjust to get your level into your recorder — your guitar, your amp, and your interface. You may have to take time tweaking these settings to achieve the best possible sound.

  • From your guitar into your amp with a mic picking up the speaker’s sound: This is the old standby approach because you get to record the actual sound you’re used to hearing coming out of your amp. With this method, having the right mic and mic placement makes all the difference in the world.

There is no single way to get a great guitar sound. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You may just come up with a sound that really moves you.