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How to record an electric guitar amp with your PC

Guitar amp

The easiest way to record an electric guitar is to plug it directly into an audio interface that is hooked up to your PC, but when you have created a unique sound with your pedals and amps that you want to record then you will need to setup a microphone.

Even if you know the best practices for recording an amp, setting up the microphone to get the sound you’re after can take a fair amount of trial and error, so don’t be put off if the sound isn’t perfect on your first attempt.

Step 1 – Choose your room carefully

Recording with a microphone means that the size, shape, and cladding of a room can make a significant different to how your final recording will sound, so make sure the room you choose has the right acoustics.

Step 2 – Set up your guitar, amp, and pedals

The whole point of recording via a mic’ed amp is to record the sound of all your chained guitar products, from the guitar, through the effects pedals, to the amp itself – so make sure you are happy with these first.

Get some fresh strings and play them in, and if you buy effects pedals online, make sure to give them a good few hours use to test them out before you start looking to record the sound. There are so many possible variables in recording an amp that you want to rule out any issues from your guitar setup first – fine-tune your pedal and amp settings at the start so they sound the best to your ears in the room.

Lastly, play with your drive, EQ, and level so that you are comfortable before moving on to the mic.

Step 3 – Set up the microphone

A microphone can be plugged into a computer directly, via a USB audio interface, or via a dedicated mic pre-amp and your decision may be down to budget and what sort of microphone you plan to use.

  1. Direct connection – Many modern recording devices like soundcards and even iPads have built-in pre-amps, so the quickest, easiest, and definitely cheapest option is often to plug the microphone in directly and just get to recording.
  2. USB interface – Almost all audio interfaces today include a preamp, so you can simply plug the interface into your PC via USB (most are still USB 2) and you can bring up the gain to the required level for your recording. Many also come with phantom power for condenser mics
  3. Dedicated preamp – The preamp will sit between your mic and your recording interface and some will include EQ and compression settings. These have come down dramatically in price in recent years, with budget options now available for under £50, but a USB audio interface with a preamp included would be a simpler and cheaper setup for most people.

Step 3 – Position the microphone

The position of your mic in relation to the amp can radically change the sound, so move it around to find the best sound. The sound will be darker the further towards the edge you move the mic from the centre of the speaker cone, which is where you will find the brightest sound.

The distance from the speaker will also play a large role in the sound your record. The closer your position the mic to the speaker the more detail it will pick up from your guitar-pedals-amps setup, whilst the further you move it away the more acoustics, ambience, and depth from the room it will record.

Step 4 – Choose your software and record

You can record audio with a variety of simple and free tools like Audacity, or you could record directly into an advanced DAW setup like Cubase or Reaper – it really depends on how you plan to use the recording. Do you just want to get a riff down so you don’t forget it, in which case Audacity is a good, quick, and easy option, or do you plan to use this audio as part of a full song recording, in which case you may as well record directly into your DAW.

Photograph by Free-Photos

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