Electric guitar

The Recording Guitarist: Electric Guitar Recording For Beginners

Last time around, we covered the basic equipment needed to record a guitar on your computer or tablet. Let’s talk about technique now!

Compose your DAW. Install your DAW of choice according to the program’s instructions. Connect your interface and plug in your guitar. (If there is a line / instrument switch, choose the instrument.) The guitar-style jack (known to audio geeks as the phono jack or 1/4 “jack) may be on the interface box or on a cable ” [see Image 1].

A heavily strummed open E chord on your bridge pickup with the guitar’s volume and tone controls at maximum is good level control.

Connect headphones or earphones to the headphone jack on your interface. If you take recording seriously, you will eventually acquire a set of special speakers to monitor your recordings. But until then, you’ll get better, more accurate results using headphones rather than your computer’s built-in speakers. Headphones also prevent feedback when recording with a microphone.

You will probably need to “tell” your DAW to use the new interface rather than the computer’s built-in microphone and speakers. If you are using an Apple computer, you usually do not need to install any special “driver” software to use your interface, although you may need it on a PC. Just Google “download [your DAW name] driver. ”Don’t bother installing additional software from the DVDs included in your DAW package. Chances are there are newer versions online.

Image 2

Can you hear me now? Start your DAW program and create a new session. I am using Apple’s GarageBand as my demo DAW, although the next steps are similar for other recording programs. When you open GarageBand, you get a window asking you what type of recording you want to make [Image 2]. For now, don’t choose Amp Collection (which offers an assortment of modeled amps); select Empty Project, just so you can try setting up a new session from scratch. In GarageBand you get another pop-up [Image 3] inquire about the type of trail you want to start with. Choose “Record Guitar or Bass”. Other programs may offer a choice between MIDI and audio tracks. Choose the sound.

Image 3

To make sure your computer is using your interface rather than its built-in audio hardware, open the DAW preferences through one of the drop-down menus at the top of the screen and look for an “audio” tab. You should see something like Image 4. (The word ONE here refers to my Apogee One interface.) Select your device as the input and output.

Image 4

Alternatively, you can tell your computer to always use your interface for audio input and output (or “I / O” in geek-speak). This is handy if, for example, you keep your computer connected to nice desktop speakers and want to enjoy the interface’s superior audio quality while listening to music. (On the other hand, it may be better to use the interface only when your DAW is running to avoid situations like receiving a Skype call and not hearing any sound as it is routed to your interface. and you’re not wearing headphones.) Anyway. , there is no need to reset things when you disconnect your interface; the computer resumes using the internal microphone and speakers. But you will probably have to reset the I / O the next time you connect the interface.

Can you see me now? Next, create a track for your guitar. (Later, you can create more tracks to record additional parts while listening to the first performance again.)

Play around while looking at the level indicators on your interface. Chances are your initial level is good. If your interface has an input level control, adjust it so that the meter is just below the “peak” warning (usually a red LED) when you play loudest. (A heavily strummed open E chord on your bridge pickup with the guitar’s volume and tone controls at maximum is good level control.)

Image 5

Now take a look at the DAW track you created. You should see its level meter react as you play. You may not hear anything yet – you must first “arm” the track so that it transmits the sound of your current recording to your headphones. In GarageBand, click the little Soundwave button on the track header to activate this “input monitoring” [Image 5]. (“Header” refers to the information panel attached to each track.)

You should now hear and see the sound of your guitar. The input level should be the same as displayed on your interface, so there is usually no need to adjust it in the DAW. However, the DAW counter is probably more detailed than the one on your interface, and you may see more level spikes than you expect. If so, recall the interface level. For digital recording, you never want the meter in the red zone.

Latent trends? Does your guitar sound appear in your headphones the instant you play or is there an audible delay? This unwanted delay is called latency, which is the time it takes for your computer to process incoming audio and send it back to your interface and headphones. There is always some latency, but it must be so short that you don’t notice it. If you are experiencing latency on a newer model computer, you may need to adjust the buffer size in your DAW’s audio preferences. (Image 6 displays the corresponding panel in Logic.)

Image 6

The lower the number, the lower the latency. Most guitarists have no problem playing at a setting of 128, 256, or maybe even 512, but 1024 is too slow for most musicians. How fast you can descend depends on the speed of your computer. Try the lowest setting possible. If you hear clicks and pops while playing, move on to the next lowest option. Repeat if necessary until the noise disappears.

Silence, please… record!

Take a deep breath and press the red record button. The DAW’s slider scrolls left to right and a visual representation of your performance – a “waveform” – appears on the screen as you play. [Image 7]. When you are finished, press stop.

Image 7

When you create a guitar-like track in GarageBand, the program automatically adds an amp modeler to mimic the sound of a physical amp, but in other DAWs you may need to add the effect manually. (If your DAW didn’t come with modelers, check out last month’s column for links to free modeling plugins.) If you’ve never heard your guitar plugged in without an amp, the sound is crisp and dry. may shock you. Extract 1 is a brief recording via a GarageBand amp model.

Extract 2 is the same performance without modeling. Some classic recordings were made with dry sounds like this, but players generally prefer something closer to the sound of a real amp.

An interesting thing about modellers is the fact that you can change the tones of the amp after you save. Extract 3 features the same short performance, but heard through four different combinations of modeled amps and effects.

We’ll see how to work with modelers in more depth in an upcoming column. For now, just try listening to virtual amps and pedals. Amps probably have control panels much like those on a physical amp (Image 8 shows a GarageBand amp interface) and maybe some sort of virtual pedalboard (Image 9). If you’re on GarageBand Band, try creating a session using the aforementioned Amp Collection option.

Image 8 (top) and Image 9 (bottom)

But wait, there is more. We’ve only scratched the surface, but I hope it’s a deep, lasting scratch. If you’re having issues (and who isn’t?), Please post them in the comments. I can’t troubleshoot all interfaces and DAWs, but chances are there is a drive that can.

Have fun and keep a good sense of humor. These procedures can be confusing at first, but they will soon become second nature.