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Pro Guide To Recording Instruments: How To Record Guitar

April 4, 2024 - Discover how to record guitar like a pro! Follow our guide for optimal mic placement, gear setup, and mixing techniques. Start creating vibrant guitar tracks today!

Man creating music playing the guitar

Recording guitar in your home studio is a fantastic way to bring your musical ideas to life. If you follow some of the most important best practices and have access to the right basic gear, you can get results comparable to those of a professional studio. 

Whether you’re laying down tracks for a full-blown production or simply capturing a melody that's been playing in your head, the comfort of your own space can foster creativity and experimentation. 

Understanding your equipment, the recording space, and the techniques are the key to capturing the essence of your guitar’s tone.

Modern guitar amp simulation plugins also add a virtual option that can often reveal some great results.

How To Record Guitar

Navigating the incredible range of choices for interfaces, mics, DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations), and plugins might initially seem overwhelming, but with a bit of guidance, you can achieve professional-sounding results. 

You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the types of microphones suitable for acoustic or electric guitars, learn how to position them for optimal sound capture, and decide whether to go direct, mic an amp, or use a combination of both.

In the process of recording, attention to detail is everything and will make a significant difference. 

Take the time to dial in your amp settings, find the perfect microphone positions, and experiment with different effects to refine your sound. 

All these efforts will pay off in the authentic and vibrant guitar tracks you’ll be able to produce, ready to be mixed into your next music project.

Setting Up Your Recording Space

Creating the ideal recording space in your home studio should be your first step. A well-set-up room can significantly enhance your guitar recordings by providing the right acoustics and minimizing unwanted noise interference.

Choosing the Right Room

When selecting a room in your home for a studio, opt for a space that is quiet and offers minimal external disturbances. 

Ideally, choose a room where the natural sound is pleasing to your ears—it should be neither too reverberant (echoey) nor too dead (dull). Look for a space that is somewhat isolated from the rest of the household activities to minimize interruptions.

Understanding Room Acoustics

Your room's acoustics play a pivotal role in capturing the true sound of your guitar. Hard surfaces reflect sound, causing reverberation, while soft surfaces absorb sound. 

It doesn't have to be expensive either; to achieve a balanced room sound, you can combine furnishings such as rugs, curtains, or foam panels to manage reflections. 

If you have the budget though, it's worth spending some of it on quality acoustic tiles/baffles for the ceiling and walls at key reflection points.

There are many great options for room measuring software that come with measuring microphones. 

However, you can get by and test the basics of how sound behaves in your recording studio by clapping loudly and listening to the echo. Use this test to decide where to place absorbing and diffusing materials.

Dealing With Noise Interference

The best way to ensure your recordings are free from unwanted noise is to identify potential sources of interference, such as electronics, HVAC systems, or external noise from traffic. 

Once identified, take measures to eliminate or reduce these noises. You might use:

  • Sealing gaps in doors or windows with weather stripping.

  • Positioning your recording setup away from noise sources like air vents.

  • Switching off unnecessary electronics that may create background hum.

Remember, the goal is to control the room sound effectively to capture the pure tone of your guitar without external distractions.

Selecting the Right Guitar and Gear

Acoustic Guitar Setup

For acoustic guitar recording, the natural resonance and acoustics of the instrument are paramount. Positioning a microphone correctly can capture an acoustic guitar's rich, full sound. 

Typically, small-diaphragm condenser microphones are preferred for their ability to capture the nuances and clarity of acoustic guitars.

Electric Guitar Setup

Electric guitar recording often involves an amplifier to capture the guitar's tone. You'll need to consider the type of amp, any pedal effects you're using, and where to place the microphone. 

Aiming a dynamic microphone like the Shure SM57 at the speaker's cone is a common and effective technique.

Going Directly Into The Audio Interface for Clean Sound

If you're recording an electric guitar directly into your audio interface, you need to make sure the interface has high-quality instrument inputs on it. 

A Direct Injection box, or DI box, is an alternative way for obtaining a clean, uncolored direct sound from your guitar if your interface doesn't have instrument inputs. A DI box balances the signal, reduces noise, and prevents ground loops, and it is typically powered by one of your audio interface's mic inputs.

In any case, getting a pristine signal before adding effects or amplifier modeling in the post-production stage is important.

Choosing Microphones for Guitar Recording

When selecting a microphone, consider the type of sound you’re aiming to achieve.

Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic microphones, like the Shure SM57 or Sennheiser MD 421, are robust choices that can handle high sound pressure levels from amplifiers, making them ideal for capturing loud and aggressive guitar sounds.

Condenser Microphones

For more nuanced and detailed recordings, a condenser microphone might be your pick, especially for acoustic guitars or softer electric parts. They are sensitive and can capture a broader range of frequencies. 

Ribbon Microphones

If you're after a more vintage vibe, ribbon mics could provide that warm, smooth sound reminiscent of classic recordings.

The mic distance and positioning relative to your guitar or amp will greatly affect the tone captured, so make sure to experiment with placement; even small adjustments can lead to significant changes in sound.

Woman on the floor playing guitar

Connecting to the Digital Audio Workstation

When you're ready to record your guitar, a key step is connecting it to your DAW. This process involves setting up an audio interface and its routing, adjusting the sample rate and bit depth for optimal sound quality, and selecting the right DAW and plugins for your needs.

Setting Up the Audio Interface

  • Connect your guitar: Plug your guitar into the audio interface’s instrument input (or a DI box into a mic input if your doesn't have an instrument input) using a standard quarter-inch guitar cable.

Power and connect the interface: Ensure the interface is powered on and connect it to your PC or Mac via USB or Thunderbolt, depending on the model.

Understanding Sample Rate and Bit Depth

  • Sample Rate: This refers to how often the audio is sampled per second. Commonly used rates are 44.1 kHz (CD quality) or 48 kHz. A good rule of thumb is, if you think your track will be used synced to video, then record at 48kHz as video productions typically use this sample rate. Otherwise, 44.1kHz sample rate is fine.

  • Bit Depth: This determines the audio's dynamic range; 24-bit is a standard depth that offers a high dynamic range, reducing noise and improving clarity.

Working With DAW Software and Plugins

  • Choose a DAW: Select software that fits your needs. Popular options include Soundtrap, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Pro Tools and many others. They all offer a comprehensive toolset for recording and editing. One benefit of Soundtrap is it's all online and ready for easy collaboration.

  • Select plugins: Look for guitar plugins, including amp simulators that emulate the sound of guitar amplifiers within your DAW. Use these to shape your guitar tone to your liking.

Use your DAW to monitor input levels and ensure a clear signal without clipping.

Recording Techniques and Best Practices

Mic Placement and Techniques

Positioning your microphone effectively is crucial to capturing the nuances of your guitar tone. A well-placed mic can enhance the clarity, depth, and overall quality of the recorded sound. 

For a full-bodied sound, place a dynamic microphone about an inch from the speaker cabinet, pointing directly at the speaker cone. 

If you're looking for a brighter tone, angling the mic towards the center of the speaker can emphasize higher frequencies. 

Off-axis positioning of the mic at a slight angle can help reduce high-frequency harshness.

Experiment by moving the microphone further away for a roomier sound or closer for a more direct sound.

Capturing the Amplifier's Sound

When recording an electric guitar, the speaker cabinet's role in defining your sound is as important as the guitar itself. Using a combination of different microphones can help you capture a wide frequency range. 

A typical approach involves a dynamic mic, which is great for durability and the ability to handle high sound pressure levels. 

A condenser mic is more sensitive and captures more detail, especially with its high-frequency response. If you do decide to use a condenser mic, make sure to experiment using a high-pass filter to avoid boominess. 

And always, make sure that all equipment is in optimal condition to prevent unwanted noise, such as buzzes or hums, during the recording process. This is especially important with cables; all it takes is one bad microphone or instrument cable, and the signal you're capturing could be compromised.

Direct Input Options and Impulse Responses

Direct input (DI) recording provides an alternative to miking up an amp, offering more control over the final guitar tone. 

You can use plugins for amp sims and impulse responses that emulate specific amplifiers, speaker cabinets, and even mic placements. This technique can yield high-quality recorded sounds with the freedom to tweak amp settings after the fact. It's also great as it's silent; you can capture clean guitar signals without the need for loud amplifiers.

Mixing and Final Touches

Once you've laid down all your separate tracks, you're ready for the next critical phase—mixing. Here, your goal is to create a harmonious blend where every element is balanced, clear and has its own space.

Mixing and Final Touches

Once you've laid down all your separate tracks, you're ready for the next critical phase—mixing. Here, your goal is to create a harmonious blend where every element is balanced, clear and has its own space.

Reducing Phase Issues and Noise

Phase issues can diminish the audio quality of your mix, causing some frequencies to cancel out. 

One important tip on phase cancellation tools - use them with caution because they can sometimes eliminate the rich tones of your guitar track that you so carefully worked to capture! 

It's also a good idea to always apply a high pass filter to the guitar tracks. This can help reduce unwanted noise and boominess in the mix and open up the very crowded low and low-mid frequency areas for other instruments that also need it.

Enhancing Guitar Tracks in the Mix

Your guitar track might need some adjustments to stand out or blend better during the mixing stage. 

Your main tools for sculpting the perfect guitar tone should be using EQ to add bite or thickness, and compression to even out the dynamics. 

When applying these tools, keep in mind that changes should enhance the track rather than detract from the audio quality. Adjust in small increments and remember that less is more.

EQ settings for mixing guitars is such a vast subject that we won't go deep on the subject here, but as a general rule, you should adjust mid or high frequencies to enhance clarity and low frequencies to reduce muddiness.

Compression is a wonderful tool that can help the guitar cut through the mix properly, but it should definitely be applied sparingly to maintain the guitar's natural dynamics.


Recording guitar in your home studio offers an unlimited range of creative opportunities, provided you adhere to the basic rules and best practices. 

Understanding your equipment, including mic techniques and exploring different mic positions can yield great results. 

The right tone begins with careful attention to input levels. 

Whether you're aiming to record your guitar amp or acoustic guitar, or go directly into your audio interface's instrument input, we've covered all the different methods to get you the best results.

Don't be afraid to experiment in your quest for the perfect tone.

About the author

Tero Potila is a professional music composer and producer. His career combining knowledge and experience from music, TV, film, ad, and game industries gives him a unique perspective that he shares through posts on

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