Recorded guitar sound advice


I started playing again seriously a few years back and I’m a total noob when it comes to the new technology, amp modeling and PCs for recorded guitar.

I’m currently messing with Audacity, but I wanted some advice on getting good recorded guitar sound, with multi tracks, drums, etc.

Where should I start? Free and beyond?


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I would suggest to leave Audacity and switch to Reaper. It has everything you need or even more, it’s used even by some professionals and the discounted license is about $60.

For guitar tones you should try free version of Native Instruments Guitar Rig, there are some nice guitar sounds for start.

I’m not sure about free Drumsets, I use Native Instruments Session Drummer most of the time but it’s quite expensive. I’m sure there are some free or cheaper alternatives.


Huge topic, but I’ll help where I can.

  1. DAW choice is subjective so use whatever works for you. However, I’d suggest trying Reaper for three reasons - one, it’s free to try, cheap to buy, and really, really good, two, it has extremely active support and a great user community, and three, it’s what I use so I know it pretty well and can help with questions pretty easily.

  2. I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to recording, in that I like to use an amp and mics, rather than software. If you’d rather use software, though, that’s fine too - it’s just a different way of getting a raw guitar sound onto disc. Use whatever works for you. If you go software, check out some of the freeware options before spending money - LePou’s amp sim VST’s are excellent, in my experience.

  3. Guitar rhythm tracks are almost always multitracked - at a minimum, you want two seperate takes, one panned hard left, one hard right. Guitar lead tracks are usually a single track panned center, but that’s not a hard and fast rule - Randy Rhodes was famous for like triple-tracking all his lead parts. I’d start easy though, with hard L-R rhythm tracks and a lead track down the center.

  4. Guitar is a midrange-heavy instrument, and is techically a percussion instrument. Many first time recorders tend to scoop out a lot of midrange because this sounds really heavy on its own, and use a LOT of gain. At least experiment with double-tracking guitars with more midrange and less gain than you think you need.

  5. For drums, the Toontrack stuff is really user friendly. I use Superior 3, which is amazingly realistic, but if you’re just getting started then EzDrummer 2 or even an old copy of EzDrummer will give you really great results.

  6. Mixing is something that takes a LOT of experience to get good at, but when you’re first getting started, IMO the best thing you can do is compare your mix, volume-matched, to a reference mix, a pro recording in a similar genre with similar instrumentation, and listen for differences in the relative balance of different instruments, and differences between yours and the reference mix. It’ll help you develop your critical listening skills and it’ll help ensure that what you’re doing is within the acceptable norm of conventions for a given genre.

That’s scratching the surface, at least… :smiley:


Thanks for giving me a starting point.

Do I need any hardware/interface between the PC and the mic?

I plan on using a mic’s amp as well

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Yes you need some kind of interface. The main reason is that quality of built in soundcards is almost always poor and the latency is too big to use it live. I would suggest some simple one channel interface like Focusrite Scarlett Solo.

About recording guitar using microphone. I think that at the beginning of your recording trip it’s not the way to go. You will spend a lot of time learning how to do it right and the results are hard to repeat another time, because even if you put mic few milimetres away from your favorite point the sound could be different. Latest amps modelling software is good enough to get 99% of results. But if you have good amp and good cabinet and of course good mic, then it’s worth to go that way. Check this video about the topic - it’s more about recording heavy stuff but it’s actually quite universal:

Also check this video, this guy is talking about really basic and simple recording setup:


Thanks for your help!!

What about the line 6 pod studio UX1?


Sorry - I kind of assumed you already had one. :smiley: Yeah, you want an interface - I’d go with two inputs rather than one simply to leave the door open to stereo micing techniques if you get into recording acoustic instruments, and because a 2i4 isn’t THAT much of an upcharge to a Solo.

I’m in the other camp, where I’d recommend starting with a mic, especially if you have ANY interest in long term relying on mics rather than modelers. Yes, there’s a learning curve where it comes to micing up an amp and, especially, when it comes to dialing in an amp to sound good in front of a mic, but mic technique is pretty fundamental to recording, and the reason there’s a learning curve is because you’re going to learn a LOT when you’re doing it, and it’s knowledge you’ll use for literally the rest of your career, every time you mic up an amp to record or for sound reinforcement at a live show.

Two tips to get you going:

  1. Remember that while you usually listen to your amp from maybe 10’ back and 6’ off the floor, your mic will “listen” to your amp from directly in front of the speaker and maybe 1-2" back. Definitely do this either at low volume or in VERY short periods of time to protect your hearing, but set gain and EQ your amp with your head right in front of the speaker, so what the mic is hearing is going to be what you expect it to be hearing.

  2. Mic position is something that you’re going to spend a LONG time really mastering… But, as a good starting point, try this - take a single SM57 and, using a flashlight so you can really see what’s going on under the grill, try positioning it pointing straight at the cab (“on axis”), either just touching the grill cloth or within a half inch, and positioned so that it’s just off to the side of the dust cap in the center of the speaker,such that if the grill cloth wasn’t in the way if you drew a straight line from the edge of the dust cap to the edge of the mic, they would be very nearly touching. This is a really good starting point for a SM57 on a guitar cab - you may find you like the sound of the mic a little farther along the cone and away from the dust cap (this will make it progressively darker), or a little further away from the grill (backing it off reduces “proximity effect” which tends to boost the low end on cardioid mics such as a SM57, so as you go further back you get less low end in your guitar sound, to a point), but that’s the kind of stuff you’ll suss out with experimentation over time. Once you find aposition that you really like, marking it with a little “L” in masking tape on the cab is a good way to make sure you can get back to it quickly if you move your gear around a lot (I just leave my cab mic’d up).

I wouldn’t bother with the Line 6 interface - the Scarlett stuff has been a really good price/performance winner for a long time now. The 2i2 may be fine as well but with high output pickups there are a lot of complaints from users using it direct to run VSTs of clipping the input even with the gain all the way down; the newest version has evidently addressed this, but the 2i4 adds a -20-db pad which totally solves the problem, and is a good feature to have anyway in case you’re ever recording hot sources.

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I appreciate the advice, but keep in mind I play as a hobby, my time is limited, my focus on guitar is constantly improving, I really just need a setup that is simple, straightforward and doesn’t detract from my main focus of playing.

Let me know if that changes anything.

As a thank you, PM me any tab you’re looking for.


That’s basically all of us. :slight_smile: I probably am a little more serious about recording than you are since one of my reasons for playing is to write and record music, but that said - I think the advantage of modelers is they ARE a little more plug-and-play than a mic and an amp, especially if you just save presets that you like rather than spending a lot of time tweaking, auditioning different IRs, etc. But, I think mechanically a mic and cab are a lot easier to work with, and if you already have an amp sound you really identify with it may be easier for you to get results you’re happy with this way. As far as time spent tweaking with an amp and cab, if I were to mic up my amp from scratch, it’d probably take me maybe 2-3 minutes to get it where I wanted, and the vast majority of that time would be getting my second mic in phase with my first which is not something you’ll have to worry about. Once you figure out where you like a mic on your cab, especially if you just mark the front of the cab at this point, it’s really pretty fast to mic up and be ready to go.

Biggest advantage of VSTs, I’d say, are they allow you to record silently so if most of your playing time is late at night this might be valuable to you. If you do go down that road, the LePou stuff is freeware, and I was really impressed with the ones I’ve tried - that and a SM57-on-Mesa-4x12 half an inch off the dust cap IR, and I was able to get a pretty tolerable approximation of my old Roadster’s lead sound out of their “Lecto” Rectifier model, using essentially the same settings as the real thing.


I hear you…

What do u think of the tascam 4 and 8 track platforms?


The Portastudios? They made a lot of sense in a time before computers powerful enough to run a DAW were ubiquitous. They make a lot less sense today, considering how much easier doing pretty much anything in a DAW is and when even an iPad has the computing power to run large projects on a DAW.


Got it. Thx for all ur help. I think I’ll go with the focusrite.

Currently I can go into Audacity right from my USB mic. Couldn’t I do that with reaper…

If not can u recommend a mic to use with the focusrite?

Any free drum kits?


Hmm. You SHOULD be able to record that way, if your computer can detect the mic. Off memory and I don’t have Reaper in front of me, but try going to Preferences, and then Audio Devices (with the USB mic plugged in), and see if you can find it as an audio device. If so, select that as your recording device, and then when you go to arm a track to record, from the input dropdown make sure you’ve selected that mic.

(If you’re new to working with a DAW and multiple inputs, I remember this whole thing confused the hell out of me when I bought my first interface and seemed like a needless complication… But the point of it is unlike a standard mic input on a computer, with an outboard interface you can record from a whole bunch of different sources, seperately, all at once. It seems complicated, but only because you have a lot more flexibility on where you record things from and to).

Only thing I’d caution on with the USB mic is for recording a guitar cab, you’re probably going to want a dynamic mic of some sort, and a lot of the USB mics I’ve seen are geared towards the podcast crowd and are condensers. These are awesome for acoustic instruments and for a lot of vocals but less so for high gain amps, where between the greater high frequency response and the greater sensitivity/risk of harm from high sound pressure levels, you usually see dynamics used.

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I can’t thank you enough for all your help.
I will definitely check out reaper, and at some point get an interface and a real mic.

Just bought another Charvel, so have to lay low for a while…:smirk:

Let me know if you need any tab.

I remember you were looking for the Bay City Rollers tab… :+1:


Oh god, my pleasure, man - recording is something I really enjoy, have been doing for a long time, and, well, we’re all here to share knowledge - I’m happy to be able to contribute something here that may help.

You might be confusing me with someone else, I don’t recognize the name… but, we’re at the start of cycling season (the first event of my season, a crazy mud and snow dirt road road bike event up in Vermont, was Sunday, and was an absolute blast) so my focus is shifting from learning new music and techniques to practicing enough to maintain technique and writing my own music. If, on the other hand, you have any way to boost my FTP another 20 watts or so, I’d be greatly obliged! :smiley:


It was a joke…
They were a pop band from the 70s


:smiley: Right over my head!