5 Professional Techniques to Record Electric Guitar at Home

5 professional techniques to record electric guitar at home - decibel peak
5 professional techniques to record electric guitar at home - decibel peak
5 professional techniques to record electric guitar at home - decibel peak

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Nowadays, it’s easier and way more cost-effective to record electric guitar at home.

BUT, believe it or not, your electric guitar tracks can sound JUST as professional as the studio (if the guitarist’s been practising, of course).

Whether it’s your first time recording electric guitar or you’re just looking for some inspiration, I know you’ll resonate with one of these professional recording techniques!

I’ve organized this guide to start with the most affordable/simplest techniques.

The truth is, spending more money on equipment won’t necessarily get you better results.

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If your home recording studio can’t support all that expensive gear, your electric guitar recordings can actually sound WORSE.

So, let’s start with the basics before getting a microphone involved! Okay?

If you feel like you can handle some advanced recording techniques though, I encourage you to venture forward and experiment.

Each technique will include a list of required equipment and step-by-step instructions.

I’ll also be providing links to the products discussed and to articles for further reading.

Technique #1 – DI Box + Audio Interface (w/ DSP Amp Modelling)

There are many articles that teach how to record electric guitar at home using a cheap audio interface and FREE amp modelling plugins.

Well, there are TWO reasons why that won’t get you professional results…

  • You’ll need a powerful computer to monitor your performance w/ amp modelling in the context of a session (without experiencing audio latency)
  • FREE amp modelling plugins (like the ones included in GarageBand) don’t sound professional on their own. Feel free to mix them in though!

To address the first, we’ll need an audio interface with onboard DSP.

For the second, we’ll need amp modelling plugins that actually compete with the real thing.

In essence, we’ll be using the DSP-powered amp modelling plugins to simulate an amp while recording.

BUT, here’s where it gets interesting! I’m also recommending a DI box to split your guitar performance into TWO signals…

  • The first signal goes into the DI, out the throughput and into the amp model (input 1)
  • The second signal goes into the DI, out the output and comes in “clean” (input 2)

The clean DI signal will give us a “raw” electric guitar track if ever we want to reamp.

That’s SUPER professional and could save you the need to re-record a guitar track!

You could also process that clean DI signal through a non-DSP amp modelling plugin and layer it with the original to create depth in your mix.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves though! Let’s figure out how to achieve this…

List of Equipment

  • DI Box
  • Audio Interface (w/ DSP amp modelling)
  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
  • DSP Amp Modelling Plugin(s)
  • Non-DSP Amp Modelling Plugin(s) (optional)

Step 1

Connect your electric guitar to your DI box’s TS input (I recommend THIS ONE).

Radial Pro DI Passive Direct Box
In this case, the diagram is showing the throughput going to an actual amp (which you can do too). In our example, you’d just replace the amp with input 1 (HI-Z) on your audio interface.

Step 2

Route the output on your DI box input 2 on your audio interface (I recommend THIS ONE).

Universal Audio Apollo Solo Heritage Edition
There’s also a USB version if you don’t have Thunderbolt 3 ports. If you’re not into UAD, you can also check out the Antelope Audio Zen Go.

Step 3

Route the throughput on your DI box to input 1 (HI-Z) on your audio interface.

Step 4

Create 2 audio tracks in your DAW and route them to the appropriate inputs.

Step 5

Load a DSP amp model on input 1.

Step 5

RECORD!!

Technique #2 – DI Box + Audio Interface + Reamp Box + Guitar Amp

With this technique, you’ll get the same flexibility that you would get from technique #1 (reamping w/ amp modelling plugins in post-production).

You could actually use the exact same setup if you want!

The only difference is that we’re equipping ourselves to potentially reamp the performance with an actual amplifier (not amp modelling plugins) in post-production.

Once again, we’d be using the DI signal to achieve that. BUT, there are a few more steps…

  • Routing the DI signal to your audio interface’s output
  • Rotuing your audio interface’s output to a reamp box
  • Routing your reamp box to your amplifier of choice

If you’re not familiar with reamp boxes, they’re basically DI boxes in reverse!

We’re not going to go any further in this section because you’ll have THREE options once you get your signal to your guitar amp.

We’ll be looking at those in techniques #3, #4 & #5.

For now, let’s just figure out how to reamp our electric guitar tracks…

List of Equipment

  • (same equipment as technique #1)
  • Reamp Box
  • Guitar Amp
  • (see techniques #3, #4 or #5 for additional equipment)

Step 1

Follow the same steps as technique #1.

Step 2

Route your DI track to an available output on your audio interface.

Step 3

Route the output on your audio interface to a reamp box (I recommend THIS ONE).

Radial Engineering ProRMP Studio Re-Amper Passive Re-Amping Direct Box

Step 4

Route the reamp box to your guitar amp of choice.

Step 5

CHOOSE… Technique #3, #4 or #5.

Technique #3 – Guitar Amp + Load Box + Audio Interface + Impulse Response

We’re not getting into microphones just yet!

Instead, we’ll be using what we refer to as a load box (or an “amp DI”). It’ll allow us to record the signal coming out of our guitar amp’s speaker output.

We’ll then simulate a speaker cabinet using an impulse response.

This technique will give you a lot more tonal shaping possibilities in post-production.

I still recommend duplicating your electric guitar’s signal using a DI box if you’re not using this technique to reamp though. You’d already have a DI track if you were reamping, of course.

So, let’s see what we’ll need to record electric guitar with a load box…

List of Equipment

  • DI Box (optional)
  • Guitar Amp
  • Load Box (or Amp DI)
  • Audio Interface
  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
  • Impulse Response Loader

Step 1 (optional)

Duplicate your electric guitar’s signal using a DI box (throughput goes to the amp). If you’re reamping, you’ve already done this using technique #2.

Step 2

Route the speaker output on your guitar amp to a load box (I recommend THIS ONE).

Radial Engineering JDX-48 Reactor Guitar Amp Direct Box

Step 3

Route your load box to your audio interface.

Step 5

Create an audio track in your DAW and route it to the appropriate input.

Step 6

RECORD!!

Step 7

Insert an impulse response loader on audio track (this one is FREE).

Technique #4 – Guitar Amp + Speaker Cabinet + Microphone + Audio Interface

Okay, now we’re starting to use microphones!

This technique is almost identical to the previous. The only difference is that we’re not simulating the speaker cabinet, we’re actually using a real one.

That being said, we’ll need to consider microphones and microphone placement.

If you want to make your life easier though, just start with a Shure SM57.

I also recommend using a DI box to duplicate your original signal so you can have a clean copy (not if you’re reamping though, you’d already have a DI track in that case).

If you’re NOT reamping though, make sure to get a great tone the first time around!

Alright, let’s see what it takes to record electric guitar with a speaker cabinet…

List of Equipment

  • DI Box (optional)
  • Guitar Amp
  • Speaker Cabinet
  • Microphone(s)
  • Audio Interface
  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

Step 1 (optional)

Duplicate your electric guitar’s signal using a DI box (throughput goes to the amp). If you’re reamping, you’ve already done this using technique #2.

Step 2

Route the speaker output on your guitar amp to a speaker cabinet (unless it’s a combo amp).

Step 3

Place a dynamic microphone about 2-3 inches away from the speaker.

Step 4

Route your microphone to your audio interface.

Step 5

Create an audio track in your DAW and route it to the appropriate input.

Step 6

RECORD!!

Technique #5 – Guitar Amp + Isolation Cabinet + Microphone + Audio Interface

For this final technique, we’re still going to be using microphones!

The only difference is that we’re using an isolation cabinet. It’s basically a completely sealed-off speaker cabinet that creates a controlled recording environment.

That’s great if your room acoustics aren’t the best (or you have neighbours).

You could still get away with a guitar amp in an apartment context, but you wouldn’t be capable of getting it nearly as loud (louder = better signal-to-noise ratio).

Once again, I still recommend using a DI box to duplicate your original guitar signal if you’re not using this technique to reamp. If you are reamping, then you’re good to go!

The last thing you’ll need to do is place a microphone inside the isolation cabinet.

For the most part, you’ll be better off using a dynamic microphone like the Shure SM57.

So, let’s see what we need to record electric guitar with an isolation cabinet…

List of Equipment

  • DI Box (optional)
  • Guitar Amp
  • Isolation Cabinet
  • Microphone(s)
  • Audio Interface
  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

Step 1 (optional)

Duplicate your electric guitar’s signal using a DI box (throughput goes to the amp). If you’re reamping, you’ve already done this using technique #2.

Step 2

Route the speaker output on your guitar amp to an isolation cabinet.

Step 3

Install a dynamic microphone inside your isolation cabinet.

Step 4

Route the output(s) on your isolation cabinet to your audio interface.

Step 5

Create an audio track in your DAW and route it to the appropriate input.

Step 6

RECORD!!

FAQ: How To Record Electric Guitar at Home

Should I use a DI box to record electric guitar?

Nowadays, most audio interfaces include at least one high-impedance (HI-Z) input.

That being said, you don’t actually need a DI box to record electric guitar anymore. HOWEVER, we learned today that DI boxes can be useful to duplicate an electric guitar’s signal.

If you want to learn more about DI boxes, check out THIS GUIDE.

How can I record my electric guitar without noise?

The most common type of noise when attempting to record electric guitar is mains hum.

It can originate from a variety of sources…

  • Single-coil pickups
  • Poorly grounded electronics
  • Improper impedance matching

It won’t always be possible to eliminate 100% of the noise, but a DI box will usually help.

In post-production, noise reduction plugins (NOT noise gates) will also work wonders.

If you want to know more, I’ve written an entire article on the subject HERE.

Summary: 5 Professional Techniques to Record Electric Guitar at Home

I hope that the recording techniques we looked at didn’t seem to complicated!

Now, you know how to record electric guitar at home like the professionals. It can easily get WAY too expensive, but my advice is to master technique #1 first.

I still use this technique and recently got rid of all my guitar amps.

Ever since I started working with the UAD Arrow and their collection of amp modelling plugins, I haven’t looked back. It’s so much simpler.

If some of the techniques sounded complex, it’s because they are!

To be honest, I’m not quite sure that the small improvement justifies the increase in complexity.

Am I saying that amp modelling plugins sound just as good as the real thing? NO.

However, I believe that amp modelling plugins (like the ones in the UAD plugin collection) sound about 99% of the way there.

So, is it worth all that additional time, money and energy to get 100%?

I’ll let you decide that for yourself… I’d love to hear your thoughts though!

Let us know how you like to record electric guitar at home in the comments. Also, feel free to ask me any questions you might have.

Sources

https://www.lewitt-audio.com/blog/how-to-record-your-electric-guitar-at-home

https://guitar.com/guides/essential-guide/recording-guitar-home-tips-guide/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hm46WaRUkFw

2 Responses

  1. Great article!  I’ve always wondered how they record at home.  I like how simple your site is to read and to navigate. You seem very knowledgable and I’m glad this has changed your musical lifestyle for the better.

    I guess recording at home costs less than going to a studio but is it as good of quality?  Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey AlyseS,

      I appreciate the kind words!

      The gap between home/studio recording is officially closed. I believe anyone with the tools and knowledge available can create professional-sounding recordings right in the comfort of their own home. Technology has come a long way, so there’s no need to spend thousands on studio sessions.

      Basically, home recording studios can now be professional recording studios!

      Thanks for stopping by, take care.

      – Stefan

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