The Guide To Home Recording

The cheapest yet most effective ways of obtaining a good sound when recording through your home computer.

Ultimate Guitar
Before you start recording, probably the most basic thing you need to do is to decide on the right song to record. This might sound obvious, but it's so much harder and time consuming when you choose a song that you can barely play, as this leads to a lot of editing and mistakes. Pick something you know inside out, and can play perfectly without a tab - be in your own or a cover. So you picked the song. Fantastic. Course you'll need a recording program. Do not even bother with sound recorder. There is no hope of multitracking and it only records 60 seconds at a time so it's a no no. Instead I recommend one of the following. 01. Cool Edit Pro/Adobe Audition 02. Cubase 03. Cakwalk Home Studio These are probably the best multitrack recording programs out there. UG cannot help you on where to obtain these programs, try their respective sites or ask a board member for details. So, you have your software, your song in mind and of course, your necessary instruments. The last thing you need is a microphone. I really do not recommend 4 quid pc mics for this, and forking out as little as 15 pounds ($22) isn't all that bad. I use a Philips mic from Argos for this price and it works fine! So now you've got the three key things down, you have the software and equipment and a fantastic knowledge of what you want to record.


I won't dwell on the how tos of recording now because it differs greatly from one program to the next, and is also documented in numerous different threads around the site. I will skip straight to setting the tone, assuming you know the basics of recording. Firstly, insert the mic into the mic in socket at the back of your computer. Well done! Now placement of the mic is crucial. I usually place it about a foot away from the amp at an angle pointing towards the centre. This will differ greatly from amp to amp so just decide whats best through testing. See I know what you're thinking: "Man I love my amp, it sounds so good with my new guitar and if it records at this standard I'll be so happy!." Sorry to break this to you, but that fantastic tone you have with your amp probably won't sound anywhere near as good when recorded. High distortion tends to come out incredibly muddy and bassy. However, adjusting the settings, mic placement and volume should give you many different tones for recording. Simply do little tests until you have a good sounding tone.


Now you're ready to record. Now most recorders have built in metronomes. Switch it on and use headphones to listen to the beat whilst recording. This keeps you in time, and also prevents the mic from picking up the metronome clicks and recording them. Also, using the metronome allows for more precise editing as the beats are often labelled at the bottom on a timeline, allowing you to click exactly where you want a track to stop anc delete any waste. I also recommend use of the metronome regardless of how good your timekeeping is, as it doesn't hurt to use it and you'll kick yourself if you go slightly out in one track and you have tor edo the whole thing again just to make up for it. Drums of course can be used in place of a metronome and this is fine, however this is a guitar site so I shan't dwell on the recording of drums, but I will recommend Fruity Loops for a simulated drum machine.

Tips And Tricks

Record everything in 2 tracks at a time, panning one to left about 75%, and one to the right about 75%. This gives everything a much thicker sound and overall sounds much clearer. If you want something to be panned to one side only, usually it should still be in both channels, just at a larger ratio such as 10 - 80. Play around tog et some nice sounds, especcially on harmonies. 'Steer clear of most built-in effects of the recorders' is the general rule. However, delay and reverb can be very useful, and reverb especcially should probably be put on almost every track to some degree, it makes it sound better produced. The least you should do is but a slight reverb on vocals. Personally, I prefer to have my reverb on my amp at about a fifth, and add any reverb I need later on using these effects. Built-in distortion and wah wah is generally a waste of time however. Try to find a perfect volume, one that isn't too loud, but isn't so quiet that it must be turned up ten decibels later as this will give you lots of fuzz.

Like Being In Control?

Finally, if you really want a good quality sound recording set up at home, then you may think of investing some money in some of the better computer recording equipment out there. (Thanks to Bill43 for the following information). Arguably, the top of the line sound card for PC recording would be a Lynx 2-C with a street price of about $1,050.00 and is one of the best out there. Our very own Bill43 uses an Ego Systems' Waveterminal 192X. You can check out his work here and hear the quality this soundcard can give you. Both soundcards are reasonably expensive and unless you and your band prefer to home record over the expense and inconvinence of studio recording than a basic Sound Blaster soundcard would probably be acceptable. That's all, and good luck!

26 comments sorted by best / new / date

    also the line in isnt incredibly fuzzy, and you can download AUDIGY audacity from the home site, just look for it on google. it records infinitely, layers, has effects(dodgy ones though) and is FREE! the only problem is it doesnt export MP3 unless you use this really obscure mp3 encoder. i use audio convertor for that.
    talking about miking amps. i tried miking a small practice amp with a sennheiser e845s and it actually sounded much better than the amp bein played(compared to the recording)
    I'm lucky in this a studio at my college...if I kiss people's ass for a while, I'm allowed in their for free...
    billiejoe_dirnt: yeh i have one at my school. and our school is nothing special its just a ordinary public high school with a kick ass recording studio but ive always wanted to record shit i might give this a go could i download these programs (cubase/catwalk) off kazaa or what?? download kristal audio engine it's a free multitracker.
    agreth_3rd: 80-10 is not a legit ratio mate. I believe that adds up to 90. correct me if im wrong haha.
    its a ratio not a percentage dumbass
    80-10 is not a legit ratio mate. I believe that adds up to 90. correct me if im wrong haha.
    Almost Imfamous
    great! but... how do i redord my whole band at home??? help!! pm me or email me @
    i just plug into my amp then route it through to the computer. it sounds good and i have some weird SIS built in sound card, but i have a C-media card that works but makes my computer go funny. which would be better? keeping the pc safe or having better sound quality? also who didnt notice the headphone thing? is it something with old headphones or just some idiot that thinks a analogue to digital sound think is the same as a digital to analogue? i do electronics people!
    Exellent article, taught me a few things. I must say that I have a Shure mic (around 50) and it sounds a heapload better and clearer than any of the comp mics around here. Excellent article again Rankles, well done
    yeah someone tell me exactly were I can get one, cause i can only find 1 minute ones.
    yeh i have one at my school. and our school is nothing special its just a ordinary public high school with a kick ass recording studio but ive always wanted to record shit i might give this a go could i download these programs (cubase/catwalk) off kazaa or what??
    Great job Rankles, I enjoyed this one more than Jas's, I actually learnt a bit here. One thing you didn't mention was compression, but anyway good effort!
    Some good stuff... As to amp tone, its possible to do it using a guitar lead out of your amp line out to a 1/4" to 1/8" converter then into your pc line in which gives much better quality than a mic input..
    Oh and yes we all know that sound recorder can do more than 69 seconds, but really what is the point at all.
    Man so many people are completely missing the point... The reason people might want to record at home on a basic soundcard is because they have no money and want to have some fun and record a few tracks so they can post them on places like UG. As for the guy with the mics, no shit a 60 quid mic records better than a 15 quid one, the point of the article was if you are ON A BUDGET.
    Rankles: True,solution:IF youre referring to the obviously audible distortion fuzz, setting the input volume(guitar and amp) low, and the output volume(pc) high enough to hear, you can get rid of the fuzz completely. But if youre referring to background hiss, no way out(but i think you get hiss even if you do use an actual microphone).And im using a soundblaster live 5.1 NOt some crazy ass audigy.
    for ***s sake you guess, dont piss around with 15 quid mic's, i have tried using them to record and the sound quality was so shit (granted i have a shit sound card) and then i got a 60 quid mic and it sounds amazingly better. dont waste your time with home recording, you might as well save up your pocket money and spend a few hundred at a local studio.
    tyler larsen
    dont even waste your money on a mic, just use some old headphones they work fine if you plug them into your mic jack on the computer.
    Adam Burgess
    you can get more then 60 seconds on sound recorder but most people don't know how. 2 do it you have to click record then stop quickly and select decrease speed about 20 times and then drag the rectangle back to the start of the line and there you have it, about 4 mins of recording time, when your finished and have some lift over click "delete from current postion" to fix that problem
    id also just like to point out that the way this article described the miking of the amp is not the only way. If u have lots of patience its good to try out distance miking. this however takes many the weeks to get down something that u like. but on the plus side u get a much ful;ler sound than u would ever when miking it so close, this is especially true when miking drums. DISTANCE=DEPTH
    Some good stuff, but didnt feel you fully explained everything needed in home recording
    Well if you dont have a high end sound card why are you trying to home-record anyway?? Buy a sound blaster audigy2z5 card, I have one and it rules all. 1/4" input and a wicked sound recorder/mixing device that comes with the software, great quality. It sounds great. The only drawback is the fact that the card is upwards of $200. However, you can run your band into a mixer, then from the mixer to the 1/4"input and wow you have it all pre-mixed etc. Or you can record it seprately and add it all together, if you prefer it that way.
    Chaos, I always find, as do most people that line out to mic socket gives a horrible fuzzy sound to your guitar, unless you have a high end sound card.
    It's a shame about this because Jas just submitted one that blows this right out the window.
    Really good, but if you're prepared to set it up right, you can get the output from your amp straight in to your pc with decent quality and very little hiss (use a set off fairly long leads as well, as proximity of guitar, amp and pc to each other can be a cause of the hiss/fuzz)you can record without having to be silent usin this method as well, since you dont have to worry about the mic picking up your movements and speach.My bassist has some incredible software on his laptop, we completely bypass the amps and it gets great tone straight from guitar/bass, and it sounds like a really good amp, not too fake at all, his soundcard is stock as well, its a fairly good one for stock, but nothing special since its a laptop and integrated.