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How to Lay Down Guitar Tracks to Your Computer

written by: Bobby Ivie•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 6/3/2011

Forget about spending a lot of money to go into a studio to record music. And forget about doing it on a traditional tape recorder. These are the days when anyone can be a producer and make great recordings at home. From guitar to drums, you can create your own masterpiece on your computer.

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    guitar playing It is the dream of every musician to be recorded. Musicians love to hear themselves play, if for no other reason, to see how they are progressing. There was a time when the most affordable way for the average person to make recordings was a cheap reel-to-reel or cassette tape player.

    Fortunately, there is now some great software for making mind-boggling recordings to a PC. That is because of the realistic effects that are included in the better programs. These include everything from classic amplifier sounds to intricate stomp box effects. Do you really need them, though?

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    Line-in Guitar Recordings

    You can record directly through a line-in by plugging your electric guitar straight into the line-in on your sound card. This may not always work, but if it does, you will probably be disappointed with the sound. It will be wimpy and have no decoration like reverb or delay. You may be able to doctor the sound with an audio program that came with the computer, but these are not designed for the intricacies of an electric guitar, especially if you want to rock out.

    The next alternative -- a much better one -- is to use the line out from your guitar amplifier to your computer. The problem with this is that it bypasses the speakers, which play a big part in decorating the sound. To get the essence of the speakers, consider recording with a microphone.

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    Microphone Recordings

    In the recording studio, engineers record instruments using microphones. The mics are placed in front of a guitar amp's speakers to capture the sound. This is the best way to capture the big sound of a stack of Marshalls or any other setup. This retains the percussive sound that line-in recordings miss; mics capture that "thump" from the speakers.

    This is fine if you are able to record this way at home, but most people cannot because of various limitations: enough room to record, cranky neighbors, and expense of a good soundboard. Of course, if you are recording into your computer you can get software to mix the signal in the same way a soundboard does.

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    Use Guitar Recording Software for the Best Results

    To get a superb recording of your guitar, you need software. The software assists with sound levels and the coloration of the music. It replaces the soundboard found in a recording studio. It also eliminates the need for an amplifier and external effects because it has integrated effects that replicate the favorites of guitar players.

    Replicated sounds include those from classic British amplifiers and speaker cabinets like those used in the late 60s and early 70s. The software also recreates peddle and stomp box effects such as delay, distortion, chorus and most any you have ever used. If you need the sound of a Tube Screamer like the one Stevie Ray Vaughn used, you can get it. If you want to duplicate Jimi Hendrix's gear, you can do that, too.

    In addition to laying down your guitar parts, you can have drum tracks, bass and many other instruments in your recording. The highest quality programs have synthesizer capabilities that allow you to make your guitar sound like a horn or string section, among many other things. This allows you to not only record your own licks, but make an entire composition with all the necessary instruments.

    Some manufacturers offer a combination of hardware and software. This makes it easier to plug your guitar into your computer, and offers more options for guitar sounds. It sits right on your physical desktop and connects to the computer through USB. A good example of this is Line 6 Guitar Port, which allows for essential tweaking of the sound before it evens reaches the software.

    A typical program, like Guitar Tracks Pro 4 and RiffWorks, costs around $100, and they are worth every penny. The trick is to find the one that is loaded with the most features that fit your needs. In addition, it is a good idea to read honest reviews from other guitar players. You can trust that they are not going to remain silent if they find a flaw or limitations in the software.

    Having the ability to lay down guitar tracks to a computer, and even add additional instruments, is an exciting thing for guitar slingers. They can now write their own songs and store licks they thought of that they might otherwise forget. Guitar recording software allows them to get that big sound they get from their external equipment, but in a more controlled environment.

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    Resources

    References: Writer Experience

    Image: MorgueFile/ardelfin