If you’ve played guitar for long enough, you’re going to reach a point where you want to hear your own music and start recording your jam sessions. Today I’ll walk you through my set up that I use to record my guitar tracks in my apartment. With every piece of equipment that I talk about I’ll include the URL incase you want more info.
First, you need a guitar. Once you’ve completed that step, you gotta learn how to play. After mastering your favourite songs, you’ll want an amplifier to make yourself louder. Especially in your beginner stages, the size or quality of amp is a minor detail. I learned how to use an amp with a small 10 watt Peavey. It was crackly, sounded terrible, and it was perfect for learning on.
However, it’s probably safe to say that when you’re advanced enough to want to record, you’ll probably want a better amp than a Peavey anyways. I use a Vox AC30, a combination tube amp that’s incredibly durable and loud. If you play blues or rock you can’t go wrong with a Vox. Vox AC30 VR amplifier
So now that you have your guitar and your amp, you’re wondering “What next?”
I recommend establishing a room in your house or apartment for use strictly as your studio. Keeping your gear and the set up in one place makes starting every recording session that much easier. When you’ve got a idea in your head that you want to record before it disappears from your mind forever, the last thing you want to do is untangle your cables or have to set up your amp.
Take your guitar and your amp, find a comfy chair WITHOUT arms, and place them wherever you want in the studio. If you’re like me and have the urge to record for hours on end, you want to be comfy.
The next step is finding a desk or table. There’s no specific purpose, but trust me you need a table with as many pens and notebooks as you can afford.
Now it’s time for you to buy some gear and start recording! I do not claim to be an expert in producing, so these are just my recommendations. If you’re already working with other gear or you like other brands than me, please don’t think that you need this exact set up.
Similar to the amp, if you’re advanced enough to want to record, you’ve probably already become a proud owner of a laptop. You’ll need some recording software and unfortunately this isn’t cheap. If you’re a Mac user I recommend messing around in GarageBand until you’re completely comfortable, before you spend $200 on software.
My first purchase for the studio was a USB microphone. I bought the Blue Yeti, and it retails for about $150 in-store. I bought this microphone because of the amount of stuff you can do with it. The Yeti is very affordable for beginners, and with it you can record vocals, acoustic guitar, podcasts, and a lot more. To really test this piece, I had some friends over to record. We had a piano, two guitars, and two singers all jamming, and my Blue Yeti, one single microphone in the middle of the studio, was able to pick up everything. Mind you, it wasn’t crystal clear, but what do you expect with one microphone with five musicians in an apartment bedroom. All in all, for the simple acoustic and vocal work that I do, it’s amazing and super easy to use with any program. I use Adobe Audition or LOGIX PRO. Blue Yeti USB microphone
The microphone is great, but what about if I’m recording electric guitar? I’m glad you asked. There’s a few different things that I’ve tried, so I’ll lay them all out and then tell you which one I prefer.
There’s a great cable called the iRig that connects your electric guitar directly to an Apple smart device (iPad, iPhone, Macbook Pro). It’s about $100 online and it’s really easy to use. The iRig HD has gain control, volume control and a sleek, compact design that doesn’t get in the way whether your on stage with it or in studio. iRig HD guitar cable
I recently bought an interface and I’ve been in love with it since first touch. While the iRig is a great and cheaper option for starting your recording, you’ll get a much better sound using an interface. I use the Focusrite 2-in/2-out USB Audio Interface. This has spots for instruments and microphones. I bought it from Long & McQuade in Winnipeg for around $150. So far it’s working great with all of my software and the guitar sounds great. Focusrite 2-in/2-out @ Long & McQuade I’ve noticed a huge boost in the quality of recording using my actual interface vs. the iRig. A really neat feature was the external headphone output directly from the interface. If this means nothing to you, just think in terms of latency or “lag” in the recording. I’ve found that when I’m recording and I’m using my headphones from my laptop to monitor, sometimes theres a lag or latency between what I’m strumming on the guitar, and what I’m hearing in my headphones. The Focusrite eliminates this problem by simply allowing you to monitor your recordings directly from the interface, rather than going through the computer and into the headphones. This feature gives you zero latency between the recording and monitoring, which is a major advantage for an interface at such a reasonable price.
You really have everything you need once you have the guitar, amp, laptop, and some way to connect the guitar and the laptop. From here, you can add effects to your sound using programs on the computer or foot pedals. I use an Ibanez Tube Screamer distortion pedal. I like a really loud, grungy, and heavy overdrive and this does exactly what I want. They cost just over $100 online and in-store. I’ve linked their entire line of Tube Screamers so you can check out the whole selection from Ibanez. Ibanez Tube Screamer – overdrive pedal
I haven’t made this purchase yet, but I’ve used it and I’m very, very tempted. I’d love to buy a full effects board and pedal board but unfortunately my less-than-student income doesn’t have enough flex for that quite yet. However, if you want effects with your guitar there are many options that are cost free or very cheap (compared to a $1000 pedal board). I don’t know much about this, but the Hotone Ravo Guitar Multi FX Pedal has me very interested lately. It has 100 different channels/effects you can use, it has a tuner, and a volume/foot switch attached. I use most of my gear both in studio and on the stage, so having an FX pedal like this that’s easy to use seems like I would really benefit from having it in my set up. This is a video from two of my favourite guitar-gurus from Britain. They do an extensive review of the FX pedal and show you some of the cool tones that are built-in. Hotone Ravo FX Pedal
So that’s my set up. It’s not perfect but it’s doing an amazing job at turning a boring apartment bedroom into my recording studio. Like I said, these products aren’t the only products out there but for me they’re doing exactly what I want. I’ve been playing for about ten years and started dabbling into the recording process in 2014. It’s alot of fun, so if your a musician writing songs I strongly suggest you try to get into a studio or record yourself. Recording and layering tracks opened up a creative window for me that was never possible to access by just sitting with a guitar in my hands and playing.