How to record guitar with an audio interface? (Explained in detail)

By Bob •  Updated: 06/02/21 •  8 min read

Recording a guitar with an audio interface is a simple process that can be done in any home studio.

There are a couple of options for recording. You can plug in directly to the audio interface. You can use a microphone and amp or use a guitar effects pedal that plugs into the interface.

We will go over all of those options in this post.

Recording guitar with an audio interface

Recording your electric or acoustic guitar is a snap, thanks to the proliferation of inexpensive, high-quality recording interfaces.


They not only eliminate the need for mics and preamps but also make it possible to quickly switch between input sources on your computer. Here’s how!

Open up your desired program and click “New Session.” This creates a blank new project that we’ll start building from scratch:

A) First, set your Input Source to LINE-IN (if using GarageBand, then click on the track title to select it and press “Tab” once).

B) Next, set your Monitor Source to LINE-OUT so you can hear yourself playing.

C) Now adjust Volume Output in the Audio tab as desired.

You’ll notice a list of programs such as iTunes or Skype that are open – make sure these don’t have active audio streams running by clicking Stop Streaming first!

This is important because if they’re still streaming out sound from their own outputs. At the same time, we now want our signal coming into them to go through an external interface.

There will be interference between all this digital noise, causing unwanted pops during recordings when played back, for instance.

Those who use built-in audio drivers on a laptop or desktop’s motherboard may need to disable any additional sound cards, such as an audio interface.

D) Now click the arrow in the top right corner of GarageBand and select “Show Track List.”

E) Drag your guitar track from its menu into your desired order between other tracks that are already there – you will now see this track highlighted with our Monitor Source set!

The level meter at the bottom should show signal activity that can be adjusted using the volume slider located below it.

You’ll notice another list of programs such as iTunes or Skype appear here again: make sure these don’t have active audio streams running by clicking Stop Streaming first!

This is important because if they’re still streaming out sound, it will interfere with our recording.

F) Finally, adjust the input volume of your guitar track by dragging the slider up and down to get a good balance between how loud you play your instrument and what GarageBand is picking up from it.

What is the best way to record guitar with an audio interface?

There are many different approaches to recording guitar with an audio interface.

The approach you decide on will depend mainly on your personal preferences and the sound you want to be recorded.

You may not need any effects or processing, in which case a direct input might be best.

If, however, what you really prefer is distortion, for example, then it would make more sense to use either a microphone preamp or processor like Amplitube’s IK Multimedia Ampeg SVX series plug-in amplifier simulator with virtual cabinet modeling (the amp itself) as well as its selection of effect pedals.

It doesn’t matter if you go for one technique over another so long as the end result sounds great!

I prefer to put a microphone on my amp, as this provides a more natural sound and is easier to achieve.

But that’s not always easy to do, and if you have neighbors going direct may be a good option.

Recording guitar direct into interface

You can record guitar directly with an audio interface by following these steps:

This should give you a clean clip file for editing.

Recording guitar with a microphone 

You can also record guitar with a microphone by following these steps:

Ensure that you are capturing a good sound using the trial and error method.

Play around with the placement of the microphone and the volume of the amp before recording.

Remember, you can only change it so much once it’s recorded, so best to have the sound you want before you hit record.

Can you plug a guitar directly into the audio interface?

Yes, you can plug a guitar directly into the audio interface. Be sure to select the input channel on your interface designated for guitars (usually marked with an “I”).

Select left or right input channel by clicking on the input button in that channel’s window.

Select recording level for guitar:

Make sure to set your recording levels so as not to overdrive or clip – this will distort sound and give you a poor-quality track.

Simply adjust the knobs up until it reaches about three-quarters of the way from left (low) to the right (high).

Then, back off just enough so that there is no clipping noise coming through when you play hard without distortion.

*Keep an eye out for any unnecessary humming frequencies while setting these levels.*”

How to record a guitar track with Audacity, GarageBand, or Pro Tools?

To record guitar with an audio interface, you need recording software (Audacity, GarageBand, or Pro Tools) and the appropriate input for your instrument.

For example, if you are using a condenser microphone plugged into the XLR connector of your audio interface, select “Microphone” as the input in Audacity. If you are using an electric guitar connected via USB cable to one of the ports on your computer’s motherboard instead, then make sure it is selected as the input device before proceeding.

Next, set up levels by setting peaks around -12dBFS so there isn’t much headroom left. This ensures distortion won’t occur during playback when too high volumes cause digital clipping, which results in unwanted distortion.

– Next, enable the software’s input monitoring to be able to hear what you are recording in real-time with a pair of headphones so as not to disturb other people or their neighbors.

This will also allow for an easier way of capturing guitar solos (see below).

Before starting the session, make sure that your instrument is in tune.

All cables are connected correctly, then adjust levels accordingly. It should sound natural but without any clipping occurring after playing a note.

If it sounds like distortion is happening, then reduce the volume on your output device by turning down its master level knob before going back into Audacity/GarageBand/Pro Tools and repeating steps one through four again until no digital clipping occurs when notes are played.

Make sure you have a good set of headphones on hand to monitor your tracks.

If the sound is not coming through clearly, adjust your outputs and inputs accordingly.

You may need to mute one of the channels if any feedback or interference occurs with either input/output device cables.

It doesn’t interfere with other instruments playing at different volumes in the mix.

How do guitar pedals work with an audio interface?

Guitar pedals will have a ¼” input connected to an audio interface with a jack output.

Connect the pedal’s ¼ inch cable into the guitar amp and then connect the other end of it into your microphone channel on your audio interface.

This way, you’ll hear through headphones while playing (which is much more productive than listening out loud).

The sound may be a little flat as the sound might not be coming from an amp.

What are the benefits of using an audio interface for recording guitar?

An audio interface can have multiple inputs for recording and is often much more affordable than a multi-track recorder.

Additionally, an audio interface makes it easier to switch between input sources on your computer instead of using the software that accompanies most multi-track recorders, which creates a new track each time you change sound source.

This also means there’s less chance of accidentally deleting or overwriting any recordings with a wrong click.

Benefits: Multiple input options available at lower price point; easy switching from one sound source to another without opening new tracks in software.

Other considerations: Noise floor (sound quality when no instruments being recorded) may be worse due to cheaper components used by manufacturers making interfaces versus complete mixers or mixing boards.


The setup is simple and straightforward.

All you need to do is plug the audio interface into your computer, connect it to a power source with an included cable, then run some wires from the guitar input on the front of the interface to a set of headphones or speakers.

You can use any DAW software- we recommend GarageBand for beginners! It will take less than 5 minutes before you’re recording like a pro! Don’t have time?

Try our tutorial video that walks through step-by-step how to record electric guitar using this type of interface. We hope this article helped answer your question about how to record electric guitar at home.