How To Record Electric Guitar

There’s no instrument in the history of recorded music more iconic than the electric guitar. For clean sounds, the electric guitar offers warm, creamy jazz tones, glassy funk licks, and reggae chops. If distortion is your preference, the electric guitar can produce rock power chords, screaming blues leads, or thrash metal mayhem.

While there are thousands of guitar-recording techniques, there are two main methods of recording electric guitar. You can either plug it straight in to your recording system, or mic up your favourite guitar amp. (You can also do both at the same time, and we’ll get to that later on.)

Mic up a guitar cabinet

If you want to record your guitar through an amp, you'll need to place a microphone in front of your amp, and connect it to one of your audio interface’s mic preamps. When you record electric guitar with an amp, you get to hear the sound exactly as it will appear on the recording, which is sometimes called ‘committing’ the sound. The drawback is that you can't go back and change it once recorded — all the distortion and drive you hear while you play — plus any hum or feedback — will be captured on the recording. 

Plug straight in (a.k.a. DI or Direct Injection)

The simplest way to capture your guitar is to plug it directly into your audio interface’s instrument input: just connect your guitar cable to one of the quarter-inch jack inputs. (Make sure you press the ‘Inst’ button to engage the high-impedance (hi-Z) circuitry). This captures the sound straight from your instrument, but obviously doesn’t include any of the growl, grit or grime that an amp and cabinet will add. The advantage of this method is that you capture a completely neutral sound, so you can apply software amp-modelling and effects, or even ‘re-amp’ the signal through any number of amplifiers during your mixing stage, should you wish to do so, to get the precise tone you want.

Simultaneous microphone and DI

The best way to record electric guitar, as made possible by all Focusrite Scarlett interfaces, is to simultaneously record the DI and the miked-up amplifier. This way you capture the amped sound as well as the clean sound, should you wish to change the tone, add effects, or accentuate your recordings later using plug-ins.

Millions of guitar recordings have been made with Focusrite Scarlett interfaces, and that’s because they offer a surefire way to ensure a great guitar recording, whether recording an amplifier or plugging straight in. 

So, hopefully this piece gives you some tips on recording electric guitar, and we hope it inspires your next music-making endeavour.