After buying a guitar, learning how to play it, there are often questions regarding the guitar’s output which remain unanswered. This article is written to help read by offering some ways in which the output sound of a guitar can be given justice. One of the most common ways to give justice to the output of a guitar is to connect guitar to computer. In this article, we will show you separately, how to connect an electric and an acoustic guitar with pc. This is fun because, connecting it with PC can be a bonus for practicing the guitar, for recording it, and much more. So let’s look at ways in which an electric guitar can be connected to a PC, excited?
How to connect an Electric Guitar to computer
You must have noticed that an electric guitar, when connected to the speakers in a live performance, requires an audio jack. That is all that you get in terms of accessories of an electric guitar. And there is no hole in a computer that can take input directly amounting to be as huge as an audio jack. This can hint you that connecting an electric guitar to a computer does need a mediator. This mediator is termed in the field of hardware as an audio interface.
To connect an electric guitar to computer, one needs to use an audio interface that will safely process a guitar’s signal into something your computer can use. Even if your computer has audio input jacks, you cannot directly plug your electric guitar into it because that is risky. Connecting it directly into your computer’s mic or line-in input jacks using an adapter, means you are putting your electric guitar or your computer at the risk of damaging. When invented, the audio input jacks weren’t designed to handle input from an electric guitar, so thought it looks like it would work, it wouldn’t. There are a couple of different options for connecting an electric guitar to a computer and we must go through both of them one by one. Both of them are necessary for their own terms to make sure to connect the guitar to the computer
An Audio Interface
A layman like you and me can refer to an audio interface as a simple box that allows one to plug your guitar and additional inputs into it and does allow the computer to connect to it via USB. A tech-savvy layman can refer to an audio interface as a device that can recognize the signals coming from an electric guitar and can convert it into a digital signal that can be sent via USB to a computer. And this is how an audio interface can help to connect a guitar to the computer.
Top two most trending audio interfaces:
Focusrite Scarlett range:
This is the most popular range of audio interfaces currently. And this is how it looks:
You see, there is a lot of buttons and knobs on the box. The basic idea behind an audio interface is that it allows you to plug a guitar cable from your electric guitar to the interface straightway. The remaining duty is then of the interface, to processes the guitar signal and send it via USB to your computer. That is how the audio interface can be referred to as a mediator.
The additional function that an audio interface is also capable of doing is that it allows you to plug multiple instruments at once. Meaning that if you’re planning on recording, as you anyone who has been to a recording knows, one needs multiple microphones or multiple instruments at the same time. This is where the audio interface can come into play. An audio interface also allows you to connect headphones directly into the interface which allows you to play guitar in silence and practice. Not only can an audio interface like this connect a guitar to a computer, but also other electrical devices that might be needed in a recording.
While the above interface is a great option that will suit many guitarists, a simpler and cheaper option is the:
iRig HD 2 by IK Multimedia:
This small interface cannot process multiple instruments or microphones at the same time as the Focusrite Scarlett, but it can do the needful. It can plug one guitar into your computer. As shown in the picture above, one can also use it to connect to a Mac, iPhone, or iPad. This means you can use the iRig to play the guitar while traveling or even when you don’t have a computer with you, just plugin with your headphones to practice. You can choose the audio interface regarding your use, but you should always think of the long term. A device such as these are specific device and they cost low because of their to-the-point functionality i.e. they might not serve other purposes, but they do connect guitar to computer.
While deciding on which audio interface to get, think about some of the most common questions: a) Do you have a planning of recording multiple instruments at the same time? B) Will you be wanting to connect a microphone to your computer? C) Is recording drums via your audio interface, in your mind, for the future? D) Do you wish the interface to connect to your smartphone?
Answering these questions is yes or no can make you able to decide on which audio interfaces to buy. Different interfaces have different features, so you need to figure out its purpose. All interfaces are meant to do the basic job i.e. connect guitar to computer. However, you do have other options. After checking out the first option with which you can connect an electric guitar to your computer, let’s look at the second one.
When I refer to pedals, do not think of pedals at the time of their invention. These are modern multi-effects pedals that are efficient enough to do the job that is done by an audio interface. Here too, like an audio interface, there is a USB port that allows the device to establish a connection with the computer. And if you are confused seeing the front view of a multi-effects pedal and thinking, where is the USB, check this out:
The one that’s shown in the picture is an HX Stomp by Line 6.
The advantage of using a multi-effects pedal to connect your guitar to your computer, over an audio interface, is the additional offering that is offered by pedals. Pedals offer various kinds of effects and tones while playing through your computer. Like in an audio interface, you can attach multiple devices to your computer, so in pedals, you can play multiple tones and effects. If you want to play the same musical tone in different tones, pedals are great to have. One can also bypass any effect or preset that he/she has set up, using your multi-effects pedal. This device has a USB, same as the one that your Computers CPU has, using these slots you can connect the guitar to a computer. The third option is one that you are very likely to have heard about.
For all those who wish to connect the guitar to the computer because they don’t have a guitar amp, this option won’t help them and I am sorry for that. But if you are amongst those who do have an amp, you might want to check if it has a USB jack on the back. Many modern amplifiers include a USB port which allows you to connect your amplifier to your computer and use it as an audio interface. For example, consider the BOSS Katana amplifier: This device includes a USB jack along with all the other common jacks that one wishes to have on a modern guitar amp. If the back of your guitar amp has a USB port, you can probably use it to connect to a computer.
There is a big advantage of connecting your guitar using this option to your computer. The advantage is that you can jam along and record your guitar using any tones produced by your amp. So if you love the sound of your amplifier’s drive channel, you can directly record that tone without having to use a microphone, like in most cases, in front of your amplifier.
Don’t get confused while finding the Right Option for You:
Each of the above options can connect the guitar to the computer. All you need to do is decide on an option that suits you the most. Note that, you don’t necessarily want to go with the same option as other guitarists because your needs differ from theirs. If you already have an amplifier or pedal with a USB jack, all you need is an appropriate cable that can connect your guitar to your computer. And if you don’t have a guitar amplifier or don’t want to buy a multi-effects pedal, an audio interface is a cheap and effective way to connect an electric guitar to a computer.
With an audio interface always connected to your computer, you can use your computer as a guitar amplifier and are then able to run any plugins or programs you want. For most guitarists who are beginners in this field and need a short term option and aren’t sure of long term on-stage programs, an audio interface is the most flexible option. One can get a good interface for under $100 that will surely produce excellent quality recordings.
After going through two different ways in which your electric guitar can be connected to the pc, it’s time now to look at how the other type of guitar i.e. the acoustic guitar, how can that be connected to the pc. Let’s check it out…
How to connect an Acoustic Guitar to computer
To connect the guitar to a computer, one needs to know the exact type of acoustic guitar that he/she has. Acoustic Guitars are generally of two types:
- Without internal pickups.
- With internal Pickups.
Figure out whether your acoustic guitar is a or b. If your acoustic guitar is b and you can plug a cable into it, you can use any of the options that are already covered in the section above acoustic guitars i.e. an audio interface or mixed paddles.
Acoustic guitars with an internal pickup are also called ‘electro-acoustic’ guitars.
The above guitar shows jack that is attached to the bottom of the body which has a hole in which the jack can be attached. Most electro-acoustic guitars have only a standard guitar cable jack but some electro-acoustic guitars also have two holes. If your guitar doesn’t have an obvious jack area like the one shown in the above guitar, but it does have an area where you can put in a battery, check the place called end strip pin.
The recommended option for an audio interface of an electro-acoustic guitar is an audio interface that offers multiple inputs such as the
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
The device can be plugged to your guitar directly into the first input jack, then you can optionally plug a microphone into the second input jack and record both at the same time. This means that one musical instrument i.e. an acoustic guitar can be used to capture two different sounding signals i.e. 1) coming from your microphone and 2) coming from your guitar. at the same time.
Recording an acoustic guitar in this way gives you flexibility with your tone. One can blend the recording between the two inputs based on what one likes the sound of. One can also position the microphone anywhere he/she wants to capture different tones that aren’t possible with the internal pickup alone. So, all in all, in all ways having two different tonal recordings of your guitar parts is highly recommended. Using this device, not only can you connect the guitar to a computer, but also a microphone.
How to connect an Acoustic Guitar Without Inbuilt Pickups to Pc?
For all those who have an acoustic guitar that does not have an inbuilt pickup, will need to use a microphone with an audio interface. The reason why you need to do so is to get your guitar signal into your computer. One does not necessarily need to have an audio interface that is recommended above for an acoustic guitar with inbuilt pickup. You just need to make sure that you have an audio interface. Meaning that the audio interfaces without multiple inputs can also be used. An audio interface with more than one microphone inputs will be more recommended than the one with a single microphone input and this is because you can record your guitar with multiple microphones in different positions. An alternative here is to buy a microphone that can plug directly into your computer. Another way which is less recommended is plugging a microphone into your computer’s mic input but here the preamp on a typical computer soundcard sucks.
Something like the iRig Mic Studio as shown in the picture below may suit you:
The device is a microphone with a USB output that can connect to a PC, Mac, Android, or iOS device. This makes it a great option for acoustic guitarists who want to record ideas at home or while traveling. When connected to a computer, this device acts as a typical audio interface. In addition, one can plug headphones directly into the microphone and the device starts capturing ideas that are played on an acoustic guitar. It can record vocals or acoustic guitar parts and is suitable for any voice recordings for YouTube videos. Using this one can connect to a variety of devices and that is a great benefit to have.
Now that we have covered the two main sections i.e. how to connect an electric guitar with a pc and an acoustic guitar with a pc, let’s check out an answer to the other most common question i.e.
How to use a Computer as a guitar amp
Electricity was a boon to mankind. The way how electric devices communicate with each other is similar to how humans use language to communicate. If you still aren’t able to guess the answer to your question, it’s YES! A Computer can be used as an amplifier. Let’s check out,
To use your computer as a guitar amplifier, you will need to use software that complies with your guitar model and has the amps and effects that you need. Names such as AmpliTube, Guitar Rig, BIAS FX, or Line 6’s Helix Native are worth googling. All of these allow you to use your computer as a guitar amplifier. And before you get confused about the basic idea, let’s directly jump into that. The basic idea behind using the computer as an amplifier is that the computer should be able to do everything that the guitar can do in the digital world. So these programs or plugins area key that opens the lock that one needs open, do everything a guitar does digitally.
Most Popular options for Softwares:
AmpliTube 4 by IK Multimedia:
AmpliTube 4 is Multimedia’s current version of a very popular amp and effects simulation suite. The software can be run as a standalone program or as a plugin inside a Digital Audio Workstation.
You can see in the picture how a screen looks like a typical guitar amplifier. You can change the amp models, the dial-in different settings, or even change the type of tubes that are present inside the amp model to suit your tastes. AmpliTube 4 can also be used for setting up different effects pedals. One can select from a range of different effects and set up a rig in any way he/she likes. It can be done simply by dragging the pedals around to change the order and tweak the settings as one would with a real pedal. There are other features of this device which are also lucrative such as cabinet simulation, setting up different mics and rooms, or even using rack effects.
Remember iRig HD 2? This device comes with the full version of AmpliTube 4. So if you were planning on getting that audio interface, you will be able to use this software for free.
Guitar Rig 5 by Native Instruments:
This is an incredibly popular program that has always been close competition with the one mentioned above. One is likely to hear professional guitarists talk about it online because as per reports, many guitarists still use it today. The last major update to this software was in 2011 and since then, there has been no word of Guitar Rig 6. After this model, Modeling technology has improved significantly in the last 10 years. Noted that Guitar Rig 5 was amazing at its time but is far behind the competition today. Sometimes it’s good to experiment using this software but because of the trendy world that we live in today, this would be a choice of the guitarists that were at their peaks While I still use Guitar Rig years before. However, there are great tones possible with Guitar Rig 5, but newer programs produce significantly higher quality tones.
BIAS FX by Positive Grid:
BIAS FX is known for blowing people’s mind away with its incredible tones. The BIAS AMP software allowed you to dig deep into an amplifier model’s components and tweak it to a level that no other software came close to. The second version of that is currently available and as you might expect, it surpasses the original in terms of quality. BIAS FX 2 is simple to use and focuses on displaying effects and amplifiers with life-like images of the actual pedals and amps. If you know popular guitar pedals, there’s no doubt that the green ‘screamer’ pedal is based on or the round red fuzz pedal. If you’re looking for a high-quality substitute for a real guitar amp, then BIAS FX 2 is possibly the best choice.
Alright, our journey into the world of common questions related to, “how to connect the guitar to a computer,” and “what are the devices that help to connect the guitar to computer” comes to an end.
It’s fun to read about these devices and it’s even more fun to purchase them. Acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass guitars and then playing them on huge stages area dream that every guitarist aims to achieve. However, what is important is the stage when they make the purchase. The stage when you need to purchase an amplifier is only when you are sure of performing in front of an audience that won’t be able to hear you out, if not for an amplifier. Similarly, you need to purchase an audio interface only when you are sure of connecting your guitar with a PC for productive use. Often you will encounter these devices at places where they are kept with old, unused furniture, Once purchased in the thought of getting used daily, they are now found at a corner, rotting themselves out. Often you see them with players, who are still beginners in playing guitar and you wonder, do they need them?
So, the necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention, which is also the only reason one should buy these devices. And you notice, each one of these, whether it be a guitar amplifier, an audio interface or a multi-effect pedal, has its special use. So while buying them, you need to not only take care of the function that they are meant to perform obviously i.e. connect the guitar to the computer, but also the additional functions that they perform otherwise. And this is what makes a good musician, a good artist, and a good guitarist.