Recording guitar at home is not something that would have been an option 10-20 years ago, certainly not without spending a lot of money and having a huge amount of recording equipment.
Technology has changed pretty much every aspect of a musician’s life, and this includes recording. In this article, we’re looking at why people choose to record at home and whether it has any benefits. It is easy to assume that good quality recording will only ever come at a fully-fledged studio, with a professional engineer, but in the modern age, this isn’t necessarily the case.
How Can We Record Guitar at Home?
Rewind 20 or 30 years and to get a recording meant going to a studio. You would have to record to tape (which was expensive) and you’d need an engineer (or two) running the equipment. All of this added up. For proper studio time, the costs were huge. Many bands and artists never got proper recordings until they went to the studio.
There were ways to make recordings at home with a four-track recorder, for instance. It was very difficult to get this sounding good, and our modern methods are much more simple.
I won’t dwell too much on the “how” other than to briefly describe some of the ways used to make home recordings. We’ve written full guides on recording acoustic guitar and electric guitar at home.
For a complete guide on recording acoustic guitar click here and read our article “How To Record Acoustic Guitar“
For a complete on recording electric guitar click here and read our article “How To Record Electric Guitar“
One big difference from recording historically is the fact that most of us have computers and devices which are suitable. You don’t need a huge amount of processing power, and decent recordings can even be made on a tablet. On top of this, there are budget versions of pretty much all of the equipment you could need.
Some basic items which can help you to record at home include:
This will take the signal from your microphone and boost it to a signal level that your software can understand, and which is loud and clear enough to be heard. An audio interface is usually USB, but there are some products which have been made especially to work with phones and tablets. Some USB audio interfaces can cost less than $100 and allow you to use any XLR microphone.
Opinions are divided on USB microphones, but it can eliminate the need for an audio interface. The signal is picked up by the mic and is easy to link to software and record directly onto your laptop or device. A USB microphone can be purchased for under $100 and if used right, you can get good results.
These may not be very exciting, but they are so important if you plan to use your recordings for any sort of commercial release. The difference it will make to have a room which is acoustically ‘flat’ is huge. Effects can be added at a later point. If you don’t want to pay for specific acoustic treatments, there are other ways to make your room more ‘dead’ acoustically. Fill it with furniture and hang duvets on the walls!
Having some decent recording software or music production software (commonly known as a DAW) will help. This means you will have a lot more options for what you can do with your recordings rather than just using the inbuilt voice recorder on your device.
We provide all our recommendations on specific products for the above and how to start recording guitar at home in our article Best Guitar Recording Equipment For Beginners (Affordable Options).
Benefits of Recording At Home
So why are more and more people taking to recording at home? What are the reasons to do so, and why aren’t people just going to recording studios?
The price, as we’ve covered, doesn’t have to be huge. It is nice to be able to get the best possible microphone and an amazing home studio setup, but it isn’t essential to make good guitar recordings. This means that your initial outlay for recording guitar doesn’t have to be astronomical.
If you spend $200 to get a decent setup for recording at home, that money would probably only get you a day in a good recording studio with an engineer. Once you’ve invested in your home setup, you can use it as much as you want, and suddenly the value-for-money starts to look a lot more appealing than going to a studio.
A lot of songs that have become “YouTube famous” especially have been recorded using USB microphones which aren’t overly expensive. They’re popular for vocals but can also be used with a guitar. They’re incredibly simple to set up, so anyone can do it. Look at Blue Mics and their Artists page to see some professional, well-known musicians singing the praises of USB tech. The hardware won’t hold you back if you want to learn the craft of recording.
If inspiration hits you at 1am and you’re ready to lay down that guitar solo that’s been in your head, you won’t be able to ring up a studio and head straight down! Having a recording setup at home and knowing what you are doing when using it means that you can record whenever you want. It also means you can record as many times as you want to and not have to worry about wasting money. Want to play it in 14 different ways and see which you prefer? Go for it!
Often, when we’re going to a studio or paying someone for our recordings, we can only record the songs we think are worthy. Songs that may turn out to be gems, or new tracks you just want to try out don’t ever see the light of day if this is your setup. By recording at home, you can give it a go without having to keep an eye on the time.
Convenience comes in many forms, and being able to record at home can even be convenient in some of the most simple ways. You don’t have to wait to find a time when a studio is free, you don’t have to get anyone else to do it for you, and if you want to record your new song in your underwear, you can!
3. Eliminate Stage Fright
Playing in front of people can be daunting, even if it is friends, bandmates, or people you’re paying to make you sound good! If you are recording at home then a lot of this can be taken out of the equation. You don’t have to worry about messing up or get self-conscious about your playing, just cut loose and do your best on your own. The worst case scenario is simply having to record something again.
4. Skills and Knowledge
If you want to be a well-rounded musician and guitarist, it is helpful to gain as much knowledge about the process as you possibly can. Expanding your skills by learning how to record can also improve your knowledge of the guitar and how the instrument works.
It is easier than ever to grow this knowledge, too, with so many excellent resources out there which can help you to learn how to record and produce to a decent standard. Building a home studio is a very worthwhile pursuit for pretty much any musician who plays an instrument.
Messaging your bandmates to say “I’ve come up with a new guitar part for our song, and it’s awesome” can now be accompanied by a recording. One of the ways technology and the internet has liberated musicians is to allow us to collaborate far more, and with simplicity! Technically, you don’t really have to be in the room as your bandmates to write a song with them.
If you want to make a recording and send it halfway around the world, you can. If you want to pay someone from Fiverr to create a bassline to go with it, go ahead. Being able to record at home means that audio becomes simple, and so is collaboration. As well as being able to use the audio in recordings or layering other instrumental parts over it, you can also just gain peoples’ feedback. Why not send two versions of a song and see which your friends prefer? Feedback can be a part of the collaboration.
Collaborating can still be done in person, too. Having the ability to make quality recordings means that when you get other musicians involved you can work together and record their instruments, too. You can help out your friends and record their ideas, too.
Having a home setup allows you to experiment in a way you probably wouldn’t in a studio you pay for time in. You can record in different ways, play around with different microphone positions, or layer up your playing in other ways.
Once you have recorded, you can also experiment in the software. Simple techniques such as EQ, panning, and effects can make a huge difference to your recordings. Even the most basic music software can offer these features.
With the wealth of equipment and information out there, it isn’t too hard to get to a stage where you can record guitar at home to a good standard. You don’t have to spend a huge amount and the idea of being able to make clean, crisp recordings at home is very exciting for most guitarists, whether you want to get a bit of feedback on your playing or write the next massive hit!