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How to connect your guitar to the computer

Updated on September 07, 2013

If you play guitar and you like computers, one of the first things you will want is to connect the guitar to the computer. You probably want the simplicity of playing the guitar, in a way similar to what you can do with video games such as Guitar Hero. This looks extremely simple at the beginning, but you will see that there are some problems that you will want to avoid.

The Guitar Connector

The first thing that you will need is some connecting device. Guitars use sound cables that have a 1/4" plug. Computer sound cards, on the other hand, in general use a 1/8" plug. Thus, you need some kind of converter between your guitar and the computer.

Most computer stores have cables to make the connection between the 1/4" and the 1/8" plugs. You need a female plug for your guitar cable, so that it can be inserted in the connector. The connector needs a 1/8" male exit that will connect to the sound card.

There are other options, however. Some external modules allow you to connect the 1/4" and then to the computer via the USB port. THese are a little more expensive, but result in better sound quality, because the conversion of signal is done digitally.

Using the USB

If you are interested in use the USB connection that comes with every new computer, you can also do this with one of the new USB interfaces in the market. The process involves getting one of the USB guitar-computer interfaces, then connecting your guitar to the USB device, and the device to the USB input.

This method is just a little bit more expensive, but it can give you even better results. I wrote a whole article describing how this USB-guitar connection works.

The Software

The next thing you need is some software that will receive the sound. You have a lot of options in this respect, since the market for sound programs is very competitive.

If you want to start with something free, you can try audacity. This software allows you to record and playback sound that has been received through the sound card. Audacity is very simple, and you just need to press the record button to record a sound. Everything is done automatically. There is an option called play through that allows the sound to be heard as it is recorded.

Other more expensive options exist. Cakewalk is a very powerful package that was created for music edition tasks. Similar software exist for similar prices.

If you use a Mac, there are even more options. For example, Garage Band comes for free, and it provides several powerful features to record music. For more instruction, see this article on Using GarageBand to record your guitar.

Here is a recording software that I recommend

Amplification

The next problem you need to solve is amplification. Even when everything is properly connected you will frequently notice that no sound can be heard. In other cases, the sound is so weak that you cannot use properly.

The reason is that a guitar emits sound that needs to be amplified. The range of signal from a guitar is much weaker than sound from a microphone, for example.

You can use an amplifier before the connection to the computer. You may also decide to use software amplification, which can work just as well. Just remember that you need some amplification to be heard.

Amplification is such an important topic to the guitarrist, that it needs special attention in your setup. Don't let this without careful checking.


Conclusion

Connecting your guitar to a computer is not a complex operation, but it is not very clear for many beginners. People just assume you know how to do. I hope the instructions I posted can help you in getting your equipment working fine.

Playing the guitar is always great fun. If you can do this using a computer, it is even better. Just keep doing it and you will get better as time goes.

If you have questions on this topic, please let me know through the comments section.

(also, if you want to start MAKING money with your typing skills, you should try now some of my tips on making money on the web.)

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    • GuitarHero Master profile image

      GuitarHero Master 9 years ago from Glover, VT

      This is cool, I'm learning to play, this will help me out a lot, I'll refer here regularly.

    • johnny1555 profile image

      johnny1555 9 years ago

      thanks for the info! Audacity is a great program. I use it and love it!

    • profile image

      brednadf 8 years ago

      Ive got my electric guitar plugged into my computer, and a vox earphone adapter, which is nice because I can turn the volume remotely using that... and once its plugged in, I can clearly hear the guitar through the speakers... but when in audacity, I press record, and nothing is recorded while I play... please help

    • profile image

      Edward 8 years ago

      Thanks, I was wondering why couldn't hear the guitar if I plugged it directly to the computer, but it's super clear running it through the amp, but the amp makes noise, so I wanted to connect it directly to the computer..guess I'll find amp software

    • profile image

      ozzy 8 years ago

      if i want to hear the immidiate playback of the guitar wich software should i use..

    • profile image

      Jorg X. McKie 8 years ago

      You don't necessarily need an amp between the guitar and the computer. The Line6 POD is a viable option that is designed to connect to a computer very easily. Some "regular" guitar amps also have a dedicated Line Out, just be careful that you don't disconnect the speakers from the amp when using it...

    • profile image

      jim brown 8 years ago

      i'd love to hook into the comp..i don't understand all the language..can i get some help for guitar playing dummies that just want to play?

    • profile image

      jakelake 8 years ago

      hi,

      i just got a free year of gtr solo and i cannot play my guitar through this program but i can play though my sound and speaker manager so does anyone know what the problem might be? could it be that im converting it through my amp and it just isn't a strong enough signal? -jake

    • coliveira profile image
      Author

      coliveira 8 years ago from Virginia

      Hi Jakelake,

      I don't know this gtr solo product, but a possibility is that your program is not using the sound card properly. Look for a configuration section and check if the sound card is recognized. Also look for sound levels in the software. It may be that the sound is being processed, but is not being played through the software.

    • profile image

      7 years ago

      This is great

    • profile image

      7 years ago

      This is great

    • Thiago Korsakoff profile image

      Thiago Korsakoff 7 years ago

      Hub interesting. Without doubt, Ovation Guitar is one of the best guitars available in the market today. I have some at home, I pertecem since I started my band (the garage!), But is following me. Today we have 15 years of road, and always on the side of my Ovation Guitar. The latter bought a site with many interesting offers (I'l leave the link for you guys: http://bit.ly/nKC7F ). Today, my last purchase on this site was a Custom Elite, for a great price! Well, so what! Hugs!

    • coliveira profile image
      Author

      coliveira 7 years ago from Virginia

      @Tiago, yes, I also have an Ovation that I love. It is a great guitar. Mine has nylon strings, which is my prefered kind of guitar.

    • profile image

      andy 7 years ago

      when connected to my computer guitar is giving shock

    • profile image

      vivek sharma 7 years ago

      hi there i really like ur idea

      so i got a guitar rig software ( its not the kontrol edition which includes foot switch) i am using a female connector but then also its not sounding clear ...i tried the amplitube too dat also not working what should i do

      if i buy a usb one then what setup i have to do

      thank you

      vivek

      cool_vivek85@hotmail.com

    • profile image

      Dave 7 years ago

      SOMEONE PLEASE GIVE ME AN ADVISE!

      Ive downloaded Audacity but i do not know how I can play the guitar without recording, I mean I just want to jam first and then record when I feel it ok. Any suggestion?

    • profile image

      Garcia 7 years ago

      Hi every one! Can somebody tell me why the guitar does not play in REAL TIME in Audacity? It is late with a sec... Thanx

    • coliveira profile image
      Author

      coliveira 7 years ago from Virginia

      @garcia: this usually has to do with your sound card. It is probably slowing down the playback.

    • profile image

      Filip 7 years ago

      Great! Exactly what i needed! :)

    • soupincacoustics profile image

      soupincacoustics 7 years ago

      Very helpful info thanks!

    • profile image

      FFM 7 years ago

      I have my guitar hooked in through an amp and then into my computer and i have audacity set up to play back through my speakers as i play, but it doesn't play in REAL TIME. It has a few seconds delay.

      I saw your comment earlier about sound cards slowing down the playback. How do you speed up the playback?

    • profile image

      girish 7 years ago

      i hav got that adapter which can be plugged to the chord of guitar and computer, but where to plug the chord in computer linein ? line out? mic??

      are thete any settings required to be done with mixer??????

      i couldn't get any sound

    • coliveira profile image
      Author

      coliveira 7 years ago from Virginia

      girish: you need to connect it to linein. mic may also work, depending on your sound board. Use the computer mixer to get the sound you want, I recommend using Audacity to record and play back.

    • profile image

      Sid 7 years ago

      I have my guitar, marshall amp, Zoom G2 pedal and audacity on my laptop. Im new to recording but have been playing a while. I just want to know what else I need to do to record my playing. Cheers in advance

    • profile image

      Miss-M 7 years ago

      Thanks so much, this info is really clear and concise. and really great for beginners like myself.

      finally i know what adapeter i need to plug my amp into my comp!!

    • profile image

      john 7 years ago

      "hi..everyone...plz..tell me what software do i use in my pc to play my guitar???anybody???

    • profile image

      Slain Angel 7 years ago

      Hey, I got this cable, and plugged it from the Guitar to the input jack, but still no result? I click record and no sound waves come up on Audacity OR MixPad, nothing? it's really pissing me off man, anyone know a solution to this annoying problem?

    • coliveira profile image
      Author

      coliveira 7 years ago from Virginia

      Slain, You can check if the mic on Audacity is selected to the right input.

    • moondive profile image

      moondive 7 years ago from Modena,Italy

      This is interestin hub. I have ibanez rg 570 and i just put in my music chard. I also like amplitube metal

    • profile image

      Dj Eclipse 6 years ago

      I wouldn't recommend getting a converter and plugging it into your microphone jack. If you are looking to record your stuff i would prefer picking up an asio driver. If you wish to save a lot of money on a lot of equipment i would highly recommend picking up Propellerheads Reason 4 + Record package. though an Asio driver can range from $100-$400, and the package is $450.. you get a digital sl 9000 mixing desk and Line 6 right on your computer. included with all the features of Reason 4 :D

    • profile image

      hugo 6 years ago

      thanks for telling how to simply use the computer as an amp, no recording just playing...

    • shimla profile image

      shimla 6 years ago

      Good article - I get good results with CubaseLE4 and a Konnekt 6 interface -USB connection with the RP Digitech works well for getting down guitar too. Started with Audacity which I would recommend to anyone starting out - so simple and free.Thanks and happy jamming~

    • profile image

      Joe Momma 6 years ago

      hey, for all those having trouble with getting delays or the guitar not playing through the line in/headphone jack, try using the "asio4all" driver... i don't know enough about computers to explain what it does, but it allowed me to use hear my guitar over my computer (with Guitar Rig) when I couldn't before installing it... just search for it... no viruses, no bs... it's free and it worked for me. It shhould solve some of the delay problems people are talking about to my understanding

    • profile image

      parth 6 years ago

      Audacity is not receiving the open chords properly.

      barchords are registered fine.

      please help.

      I use a digitech rp 90.(processor)

      guitar=>rp90=>pc

    • profile image

      storm cloud 6 years ago

      cannot get no vocals on my sound board to computer what is it i do

    • profile image

      chetan kumar 6 years ago

      I hav this 1/8 convertor but when i connect this to my guitar to computer it does not work, i mean any volume does not come from Laptop's speakers. Please tell me what are the changes that i should do in Realtek Sound Manager..?? or any other changes, please recommend me.

    • profile image

      James 6 years ago

      Does Sibelius support USB connections?

    • profile image

      Amocha 6 years ago

      thanks man, you rock

    • profile image

      Loon Hangs 6 years ago

      Can I just cut the cable and connect the 1/8' directly. is there any loss that way?

    • profile image

      Dathananiel D. 6 years ago

      This is great. i'll use it with garage band.

    • coliveira profile image
      Author

      coliveira 6 years ago from Virginia

      Garage band is really great to work with guitars. It is the best software for people starting, specially because it is free (if you have a mac).

    • profile image

      Multiman 6 years ago

      Good article informative

    • profile image

      no one cares 5 years ago

      i just started on playing my guitar and i already learned how to play the Mario bros. theme song

    • profile image

      dd 5 years ago

      recording with audacity... in recording control [windows master volume] select stereo mix... that meant uncheck it, and check on line volume and mic volume

    • profile image

      Alan 5 years ago

      Hi

      Can you use such USB adapters with Guitar Rig? I'm using normal jack connections for my desktop with Guitar Rig but my notebook does not have an input audio jack so I'll have to use such USB adapters.

      Thanks,

    • profile image

      Deckrat47 5 years ago

      any idea if this works with MAGIX Music Maker MX Premium?

    • profile image

      JoshG1114 4 years ago

      I have my Strat hooked to my PC into the mic. The problem most of you are having is that the sound cards do not boost enough for you to hear the playback. It is playing, but is so quiet you cannot hear it. My PC is hooke to my stereo system. If i turn it up I can hear myself play lightly and in the volume control my mic has a setting of boosting it 20db. Now I can hear it perfectly. Make sure Mic is unchecked and you check the settings. Dont go under mic advanced. Go under main volume control click advanced and go from there. PS the usb connection does sound much better as well. Recording and playback is a piece of cake. Whatever program you use to record is entirely up to you. I record using my stereo with old school tapes. Works just fine for me. Taught myself guitair and computers. Never had a problem I cant figure out. Also be careful as you don't overload your sound card from playing waaaay too hard. They are not made specifically for this duty. Better to get a small amp for 50 bucks that sounds a lot better. Trust me.

    • profile image

      chris 3 years ago

      I don't need an amp

    • profile image

      Chris 3 years ago

      I don't need an amp in my case. I'm using windows 7 and connect the guitar to the front mic. All I had to do is go into the audio properties for recording and check "listen to this device". Then I just increased the input gain a bit. Volume on my electric guitar (Yamaha pacifica) is at 10. I can hear the guitar just fine through my speakers and the input level bar gets maxed out. The only problem is that it sounds like it's overdriven. It's not a clear tone. I sounds like there's an effects pedal already plugged in. Weird!

      Guitar Pro uses a midi input. I was hoping to use just the analog input so I can play with the effects tab (pedals) in GP6. Anybody know how to do that with a guitar hooked up to the front mic?

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