How to Use a Computer Microphone Port for Guitar Input

Written by scott knickelbine
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How to Use a Computer Microphone Port for Guitar Input
The best way to go from your guitar to your computer is through your amp. (playing guitar image by jashe from Fotolia.com)

If you want to plug your guitar into your computer's mike jack, you could buy a plug adaptor for your amp cable and plug it in. The problem is the sound transmitted to the computer will be at a very low volume. The better approach is to plug your guitar into your amp and your amp into your computer; that way, you'll have much better volume and a whole range of additional effects. Using this approach requires one more cable and, of course, a jack adaptor.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Amplifier with headphone jack
  • Male-to-male 1/4-inch patch cable
  • 1/4-inch-to-1/8-inch plug adaptor
  • Computer with microphone jack
  • Recording software (e.g., Audacity)
  • Computer headphones

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Plug your guitar's amplifier cable into the amplifier.

  2. 2

    Plug one end of the male-to-male patch cord into the headphone jack on the amplifier.

  3. 3

    Plug the other end of the patch cord into the female end of the plug adaptor; plug the other end of the plug adaptor into the microphone jack on the computer.

  4. 4

    Set the guitar and the amp to their lowest volumes. Turn on the amp.

  5. 5

    Start your recording software. Set the recording source to the microphone. Turn the microphone volume down to a low setting.

  6. 6

    Put on the headphones. Start the software recording by clicking the red "Record" button.

  7. 7

    Raise the recording level in the recording software to about the middle of the range. Then turn up your guitar volume knob to 5.

  8. 8

    Slowly increase the volume level on the amp until you can hear a clear sound through the headphones. Adjust the guitar, amp and software recording level until you get a signal that's close to the top of the green zone on the software's monitor bars.

Tips and warnings

  • There are adaptors that are specially made to connect guitars to computers, either through the mike jack or a USB jack. They produce better sound, but they can be expensive.
  • Once you've got your volumes set the way you like them, make a note of them so that you can avoid trial-and-error adjustments in the future.
  • Using this technique, you can record a rhythm track and then go back and record lead guitar over it.
  • Always start with your equipment at its lowest settings and work up. Computer microphone jacks are designed for microphone input --- not amplified guitar input. Starting at a volume that's too high can damage your sound card and possibly your ear drums.
  • Computer microphone plugs are much more delicate than amplifier cable plugs. Be careful how much thrashing you do --- you could snap off the plug in the jack.

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