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Cheap ways to be able to record guitar/bass on a computer? Answered

My band is just starting out and we are looking for cheap ways to record.
I am not looking into investing in an audio interface or an extremely expensive microphone at this point.

I am wondering if it would be possible to make a ¼" jack to USB cable or a ¼" jack to headphone cable or something like that so that we would be able to plug our instruments directly into my computer (MacBook V 10.6.8) to record and edit with Garageband.




Best Answer 6 years ago

All you need is a 1/4" to 1/8" adapter, and plug that into your audio jack. Then, go to System Preferences > Audio > Use Jack As > Audio Input. You can now record on Garage Band!

You could do it that way, but as frollard says it will give much more power than the port can handle. If you must do it that way, turn the volume as far down on your guitar as you can, and work from there. (I don't play guitar, so I don't know if there is a volume adjustment on the guitar itself, so if not, you need to figure out some way of lowering the volume.)

In reality, it's cheaper to buy a USB audio interface than it is to buy an new MacBook.

You might want to look at some of my sound instructables here. It's more or less for people starting out in live sound, but there might still be something in there that you learn.

Good luck, but be careful.

I will be taking a look at your instructables, thanks for the tips!

According to apple, and I've actually recorded my guitar with this bearing pretty decent results, connecting a guitar to the line in jack is actually fine, and will in fact give a very small signal.


Mic in would not be line level... But do macs have a line in jack these days? I have only ever seen mic jacks.

I lied.
I just realized that my Mac does, in fact, have a line-in jack.

OK... that's nice that they're including line in jacks now. They didn't always, and I just never paid attention to it recently, since I normally don't actually keep the hard drives in their original computers for that long. :)

My Mac doesn't.. although as aelias36 mentioned, you can set the headphone jack as your audio in.

I'm just afraid to blow my sound card.

Yes, but a headphone jack would be the same as a mic jack. You definitely have a reason to be afraid of blowing your sound card. :)

I successfully did it with my keyboard (1/8"-1/8"), but electric guitars are much louder and such.. I have a feeling I'm going to end up doing it anyways.

You could try getting an inline volume control. Then you could reduce the volume. :) Good luck!

The only problem is that now I'm skeptical about the safety of my precious MacBook.
If I can find one cheap enough, I'll buy it.
If not, maybe I'll try plugging it straight into my computer.

Plug into your sound card IN jack or your MIC jack (using a 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch cable) and then use the free program audacity to record.

Again... will overload the mic jack. Besides, he's asking how to record into Garage Band... Not Audacity. (Although I personally would use Audacity over Garage Band any day.)

I personally like Garageband more, but just because of my high preference to Macs, I suppose.

I find it quite funny that you just automatically assume I am male, though.

Regarding gender: I am very sorry... I really didn't stop to think... And there is nothing that I have seen prior to this that would suggest either way. (I could have said "it", you know!) ;)

Regarding GarageBand vs. audacity, I choose audacity since it's universal, so if I have to tell someone how to do an edit, they can do no matter what system they use. That's the only reason I choose audacity. (Also, I hate macs... So that might have something to do with it!) :)

Even so, I prefer he to it.. XD

(How can you hate Macs?) :P

I can hate macs because I can actually back up my beliefs. I have found that in terms of security, when it comes down to it, macs are much less secure than PCs, there just aren't as many people using macs as there are PC. (I believe that a recent poll of businesses showed that 8% of businesses world wide use macs... don't know the source... just something I heard.) As more and more people switch to a mac, there will be more and more people with malicious intent attempting to break mac security. And believe me, as someone who used to recover data for the US government, I had to crack into both macs and PCs. Macs are a whole lot easier to crack than PCs. (Not that either one is that difficult once you know how... I can bypass login passwords on any unencrypted system in less than 2 min.)

And in terms of viruses, macs have had some decent viruses ever since OS X came out.

Basically it all comes down to how much you know about computers. If you can protect yourself, then you will not have problems on either system. If you can't protect yourself, then you should either learn how, or else use a system that practically no one else uses. It just isn't worth it to crackers to write malicious code for a system that no one uses.

(I'm just getting stated with my mac vs. PC arguments... if you really want some lectures on the advantages of PCs, feel free to ask!) ;)

In my narrow mind;
"I like Macs just because I do."

Isn't that a lovely argument?

Oh... that's actually a better argument than some of the ones I have heard. It's funny, in a face to face conversation, I can't tell people what I used to do for a living (I can do it online because there is no way someone can actually trace it back to me), so most people don't realize just how much I know, and they use the most absurd arguments! I had one guy tell me that macs were better than PCs because he was an expert, and he said so. :) (Needless to say, he didn't think he was an expert within a few minutes of me grilling him!)

I think the best argument that people use is that they like macs because it just appeals to them more than PCs. In that case, it's a personal preference, and no one can change your personal preference, nor should they try. What I hate is when someone tries to tell me why I should like macs. I just don't. That's my personal preference, and I can back it up logically, but I should have to.

Anyway, I wish you the best of luck with your recording, and if there is anything I can help you with, don't hesitate to ask. :)

Thanks so much for all your help!
You'll definitely be one of the first I ask.
Once my band has a good quality cover or original song out, I'll make sure to send you the link for your opinion/advice.
Thanks again.

Enjoy your PC.

I'll be looking forward to the link!

(I always do enjoy my PC!) :)

The commonly accepted way to record from electric guitar is to hook the guitar to your amp and then record from a mic placed in front of the amp this allows you to record music just as the listener would hear it. Doing it this way you are recording just from the mic and you shouldn't overload the mic input.

Yes, but as I implied, the only microphone I have is terrible.

Oh, I forgot about that. I think you probabbly should invest in a 50-75 dollar microphone. I think you would be better off to invest in a mic than to buy a USB thing for recording.

$50-$75??? That's still going to sound terrible! You're looking at around $150-$300 before you get a mic that will even come close to sounding good on an amp.

There are a lot of reasons not to mic amps when you are just getting started with recording. 1. Cost. It will cost a lot more to get a mic that will actually sound decent on an amp than it will to do a line in recording. 2. Noise. Until you've learned to isolate noise, mics will pick up noise around them that a line level recording will not have. 3. GIGO. Depending on how good your amp is, it will only sound worse on the recording. 4. Recording is not live sound. Micing amps is mostly a live sound technique. Most recording professionals will not want to mic an amp because it just doesn't sound as good on a recording as it does in live sound. (Personally, I don't even like the technique in live sound! My rule of thumb is not to mic any kind of a speaker, unless I have no other choice.) You can get the same effect with a little bit of know how a lot cheaper once you have gained some experience editing audio.

No matter what, if you are using a computer for recording, I recommend getting a professional audio interface. It should have both 1/4 in. and XLR, because it will serve you better as you get nicer equipment. It will be cheaper to get the USB interface and use regular microphones than to try and buy USB mics. (Assuming you will eventually buy more than one.)

If you must mic an amp on a shoestring budget, get a large diaphragm condenser mic. It will give you the best sound than any other mic in your price range. Feel free to ask me if you need help choosing a mic, but I would still suggest doing a line in recording.

Thanks for all the examples and things.
I understand that if you're going to invest in a microphone, it's going to have to be really expensive, and as a band that's just starting out, we aren't ready to put in ALOT of money.
I did line-in recording with my keyboard just today (1/8"-1/8"), and I have a feeling that even though electric guitars are louder, I'm probably going to try it anyways.
I'll be very careful :3

You can try using the inline control as I stated below, or you can also just record for 10 sec to see what happens. If it's clipping, you will not be able to use the recording effectively anyway.

You have to be careful hooking an electric guitar directly to your computer inputs -- it is capable of putting out WAY more than the port can handle in full range (0.1-100khz) which can damage it.

There are usb guitar recording dongles that are designed just for this task of amplifying/compressing the spectrum to something the computer can use. Check ebay or other net sites.

Thanks for warning me.
If I HAD to plug it straight in because of budget limitations, do you think it would be better to plug it into the amp into my computer, or just straight into my computer?