How to record a guitar without an amplifier using Linux
You will need:
- An electric guitar
- A computer
- An audio interface
I want to share with you the way I record my electric guitar without using an amplifier. There are several approaches to this task but I will explain the one I use. I prefer to record a nice clean guitar sound. Most of the times you don't use the sound as is. Normally you will proccess it to get the sound you really want. That is the task of your audio processor
I don't use an effects unit in order to avoid noise and to have the possibility of trying different effects and settings with only a guitar take. How does it work? Let's see:
The motion of the strings is translated into voltage variations by the guitar pickups. A pickup is a transducer. This voltage variations travel from the guitar to the audio interface through the wire. Normally, you use an unbalanced one so you should keep it as short as possible to avoid the unwanted noisy interferences.
The audio interface is an Analog to Digital Converter (ADC). Voltage variations are translated into digital information. Usually, you can control some parameters like volume, gain or tone of the incoming sound but it depends mostly on the quality (or expensiveness) of your audio interface. The UA-1G I have, is a dirty basic audio interface so you can handle only the input and output volumes.
Finally, you have to record the sound using a recording application. You can choose to record directly in a track of your DAW or use another program and import the sound into the DAW later.
If you live in flat or have unfriendly neighbours you'll monitor the recording process with headphones. To hear the sound your audio interface acts as a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC), translating the digital information of the recorded sound into voltage variations that go from the audio interface, through your headphones wire, to the little ear speakers. A speaker is a transducer that converts voltage variations to air pressure variations, that, in fact, is what you hear.
As a bonus tip: when I'm recording I disconect the power plug. I've noticed that a lot of the interference noises disappear when opperating on battery.
As you can see here, recording an instrument like an electric guitar or bass is an easy task if you have all the components ready to use. It doesn't mean that is an error-free issue. You have to deal with the interferences, signal clipping due to high volumes, etc. So the best way of fine tuning this process is change only one parameter at a time and listen to the recorded sound carefully. It is better to spend a few hour looking for the perfect settings than get your best take ruined due to clipping or something else.