Are you a filthy casual when it comes to recording your music?  Do you want to be able to record metal (or any music really) without breaking the bank?  Are you trying to figure out what exactly you need in order to get started recording guitar at home?

Don’t worry, we’ll show you how to get studio quality tones without breaking the bank, or even spending much money.

Here’s a quick list of what you’ll need:

1.Audio Interface/Direct-In Box.  

This is basically how you connect your guitar to your computer.  It is far more convenient than using the old school microphone, amp/cab method.  It’s also the cheapest way to record guitar tones and doesn’t hinder your ability to get killer tones at all.

Which interface is the best for recording guitar?

Oh boy, this is a huge can of worms.

The free solution:

There is none, we’re talking physical products here!

Ultra cheap solution:

If you’re really on a budget and want some good bang for buck you can buy something like an older Pod XT for around $60 on your local Craigslist, and then use it as a glorified DI box.

The cheap solution:

You can buy something like a Focusrite 2i2 USB off Reverb or eBay relatively cheap.  

2. DAW.

Oh my god, an acronym, terrifying!  It stands for digital audio workstation.  This is the software that is going to let you mix/master/do everything.

The free solution: 

Audacity is a free DAW.  Although this is a very stupid choice, I’ll explain below…

The cheap solution:

Reaper!  Reaper is a killer DAW, and offers just about everything you’ll need.  The trial version lasts 60 days and it’s only $60 for a license.  The trial version actually lasts forever and isn’t crippled in any way.  I highly suggest buying the license as soon as your 60 days is up though!  Reaper is significantly cheaper than something like Pro Tools and keeping the gentlemen that make Reaper in business is worth it.  You can download Reaper here.  Oh, and Reaper comes with a boatload of useful VST plug-ins.  None are really groundbreakingly amazing, but they will do for our purposes.

3.Amplifier Simulator (amp sim).

This is your virtual guitar amp.  Pretty self explanatory.  Now, before you freak out at the idea of using a virtual amp… I’m willing to bet you can’t tell the difference in a mix between a virtual amp and a real amp.

There are a lot of options when it comes to amp sims, and several of them like TSE X50 rival those found on leading modellers like Fractal Audio’s AXE FX II and the Kemper.

The free solution:

Nick Crowe offers what is essentially a 5150 that sounds pretty good, and LePou offers a bunch of free high quality amp sims that model famous high gain amps like the Mesa Dual Rectifier and some ENGL amps.

The cheap solution:

TSE X50.  A lot of killer recordings have been made using TSE X50, and for good reason.  It costs $70 but I honestly think it’s worth it if you’re looking for the kinds of tones it offers.

The other solution is to grab something like BIAS, which offers a load of amp simulators plus much, much, much more.  It’s pricier, but sounds great for the money.  You can customize almost everything with it too, which is a blast!

4. Impulse Responses

Every amp needs a cab, right?  Speaker cabinet impulse responses or “IR’s” function as your virtual speaker cabinet.  Most amp sims come with built-in cabs but going the extra mile to download aftermarket IR’s can help take your tone to the next level.

The free solution:

There are loads and loads of free IR’s available out there.  Google is your friend, although RedWirez does offer a really good Marshall 1960A cab IR  for free right here.

The cheap solution:

Buy RedWirez IR packs.  They are great!  Ownhammer is another popular choice.


5. Impulse Response Loader.

This allows you to use your IR properly.  You can blend multiple cabs and do much much more with an impulse loader.

The free solution:

LePou makes a good impulse loader.  It was free too last time I checked.  Go get it.

The cheap solution: 

No need to spend money really.  Just go download LePou’s impulse loader.


6. Drum Samples

Not necessary if you’re just looking to record guitar tracks, but if you want to record drums without absolutely destroying your wallet, then I strongly suggest going with this solution.

The free solution:

There are tons of free drum samples online as a quick google search will dictate. The more expensive DAW’s occasionally come with samples as well.  However if you are serious about getting a good drum sound on your recordings that doesn’t sound too fake, it is worth it to invest in quality samples.

The cheap solution:

EZ Drummer and Superior Drummer by Toontrack are both fairly standard.  Superior Drummer is what’s used by a lot of pros.  EZ Drummer is the cheaper of the two and will run you $179, but that is still far cheaper than going the traditional route when it comes to recording drums.  You can get it here.


Putting It All Together

Now that you have all of the tools you need, simply follow the installation instructions provided with each item and install them in the following order:

  1. Audio Interface
  2. DAW
  3. Amp Sim
  4. IR’s
  5. Drum Samples

You are now properly equipped to make quality recordings at home!


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