To hook up your guitar to your computer via a USB cable is a relatively simple and inexpensive job. You can make it more expensive if you are looking for a high quality solution and create a tangle of cables and boxes and great sound. If, however, what you want is a low cost way to plug your guitar into your music recording software, here’s how.
Things You'll Need
- 1/4 inch Phone Jack to USB converter/adapter (Micro USB, Sound Tech Lightsnake, IK Multi-Media Stealth Plug, M-Audio Fast-Track USB, Lindy USB Guitar Cable, Lightsnake USB Guitar Cable, etc.)
- Standard USB cord
- 1/4 inch guitar jack cord
- Audio Software
Linking Your Guitar and Computer
Install your audio software and a decent PC sound card if you already have one. You won’t be able to play or record through your computer without one. There are several free audio programs available for free download. One of the most popular is Audacity ™, which is available as a free download on most free download websites.
Plug one end of the USB cord into your computer’s USB port and the other into the converter box’s USB port. Converter boxes range in price from $60 to more than $100 or more depending on the quality of the output achieved by the box. Install any software that came with your converter on your PC according to the manufacturer’s directions
Plug one end of the guitar cord into the guitar and the other end into the converter box. You can skip the converter box altogether and buy a cord that includes the converter within it in a one piece cord that has a quarter inch jack on one end that goes into the guitar and a USB jack at the other end. These adapters run from $30 at the low end and go much higher depending on the quality of output.
Power up your guitar with the computer on. The computer should recognize the guitar as a hardware device and install it automatically. Most systems won’t need additional drivers.
Open the audio software you will be using and on the main screen, select the guitar as the audio input device. You should be able to start a new project window and record while you play. It’s as easy as that.
Tips & Warnings
- The USB connection provides you with lots of ways to improve the quality of the sound coming from your guitar. The quality of the conversion device you use, whether within the cable or in a separate box, will determine just how good your signal will be when it arrives at the computer and just how much you can do with it.
- Spend some time learning the software (if any) that comes with your converter. It can help you generate a clean powerful signal from your guitar if you know how to use it.
- Check reviews of USB signal converters for your guitar. A few extra dollars spent can mean a wide difference in the quality of the music you can create through your computer.
- Photo Credit USB image by Andrea Riva from Fotolia.com