Recording an Electric Guitar or Bass Without an Amplifier

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Hi! I am Benson Lim from Melbourne, Australia. For the first week of “Introduction To Music Production”, I’ll be showing you an easy way to record an electric guitar or a bass without an amplifier using a very simple use DAW software called Garage Band on a Mac. OS X has a very low audio latency and pretty much works out of the box. Since Mac OS X runs on UNIX, it is quite stable as well. Garage Band, though simple is quite a good DAW for beginners like myself.

For this tutorial, you can either use an audio mixer or a cheap ¼ inch TS to USB interface like the Pod Studio GX. In this tutorial, I’ll be using a my Yamaha Mixer because I lent my Pod Studio GX to my friend. Before you start, be sure to install the necessary drivers on your Mac.

First, connect your mixer or your ¼ inch TS to USB interface to the USB port. Typically, a mixer would require an external power to work, however devices like the Pod Studio GX does not require any external power to work.

connect usb to mac

To verify that your equipment works, click on the Apple Logo –> System Preferences –> Sound –> Input Tab. You should be able to see your device listed in the device selector.

System preferences

Now that you know that your USB interface is working, plug your ¼ inch TS cable into your guitar and connect the other end into the mixer (which says Line In).

ts cable

On your mixer, make sure you turn on the button for Channel 1. Like what was thought in the first lecture, make sure that your volume doesn’t go all the way up, causing the equalizer to go to the “red” area. Strum your guitar, and make sure that your equalizer receives signal from your guitar.

turn it on

So to summarize, your connection should look something like this:


Next, open up Garage Band and select “Empty Project”

empty project

Then, select the option “Record guitar or bass using GarageBand as an amp”. Remember, eventhough you can listen to yourself via your computer, there will always be a slight delay. Using your guitar amplifier as a monitor is always recommended.

instrument selection

Before we start recording, make sure that your output device and input device points to the correct devices. On the menu, go to GarageBand –> Preferences –> Audio/MIDI tab.

garageband system pref

Finally, we can start recording. On the left hand panel, you can select your guitar effects. I would recommend using clean sound when recording and then changing your effects during post production. We want to make sure that the DAW is using as less CPU power as possible. Strum your guitar and you should be able to see GarageBand picking up the sound from your guitar. In the event where you change your mind and decide to use your guitar amp as a monitor, just click on the orange button (Input Monitoring) to disable monitoring from your computer.

brit and clean

Click on the record button and start recording.


Once you’re done, you might want to share your recording with your friend or ask an expert to do some post production. Go to Share –> Export Song to Disk. If you’re going to share the song with a friend for demo purpose, I would recommend exporting to MP3 since the file will be smaller and have better compression. If you need to save the song in a higher quality for post production, use AIFF (24 bit). I do not recommend AAC because not all devices in the market supports the AAC format.

Thank you for reading this simple tutorial. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.