How to Connect Guitar To PC/Laptop: Gear, Software, Tips - Guitar Gear Finder

How to Connect Guitar To PC/Laptop: Gear, Software, Tips – Guitar Gear Finder

How to Connect Guitar To PC/Laptop: Gear, Software, Tips – Guitar Gear Finder

How to connect guitar to amplitube

connecting your guitar to a pc or laptop gives you a way to start recording your performance, experiment with different amp simulators, effects, plug-ins, and more.

The good news is that you only need very basic equipment to connect an electric or acoustic guitar to a PC or laptop.

In this guide, you will learn:

  • the different options for connecting a guitar to a pc and which one is right for you
  • different programs and plugins you can use
  • how to use your computer as a amplifier

once you connect your guitar to your computer, read this guide for more information and tips on how to record guitar at home.

how to connect an electric guitar to a computer

Connecting an electric guitar to a computer is easy, but it requires a special piece of hardware called an audio interface.

To connect your electric guitar to a computer, you need to use an audio interface that will safely process your guitar signal into something your computer can use. If your computer has audio input jacks, you cannot directly connect your electric guitar and must use an audio interface.

If you attempt to connect your guitar directly to your computer’s mic or line input jacks using an adapter, you risk damaging your guitar or your computer. the audio input connectors were not designed to handle the input from your guitar and will not work.

There are a couple of different options for connecting an electric guitar to a computer, so let’s break down each option.

audio interface

The most popular way to connect an electric guitar to a computer is through an audio interface. An audio interface is a simple box that allows you to plug in your guitar or other inputs, and converts the signal to a digital signal to send via USB to your computer.

the most popular range of audio interfaces for guitarists is the focusrite scarlett range (link to amazon to see the different models, features and prices). the photo below shows the scarlett 2i4:

Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio interface

While there are many buttons and knobs on the box, the basic idea is that it allows you to connect a guitar cable from your electric guitar to the interface. the interface then processes the signal from the guitar and sends it via usb to your computer.

You can see that the interface above allows you to connect multiple instruments (or microphones) at once. this is great if you plan on recording, as you can record multiple microphones or multiple instruments at the same time.

if you want to record acoustic guitar or vocals in the future, you might want to get an audio interface package like this one at sweetwater that includes a condenser microphone and headphones.

Scarlett bundle

Most audio interfaces also allow you to plug headphones directly into the interface, allowing you to play guitar silently. Check out this guide if you’re interested in playing electric guitar with headphones. the guide includes the best headphone options and other tips.

while the above interface is a great option that will suit many guitarists, a simpler and cheaper option is irig hd 2 from ik multimedia:

iRig HD 2 connections

The little interface may not have the ability to process multiple instruments or microphones at the same time like the focusrite scarlett, but it’s a good option if you just want to connect a guitar to your computer.

you can also use it to connect to a mac, iphone or ipad (android is not supported). this means you can use irig to play guitar while traveling or even if you don’t have a computer with you.

Learn more about the Irig HD 2 and the software it comes with in this review.

When deciding which audio interface to buy, think about the following questions:

  • do you want to be able to record multiple instruments at the same time?
  • do you want to be able to connect a microphone to your computer?
  • will you want to record drums in the future (requires multiple microphones for best results)?
  • Do you want the interface to connect to your smartphone as well, or just a computer?

Different interfaces have different features, so think about what’s important to you. all interfaces will do the basic job of connecting your guitar to a computer.

multi-effects pedal

While the most popular option for connecting an electric guitar to a computer is with an audio interface, most modern multi-effects pedals can also do the job.

Almost all current multi-effects pedals have a USB port that allows you to connect your pedal to your computer and use it as an audio interface.

for example, the photo below shows the usb port on the mighty little line 6 hx stomp (learn more about line 6 multi-effects pedals here):

Line 6 HX Stomp USB

even small multi-effects pedals like this are likely to have a usb port for connecting to a computer.

The great advantage of using a multi-effects pedal to connect your guitar to your computer is that you can continue to use the pedal’s effects and tones while playing through your computer. this is great if you want to record those tones or just want to play along with some backing tracks.

You can also bypass any effects or presets you’ve set up on your multi-effects pedal if you want to record a dry signal. If you already have a multi-effects pedal, check it out to see if it has a USB connector. if it does, you may be able to use it as an audio interface. check your pedal’s manual for the settings you need to know to set it up as an audio interface (every pedal is different).

guitar amp

If you want to connect your guitar to a computer because you don’t have a guitar amp, this option won’t help. but if you have an amp you might want to check if it has a usb connector on the back.

many modern amps include a usb port that allows you to connect your amp to your computer and use it as an audio interface.

For example, the following photo shows the back of the popular boss katana amp:


you can see that it includes a usb connector along with all the other common connectors you usually see on a modern guitar amp. If the back of your guitar amp has a usb port like this, you can probably use it to connect to a computer.

The great advantage of connecting your guitar amp to your computer is that you can jam and record your guitar using any tone produced by your amp. so if you love the sound of your amp’s drive channel, you can directly record that tone without having to mic up in front of your amp.

find the right option for you

Each of the above options suits different guitarists. If you already have an amplifier or pedal with a USB jack, you just need a suitable cable to connect your guitar to your computer (learn more about the different types of USB cables here).

If you don’t own a guitar amp or don’t want to buy a multi-effects pedal, an audio interface is a cheap and effective way to connect your guitar to your computer. With an audio interface always connected to your computer, you can use your computer as a guitar amp and run any plug-in or program you want.

For most guitarists, an audio interface is the most flexible option. you can get a nice interface for less than $100 that will produce excellent quality recordings.

how to connect an acoustic guitar to a computer

If you want to connect an acoustic guitar to a computer, the options that are best for you depend on the type of acoustic guitar you have.

acoustic guitars with internal pickups

If your acoustic guitar has a built-in pickup and you can connect a cable to it, you can use any of the options listed above for electric guitars.

Acoustic guitars with an internal pickup are often referred to as “electro-acoustic” guitars.

Electro-acoustic guitar jack

The guitar above shows two different connectors (xlr on the left and standard guitar cable on the right). most electro-acoustic guitars will only have a standard guitar cable connector.

If your guitar doesn’t have an obvious connection area like the guitar above, but does have an area where you can fit a battery, check the end strap pin as shown below:

Acoustic guitar endpin jack

If your acoustic guitar has a jack where you can plug in a cable, you have the widest range of options for connecting your guitar to a computer.

you can use:

  • an audio interface
  • a multi-effects pedal (if it has a usb output)
  • an acoustic guitar amp (if it has a usb output)
  • a microphone with an audio interface

The recommended option for an electro-acoustic guitar is to get an audio interface that offers multiple inputs like the focusrite scarlett 2i2:

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

With an audio interface like this, you can plug your guitar directly into the first input jack, and optionally plug a microphone into the second input jack and record both at the same time.

This means you can capture two different sound signals from your acoustic guitar at the same time. this is a great way to record an acoustic guitar because it gives you flexibility with your tone. you can mix your recording between the two inputs depending on how you like the sound.

You can place the mic anywhere you want to capture different tones that aren’t possible with internal pickup alone. it is recommended to have two different tonal recordings of the guitar parts.

acoustic guitars without built-in pickups

If your acoustic guitar doesn’t have a built-in pickup, you’ll need to use a microphone with an audio interface to receive your guitar’s signal into your computer.

Any audio interface that offers mic inputs (such as the focusrite scarlett above) will be a good choice. I recommend getting an audio interface that offers more than one mic input at the same time so you can record your guitar with multiple mics in different positions.

An alternative to buying an audio interface is to buy a microphone that can be plugged directly into your computer. I don’t recommend connecting a microphone to your computer’s mic input, since the preamp on a typical computer sound card sucks.

something like irig mic studio might be right for you:

iRig Mic Studio connections

irig mic studio is a microphone with usb output that can be connected to a pc, mac, android or ios device. this makes it a great choice for acoustic guitarists who want to record ideas at home or on the go.

When connected to a computer, it acts like a typical audio interface. you can plug the headphones directly into the mic and it works on any daw (find the best daws for guitar in this guide).

irig mic studio is my preferred choice when I want to capture ideas on my acoustic guitar, record vocals or acoustic guitar parts, or for any voice recording for youtube videos. being able to connect to a variety of devices is a huge benefit.

Check out my full review of the irig mic studio here for more on that.

use a computer as a guitar amp

once you choose a method to connect your guitar to your computer, you can see how to use your computer as a guitar amplifier.

To use your computer as a guitar amp, you need to use software that models guitar amps and effects. programs like line 6’s amplitube, guitar rig, bias fx, or helix native let you use your computer as a guitar amp.

The basic idea is that these programs or plug-ins do everything a guitar does digitally.

learn everything you need to know about plugins as well as the best guitar plugins, my ultimate guide to plugins here.

Let’s go over the most popular options so you can decide which program is right for you:

amplitube 4 from ik multimedia

amplitube 4 is your current version of a very popular amp simulation and effects suite. amplitube 4 can be run as a stand-alone program or as a plugin within a daw (digital audio workstation).

The following screenshot shows amplitube 4 running as a plugin inside a daw for recording purposes:

AmpliTube in DAW

You can see that this screen looks like a typical guitar amp. you can change amp models, dial in different settings, or even change the type of tubes within the amp model to suit your tastes.

amplitube 4 can also be used to configure different effects pedals, as shown below:

AmpliTube 4 review

You can select from a variety of different effects and configure a rig the way you want. simply drag the pedals to change the order and modify the settings as you would with a real pedal.

there are other functions, such as cabinet simulation, the configuration of different microphones and rooms, or even the use of rack effects.

Check out my full amplitube 4 review here to learn more about its features and how to get the most out of it.

note: it’s worth mentioning that if you buy irig hd 2 (the audio interface mentioned above), it comes with the full version of amplitube 4. so if you were planning on getting that audio interface, you’ll be able to use amplitube 4.

if you have amplitube 4, I use it in part 2 of my guitar effects course to demonstrate how to create different types of tones from scratch. While the course is not a tutorial for amplitube 4, you may find it useful to see how you can create different tones and presets.

verdict: highly recommended. i use amplitube 4 all the time for recording and the variety of options it gives you to control your amp, effects, cabinet, mic placement etc. it’s fantastic.

guitar rig 6 by native instruments

guitar rig 5 was an incredibly popular program that has always been in close competition with amplitube. you’ll likely hear other guitarists talking about it online, as many guitarists still use it today.

guitar rig 6 was finally released in late 2020 after many years of waiting. if you’re interested in experimenting with a wide range of effects and tones, guitar rig 6 is one of the best options.

Guitar Rig 6 screenshot

You can simulate authentic guitar tones just like the other options covered in this guide, but guitar rig 6 really shines when used for ambient and experimental effects.

see my guitar rig 6 review and tutorial here.

Verdict: Recommended for guitarists who want to go beyond the basic tones of a guitar amp. the routing options available in guitar rig 6 put it way ahead of other options.

positive grid fx bias

When the first bias fx was released, it blew people away with its amazing tones. bias amp software allowed you to dig deep into the components of an amp model and adjust it to a level no other software came close to.

bias fx 2 is now available and, unsurprisingly, it beats the original bias fx in terms of quality.


As you can see, bias fx 2 is easy to use as it focuses on displaying effects and amps with realistic images of real amps and pedals. If you’re familiar with popular guitar pedals, there’s no question what the green ‘screamer’ pedal or the round red fuzz pedal is based on.

if you are looking for a high quality replacement for a real guitar amp, using bias fx 2 is possibly the best option.

can be run as a standalone program or as a plugin in a daw. so you can use your computer as a guitar amp with the standalone program and if you want to record any part you can open bias fx 2 at any time.

verdict: highly recommended. Incredible quality ringtones in an easy to use interface.

native helix per line 6

helix native is a plugin based on the modeling software that made helix pedals so popular.

includes everything you’d expect from a helix plugin, like amp models, effects models, irs (discover impulse responses here), and more.

Line 6 Helix Native

As you can see from the screenshot above, line 6 has taken a very different visual approach compared to other programs in this guide. the design matches the display you see on the helix floor instead of trying to look like real pedals and amps.

This may take some getting used to, as you need to get used to moving the sliders rather than adjusting the knobs, but it’s easy to use.

The downside of helix native is that it doesn’t run standalone. you can only use it as a plugin inside a daw. so if you want to use your computer as a guitar amp, you’ll also need a daw to run helix native.

verdict: moderately recommended. the lack of a standalone version makes this unnecessarily limited and requires you to use a daw. while the quality of the effects and tones is fantastic, the interface is a bit strange and it’s not as easy to use as bias fx or guitar rig 6. helix native is significantly more expensive than bias fx 2, but for some guitarists, the extra price may be worth it.

see more guitar plugins in this guide.

how to control your effects and tones

With a typical guitar and amp, you can switch between amp or effects channels with pedals and foot controllers.

if you want to control your guitar effects and tones when running your rig through a pc, you can get the same control with a midi foot controller.

a midi foot controller simply plugs into your pc. on your daw, you can set up the foot controller to control just about anything you want.

Meloaudio MIDI Commander

These are some examples of what you can configure your foot controller to control:

  • change amp tones or presets
  • turn individual effects on and off
  • use an expression pedal for wah, volume, or whammy effects
  • use an expression pedal to dynamically change any effects preset (e.g. change delay length, gain level, chorus depth, etc.)
  • set up a footswitch to start recording or start playback of a backing track
  • trigger samples or any other plugin

being able to control any aspect of your tone and effects with your feet adds a lot to a guitar & pc rig you can do things that most traditional guitar rigs can’t.

There are many different foot controllers available, so check out this guide to the best midi foot controllers for guitar.

get great ringtones on your computer

Great guitar tones are possible using any of the software options listed above. By knowing how to configure the correct settings, you can produce professional-quality recordings from home with minimal equipment.

If you’re interested in learning how to record your guitar at home, check out this guide. explains everything from the hardware to the software in great detail.

If you are interested in recording guitar videos for youtube, check out this guide. The guide will also cover video recording along with tips and advice for best results.

If you just want to use your computer as an amp, you’ll get the best tones when you know how to adjust the perfect settings for any modeled amp or effects pedal. Read this guide on guitar amp setup to learn everything you need to know about amp setup before you start looking at different presets. is possibly the most important and popular guide I’ve ever written.

my guitar effects course walks you through all the types of effects you’ll find in a program like amplitube or bias fx, explains how to use each type of effect, and how to think about different types of tones.

The course is designed to teach you the principles of good tone and how to think about tone. if you want to learn about guitar effects and how to dial in different tones, check out the course.

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