If you have a MacBook, an electric guitar, and some basic accessories, you can start recording guitar. This guide will show you how to connect guitar to MacBook – and don’t worry, it is super simple…
When it comes to home recording, things have progressed massively in the last decade or two. Not so long ago, the idea of home recording was a pipe dream for non-professional musicians.
You needed expensive software, lots of hardware, and expert knowledge. In 2021, this is no longer the case – you can now easily record at home, thanks to the availability of cheap and in some cases free recording software.
From Garage Band, which comes pre-installed on your MacBook and iPhone, to things like Reaper and Pro Tools, you have plenty of options when it comes to recording software.
And if you just want the basics, you don’t have to spend a penny – Garage Band is completely free. But you still need a way to connect your guitar to your MacBook, so let’s see how that is done.
How Do I Plug My Electric Guitar Into My MacBook?
It might seem complicated, getting a signal from your guitar into some software on your MacBook, but it is actually really simple. All you need is a USB audio interface . This is what makes it all possible.
There are MANY USB audio interfaces available. They all range in price, although you don’t really want to bother with 90% of them – they’re just cheap, ineffective devices that sound terrible.
In this respect, “cheap” is not good.
With a cheap USB audio interface, you’ll get noise on the track, crackling, and audio dropouts.
You will also experience connectivity issues and if that wasn’t enough, the components inside a cheap USB audio interface are not up to the task.
They work, in theory, but the sound quality you get from them is terrible; this is not us being picky either.
If you want to record professional-sounding guitars on your MacBook, you need a suitable and well-respected USB audio interface.
Best USB Audio Interface?
Me personally? I’ve used a bunch over the years. But my current favorite right now is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo (the third-generation model) – it retails for just over $100.
For me, this is the best value, best-sounding USB audio interface on the market.
And the good news is you don’t have to pay the earth for one – you can pick one up for less than $100/£100 in most places. And for that, you’re getting access to professional sounding recordings, free from latency, noise, and crackling.
Why The Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen) Is Worth It
Before we get into the INS and OUTS of connecting your guitar to your MacBook, let’s first talk about why you should buy the Focusrite Scarlett Solo over the myriad other options available on the market right now.
The first (and simplest) reason is that it works great, allowing you to create professional-sounding guitar. And that’s what you want, right? Studio-grade sound quality without the headaches of running an actual studio.
The second is that it is cheap (it is around $100) and that is excellent value for money, especially when you consider that other USB audio interfaces retail for north of $200 and $300 like the SSL 2+ 2-IN / 4-OUT USB Audio Interface.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Gen) Features
With the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, you have two inputs, so you can record guitar and bass at the same time, or vocals. It also has a high impedance, high-headroom instrument input that lets you record guitar or bass direct without any clipping or unwanted distortion.
This is especially cool if you’re using guitar plugins or VSTs; you get the cleanest possible signal, free from noise or any interference, and this, in turn, makes your guitar – once it is hooked up to a plugin like BIAS FX 2 – sound even better.
Tried home recording before, only to be bum-rushed by humming and noise on the track? The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is designed to run hum-free, so you can run your guitar direct into your MacBook and then output through monitors or headphones without any hum or noise on the track.
And if that wasn’t enough to whet your whistle, Focusrite even bundles free version of Ableton and Pro Tools with every Focusrite Scarlett Solo, so if you want something more professional than Garage Band, you have access to two of the best home recording software programs on the market.
How To Set Up Audio Interface on MacBook
Connecting your guitar to your MacBook is simple enough, especially when you have a USB audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
Here’s how you connect the Focusrite Scarlett Solo to your MacBook.
- Take The Focusrite Scarlett Solo and the provided USB cable, connect the USB to the rear of the Focusrite Scarlett Solo and the other to a USB port on your MacBook
- Your Mac will automatically recognise the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
- If you’re using a DAW – Ableton, Cubase, Reaper, or Pro Tools – go to the Settings Menu and look for Audio Input options. Your Mac should automatically recognise the input, however, so only do this step if it doesn’t show up.
- Once everything is connected, you should see a signal inside your DAW whenever you hit a string. Now all you have to do is get your tone dialled in and start recording some riffs.
As I noted in the introduction to this post, setting up the Focusrite Scarlett Solo is immensely simple. Your MacBook – in most cases – will do all the hard work for you.
All you have to do is connect the Focusrite Scarlett Solo to your MacBook via the provided USB cable, and then connect your guitar and start playing.
You will need a DAW to record, however, and I would use either Pro Tools or Ableton that comes with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
If you don’t want to use these, or you’re using a different audio interface, just use Garage Band – it is a great piece of software that is simple to use and is actually used by plenty of professional musicians to demo and jot down ideas for new songs.
You also get a bunch of additional effects and software plugins with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo too, so you can use these to help you develop your tone.
I would also strongly recommend you get yourself a guitar plugin like BIAS FX 2 as well – this will give you access to thousands of amp profiles, effects, and loads of other cool stuff.
Or, if you don’t want to spend money on BIAS FX 2, you could try one of these awesome free guitar plugins – we recently tested a bunch and was very surprised by how good they actually were!
As you can see, connecting your electric guitar to your MacBook is pretty darn simple. You don’t need any hardware, save for the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, and with free or paid for guitar plugins you don’t need any pedals or effects either.
Literally everything can be done from your MacBook.
This means, when it comes to recording, you can essentially create professional-sounding guitar and bass with little to no investment on physical hardware like amps, pedals, and the like.
Some bands even use laptops live now, and just plug direct into the PA system, negating the need for mountains of amplifiers and effects pedals.
For home recording, this little piece of kit is essential. It makes connecting your guitar to your PC or Mac a complete cinch. The setup is simple, there's zero lag, and the quality is studio-grade, meaning you can demo, record, and start creating today.
You can even use the Focusrite Scarlett Solo for recording acoustic guitar and vocals too – you’ll just need a decent condenser microphone.
With this tool, and a bit of imagination, you can basically turn your MacBook into a fully-fledged recording studio. And best of all you can do ALL of the above for less than $100.
Not too shabby, right?
The latest and best gear we recommend right now…
Spark Amp – The amp itself is brilliant, coming with a bunch of great tones and plenty of power with its 50W speaker. But the real magic happens when it is paired with your phone, opening up access to thousands of effects and tones that you can customize to your exact specifications. And best of all? It’s not even that expensive either.
BIAS FX 2 – If you want to run your guitar through your PC or Mac, BIAS FX 2 is one of the best ways to develop and create amazing-sounding tones. BIAS FX is an amp and effects simulator and it is one of the best in the business. Inexpensive and perfect for jamming and recording, BIAS FX 2 is one of my favorite amp sims for Mac and PC.
Fender Mustang Micro – The Fender Mustang Micro is a small gizmo that plugs directly into your guitar’s jack. You then plug in some headphones and can switch between 12 of Fender’s Mustang amp, complete with effects and modification options. It doesn’t have any wires, it will fit in your pocket, and it even doubles as a USB audio interface too. It is one of the coolest things I’ve tested all year.
Fender Play – Learning guitar can be hard. It takes forever, seemingly, and progress is slow. But if you take a focussed approach with learning the basics and even more advanced stuff, you’ll develop much quicker. That’s why we love Fender Play; it has over 3,000 lessons and everything a beginner player needs. You can also get a free trial right now too – so you have literally nothing to lose!