Transforming Musicians into Songwriters

Recording DI Guitar into Your DAW

Stop struggling with your memory and your recording software! How to record your electric guitar DI (direct input) to capture your best song ideas...
Recording Your Electric Guitar with Direct Input, Holding an electric guitar and patch cord

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How to record your electric DI guitar (direct input) to quickly capture your best song ideas while they’re fresh!

Don’t you hate it when you get a great idea and then fumble around trying to record it so you can remember it later?

You can record your instrumental song ideas straight to your favourite DAW faster than you think….

In this article, I’ll show you how to record your electric guitar using a DI (direct input)… from opening your DAW to starting to record in under 2 minutes.

You can watch me do it in real time on video and / or read the step by step process after the video.

Stop struggling with your memory and with your recording software!

Below the video lesson is a summary of the workflow, with bonus links to other songwriting resources to improve your songwriting and recording skills!

To Record Your Guitar Ideas You’ll Need

1. Song Idea

2. Electric Guitar (freshly tuned) and a patch cord

3. Computer with DAW already installed and a guitar amp simulator plugin

4. Audio Interface installed and connected to your DAW

5. Headphones or studio monitors

All the Steps to Record Your Guitar with a Direct Input to Your DAW

Have a Song Idea, Tune Your Guitar, Plug your guitar into your audio interface, Recording DI Guitar, Cakewalk DAW

1. Have a song idea to record

2. Retune your Guitar!

3. Plug your electric guitar into your audio interface

Press the Hi-Z button to switch from line level to instrument level (or you’ll hear nothing)

Turn on your computer, your audio interface, your speakers or headphones and open your Digital Audio Workstation, Recording DI Guitar, Cakewalk DAW

4. Turn on your computer

5. Plug your audio interface into your computer, then turn it on

6. Put on your headphones, or turn on your studio speakers

7. Open your DAW

For Cakewalk, open the app

Choose a Basic Template or your own template

Select an audio track

Set the track input to your audio interface and select the channel you plugged your guitar into

Set the track output to the master bus or guitar bus if you’re using one

Set the Guitar Level between -10dB and -15dB, Recording DI Guitar, Cakewalk DAW

8. Check your guitar level, set the volume on your guitar to 80%

Set the input level on your audio interface so your guitar is peaking at -10dB to -15dB at the loudest

Listen to the guitar tone, select the best sounding pickups

Set the tempo in your Digital Audio Workstation, Recording DI Guitar, Cakewalk DAW

9. Set the tempo for your track

Use a metronome unless you’ve already setup drum loops in your template

Set the count in to one bar

Bonus tip set the metronome to count in for a bar before recording, Recording DI Guitar, Cakewalk DAW
Record your guitar part with direct input, , Recording DI Guitar, Cakewalk DAW
Open your amplifier simulator, Recording DI Guitar, Cakewalk DAW

10. I load the amp simulator after I’ve recorded my ideas

Otherwise I get distracted playing with the guitar sound instead of recording my ideas!

If you’d rather mic your amp and record to your DAW read this article and substitute “amp” for “acoustic guitar”


You can skip the amp simulator plugin if you have a pedal board that connects directly to your computer. For example, I have a pedal board that can connect to my laptop with a USB connection. If I already have a guitar patch ready to record

If you prefer to record your guitar amplifier instead of using a DI, you can record your ideas using DI and catch the ideas quickly. Then re-record the guitar part later after you carefully set up your microphone to record the best sound from your guitar amplifier..

More Help Recording Your Songs in Your DAW

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Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff

Trevor Dimoff has taught, played and written music professionally for the last 25+ years.

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