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I have an electric guitar and an m-audio preamp-usb and would like to use my laptop to record music as well as listen to what I am playing. I would also like to use it as an effects processor. Ι have an amp but no effects or overdrive.

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what operating system are you running? –  seanreads Jan 8 at 14:30
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3 Answers

You need amp emulator software.

Guitar Rig is one well known example. You can download a demo version for free.

Whatever software you get, it will come with detailed instructions. Your USB audio interface also has detailed instructions. It may well have come with some demo software.

To record, you need a digital audio workstation. Examples of these for PC include Cubase and Ableton Live.

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if you wish to use your computer as an "effects pedal", I recommend IK Multimedia's Amplitube 3 - it has an extensive array of effects and amplifiers with all kinds of crazy and fun tones to mess around with. Theres a ton of effects, so I recommend you check it out. It is a bit pricey though ($199 for the standard edition). If I were you, I would download the Amplitube CustomShop, which is basically a free demo version of the full software.

When it comes to setting it up, I keep it simple. I like to run the headphones jack of my computer into my amplifier, with Amplitube running on said laptop (ofcourse).

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Audacity seems working well as general purpose recorder / sound editor. It can also do some sound effects (while surely not as much as dedicated commercial tools) and even has a programming language to design new sound effects. Audacity is free and has Windows and Linux ports.

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Audacity is a great free program. But unless there are recent improvements I haven't encountered yet, its effects are limited to being applied after a track has been recorded. –  slim Jan 8 at 13:30
This is correct and probably not very suitable for performing "in front of public". It may be more for preparing records ... –  Audrius Meškauskas Jan 8 at 15:16
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