I want to plug my electric guitar into my PC for practising. There are two goals, I want to reach:

  1. I want to practise at home over headphones, so that my neighbours are not freaking out, because of the noise
  2. I want to play to songs

So, because of (2) it is not possible to just use the headphones on my guitar amp, I need to plug-in my guitar into my computer. I have a multichannel soundcard so I would be able to listen to music and my playing at the same time over headphones then. But how can I use my effect settings?

3 Answers 3


The ubiquitous solution here is to use an external audio interface. There are plenty of cheap USB ones on the market that will provide you with inputs (anything from 1 to multiple - mine has 8 inputs), outputs (for headphones, line out, etc) and some even have an effects loop.

For your scenario, a simple one input USB interface would work just fine, and you can connect the output from your effects pedals straight into it.


If your PC headphones jack is separated from the mic/linein jack, then you can plug the guitar in the mic/linein and use a headphone directly. Nowadays, several notebooks come with just one jack for both headphones and mic/linein, so if this is the case, then you'll need an adapter to split it into two inlets (one for headphones and other for mic/linein).

After plugging them, you'll need to set the computer to playback mic audio through speakers/headphones. If you're using Windows, you can go to the Control Panel and choose Sound (or right-click the speaker icon in the system tray) and go to Recording Devices, then choose your device and click Properties, go to the "Listen" tab and choose "Listen the device" (labels may vary depending on Windows version and/or culture). You can adjust levels to the songs playback so that you can achieve the best result.

  • 1
    Plugging a guitar directly into a consumer sound card is unlikely to give useful results. The impedance is way too low, and you'll get plenty of interference. Some simple USB interface with hi-Z input is a highly advisable investment. Apr 16, 2018 at 15:08
  • OP said he wants to use his effect settings, so I'm assuming he has an effects pedal (which may also have a pre-amp), so the impedance wouldn't be an issue. Moreover, modern soundcards have their recording inputs adjustable for both mic and line-in, so it's a matter of adjusting input gain and/or levels. Of course this is not the best scenario; it would be much better to use at least a small audio mixer. But OP asked for a setup just for rehearsal, I think he's not concerned with very high audio quality. He can start trying with the cheaper option, to see if the results are enough.
    – Alexandre
    Apr 16, 2018 at 15:29

The way I practice going directly into my computer is with a guitar-jack-to-USB I got when I bought the game Rocksmith (like this one here). You can get these cables online relatively cheaply and there's little to no interference when I play/record my guitar. To hear myself, I usually just open up something like GarageBand and set up an audio track which allows me to hear what I'm playing live (more info on doing this through GarageBand here).

This works for me as I can also then play around with using different inbuilt effects if I'm going via my amp, or I can plug my guitar directly into the computer and use one of GarageBand's inbuilt amp settings. It also lets me fine-tune my audio levels so the guitar isn't too loud or so the audio track isn't drowning out my playing.

An alternative of course would be to find an audio splitter so you can have both your guitar output and music player feeding directly into your headphone cable. I tried this and it wasn't for me (as I also enjoy recording myself playing) but it is worth thinking about.

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