15 Simple Tips for Recording Professional Guitar Videos for YouTube
If you’re a musician who just started making guitar videos on YouTube, you’ve probably noticed that it can be really difficult to gain any traction on the platform.
Have you ever wondered why you’re videos just never seem to take off? No views, shares, subscribers, etc.
Well trust me, you’re not alone.
In today’s market, YouTube is extremely saturated, whether you’re making original music, guitar covers, or instructional videos. Having skills with the instrument simply isn’t enough these days. With the growth of YouTube over the years, people have come to expect very high-quality productions.
So if your goal is to be successful on YouTube, you’re going to have to elevate your guitar videos to the next level.
Fortunately, making professional YouTube guitar videos isn’t as difficult as you might think. And it doesn’t need to cost a lot of money either. Home studio recording has improved drastically over the years, so it’s completely possible to create professional-quality videos on a budget.
Now I’m no Hollywood music video producer by any means, but I have learned a lot over the years from making guitar cover videos. And if you want to see an example, here’s one of the guitar covers I just recently made.
In this post, I’ll be sharing 15 simple tips for making professional guitar videos for YouTube.
1. Sound Quality Should Be Your Priority
Now, this may sound like a no-brainer, but here’s the deal.
If someone is watching a guitar video on YouTube, the main reason is to listen to music.
So obviously, the audio quality is important.
It doesn’t matter how stunning your video looks. If the audio quality is bad, then no one will watch your video.
The following 5 tips will be geared toward getting the best guitar sound recording possible to help achieve professional recording studio level.
2. Never Use Your Camera Microphone to Record Sound
Do not use your camera microphone to record your guitar. EVER. I cannot stress this point enough.
Nothing is worse than watching a guitar cover video where the player has their guitar plugged into an amp, has the song that they’re playing along to on their computer speakers, and tries to capture both at one time with their camera microphone
The audio quality coming directly from your camera is not good. Plain and simple.
These microphones are not mean to capture music. They’re typically positioned too far away from the source (your guitar) to capture a crisp sound.
Built-in camera microphones also pick up a lot of background noise. This will cause a lot of problems when you go to mix your guitar tracks with the backing track. The white noise will especially be noticeable if you are recording multiple guitar tracks.
Use a Dynamic or Condenser Microphone Instead
Instead, you should definitely invest in a dynamic or condenser microphone that is specifically made for recording music. These microphones don’t pick up any background noise. You can position it right on your amplifier or next to the guitar if it’s an acoustic guitar.
The price for these microphones can vary greatly based on the quality, but there are definitely some amazing budget options to choose from. One of the best budget dynamic microphones for recording guitar that I typically recommend is the Shure SM-57. The audio quality of from this microphone absolutely amazing and for the price you really can’t beat it. Check it out on Amazon.
3. Use an Audio Interface for Electric Guitar Recording
If you’re recording an electric guitar, I would highly suggest investing in an audio interface.
An audio interface is basically a device that lets you plug your electric guitar directly into your computer for recording. This completely eliminates the need for fancy microphones.
And since you’re capturing the direct input signal from your electric guitar right into your computer, the audio quality is as clear as it gets and the recording process is a breeze.
Audio Interface Recommendations
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is one of the best audio interfaces for beginners who want to get started recording music from home. Excellent build quality, plug and play setup, and industry leading pre-amps.
There are hundreds of different audio interfaces to choose from, and their prices can range from $50 all the way up to $1000. The audio interface that I would recommend for any beginner is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo. It’s dead simple to use (plugs into your computer with USB), sounds great, has amazing build quality, a most importantly, is affordable. I have used this audio interface as my main driver for over 6 years with no problems. If you’re interested, you can check it out on Amazon.
Use Amp Simulator VST Plugins with Your Audio Interface
Using an audio interface also eliminates the need of using amplifiers and effects pedals.
Instead, you can completely replace them with software VST plugins.
A VST plugin is basically software that will act as an Amplifier Simulator, allowing you to get your guitar tone. There hundreds to choose from with free and paid versions available. There are amp simulators out there for virtually any type of amp you can think of as well as effects pedals.
VST Plugin Recommendations
My favorite VST plugin that I use for all my guitar covers on YouTube is Bias FX is a complete all-in-one solution for your guitar tones, allowing you to simulate entire rigs that would cost over $10,000 to create in real life. It even has a version on iOS if you want to plug your guitar into your Apple device. It’s a great value for the money, and they also offer a free demo, so be sure to check that out.
4. Play Along to a High-Quality Backing Track
If you want your guitar videos on YouTube to be professional, it needs to be a full song that someone would actually listen to.
Remember, people watch guitar cover videos on YouTube to listen to the music. No one wants to listen to just the lead guitar.
You need to create a full musical experience with drums, bass guitar, rhythm guitars, and vocals.
Since you most likely don’t play all of those instruments, you can just find a high-quality backing track, and play along to it. There are plenty of sites out there that offer high-quality backing tracks for practically any song you can think of.
5. Use a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
A digital audio workstation, or DAW, is essentially editing software for music. Using a DAW is necessary when creating music because it allows you to record and mix multiple different audio tracks into a professional song.
In this case, you’ll probably just be dropping your backing track into your DAW, and recording one, or more guitar tracks over it.
If you’re using VST plugins for your guitar tones, as mentioned in the previous tip, it’ll integrate directly with your DAW so you can record.
In your DAW, you’ll be able to adjust audio levels for each track, fix any sync issues, and apply different types of effects.
Digital Audio Workstations may seem intimidating at first due to the overwhelming amount of features and configurations, but in the case that you’re just playing over a backing track, it’s really not that bad.
What’s the Best DAW for Beginners?
In terms of which DAW to use, there are hundreds of free and paid options. If you’re a complete beginner, I’d recommend Audacity. It’s free, very simple to use, and available on PC and Mac.
Though it may be limited in the features department, it’ll allow you to drop your backing track, record guitar, and apply your VST Plugins.
If you’re using a Mac, GarageBand is the best free option. It’s user-friendly and has all of the features you can think of.
If you want a step up from these free options, I would recommend using Cockos Reaper. This is my personal favorite. It is professional-grade software that is feature-rich, easy to use, and inexpensive. You can try it free for 60 days, and it only costs $60 after so download it from their site.
If you’re just getting started making guitar videos, you really won’t need all the features of the more premium digital audio workstations like Logic Pro, Pro Tools, or Cubase. These are really meant for professionals and can be quite overwhelming with features that you’ll never even use. They also cost a fortune, so I’d avoid these unless you’re an experienced music creator.
6. Learn How to Mix and Master Your Music
Learning how to mix and master is what will give your music that professional studio quality. However, for our purposes, we really don’t need to go overboard, as a little goes a long way.
You should at least dabble in basic compression and EQ techniques.
Having a good mix will allow your guitar playing to stand out in the backing track.
Mastering your mix will give your song the maximum level of loudness, without any clipping.
As I said, you don’t need to go too crazy here. Since you’re playing to a backing track, you’ll likely only have 2 or 3 tracks that you’ll need to mix together.
If you don’t want to invest the time learning how to mix and master, you could just outsource this to someone else. With websites like Fiverr, you can pay a freelancer to mix and master for you for pretty cheap. Price varies from person to person, but you should expect to pay anywhere from $5-$25 per song. Just be sure to check out their reviews before you buy.
7. Create Your Guitar Videos with High Production Value
If you want to increase the chances of your guitar video being successful on YouTube, the production value is important. As YouTube has grown over the years, people have come to expect higher quality videos.
If you expect people to watch your guitar video, you need to give them a reason to.
Just think about it. Why would someone watch a music video rather than just listening to the song on Spotify or iTunes?
Your video needs to be interesting, visually appealing, and create a pleasurable experience that enhances the music.
Here are some simple tips to drastically improve the production value of your guitar video for YouTube.
8. Use a High-Quality Video Camera
Notice that I said to use a “high quality” video camera, not necessarily an expensive one.
Nowadays, it’s pretty easy to find a camera with amazing video quality that fits practically any budget. You can find amazing DSLR and mirrorless cameras on the market at very affordable prices.
You can even look to save a few bucks by purchasing used or looking for older camera models. For DSLR cameras, new models are released basically every year, but the upgrades each year are minimal. For example, you can save a few hundred bucks by purchasing a Canon T6i instead of a Canon T7i, and you’ll hardly notice the difference.
Even smartphone cameras are capable of producing high-quality 4K footage, which is more than enough for your YouTube guitar videos.
However, if you’re using a smartphone camera, be sure you have very good lighting. Camera sensors obviously need to be small to fit inside the phone, so they typically don’t take in as much light as DSLR camera.
My camera of choice that I use is the Panasonic G7. I absolutely love it. Without a doubt, it’s the best value for a 4K mirrorless camera on the market. You’d be hard-pressed to even find any other 4K cameras in its price range. The video quality is amazing, and you have the flexibility to swap out lenses if you’d like.
It also has some amazing features that make filming your guitar videos much more convenient. For example, it has Wi-Fi functionality, which allows you to see your camera viewfinder on your tablet or smartphone. This really comes in handy when you’re recording guitar covers because you can easily film yourself with the camera positioned far away, and still be able to keep your shot in focus remotely.
If you’re interested, you can check out the Panasonic G7 on Amazon.
9. Proper Video Lighting is Key
Having a well-lit scene is often overlooked, but even more important than your video camera itself.
Like I mentioned before, all cameras these days are at least decent, assuming there is proper lighting.
It doesn’t matter how good your video camera is if you don’t have sufficient lighting. Even a $2000 DSLR will look terrible in poor lighting conditions.
This sentiment especially holds true if you’re filming guitar videos with your smartphone.
Avoid filming your video with indoor overhead lights as it will result in a grainy video with poor coloring.
Consider filming your video outside in overcast. This way you can take advantage of the natural lighting, which is the best type of light; and it’s free.
If you can’t film outdoors, you can always invest in a studio lighting kit. These will emit soft light that doesn’t produce harsh shadows.
The best part is that decent beginner studio lighting kits are very affordable, costing under $50. The kit that I typically recommend to people starting out is the LimoStudio Umbrella Lighting Kit. It comes with everything you need in the box including light bulbs, stands, and umbrellas for diffusion.
10. Make Sure Your Background Scenery is Interesting
One of the best ways to improve the production value of your guitar video is to choose an aesthetically pleasing background.
Try selecting a background that matches the tone of the music you’re playing. For example, if you’re playing a really relaxing song, you could try filming outside at a park, or near a lake. Another benefit of filming guitar videos outside is that you have access to natural lighting.
If you’re going to be recording indoors, try to avoid showing your messy bedroom in the frame. It’s not very interesting, and can actually be distracting.
Find as wide open of a space as you possibly can. If you’re using a DSLR camera, you can try adding a shallow depth of field effect to blur out the background.
Use a Backdrop or Green Screen
If you have limited space, you could also set up a backdrop behind you. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It could just be a black bed sheet that you hang up on a wall behind you.
If you look in my guitar cover below, I set up a black sheet behind me and set up a couple of clamp lights facing the camera. Since the lights are out of focus, it gives it a really nice look. The best part is that this setup only cost me about $20.
You could also consider investing in a green screen. A green screen is a really convenient way to change your background to whatever you want.
All you need is a green sheet and you’ll be able to change your background in your video editing software. Another convenient solution is to get a folding green screen. It’s easy to set up, doesn’t take up much space, and easily folds up when you’re done using it. You can find one on Amazon for about $40.
11. Use a Tripod
This is a simple one. Using a tripod will give you control over your camera angles. This allows you to make sure you have everything you want in the frame.
You don’t need anything fancy. I’ve been using the same $30 tripod that I bought at Wal-Mart for the past 8 years with no problems.
This also applies if you’re using a smartphone. Most people filming with a smartphone are more inclined to just prop up their phone on their table. This is extremely limiting and does not give the flexibility to experiment with different angles. It makes it obvious that you’re using a smartphone and takes away from the production value.
If you already have a tripod, you can purchase a cheap phone mount that works with any standard tripod.
A solid tripod that I would recommend is the Regetek Travel Camera Tripod. It’s an affordable option that’s simple and reliable. It also includes a phone mount in the box. You can find it on Amazon for under $40.
12. Film Multiple Camera Angles
One of the best ways to increase the production value of your YouTube guitar video is to film yourself (and your guitar) with many different camera angles.
If you look at any professional music video, it likely won’t stay in the same scene for more than a few seconds before cutting to a different scene/camera angle.
The goal basically to replicate this in your guitar video to make it more visually appealing, and to keep the audience’s attention.
If you keep the same front-facing camera angle throughout your entire video, viewers will likely lose interest after a few minutes and leave.
How to Film Multiple Camera Angles
Just to preface this, you do NOT need multiple video cameras.
Remember, you’re filming a music video, not a live performance.
The best way to approach this is to create your “studio audio recording” of your song first.
Then, when you go to film, “lip-sync” to the audio by filming yourself playing along to the song exactly as you would as if you were performing it live.
Film multiple takes of yourself playing through the full song at different camera angles.
You can then import all of the different takes into your video editing software, sync them together in multiple tracks, and then simply cut the videos in your timeline to show all of the different camera angles.
You can see in the image below that I have recorded multiple tracks and dropped them into my editing software so I can shift angles by cutting all of the scenes that I’m not using at a particular time.
13. Make Sure Video and Audio Are Perfectly in Sync
Since you’ll likely be recording your video and audio separately, they MUST be in sync with your final creation.
If someone clicks on your video and see that your audio and video are de-synced, they’ll leave immediately.
A great way to make sure video and audio are in sync is to play the song out loud through speakers while you’re filming. You can then capture that audio through your video camera microphone to help sync it to your “studio recording” in the video editing process.
Just remember to mute the camera audio in your editing software before you export your final project so only your “studio recording” is audible.
14. A Little Color Correction Goes a Long Way
Color-correction can give your guitar videos more of a cinematic effect, which makes it look a lot more professional.
Adding just a little bit of color correction can make the difference between your looking like a professional music video rather than a home movie.
I’m no expert when it comes to professional color correction, but for our purposes, it’s not too difficult to make some basic adjustments.
You can do basic color correction right in most video editing programs. Just look for “color curve” and “color correction” tools.
I’d recommend just making some minor tweaks to contrast, saturation, and brightness to make your video pop out.
You can also mess around with adding colors to make the video warmer/ cooler to match the tone of your music video.
Just play around with it and see what looks visually appealing your eye. Remember, when it comes to color correction, you can’t be wrong. It’s just a matter of personal preference, just play around with it.
In my videos, I normally like to add a little contrast and brightness as well as add some blue tones. I also try to make the blacks as dark as possible so the background disappears. Doing this makes it you can’t even notice that I’m using a black sheet as my backdrop.
15. Rock out like You’re Giving a Performance
If you want your video to be interesting, you have to have energy. Just think about it as if you were at a live concert. People don’t just come to watch music, but rather for the experience. People feed off of the energy of the performer.
Imagine how boring it would be if a live performer just awkwardly stood in the middle of the stage looking down at his guitar while he plays.
The concept applies to your guitar video for YouTube.
Here’s the deal.
I completely understand how awkward it can feel to rock out and headbang while you’re in your house alone or even worse when you’re out in public. This is especially true if you’re new, and not yet comfortable in front of a camera.
And I suffered from this in my older videos as well.
Regardless, if you want people to watch your guitar videos, you need to entertain them.
If you don’t look like you’re interested in your own video, then how can you possibly expect your audience to be interested?
While you’re performing your song in your video, move your body to the rhythm of the song. You really need to feel every single note you’re playing, and express that to the audience.
Don’t just look down at the fretboard and play because no one wants to see that.
I hope you all enjoyed this article. As I said, I’m no Hollywood Producer, but I have learned a few things over the years I’ve been making guitar videos on YouTube. Hopefully, you picked up at least a few tips that you can apply to your own guitar videos. For more guitar filming and recording advice, be sure to check out our other resources.