How I Connected My Guitar to FL Studio 12

virtual pedals

I just recently purchased my first electric guitar. It's a beginner level Yamaha ERG-121C that came along with a starter pack - basically an amp and some few accessories to get someone jamming right away. Soon however it occurred to me that the amp it came with (a 19W Yamaha GA-15), while decent enough for my amateurish needs wasn't doing much for me in terms of tone options. To top it off, I wanted to play the guitar through my computer's headphones as it's much easier that way to play along a song.

That's when it all occurred to me I could use a copy of FL Studio that I never got around to using to achieve much of this inexpensively. Basically it would act as both a "virtual" amp and an effects plug-in so that I could get a variety of real guitar tones from this axe. This is how I went about it.

STEP 1: Connecting the Guitar to the Computer

My main machine is a Dell OptiPlex 380 tower and I make use of its integrated sound card (Realtek ALC269) for all my audio needs. It has 4 audio jacks:  a mic-in and headphone port on the front and speaker (line-out) and line-in ports on the rear side. In my case I intended to connect the electric guitar on the line-in port on the back, though the mic-in would work too.

Since the line-in port measures 3.5mm, it's obviously impossible that I could connect the 6.3mm guitar cable jack directly into this port. To get around that I bought a 6.3mm female to 3.5mm male jack adapter that set me back a paltry Ksh40 (about $0.40).

The rest I think is self-explanatory. I just connected the guitar jack into the adapter and plugged it into my line-in port. Even in this rudimentary set up, the guitar's clean sound was already audible through my speakers albeit very low despite the guitar volume knob being maxed out. Increasing the line-in boost (dB) from Windows sound settings did however help. I could even mess around recording myself on Audacity using this simplistic set-up provided its input was set to line-in.

STEP 2: Connecting the Guitar in FL Studio

I'm using FL Studio 12 so that's what I'll use for this guide.

1. With your guitar connected to your computer or laptop, launch FL Studio.

2. Make sure the Mixer is visible inside FL Studio. If it's not, toggle it by pressing F9 on your keyboard or by activating it from Toolbar > View > Mixer.
activate mixer
Activate Mixer

3. On the Mixer's top right corner, you should see the Audio Input Source drop-down menu. Click it to reveal the input options. Mine lists 3 input sources as follows:

  • FL Studio ASIO - Stereo: In 1 - In 2
  • FL Studio ASIO - Mono: In 1 and In 2
input sources
Audio Input Sources

(Side note: I think it might be necessary to have installed ASIO4ALL when installing FL Studio for this to work)

4. Try every one of those input sources and find one which picks your Guitar. On mine all three do pick up the guitar but the mono ones sound a tad better compared to the stereo one.

5. For the output check beneath the slots for the Audio Output Target menu. On mine it's automatically set to the only option available there: FL Studio ASIO - Stereo: Out 1 - Out 2.
output target
Audio Output Target

STEP 3: Activating the Effect Plugins

The Guitar should now be sufficiently audible through your speakers or headphones however the sound at this point is still clean. If you want to ramp up the distortion or play around with some other fancy effects, you'll first need to activate the VST plugins as follows:

Just below the Mixer's Audio Input Source there are about 9 effects (FX) slots. Click on the first slot and that should open a pop-up menu with a huge list of effect plugins. Take your pick from those effects but if you find that task too overwhelming, I recommend starting with Hardcore. It has plenty of guitar tones presets; everything from Blues, Classic Rock, Country to some crazy distortion levels with the Death/Doom metal ones.

If you want, you can add more effects on the remaining slots and mute/activate them at will using the little green light buttons on their sides. The effect levels for the individual plugins can also be adjusted using the knobs beside the slots. Beyond these plugins, I'm guessing one can also use the generators (like the FL Slayer one) or in tandem with the plugins but I'm yet to figure that out clearly. Lastly, should you want to do some recording while playing, just use the record button in the top menu.
Record Button

So that's it. Now how about you stop reading this and go make some proper noise for your neighbours.