Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

All about music, guitar, spirituality, personal development and being happy

Youtube Recording Technique for Guitar Videos



I recently posted 2 walkthrough videos showing how I do all this.  Check them out, and read this post here as well.  This is an update even more trial & error, so I hope you get something out of it!


Hey friends! After several requests, I figured I’d write this once so that it is easily accessible, and hopefully will save at least one of you some hours of frustration.

In case you’ve not met me or been introduced – my name is Adam and I am a fingerstyle acoustic guitarist. Youtube has been a blessing in so far that is has connected me with fans and other guitarists around the globe…I mean, I have walked into new countries and people say “you’re the Billie Jean guy!”

Pretty cool! This type of exposure was only formerly possible with a huge record deal. I have people in St Petersburg, Korea, France – all of whom can watch my vids seconds after an upload.

But enough about that –


Here’s what we will cover:

1) sound recording
2) video recording
3) editing
4) uploading, file formats etc


1) Sound Recording

Ok, DO NOT use the camera for sound. It will suck, period.

You’ll need a good condenser mic, and I have had the warmest results with a large diaphragm mic more suited for vocals. I would never use that (at least I think) on a record, but for a big fat mono signal it sounds good.

I have had very very good results with a Studio Projects C3. (see end of article for new updated gear)

The mic is the heart and soul of the sound you’ll get.

The software simply massages the signal. Even Garage Band is fine, once you get a good sound – so don’t sweat the software. You will need some basic audio software though.

I use Digital Performer and I get the sound into the computer with a MOTU Ultralite interface. I got pretty good at editing in DP and I find I can slice with precision more easily than in Garage Band.

I did do a few videos when I was in Europe recording with a handheld ZOOM H4. The sound was tinny, as they are different mics – but I’d like to try it with a condenser mic (you can plug one into the H4).

One option I have not checked out are usb mics. If you have software but no interface, you may want to investigate these…that way you need no inteface.

2) Video recording

Previously I recorded to DV video cassette and imported into Apple’s Imovie, but now since I have a laptop with a cam I record video with my laptop.

The downside? The footage takes up lots of space. The upside? I am more mobile – so if I travel I have my video kit, and they look pretty good.

3) Mixing & Editing Sound

I fix my mistakes in the audio. I don’t make many, but when I do, I don’t want to get into that “start again, start again, etc” in search of perfection. Well I do get into that, and it is maddening, so eventually I find the most musical take and fix small things.

Of course it’s spot edits so I don’t screw up any syncing with the vid.

Usually I will do the following to the guitar (mono)

– boost level
– add compression
– eq, usually bring up bass & treble
– add reverb

When I am done, I’ll output an .aiff file (same as .wav)

4) Imovie Work

I’ll then sync up the souped up audio with the video, totally turning off the sound that’s with the video file. This was easier in the old imovie, but I try to always push out of my comfort zone and learn new software.

As well, in imovie I will boost the audio level again. This just takes experimentation. You can check another Youtube vid and see where the level of yours would sound good.

Add titles, and the movie is done.

5) Outputting the file

There are many articles on Youtube Settings, and then of course youtube upped their limit from 100mb to a gig…so here’s how I export the file. Remember, you can output a big (less than a gig) file since their servers will do the compression & squashing of your file.

Some of my vids look better than others, as I have experimented a bit…

Here are my Imovie settings, and there may be better ones out there:

Compression: H.264
Quality: Best
Frame Rate: 30
Frame Reordering: Yes
Encoding Mode: multi-pass
Dimensions: 640 x 480
Scale: Letterbox

Format: AAC
Sample Rate: 44.100 khz
Channels (Stereo L R) – who knows, I may record in stereo someday
Bit Rate 128 kbps

Here’s what those settings and techniques yielded…Enjoy!!! If you know better than I and see a horrible mistake, please enlighten me, there is always room for improvement!

– Adam


Hey Y’all – Update. I am on the road and finding great results using.

RODE NT5 Stereo Mics
Mixing in Garage Band
And – you can output up to a 2 gig movie now for youtube

Same concept – marry the spiffed up, souped up audio with video. Check it out:


Author: Adam Rafferty

Adam Rafferty. Fingerstyle Guitarist. Recording and Concert Artist. Meditator. Philosopher. Lover of Groove.

24 thoughts on “Youtube Recording Technique for Guitar Videos

  1. We are on the same page Adam, philosphically, more or less. I’m happy to just go plugged in via my built in guitar piezo/condenser combination, with a video feed from a webcam, but once the video is done (complete with mistakes) I also further mangle it. After I’ve done a take that I was more or less happy with, I push off the audio into a file, do a quick review, then with multitracking software play over the parts that I was particularly unhappy with. The beauty is that even if you plucked a wrong note here and there, once you’ve punched in a fix, nobody will ever notice that your fingers don’t line up with the audio 😉

    I’ve found it’s important to do the punching in immediately while you have the same audio config running; if you do it the next day you’ll never get the same sound and the punching will be obvious.

    I wrote an article about making a video for youtube a while back, I’ll pop in a link if I’m allowed because it is on topic – I don’t need to advertise on your blog, really! 😉 I should update it/simplify it, but I’ve found that the people who understand what I’m talking about are already doing something similar; and the people who are just feeding straight into a camera won’t understand in the first place anyhow…

    Good topic!

    Oh – you forgot to mention, “Make sure your lighting is good, the angle of video recording is appropriate, you aren’t cutting your head or part of the guitar off, and your backdrop is not detracting from your performance. Wear something nice – or at least clean – and try to look like you are enjoying yourself. Solo guitartistry is not just about listening to a performance, it is about watching a performance.”


  2. Hey, thanks for adding to the information here! Yes to the lights, backdrop and attitude 🙂

  3. Many thanks Adam (and JAW too) for the tips. I just do this as a hobby with leangthy spells between recordings so it really helps to hear what others are doing.
    Cheers, Doobie

  4. Hey Adam, thanks for the info. I will put them to use as I start recording my songs and uploading them.

    For the past 10 years I have been a Lighting Designer in the pro entertainment industry and will be putting out “Lighting Techniques For YouTube Guitarists” soon.

    After watching countless videos, there is also much lacking in the way of Lighting. Do you think your readers would be interested in this information?

    Kenny Green, LUMINA

  5. Hey Y’all – Update. I am on the road and finding great results using.

    RODE NT5 Stereo Mics
    ZOOM H4
    Mixing in Garage Band

    Same concept – marry the spiffed up, souped up audio with video. Check it out:

    – Adam

  6. Really enjoyed the Michael Jackson Covers!

    Check out my cover of the BEAT IT GUITAR SOLO
    when you get a chance

  7. yep great method .
    Till now I was using

  8. Adam,

    Great work. Thanks for the tips.

    One question though: How exactly are you syncing up your audio with iMovie? Are you just laying it in the iMovie timeline and doing your best to match it to the video… or are you actually locking it to time code somehow?

    Thanks for any help.

  9. In iMovie 08 & 09 (I just got ’09) you can drag the aif file in underneath the movie and nudge it until it looks righ, so no fancy time code used….just eyes and ears!

    – AR

  10. I bought Cubase Le4 and some hardware at guitar center thinking it would work well in the process you describe. So far, I am desparately pissed off by it. Have you tried this software? Is it worth all the time required to figure out? Or shoud I just buy a video cam w/ a mic input?

  11. No idea about cubase at all. The only 2 pieces of software you need to use are for simple audio mixing thing plus making the movie.

    I am now using a flip cam + zoom h4, then making the mix in Garage band, then movie in Imovie. Easy as pie.

    I’d steer away from anything with a huge learning curve unless I planned to build my “life” around the software. Dumb ol’ Garageband does what I need…I don’t need to learn logic, or any other heavweight package for making vids….

    Thanks for posting.


  12. Hi Adam

    So I just moved onto Cubase Ai 4. This came with my new Yamaha desk. Its taken a while to learn but thats because the people how design these things arent musicians. Anyway Im using it with mainly a Rode NT1 mic and getting good results so far. Learing to position the mic is so important and it has the biggest effect on your sound.
    For gigging ive been using a little Edirl UA 5 usb interface and this works well for live recording.
    For the video im using Windows movie maker. Simply because its easy to use.
    Next is to make a visually good and interesting video as Im impressed by the work Jimi Wahlsten has done with his acoustic tracks.
    I suppose i feel that if youve gone to effort of writing an original piece then make it stand out by putting some effort into the video. So thats my next adventure.

    Keep making great music

  13. I would recommend Ableton Live for home recording yourself on the guitar. Unlike Cubase it’s really easy to get started with and the workflow of recording and arranging is just way more ‘musician friendly’.

  14. Hello Adam,

    Congratulations, you’re a great player.

    I was wondering, do you have any tips for getting more views on you tube.


  15. I have that same MOTU interface, never had a problem with it.

  16. thanks for the tips on recording the sound,im not that good at the hole audio thingee but this has help alot and will help with my recording in the future.

    thanks 😉

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  18. Hey Adam,
    Just for my clarification, do you use the following to record a youtube video:
    RODE NT5 Stereo Mics
    Flip UltraHD camcorder
    ZOOM H4
    Mixing in Garage Band

    Or do you only use the flip cam and H4 (plus software)?

    I have a limited budget and trying to figure out the best way to create a quality acoustic guitar video. I have the Zoom H4 and Garage Band and Imovie. I need a camcorder and its between Flip and Kodak. And it looks like I need a quality microphone, I definitely can’t afford two RODEs. Any tips on doing this on a budget? Did you compare the Flip to the Kodak Zi8?
    Thanks in advance for your time replying to my inquiries,

    • Quinn

      Good news…I started using one line DIRECT, one mic. So – plug into the H4 from your guitar out and record one mic. Mix & blend the 2.

      Filp is out of business….get something else! I bet the new iPhone is better!

      Yes, I only use camera & recorder – compute comes later…(most of the time)

      – AR

  19. Heelo good people,

    Excuse my greenness but I’m a total noobie. I just want to confirm the order of things here. So the first step is to make your movie using mic and interface for audio, After that you export your audio track to some kind of sound editing software for detailing. Is this right? Thanks a lot:)

  20. Pingback: How To Record Guitar For Youtube Videos « Adam Rafferty – Guitar and Spirit

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  22. Hey brother glad I found your site today your music is awesome…I write n play a lot but am frusteated that I can’t find the right set up for youtube recording..anyway u could make Instructioanl video..step by step..that would be soooooo greatfuly appreiciated. My cell isn’t gonna cut it anymanymore..thnx bro

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