it has everything to do with your audio interface, program and gear. If you want to know about mic choice and placement let me know but for the mo ill just talk about raw tools.
If you have money to spend..
Buy a soundcard and software. you can buy USB and firewire interface soundcards if you want to be portable.
The only "real" cheapish audio software for audio recording are:
Protools LE (Digidesign)good fast and logical, not the best for midi but excellent "tape machine"
Logic Express (Apple) mac only. fast for midi. complex interface not user friendly
Cubase SX (stienburg) havn't really used. good and bad points. very affordable but not the stablest of apps.
Live (Ableton) The program for electronic or sample based performance. haven't used but should do the normal things.
on a lower level:
Acid Pro (Sony)not a big fan
Audition (Adobe)used to be cool edit and I think has changed name again
Garage Band (Apple) very easy, very fast. mac only.
Audacity (Ive forgotton) did my first recording on it!
OK hardware. I need to do a bit more homework on this but these are the two main products I know.
protools is "free" when you buy digidesign hardware i.e. mbox2 series (2 channel (with mic preamps), midi, spdif for the standard one) if you are on a budget. it is also only compatible with digidesign hardware, however you can buy an adapted program for M-Audio cards. USB interface.
M-audio cards are pci cards that come with live (cheap ones are 4 channel for audio). not sure if it does midi. Much cheaper than Mbox if you dont buy protools with it.
If this is too much effort or money, I can let you know how to record cheaply and nastily.
hope this helps.
I have had so many different answers on this subject but I thought I would give the CNET forums a shot.
What is the best way to record a live instrument (Guitar) into my PC. I know there are quite a few external usb devices that allow you to plug in a guitar and possibly a microphone but it does not seem to give much room for expansion. Example, what if I would like to add a drum machine and midi controller down the road.
I would like to record basic quality, not for demos or publishing to the web but just to share with other musicians and be able to burn to CD.
My best assumption so far would be a mixer with USB. Others have said to use a direct box and go direct into the sound card.
I would like to do this without spending several hundred dollars on a pro sound card and the smaller the better being that space is limited.
Any suggestions would be helpful