we should make a newbie FAQ for the commonly asked questions on the board. i'll start with some questions i had when starting out.
1. what do i need to record guitar and vocals?
--- you need a computer w/soundcard. the soundcard must have a line in and/or a mic in plug. you can plug in the guitar via a 1/4"--->1/8" adapter for most generic soundcards. for higher quality, you'd need to use the line in. you would need a preamp because a guitar won't work straight into the line in.
2. what's a decent sound card, preamp, mic..etc.???
work with what ever you have, but when you do need to upgrade...
M-Audio Audiophile 2496 150 bucks PCI interface
--- there are other more expensive soundcards, but for the upgrading newbie, this is the perfect card. two inputs, two outs, SPDIF, MIDI. RCA inputs and outputs, so you'd need 1/4" - RCA adapter cables to use w/an audiobuddy or 1/4" equipped preamp.
M-Audio Audio Buddy 80 bucks
--- again, there are better preamps for more money, but for a newbie used to a tape recorder or whatever, this is quite the jump. two inputs, phantom power, 1/4 and XLR . 1/4" outs.
---- cheapest recroding program is N-track. it's like 50 bucks or something. other options include Home Studio 2004, Cool Edit Pro, etc. software can be pricey...
--- SM57. this is he most versatile mic ever. everyone should have one. you can record everything with this. for a condensor, the SP B1 is apparently a very good deal. both mics are around 80 bucks.
please add to this FAQ and help all the newbies! i was there, and it can be very confusing.