Objective. While the positive correlation between impedance and noise of microelectrodes is well known, their quantitative relationship is too rarely described. Knowledge of this relationship provides useful information for both microsystems engineers and electrophysiologists. Approach. We discuss the physical basis of noise in recordings with microelectrodes, and compare measurements of impedance spectra to noise of microelectrodes. Main results. Microelectrode recordings intrinsically include thermal noise, vt = [4kBT´Re(Z)df]1/2, with the real component of impedance integrated over the recording frequency band. Impedance spectroscopy allows the quantitative prediction of thermal noise. Optimization of microelectrode noise should also consider the contribution of amplifier noise. These measures enable a quantitative evaluation of microelectrodes’ recording quality which is more informative than common but limited comparisons based on the impedance magnitude at 1 kHz. Significance. Improved understanding of the origin of microelectrode noise will support efforts to produce smaller yet low noise microelectrodes, capable of recording from higher numbers of neurons. This tutorial is relevant for single microelectrodes, tetrodes, neural probes and microelectrode arrays, whether used in vitro or in vivo.