Treat your cable with respect and your cable will respect you
Ah yes, the humble audio/instrument cable/lead (snake of doom). Often overlooked in terms of gear but unbelievably vital. Without it you could be up that creek with no paddle to speak of – unless that is you’ve gone completely wireless in which case good for you. For the rest of us, sometimes bad things happen to good people, and one can find oneself with a broken cable at the most inopportune time.
Reasons for cable breakage
The reason for it could be as benign as the tip getting pulled off accidentally (we’ve all had that, right?). The cable has been yanked from an amp socket or guitar jack. In that instance your primary concern is the amp or instrument and definitely not the cable. The reason could even be heroic, such as using your cable to lasso a stranded animal stuck in deep water or abseiling from a burning practise room with the drummer over your shoulder (they’re not gonna save themselves are they).
However, the reason can also be down to sheer lack of knowledge. Woe betide you if it’s for coiling it wrong. You probably didn’t even know that you were, but ignorance is definitely not bliss.
Picture the scene, you’ve just travelled a ludicrous distance to play a gig in the middle of nowhere, you’re setting up for soundcheck and all is well. You go for a pre-gig scoop to settle your nerves, you head out on to the stage when called; it’s your time to shine. But wait. What is this? Your sound drops out and you haven’t a clue what’s happened. Everything was fine earlier so what’s going on? Minutes later you work out that the cracking and popping is the sound of your cable leaving this mortal coil. It has failed you.
Actually, you failed your cable. You spent all those hours winding it round your arm or tying it in knots with kinks in it and no thought to the fact that within that outer material there were little fibres fracturing and fraying to within an inch of existence.
Horror stories aside – get yourself a brew – what can you do about it?
How to properly coil a cable
When it comes to keeping your cables in good shape, you don’t have to be as skilful as the lads in the Japan Cable Winding Championship (of course it’s a thing, it’s Japan – and look at them go)!
All you need to do is understand that when you coil a cable, there is a knack to it that you can develop with correct technique.
Classic over/under technique
1. First of all, grip one end of the cable in whichever is your least dominant hand (if you’re right-handed then hold the cable end in your left hand and vice versa). The key is to have the cable facing towards you in the palm of your hand.
2. Secondly, extend your dominant hand down the lead until you have about 30cm of cable between each hand. Bring your hands together to create the first loop.
3. Now, reach for the cable with your dominant hand. However, this time your palm should be facing out, and your thumb pointing down. Rotate your dominant hand so that your thumb is pointing up and create the second loop.
4. Repeat the steps with alternating loop patterns until you’ve coiled the entire cable.
As you coil the cable, try to keep the loops uniform in size as it’ll make life easier when you’ve got stacks of them, if you want to hang them up, etc.
If you notice that there are any kinks in the cable or that a loop is starting to kick out or twist slightly, simply correct the kink by gently rotating or twisting the cable until the loop sits flat against the rest. If you’ve spent countless hours coiling or wrapping cables incorrectly, then you’re going to notice a fair few at first, but it’ll get better over time.
Get some cable ties and keep everything nice and neat.
Well done! You’ll soon be on your way to competing at the Japan Cable Winding Championships. We’re so proud of you! *wipes away the tears of joy.
New party games?
Once you’ve taught your mates how to properly coil a cable, there are two new party games for you to crack out this Summer. The first is an obvious one; who can coil the cable the quickest contest. The second is to then see who’s done it correctly, by slinging that cable out and seeing who can launch theirs the furthest. I’ll let you decide as to what would make a worthy prize. But you should definitely shame any subpar efforts. Shame them good.
If you like that, then you might like this
As part of our Gear Wisdom series, we covered the humble capo in “What is a Capo anyway?“. You should check it out, because Tom Quayle does magic things with one that will blow your tiny mind.
Get in touch
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Build up your gear knowledge with our growing “Gear Wisdom” series where so far we’ve covered:
- Why Do I Need a Guitar Stand?
- The Humble Guitar Strap
- How to Restring an Acoustic Guitar
- Cleaning Your Electric Guitar
- What is a Capo Anyway?
- A Guide To Gibson Pickups
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.