If you are like me, or anything like any famous or non famous electric guitar player who has ever existed, than you spend most of the time playing your guitar in motion. Whether it is jumping around, dancing, or simply moving from one side of the stage to the other, you are constantly moving. Why do we do it? Mostly for the purpose of engaging the audience in our music while we move. Or it also could be because its way more fun to keep playing guitar while on the move, makes you feel cooler. To tell you a secret, it also helps me not fall asleep if I am tired or otherwise prone to falling asleep. What I don’t usually think of in those moments is the fact that the guitar wire is being worn down.
We’ve all been there. You have spent weeks playing your guitar, without issue, and then, all of a sudden, at the most important moment, such as a gig or whatever, you end up not being able to make a sound out of your guitar. You fiddle with the amp for a little, push a few buttons, then you go fiddle with the guitar, mess around with the knobs. You find nothing. Your look, full of dread and fear, lands on the wire connecting your guitar to the amp, and you let out a trembling sigh. Oh no. It has happened. You have torn the wire and you have no backup wire.
If you are anything like me, you end up standing on your knees, crying, because there is no way out of the situation. Then you will start fiddling with your wire until you either break it completely or accidentally end up finding a position for the wire that lets the sound get through. Then you will cry some more because you have no way of keeping it in the position.
So here is the smarter me that has learned his lesson trying to help you out with some tips on wire maintenance to keep you from being knocked to your knees, crying.
Tip 1 – Don’t Save on Cables
The fist tip is probably the simplest and yet the most annoying one. It is the tip that will eventually get me slapped and told off for my privilege of having a few extra bucks in my pocket. To be honest I don’t have any extra bucks in my pockets, I just have learned, since my young years, that it is important to not save money on important guitar items such as guitar wires.
You see, an expensive wire is more resistant to wear and tear, and much less likely to break after being used for a long time. The extra buck is definitely worth the extra months you are going to get out of your wire.
If expensive is not something you want to deal with, then try to pick up a wire with a fabric based protection, instead of wire. The fabric bends easier, does not twist up, and results in the inner wiring having a longer life, unless you start pulling and jerking on it like its the last thing that can save you in the world. It won’t. Neither will it save the wire, and the result will be either noise or just utter, devastating silence.
Tip 2 – Stay Put
This second tip is detrimental to the psychology of every single guitar player who has ever lived, and yet it is possibly the most useful tip out there. The more you move, jerk and otherwise dance, the more likely the wire is to get worn out. So, the best thing to do, is to stay put. Now I understand how hard it might be for you to deal with this, and it was hard for me too, so I am going to keep this vague and not keep talking about it too much.
Though bear with me for a second: the wiring inside the cable is what gets worn out and damaged over time. The more you pull on your cable, bend it and walk on it, the more worn out the wire gets. The best way to keep this from happening is to try and not put extreme pressure on the cable.
The most vulnerable parts of the cables are at the joints, where the tips and the cables are joined together. These break very often because of the musicians accidentally yanking on them. Be careful to pay attention to the joints so that you don’t yank on them and put a whole lot of pressure on them. This will allow the cable to live a long, useful and annoyance free life.
Tip 3 – Maintenance
Maintenance is probably the most important and the most often forgotten part of keeping your cables in tact. The problem with maintenance is that it can be boring, annoying and often time so easy to dismiss. I mean what could happen if you don’t do all of the little things today? You still do them every other day, so the wire should be fine. What could happen is that you could fall into the habit of disregarding maintenance day after day, until one day, it’s been disregarded enough that your cable is useless. So listen up and let me help you keep your cable working for a long time.
First of all, you need to treat your wire correctly. After you are done playing, rehearsing or performing, pick up the cable and wrap it. Doing it right will prevent the cable from wearing, twisting up and breaking it. Pick up the cable and start wrapping. It’ll feel weird the first time, but you will get used to it, and it will help you wind down after a performance. A sort of a meditation for musicians.
The second maintenance tip is to keep your cables clean. I do not necessarily mean the cable itself. The tips of the cable can accumulate gunk over time, which gets in the way of the signal being carried over from the guitar to the amp. Avoid this by regularly doing a quick wipe down of the tips. This will allow you to keep the sound clean of noise, the output high, and most importantly, the cable from having some strange issues that you have no idea how to solve. While you are cleaning the tips, don’t forget to do a quick cleaning of the cable hole on the guitar as well. Gunk and dust tends to gather up there, and keeping it clean will help you keep a clear, powerful sound.
Tip 4 – Keep a Backup
This is probably not the advice you came here for, and yet it is the advice that I will always keep giving in every guitar cable related post. Always keep a back up cable on you, whether you are practicing or performing. You will thank yourself once your cable unexpectedly, or unexpectedly, goes dead. It is an important plan B that you need to incorporate into your daily life. You don’t go on a road trip without your emergency tire in the car, do you? Well you should do the same thing with a cable. The cable does not have to be expensive, a cheap one to carry you to safety for the night would work. You can buy an expensive, better one the next day before your next performance.
Also, check that the backup cable is working without issue every once in a while. This will prevent any (improbable but unfortunate) accidents where neither of your cables work from happening.
These four tips should keep you safe for now.