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Cable management *on stage*: Any tricks you can suggest?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by John Bigboote, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. I've been running sound a bit more lately (still something of a newbie), and am finding that one of the great time-wasters and mess-makers is just keeping all the freaking cables in order at the gig, and avoiding the dread rat's nest that invariably threatens to swallow me and my mixer.

    Any suggestions from you experienced stage/sound hands? I'm not looking for how to stow the gear between gigs (seen those threads already), but rather how to speed up our set-ups and tear-downs with the miles of cable.

    BTW, I know at least one person champions the "throw it in a milk crate without coiling and you'll be fine" approach, but my OCD won't *ever* let me do that. And though I'd rather not spend $$ on some silly spool devices for every XLR, I'm not ruling it out, either, if someone suggests something that actually works.


  2. webelo


    Jun 7, 2011
    Douglas, MA
    I'm pretty anal about the way I wrap my cables when I'm done with them. I find that the "hand/elbow" method always causes tangles when you go to unwrap them.

    I'm not sure the name for it, but I think the way I wrap cables is called the "under/over" method. I did a quick search for it and found this:
    Al Kraft, Grumry and kikstand454 like this.
  3. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    You could always get some velcro cable wraps, I honestly don't even know where you'd buy them, maybe home depot.

    They go on the cable then you wrap it up like normally and warp the velcro around it, the velcro also works to identify your cables.

    I am sure some real sound guys have better tips... I am just a bass player.
    Al Kraft likes this.
  4. grisezd


    Oct 14, 2009
    One thing we do at work (automotive testing, lots of long thin cables that cost a hundred or more to replace) is when cables have mating ends (like mic cables do) we roll them onto a spool end to end. Next show if you need one you spool it off. If you need ten you spool off ten. The spools are relatively cheap and last if you don't abuse them.
    Ox Boris likes this.
  5. Velcro for storage and transport, gaffers tape for on stage neatness. Boom.
    Al Kraft likes this.
  6. the Arsonaut

    the Arsonaut

    Aug 27, 2012
    You're talking about managing the cables during the show, right?

    Get a sub snake, or two. Let's say you have a stage plot with:

    SR: Guitar, bass (mic/di), 2vox

    Upstage: Drums-K,Sn,R1R2,Fl, maybe HH & (2)OH.

    SL: Keys (2DI), Guitar, 1 vox

    Let's pretend that's 18 inputs...
    and your Snake (to FOH) is SL.

    Get a Sub Snake, maybe a 25', 12 channel and run it Upstage, stage right.
    Maybe a lil 25' 4 channel, downstage.

    Plug your SR (g, b) and upstage (drums) into the 1st subsnake
    plug your vox into 2nd subsnake.
    Run them to your FOH SNAKE.

    2 things...instead of 25' & 50'...you can use 6',10',12',15' cables.
    and you have 2 discrete runs across your stage,
    or tucked by front wedges, behind drum riser.

    Smaller set up? Use the one stage to cover the other side...
    musicman7722 and viper4000 like this.
  7. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Banned

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    Gaff tape on stage. We have little cases for each type of cable and I coil them all neatly and place them into their respective cases after the gig.
  8. Make looms (mini snakes)


    Ask a bar manager for crown royal bags -- your OCD will enjoy labeling them with sharpies
  9. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    not the be-all end-all opinion here, but i was once taught to keep all excess mic cable length neatly coiled up by the mic or mic stand, rather than back by the snake box.

    it makes it easier to move the mic around, and prevents the "gordian knot" from forming at the snake box.
    Mark Reccord and ak56 like this.
  10. Due respect to all, this is closest to what I was looking for (though I'm loathe to invest in snakes; even small ones are fairly expensive, and I've *never* seen a snake with every channel working). But it does two things: dramatically reduces clutter, and makes for a bunch of shorter cables (more evenings with the soldering iron... great).

    I'm very good at coiling cables (but it's a bit time consuming). I use velcro ties on all my cables (yes, Home Depot). I plug my XLR ends together to avoid tangles (why the hell doesn't everyone do this?). I thought of the "big spool with all XLRs end-to-end" trick, but I would have to have a different spool for different lengths, and besides that means completely unwinding every XLR, and here comes the rat's nest. Also, my monitor cables are all TRS, so they're going to have loose ends anyway...

    I know some companies have made little cable spools, and that seems silly, but it would seem to have the combined benefits of a) faster wrapping for stowage, b) partial wrapping so you don't have rats' nests scattered around the stage, and c) no more tangles, ever. If that's my perfect solution, anyone have any suggestions?

    That said, I'll probably end up with a couple-few little snakes someday...

  11. the Arsonaut

    the Arsonaut

    Aug 27, 2012
    I'm certain you can find fantail to fantail (loose tails, no box) used for under $100 for an 8 or 12 channel short run.

    For a small 2-4 channel run...Take tie wraps, and just bundle 4 good Xlr cables together. Be sure to label your ends (#1, #2, etc) first. Stagger your wraps every 6-12". Gaff tape over the tie wraps, if you want. Go hog wild.

    For loose cables, use a container that is not as 'open' as a milk crate. Cables ends can slip through regular milk crates, and get stretched, or scratched up.
    Wrap cables in a steady "hand over" loop, with a half twist that follows the actual twist of the wire. Hold your loop at your side, palm open. Draw the other end up from your other side (hip), and with each fold, give it an even half twist. If you end up with a good lookin' 1' diameter loop, with no figure 8s or knots...yer there.
    It can be a very zenlike 5 minute break after your set, wrapping these cables in this manner. No joke.
    use cable ties (velcro, or even those old plastic notch ties that used to come with trash bags...remember those 1/2 wide plastic sawtooth strips?).
  12. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I have Velcro wraps on all my cables. If you're a complete klutz and looking for fool-proof storage, buy a handful of the ext. cord reels (orange plastic) they sell at Lowe's. Take up a little more storage space but even the dimmest band mate can manage to wrap a cord on a reel.

  13. I just picked up a 25 foot, 8 channel, Hosa sub-snake from Sweetwater from $79.95. I use it at the front of the stage for vocal and horn mics. I have a whirlwind 12 channel snake for drums and back line at the back of the stage. Using this setup I only need 2m, 4m and 5m XLR cables, which makes for easy cable management.

    I've used this setup since I've had a StudioLive mixer and can park it at the side of the stage and use the iPad app to mix out front.

    I've used a cheap, wire, garden hose reel to pack-up all all my 30 foot XRL cables end-to-end at the end of a gig. This works fine if all the cables are the same length, but breaks down if someone mixes up the short cables :eyebrow:
  14. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Definitely need a snake. It's the faster, neatest, and easiest way to run 8/12/16/24/etc. cables from the stage to the mixer.
    Al Kraft likes this.
  15. throughthefire


    Oct 1, 2010
    1. +1000 to needing a snake. At the least, make your own loom from individual cables (however, that will end up stiffer than a snake).

    2. Learn to solder. Broken channels on a snake are most likely the connector ends.

    3. On stage, we coil everything near the instrument/mic end - keeps the mixer area clear.

    4. Gaffer tape is fine, but leaves residue on the cable. If that's a problem, wrap the cable in paper before taping it down (you only need enough so that the gaffer tape doesn't touch the cable)
  16. Freight Train

    Freight Train Earth-based Alternative Scientist, Sex Researcher

    Feb 25, 2012
    Dallas, Texas
    That's the deal. Through the 70's I always heard this referred to as the "Showco Wrap", and in later years as the "Pro Wrap". Whatever you want to call it, if you can get it down it's the way to go. Seasoned roadies can do this so fast it's a blur. And when you get it down, you can hold one end of the cable and toss it across stage and it will unwrap straight and kink-free as you please.
    kikstand454 likes this.
  17. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
  18. Jerry Ziarko

    Jerry Ziarko Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    ding ding!!!!! A wise old sound tech once told me, "A clean stage is a happy stage."

    I like this one a bit better.
    Also Velcro ties are a huge time saver IMO
  19. This is all very helpful! (Love the roadie wrap!) Methinks I see a couple of 8-channel double-fantails (maybe like 10' and 30') in my future, then I'll buy a bunch of XLR ends and cut down some of my 20' cables to 10'. I'll have to take a good look around at my next few gigs and see what makes sense.

    But hey, keep those suggestions coming!

  20. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    Cable identifiers

    Interconnect the xlr's of given lengths now that they are identified. A roll of 25' A roll of 35' A roll of 50'... Velcro tie the rolls. It's about as painless as neat vable storage gets. Tub method for transport and storage.

    1 of these across the front to power both mains, mons and sub

    1 of these across the back with an outlet bar of two to power the backline

    I cut a boatload of cables out of my rig with these... Extension cables count towards cable clutter too...

    Snakes suck tone. Seriously, borrow a good one plug your best mic into it and the to your SL board. The AB it with your mic into a decent mic cord (mogami, canare, etc). You won't be buying any snakes save meg buck digital ones... Let's me out... I was shocked at how much tone suck in my 100 footer. It's one of the better Carvin snakes. I haven't used it since I got VSL working...

    I have a number of 50 footers, 35 footers, 25 and 20 foot mic cables. I lay them out far side to near side leaving as much of the slack at the far from the board end as possible.

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