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Cabling Tips For Live Shows

6:00 am Live Sound

live sound tips pictureWhen we set up the PA system at yet another fabulous Rusty Strings gig, one of the main things I find myself doing as sound man for the band is running cables. I run cables from the instrument amps, microphones, and direct boxes to the snake’s stage box. I run cables between the mixer and the power amp and to and from the effects box (two separate channels). I run the main speaker cables. I run the monitor speaker cables. Lots of cables!

Some of the cables are short (three to six feet) and are used to interconnect components at the mixing position: mixer to PA, mixer to and from effects box, etc. These short cables are easy to run and present no problems, as they never leave the surface of the card table - er, mixing desk - that the gear is set up on. Other short cables are used onstage, from the instruments and microphones to the snake’s stage box. These cables aren’t a problem either. It’s the cables that run from the mixing position to the stage (or to an AC outlet) that can cause problems, especially if they have to cross a traveled walkway of any kind.

The main problem with cables that leave the stage or mixing area, whether or not they cross a walkway, is that people (including you) will trip over them! (I don’t say may, I say will - you’ve heard of Murphy’s Law.) This is bad in many ways, some involving injury and insurance (and lawyers), and some involving possible damage to your gear due to its being pulled clean off the table when “Clumsy Kyle” goes down. At the very least it’s likely to pull the daggone cable end right out of its connector. I’ve seen it!

The cables I am talking about, at least for Rusty Strings, are the AC power cord, the snake cable from the stage, and the main speaker cable to the stage. (See my article Mini-Tip: Send Monitor Signals On the Snake for ideas about eliminating an additional cable.) The approaches I use to deal with the trippage problem are: (1) tape or mats, and (2) knotted strain relief.

Cover Up

If you’re playing in a public place, or even a party, it is simply intolerable to have loose, twisty cables of any kind or number crossing a pathway where people will be walking. Don’t even think about it! It will cause a problem.

Sometimes I am lucky enough to get a mixing position along a wall from the band, or right next to them. This admittedly doesn’t let me hear the “audience mix” quite properly, but boy is it easier to set up! (Plus, I can see the band better.) But most of the time we are stuck running our cables across doorways or even (gack) across the entrance to the dance floor. For cases like this, I use gaffer’s tape (which, unlike duct tape, does not leave residue) to tape the cables down if it’s a cement or hardwood floor, or a mat or rug of some kind if not, as seen here:

tips on live sound graphic 1

Of course, this does introduce the secondary problem of people occasionally tripping over the mat! (Nothing is perfect.)

Relieve the Strain

The other protective measure I take is to create a “strain relief” system for the AC and microphone cables right at the mixing position, tying each cable to the top of one of the table legs and then running the loose end to its ultimate destination. If Kyle does manage to trip over one of these cables, all he’ll do is pull on a table leg, instead of pulling the mixer itself right off the table!

You can see how this works in practice in these photos:

tips on live sound graphic 2 tips on live sound graphic 3

Once you get in the habit of providing strain relief in this way, the very idea of running a microphone cable directly from the stage to its mixer connector with people milling about and no strain relief will seem horrifying! It does to me.

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2 Responses
  1. Charles Duhon :

    Date: June 6, 2009 @ 5:49 pm

    Hello,

    What type of mic woul you recommend to amplify steel pans (steel drums)? I use a large keyboard amp which I like to keep near me but facing away from the mic. I seem to get low feedback before enough volume. Now using a Audix i5 Dynamic Cardioiod. How about super or hyper cardioiod? Condenser or dynamic? Need pick up pattern about 1 - 2 ft.
    Thanks,
    call my cell if you want to talk.
    469-826-4158

  2. improvement ideas at work :

    Date: July 12, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

    I have read so many articles or reviews about the blogger lovers however this article is truly a fastidious piece of writing, keep it up.

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