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A Fool Mounts A Power Supply

Cables Don't Really Matter—well, not all that much but what do I know?

Bounty Hunter -
Show Dates and Times

2016 Savannah St. Patrick's Celebration

March 17th, Thursday -- 2:30PM - 5:30PM
March 19th, Saturday -- 1:30PM - 3:30PM

Downtown City Market, Savannah, Georgia.

Event Stage:
The Yuengling Stage on Jefferson Street.

Savannah St. Patrick's Celebration Control Zone Map

Redbreast Tournament

May 21st
Stoke's Bluff
Clio, South Carolina

Bounty Hunter to perform 8PM - 11PM
Outdoor Stage

Info on Bounty Hunter's band web site.

Hope to see you there. Always a blast!


Related Links:

The PedalSnake System

George Ls solderless cable system

UtiliTech #0292685 Mounting Pads "for Outdoor" usage (40 LB. Strength) good for mounting wire zip ties to pedalboards; Black 1x1 inch pads in 10-count bags available at Lowe's building supply stores. Model #SGY-CT11.

About the Background Image

Occasionally, I'll do this thing that I call Zen Photography where I walk about with my Nikon and take photos of shapes that call out their attention to me for no other purpose than to be free without any agenda for doing so, shooting with Manual Focus in Camera Manual Mode while allowing the sounds of nearby traffic become white noise-yet-engaging with my community all-at-once.

One such call-out was this top of a fence post at the Felix C Davis Community Center in the center of Park Circle.

Narrow Depth-of-Field made it appear like a globe floating in air against a blurred quasi-Mondrian background. This further highlighted the capture's spiritual quality.

While in post-processing, ideas might come to me. One such idea was taking a clipped mask of my old pedalboard and Pedalsnake and overlaying on top of the zen photo to make them appear to be floating in space.

The rumor about Jimmy's no longer performing in bands is not true and never was.

"Just because I changed focus doesn't mean I ever planned to stop performing; I never said that I was going to stop, either. I wish to ask folks to stop saying that.

"If I said to someone that I will no longer be participating in a group with them, that does not mean that the music world revolves around them. My biggest challenge was between where certain circles want to be and not allowing that to unduly influence where I must be. Sadly, there have been times when others crossed that line.

"There is sadness in all beauty so the inverse must be true.

"But in the final analysis, there are groups on one hand, and on the other hand there are bands as defined by loyalty. Every manager we've ever consulted with talked about the key importance of loyalty; they all also expressed to us that the hardest thing to find in this business is tried and true talent.

"My entrepreneurial bent is toward a band because that's how I play guitar and that's how I create and invest. I think too many are influenced by market vacuum—a business term, not a musical indictment in any way whatsoever.

Market Vacuum is the opposite of Demand Vacuum.

"It's like this: opinions vary. We use what we can with information, and leave the rest. But if we stick with it in a way that allows information to make the longest journey—the 18 inches from the head to the heart—, we can begin to understand what the pros who gave their valuable time and insights to us were really talking about in the first place.

"Secondly, while I'm known as a good guitarist and a 'marketing whiz', I'd like to correct the record that I am no guitar god, no rock god, and no promo whiz who snaps fingers to make the magic of PR & promo appear out of thin air.

"I've worked as long and hard on the music and the business sides of the music business equation. The fact of the matter is that music business is two words. Investing in both sides will take us further than thinking that the business of effectively marketing a band will somehow take care of itself.

"We all start out at point zero and zero investment on both aspects. Time and effort is an investment as valuable as the wallet if not more valuable than money itself. That's why we need boundaries. Invest in those who respect you with more than words.

"There was a point when I was one of the working homeless and buying band marketing books with my scarce lunch money because I became sick & tired of being sick & tired of not getting ahead. We had a good, loyal band. The biz side was never going to take care of itself no matter how good our show was. Working a day job surely wasn't enough.

"Frankly, that extra effort requires considerable extra education and investment; otherwise, it becomes a bit too exploitative.

"When we toured with the late Danny Joe Brown during his hiatus from Molly Hatchet, Danny Joe instructed us to 'Always give the fans the show of their lives. They deserve it.' Danny's brother Mike Brown managed Bounty Hunter during our stay in Jacksonville. Mike told us, 'Every band needs at least one smart person in it. Take The Marshall Tucker Band. Two guys in that band are geniuses.'"

The Author at home

"The biggest difference between a group and a band is loyalty. It's not always about short-term gains. It's about making our bands easier to lift upon the shoulders of others."

Part 3 – Cable Tips

Tags: stereo guitar rig; stereo pedalboard; guitar; dual amplifiers; master-slave amp rig; high-current digital effects pedals; tube amps; solid-state amps; relic; papa rock; environmental sustainability; don't inject the pot; Bounty Hunter; The Mad Jap.

About Cables – Go Pro or Crackle & Fizz Out

Wiring ,my rig is accomplished through a combination of the PedalSnake system and George L's .155 solderless cables with nickel plugs. These systems improve tone and reliability while adding a clean and dependable professional touch by removing stage clutter. After using these systems for almost half a decade, I feel that they are definitely worth the investment.

For a Lead Cable from the Guitar to Pedalboard #1, I use most anything that sounds good. Currently, I'm using a Fender lead cable.

My next guitar lead cable will be a George Ls .225 solderless red cable with brass ends. This usage of cable plug metal is where I'll ever use any other metal conductor other than nickel. Their .255 cables have a thicker protective outer covering than their .155 cables.

As I said in my Stereo Scary-O article, every penny spent on impulse buys of other cords is money not invested wisely. The only conventional cable I need for an amp & pedalboard setup is a good lead cable connecting my guitar to my first pedalboard! (And 117VAC 50/60hZ electrical distribution; all I need is one clean electrical socket and I'll plug in the rest so that I can avoid ground loops.) I look at my pile of faulty conventional cables and think about burning the insulation off of them for copper salvage.

Snakes: One Cable To Rule Them All

Part of my tone comes from have a strong signal path from start to finish. I've already talked about my love for pedalboard snakes and solderless patch cables. What I didn't say is that the weight of my snake is less than the weight of its equivalent in conventional guitar cables for a full-on stereo pedalboard rig.

I've made snakes before using electrical tape, zip ties, coiled doohickeys. All of these have some lack either in cleanliness from tape residue, pain from rolling up a heavy mass of zip-tied cables, coiled doohickeys not covering the entire length of the cable run, cloth cable sheaths that get real dirty real fast.

Until Pedalsnake, the only other alternatives were custom snakes. We can still go the custom snake route. Makers of them come and go. Pedalsnake will build a custom snake for us if one of their standard production snakes isn't quite enough for our needs.

Going MIDI with your guitar rig? A regular ol' Pedalsnake will handle it.

Need an XLR line in your snake? A special wiring for certain amp footswitches? They can handle that too.

Frankly, this stuff is bad to the bone.

I've been using PedalSnake for about five years. Mine is a production PedalSnake 24-foot Base Snake. I can change it up almost any way I want with a variety of available pigtail ends. Components can be ordered fast through the manufacturer's web site. PedalSnake is based in Raleigh, North Carolina. They make custom snakes as well. Sure, there are cheaper ways to go about this... well, not really once we add the cost of excellent cables, etc.

My rig currently uses 5 out of 7 snake channels:

  1. Pedalboard #1 to Amp #1 (single G-Line) 3-wire channel
  2. Amp #1 Channel Footswitch (single G-Line) 3-wire channel
  3. Amp #1 Effects Send ((Shared Dual G-Line) 5-wire channel
  4. Amp #1 Effects Return (Shared Dual G-Line) 5-wire channel
  5. Amp #2 Effects Return (Single Dual G-Line) 3-wire channel

Their web page about running DC power through the snake threw me off for a bit. But as I was preparing to put this new rig together, I found the information very useful.

Technically, I could still run power through the snake to feed Pedalboard #1. But I found that for Pedalboard #2's array of high-current digital pedals, such would be out of the question. Since I still have to run 120VAC power to the front of the stage for my second pedalboard, I may as well feed my first pedalboard from it as well instead of having 9VDC 500mA and 12VDC 500mA isolated transformers on the backline electrical distribution.

* Disclaimer: Mess with electrical stuff at your own risk. Heck. Mess with my stuff at your own risk for that matter!

Solderless Patch Cables Rock

Everything that we do or don't do to our guitar rigs equates to our total tone equation. I learned a while back to be extremely picky about cables. I'm not saying go out and spend $150 on a 20-foot guitar cable. No way. For that price, it had better include valet service. What I am saying is to find a great system and stick to it. Understanding a little about cables in layman's terms helps us to make more informed purchasing decisions.

And if tone and reliability mean anything to you, I agree whole-heartedly! Of course, opinions vary. We take what we need from information and leave the rest.

Total Cable Length: Shorter is Better

Ever plug your Les Paul with a Seymour Duncan JB pickup into your Peavey 6505+ high-gain all- tube head and half-stack with only Ten Feet of Good Cable? The sound is nothing short of demonic. Crank it up to about FIVE and the roof literally will shake to your every command. That's because the short length of cable means almost a no-resistance signal path.

Guitars and Amps love it. Big stages don't.

(Don't get me started on wireless guitar transmitters / receivers. I feel that's a necessary evil in large stage situations.)

(Signal buffers are another key topic. Do you need a buffer? It depends. I hope to get to that at a later date after we get the basics down about cables first.)

So. Our cables need to be the exact lengths needed so that our total cable length from the guitar through the pedalboard to the amp is as short as possible while still getting our to pedals out front by our microphone stand; the same applies to the total cable length from the amp effects send to the pedalboard —through the pedalboard— then back to the amp effects return: it shouldn't be any longer in total length than it absolutely has to be.

There's little that we can do about needing 20 feet or more in length to run from the backline to pedalboards at front-of-stage—and then back again. But we can cut down on an unneeded extra five feet or more of patch cable per pedalboard by cutting our own patch cables to the exact lengths needed.

All that soldering can be a pain. Ever finish a soldering a cable--only to find that you forgot to put the barrel shield on the cable before soldering the plug on it? Doh! Too late! Break out the solder sucker and start desoldering. We all have.

Going through all that does not always guarantee a great set of patch cables; just one bad one can ruin the whole thing. And some cable wires and / or plugs just sound crappier than others.

Secondly, start adding up the total cost of patch cables at around $7 plus tax per pop. That's at least $14 for two patch cables per pedal. I have piles of them. After a while, they start to suck tone—and in time, they will fail.

We might want to go solderless.

There are several brands out there these days. The first one to explode onto the market and change the game was George L's. The Planet whatevers I tried were crap so they get no more money from me. Lava Cable makes a system that takes up a little less space but they can be hard to get. I don't know them personally. But I do know George L's.

I could immediately tell the difference in tone and response after replacing my expensive patch cables with a Pedalboard patch cable set of George L's solderless back in 2011. They sounded so good that I bought a second set and wired my entire pedalboard with them.

.155 Solderless Patch Cable Goodness in my first decent pedalboard.
Notice the three Keeley pedals on the left: excellent products, outstanding service.
One of them has an added fuzz circuit as well as a host of other modifications; another has a built-in aural exciter added to its modded screams of death and playable feedback; another is an often misunderstood secret weapon of the ages.

I now get my George L's products through Ye Olde Music Shop.

George L's Custom Shop* lists all of George L's products.*George L's Custom Shop web page can be prone to server errors. It's best to start at George L's web site landing page when exploring their web site.

I let Michael Davis at Ye Olde Music Shop know what I need and he gets them for me if he doesn't have it in stock. I could order online elsewhere, but Ye Olde's prices are as competitive as they can be per the item.

Making your own solderless cables without pulling your hair out.

Some folks are straight-cut -challenged when it comes to cutting these cables to length. I use one of those small utility knives with the break-off blade refills, lay the cable down on a piece of flat wood board, and always use a fresh blade cutting in straight downward motion—no "sawing" or "crimp-cutting."

Check your cut to make sure that no frayed shield stands are touching the center conductor. If there are, cut a little slice off cleanly and you should have it down pat.

Then just push the cable into the hole in the plug all the way in. Screw on the end cap all the way. Do the other end of your cable. Slip on the little rubber insulator boots if we want.

Done in no time.

A pedalboard patch kit makes five cables. There's almost no way we're ever going to use all ten feet of cable in the kit. Save it. Then just buy more plugs for your next round. Cable is also sold by the foot and by the roll. Both cable sizes that they make sound as good as the other. Just so you know, the parts for their two different sizes of solderless cables are not interchangeable.

The .155 size is perfect for pedalboard patch cables.

Their .225 size is better suited for guitar lead cables to the amp and for amp effects loop runs to and from your pedalboard if not using a snake. Some guitarists make their own snakes out of these cables.

The wire itself can be soldered to other types of connectors if needed.

Cable and Pedal "Molecular Rust Battery" Prevention in Pedalboard Connections

Using nickel plated plugs—as opposed to brass or gold -plated—prevents a type of corrosion known as a molecular "rust battery" from forming on the cable plugs and internal pedal jack nickel-steel conductors. (Unplugging and plugging in a cable plug into a pedal jack provides a "wiping" cleaning effect. My pedalboard patch cables often stay plugged in to my pedals for years at a time, so rust battery corrosion is a concern.)

Switchcraft 236 Stereo TRS Right Angle Male 1/4-Inch Plug, Nickel Finish can easily accommodate soldering to two George L's .155 cables for tight-fitting insert cables at the perfect length. One of these is needed for the exciting Keeley pedal in this rig.

(I also ordered a pair of Hosa Cable STP201RR Insert Cable Right Angle - 1 Meter for testing purposes.)

Some Simple Sins to Avoid and Good Cable Habits to Adopt:

Before concluding any discussion about cables, one important thing that often seems to be overlooked is the proper care of them.

  1. A cable is not a rope. A rope is a structural device used for securing things, bearing weight, etc. A cable conducts electrical current through tiny copper wire strands not made for load-bearing purposes—not even accidental occurrences of them—whatsoever.
    1. Do you see that electrical cable that a roadie wrapped around a table pedestal? This could could very well get someone (and thus the band) into all kinds of trouble.
  2. Do not kink a cable or wrap it around your arm like a rope being rolled up by a construction worker on a job site. Yeah, sometimes that's hard to do if the cable hasn't been lain out straight so that the wires inside can relax into a straighter shape.
    1. Wrapping them neatly in loose coils prevents kinks and tight bends in the delicate wires inside. We can use those cheap velcro cable ties to make life easier on a budget.
    2. See that guy wrapping up your cables real tight? Prepare to replace them before their time.
  3. When wrapping them up, we can use a clean rag in our hand for cleaning cables along their entire length. Feel for kinks along the way. We can start in the middle of a cable and work toward each end so as not to impart a buildup of stress inside the wires.
    1. This little bit of extra TLC won't take up that much more time. In fact, it will save you time when you go to use them again. They won't have kinks in them, too.
    2. What, we don't have a roadie rag? Don't ask to borrow a towel from the bar help. They hate that. Do we not use a towel after a show? (If we don't, we're not putting on much a show.) Get one to keep in our gig bag and wash the darned thing.
  4. Clean cables look better and last longer.
  5. We can use black electrical cords for live gigs for more show business appeal. Conversely, those orange extension cords scream "construction job site." We're not on a construction job site. We are there to help the audience forget about construction job sites. Get some black electrical cords for a better vibe. They cost the same as the orange ones at Lowe's building supply.
  6. Avoid Ground Loops.

    Me: "Hey, man. I hate to tell you this, but that buzzing noise in the PA is from a ground loop caused by the way you have the electrical distribution run out, not from the speaker cables. Run all your stuff from the same electrical circuit."

    Sound guy: WHAT? Why didn't you tell me this before?"

    Me: "Because you didn't ask. I didn't want to seem like I was trying to step on y'all's toes."

    True story.

    The same principles apply to guitar rigs.

  7. Never use a damaged cable. The life you save may be a life saved.
  8. Always have spares on site. It does no good to have a spare "back home."
  9. Use Gaffer Tape to tape down cables. It looks professional. They do not leave gummy drek residues like duct tape. No it's not cheap. It's professional. Gaffer Tape is available at professional photography supply dealers for less money than at theatrical supply houses. Try B&H Photo Video out of New York City, or Midwest Photo Exchange out of Columbus, Ohio. Great service, fast delivery.
    1. I buy my multi-cart accessories from B&H, and may go there when it comes time to get a rack UPS for my digital magic box.
    2. (Starving photography students really should check out Midwest Photo Exchange.)
  10. Use a cord cover when forced to run cables through traffic areas. It will prevent harm and avoid a lawsuit.
  11. Never ask to borrow your guitar player's Mogami Gold lead cable. Never. I want mine back! Mogami Gold cables are great. However, they disappear a lot. And for some reason, other musicians' heavy footsteps seem to be more attracted to them over any other brand of guitar cable.

Power Distribution

As usual to avoid Ground Loops, all 117VAC 50/60hZ electrical power for my entire rig feeds from one central electrical access point to run everything. From one socket to my filtered power strip, then branch off to my two amplifiers, and one power cord upstage for my pedalboards.

I'm using an ancient and bent Archer Six Outlet Power Strip that I bought from Radio Shack back in the 1990s. The reason that I still use it is it still beats every other power strip in line noise A/B tests. It also has its own circuit breaker. (If it was smaller, I'd mount it underneath pedalboard #1.)

(I predict that several Furman items may power my rigs in the future, though there are other more cost-effective brands for Uninterruptable Power Supplies that are necessary for the good health of digital guitar amplifiers / processesors.)

Coming Soon: Stereo Scary-O Stage Plot, Pedalboard Wiring, Testing, Logistics, and more… .