There is nothing more annoying than having to untangle a guitar cable. Correction: There is nothing more annoying than having to untangle a guitar cable, only to find out when you do that it doesn’t lay flat on the floor anymore. Now, you have to constantly step over it to avoid tripping. Despite your best efforts, you can’t get it back to its original state. This can be particularly frustrating if you have spent big money on nice cables.
Why Cables Stop Laying Flat
Unfortunately, if the above describes your cables, and you are wondering what can be done to reverse the damage to make it lay flat once again, I have bad news for you. There is a mechanical reason that a guitar cable will no longer lay flat if it has been stored improperly. The reason that a guitar cable “holds its shape” after being twisted up has to do with the cable shielding. Cable shielding surrounds the wire to protect your signal passing through the wire from external effects that can generate noise. This is great, because it keeps your signal clean and undistorted. However, to do this, the shielding must be made from metal. To maintain flexibility of your cable, small strands of metal are woven together, either in a twist pattern or a braid pattern.
This metal used to create the cable shield is soft and flexible, but not impervious to permanent deformation. Allow me to explain the concept using a household item everybody knows about. Imagine a paperclip. It is metal, and you can easily bend and shape it with your fingers. However, once you bend a paperclip, you can never quite get it back to its original shape. I will spare you the material science behind why this is the case, but just realize that similar principles apply to your cable shield, making it extremely important to avoid bending it out of shape.
How to Properly Coil a Guitar Cable
So how do you coil a cable properly? It’s actually relatively simple. The proper technique is essentially a slightly modified rope coiling technique. This method allows you to relieve stress in your cable shield when it’s coiled, by lightly twisting your cable in such a way that it follows the natural pattern of your shield. At no time during this process should you feel like you are applying any tension to your cable. The cable will really feel like it is naturally flopping into place using this technique. Try it once or twice and you’ll be able to feel it. To show the appropriate technique, take a look at the video below:
So there you have it. Coiling and storing a guitar cable is easy! Just take care when coiling them and your guitar cables will last just about forever! Happy playing!