Do’s and don’ts that will help keep your music equipment in shape and optimize your onstage and studio sound
Thou shalt treat your guitar and other delicate gear with love and respect - Sure, Jimi Hendrix charred his Strats and Pete Townshend trashed his SG. But they could afford to—it was part of their act. But for we mere mortals on limited budgets, that means maximizing the life of your instrument and gear. Some pointers for doing that:
- The trunk’s for your spare tire and luggage, not your guitar. Try to avoid leaving your instrument in any part of your car for any length of time. Searing summer heat and frigid, dry weather will quickly ruin its finish and glued joints. Sudden temperature/humidity changes are especially dangerous to your guitar’s health. Allow your instrument to acclimate before playing it when subjecting it to environmental changes.
Read our guide to humidifiers for more tips on keeping your instrument healthy.
- Keep your instrument in its case or gig bag. Of if you’re just putting it down momentarily, get a guitar stand that’ll hold it securely. Leaning it against your amp or a chair is an accident waiting to happen.
- Like a horse, a guitar should never be put away wet. Keep a towel in your case or gig bag and give your guitar a wipedown before stowing it. Your finish and strings will last much longer.
Thou shalt not cheap out on cables - Bargain basement cables—especially mic and instrument cables—are a false economy. Aside from degrading the quality of your signal and introducing noise, cheapo cables won’t hold up over the long haul. If you only play out occasionally, or your recording work is limited to demos, then moderately priced cables may meet your needs. But keep in mind that you generally get what you pay for.
Thou shalt observe the laws of impedance - If you use passive speakers in your PA system that are driven by an amplifier, or use extension speaker cabinets with your guitar or bass amp, it’s crucial those devices get along with each other electronically.
The key factor here is the resistance, or the load the speakers place on the amp. The resistance of a circuit is given in ohms. Without delving into the physics, suffice it to say that when considering adding speaker cabinets to your guitar rig, replacing speakers in your guitar combo amp, or connecting speakers to your PA amp, you need to determine what the total load or ohm value will be and confirming the amp can handle it. Failure to do so can seriously damage your amp.
Connecting external speakers in parallel or series impacts the total resistive load. You’ll find numerous sources online for calculating the resistance of a given wiring setup. Or call a Musician’s Friend Gear Head at 877-880-5907 for guidance.
Thou shalt not use speaker and instrument cables interchangeably - Though they look superficially the same on the outside and are equipped with ¼” connectors, their innards differ. Instrument cables have a larger center conductor to handle the relatively low output from passive pickups. They also are shielded to prevent interference from things like fluorescent lights that can add noise to your signal.
Conversely, using an instrument cable on speakers will throttle the amplifier’s output. Since it’s not designed to handle the voltage sent to speakers, it will force the amp to work harder and may introduce distortion in the output.
Thou shalt wrap or coil audio cables correctly - Winding a cable tightly around your elbow as you would a hank of rope will cause it to kink up and fail prematurely. Instead, wrap it with an over/under technique that creates a series of figure eights, which won’t stress the internal conductors. Doing this will also cause the cable to lie flatter. You’ll find videos online demonstrating this technique.
Thou shalt never blow into a ribbon microphone - The ribbon element in these mics is extremely fine—that’s what gives them their excellent transient response. Hence blowing into them or even carrying them around uncovered can destroy the ribbon element. In close-miking situations such as on a guitar cabinet, placing the ribbon mic in an off-axis position relative to the speaker and/or using a pop filter will help protect the ribbon.
Thou shalt invest in road cases to protect your gear investment - Transporting your rack gear, mics and stands in milk crates, or worse, tossing them loose into the back of the van will shorten their life. Everybody’s tired at the end of a gig, but an orderly load out using sturdy road cases will ensure your gear will survive the journey to your next gig.
Thou shalt think twice before renting or buying a trailer - Although it may be unavoidable on an extended tour, trailers have several downsides:
- They’ll kill your gas mileage
- They’re tough on your vehicle's drivetrain
- They can usually be broken into quite easily
- They’re harder to handle than a larger van
- They limit your parking options
If your band’s in the market for a vehicle to rent or buy, consider going for something with enough capacity to carry the band plus gear in one unit.
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