PATCH CABLE CONSIDERATIONS BY RICH ECKHARDT
As you hone your style over the years, you usually figure out whether you’re
a Strat guy, a Tele guy, a Les
Paul guy—or something that’s
sort of a mix of those. You then
focus on what amp is going
to give you the best possible
sound. Often it’s Marshalls or
Boogies for you rockers, Fender
Twins for the chicken-pickers,
or something more out of the
ordinary like a Line 6 DT50
might be your amp of choice.
Then it’s time to pick out what
pedals will give you the right je
ne sais quoi.
Once you settle all that,
what’s next? Whether you call
it a lead, a cord, or a cable,
that shielded wire that links
your guitar to your amp—and
I can’t get behind that as an
Retro to the Max: Vox is one of several companies offering coiled guitar
cables, which are making a comeback after being ignored for decades.
you’ll start to pick up noise.
I used to run a thin 40’ foot
cable to my pedalboard and
back through a multi-pin snake.
It was a quick and easy setup,
but ultimately I was playing
music through 80’ of bad signal
path. I was blown away at the
amount of punch and high end
I gained back when I changed
my rig around and no longer
ran signal out to the pedals. It
made a gigantic difference.
On the flip side, if you have
too much bright spikiness in
your sound, or if you just want
to mellow it out for a vintage
tone, you may want to try a
more old-school approach and
dig out what I’ve always called
a “curly cord.” They were very
popular in the ’60s and ’70s.
Hendrix used one, and so did
many of the top artists of the
day. You can see these curled
cords (Pro Co Lifelines are one
brand/make that’s been around
for a long time) being used
on reruns of the old Midnight
Special TV variety show. I’m
pretty sure that the guitar greats
of that era would have used better cables if they were available,
but this was the technology of
the day, and it inadvertently
helped shape their sounds.
A respectable cable can cost
a bit more than a generic one.
I’m not recommending that
an 18’ guitar cord (yes, they
are out there). A true audiophile may argue with me, but
Even if you’ve got the best cables money can
buy running from your guitar to your pedalboard and from there to your amp, the audio
will still have to travel through the signal path
between effects. My guitar tech will shorten
patch cables so the signal doesn’t travel even
one gratuitous millimeter between pedals.
your music to your audience—
is a vital link in your tone
chain. All things considered,
you may never think much
about it, but it’s as integral to
your sound as your other gear.
Over the years, I’ve had gui-
tarists tell me all they need is a
cheap, knock-off model guitar
to sound good—that all their
tone comes from their hands.
I’ve heard others say you’ve got
to have top-notch gear to sound
great. These are both valid
schools of thought. I’ve also seen
guys struggle onstage using hap-
hazard, jerry-rigged, MacGyver-
style setups. I’ve watched them
kick crackling cables and shake
connections to keep a signal
running to their amp. Somehow,
who knows? Maybe someone is
still using them today.
RICH ECKHARDT is a
Nashville guitarist who has
performed with singers
ranging from Steven Tyler
to Shania Twain. He currently plays lead guitar for
Toby Keith, and also works
as a spokesperson for the Soles4Souls
charity ( soles4souls.org). His new album,
Cottage City Firehouse, is available at
richeckhardt.com and CDBaby.com.