Tips for Pedalboard Cleanliness and Cable Management
We have all seen those professionally assembled pedalboards that just absolutely blow us away. These boards usually consist of thousands of dollars worth of gear and commonly have complex switching systems. However, there is actually something else going on with these boards that is adding to their appeal. The cleanliness. That’s right, in fact, how tidy your board is has a lot to do with how yourself and others perceive its quality. I have yet to see any professional pedalboard builders advocate for ajar pedals or messy crisscrossing cables.
In this article we will break down some of the most important things to keep in mind when working towards an organized board. I'll be mentioning products and concepts that the pros use to make some of the best – cleanest looking boards out there. If you’re ready to step up your own board game, read on!
Come Up with a Plan
If you already have a board setup and it’s a mess, it is probably in your best interest to pull everything off and start fresh. Once you have all your cables, board and pedals separated the next step is to draw up a plan of attack. You want to make sure you are not just putting on the first pedal and moving to the next, hoping things will work themselves out. One of the main things that aids in the process of every clean board build is starting from a solid pedal layout. Make sure that you have room to comfortably fit all of your pedals. Also, you don’t want a bunch of extra space unless you're certain you will want to expand your pedals in the future.
Once you have a plan for all of your pedal locations, next you are going to want to ensure your cable situation is where it should be. Check to see if the cables you have are going to be long enough to comfortably reach their connection points. And while having extra cable length is fixable later on, you don’t want a crazy amount of excess to deal with. If you want to guarantee that you get perfect cable length for all your connections, consider making your own. This is a process that nearly all professional builders go through and it’s really not that hard to do.
If you have an appropriately sized board, good pedal layout and ample cables then you have all the makings of a masterfully clean board.
Take Time and Use Aids When Cable Managing
The make or break point for any clean board is cable management. There are infinite ways of managing and organizing cables, but when done right they should always come out coordinated and looking terrific. You want to make certain that you take advantage of things like zip ties and Velcro wraps to help you along the way. Usually how I would recommend you employ these aids is by attaching your cables to adhesive mounts on the bottom of your board. Now, if you have a flat board or some other kind of setup, this will look a little different. Yet, no matter how you have to run your cables, just take your time and do what makes sense.
It is important that you are grouping your power cables and instrument cables only with others of the same type. Also, always remember to avoid crossing power and instrument cables, seeing as it can introduce unwanted noise. If you come to a point where a cross must happen, make sure it is as perpendicular as can be, this should cancel out said noise.
It is also worth noting that with audio cables you do want to remember to be careful not to place too much stress on them. If you go nuts with too tight of angles or accidently tie them down twisted, the cable's lifespan may be shorted. Good cable is not super fragile, but you still want to be treating it with the mindset of keeping your guitar signal healthy.
Don’t Forget to Maintain
After putting in all this work to get a beautiful clean board, it would be a shame to let your hard work dwindle away over time. One of the most annoying factors to consider here is dust and anything else that will build up. The Velcro on your board is going to start to look old fast if you don’t at least do a little justice in the cleaning department. While it is a good idea to clean off everything once in a while, I don’t recommend going through that hassle more than 1-2 times a year. What you should try and do monthly is clean what you can at the surface. You can clean off exposed Velcro very efficiently by wrapping some packaging tape in a circle and padding it on the surface. If you have a larger area of exposed Velcro try a lint roller to get off the top layer and then use the tape to go even deeper. And as for dusting of pedals, microfiber cloths work well, but use whatever you have that won’t leave residue.
Another thing to keep in mind is that fact that you will without a doubt want to change things up at some point. For many the process of trying new pedals and exchanging them for old ones is just as much a part of guitar as the playing itself. While you do not need to redo your whole board for every new pedal that comes along, I do want to warn you against getting overly lazy. It is SO easy to undo just what you need to in order to accommodate for the new pedal and then just leave the clutter because it’s only one spot. Well, the truth is if you do this enough all of a sudden you will be back to a completely disorganized mess.
That is pretty much the majority of tips I would tell someone who told me they wanted to do a clean pedalboard build. The important thing to remember with this is that trial and error is key. Your first board is not going to be your best, meaning the more plan/build the better your end results will be. Also, everyone’s situation is just a little bit different, there’s in no two boards that are identical to one another. And you won’t have a real good idea of how satisfied you are with your build until you’ve lived with it for a while. So, it will likely take you a few different attempts to really dial in what you want. This process, like most things in music, is a long but very rewarding one.