HOWTO wrap cables like a pro: Roadie Wrap


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I expected this video to start out like: “Uh, uh. Yo. Uh. I am a roadie, hooking up the mic. Roadies always working, never going on strike.”


Bob Ross was a roadie?!


That guy could base his second career on his voice and timing alone.


The way I learned was basically Overworked, Overworked. Put the twist on the cable with your right hand just like in the vid, but don’t alternate. The upside to using the same twist is if you keep the same cables, they all lay and act the same way. The upside to overworked, underpaid is you retrain cables that may have been wrapped badly.


It’s such a valuable lesson, I’ve actually been able to practice it regularly since the last time it was posted.

(Actually a different video.)


Yeah, but then all your cables unspool twisted (with one full twist for every coil you originally coiled). And those twists are what cause the tangles. If you roadie-wrap your cables, you can unspool them without having to untwist them.


And as a former live sound engineer have actually tested its problems.
If one of the ends loops around and you hold that you will create a knot for every twist. Imagine throwing that across the stage (which I also wouldn’t advise). Or worse, having an off stage mic that will be brought on stage and you accidentally place the coil upside down… your singer walks out with this wonderful braided cord.
Another problem is running lines around drum kits where you will let the cable out a loop at a time; with over-under you need to let out 2 loops or it will get a big full twist it it.
You do need to keep the cords healthy, untangle and ‘trained’, which is using the natural coil, to do that you only need to do the over, over. Exactly how the guy does the first twist and loop, just continue that.
If you need a mnemonic, just use: the show is finally Over, the show is Over, over, over over.


I think I know what you’re saying, but doesn’t that end up twisting the cord? Which is why you aren’t supposed to wind cord over your arm like you would a rope?


That’s the way all the experienced technicians I’ve ever seen do it. (The very first part, where you just run the cable through onto the floor, that’s important to get additional twist out. On the fly floor you can just [carefully…] throw the cable over the edge and let it dangle as you coil.)

Good tip for XLRs and similar: as you start coiling, the cable end can be tucked in your palm under your little finger, so it won’t knot.

Coiling rope is another thing entirely…


One of the important things that Hobin does but doesn’t mention is that the loops stay sequential in his hand as he wraps. On the Over wrap, the free-end stays on the end of the stack. On the Under wrap, the free-end goes between its own loop and the previous end of the stack. You have to maintain that sequence by ensuring the loops build up in a single direction. Don’t let the loops cross over each other willy-nilly. When you’re done, one end of the cable should be on one side of the coil, and the other end should stay on the other side, and when you pull the cable out, pull it in the direction it sits on the coil. Don’t pull it through the coil, and if the coil is lying flat on the ground, pull the end on top, not the one on the bottom. If you handle it correctly, you won’t get tangled.

You can try it with a short section of USB cable to see the principle. Each coil released negates the twist in the next coil. If you wrap cable using a simple over-over-over sequence, then you have to constantly untwist the cable as you uncoil it.


Aghh! Don’t mention over your arm!!!
The twist of the training is in there, over under has this as well. It’s not much issue to get those out, just having a loose hold on an end will let it spin the twist right out.
There are 4 ways a cable can come out of the loop, from the outside and from the inside, and 2 ends to lead with. All of those unspool fine with over-over, some case just with more twists. For over-under, 2 of those options result in knots.


No, in every case with twists. Unless your cable is made by Moebius or something, if you wrap cable in a constant over-over-over fashion, then pulling the cable out and laying it flat will result in a cable with one full twist for every coil… unless you untwist it as you uncoil. You can get away with that for a long time with shortish cables, but it quickly turns into a drag with longer cables. Roadie-wrapped cables always lie flat and uncoil flat, as long as the coil itself is properly handled.


I love the cable wrapping argument, it’s soo Windows/Mac. :smiley:
As you say, if the coil is properly handled, which is the most important thing.
For really big cables like snakes I would over-under into a wheeled case, then you can lay one end and wheel it out all nice.

Of course, I haven’t done this in a while and when I went to see my friends in that company they now have everything wireless and digital. No fun at all :wink:


You’re right. It’s totally what @codinghorror refers to as “a religious argument.”

I did the over-over thing for a while until I started working on set, when both the sound guys and the 728 juicers taught me otherwise. I had exactly one day of wrapping banded cable, and I knew that wasn’t the job for me. Holy shit is it heavy!


Wow that was by far the best explanation of how to do over-under that I have seen, although he could have gone more into the why, including showing the figure-8 that results.

It’s not a problem to do over-under for all cables regardless of length, but I find very short cables like USB, headphone cables, lavalier, or patch cables don’t need it. Even cables up to about 10 feet long are fine with over-over-over. The reason is that when you spool or unspool them, the end of the cord will naturally spin around in the air to undo the twist that over-over-over causes.

One tweak that I do is to start coiling in the middle of the cable rather than at one end. That way both ends get to spin around in the air, and there is less cable to spin. That naturally lets the cable get into a neutral position without forcing it.

An exception to over/under is very thick/stiff cables like 8 gauge or thicker power wires. The twist involved in the “under” wrap is too much for such cables because they are so stiff. Even RG6 cables can be so stiff as to make “under” impractical.


Every sound person I’ve worked with has extolled the virtues of the over-under wrap while on the other side of the stage every electrician has insisted that over-over is the only way to go. I suspect it’s because an over-under wrap with a cable as thick as your wrist might cause some issues when trying to pull it up in the air.


Over/Over is essential for power distribution cables. All cable is made by machine and the strands only wind one way, and then the bulk cable only goes onto the big spool one way once it’s created. What happens when you over/under is that you untwist the strands inside. For power distro that’s wrapped and unwrapped every day (think film production) you’ll eventually start breaking the strands. This becomes a fire and safety issue.

For signal cables, it’s not a safety issue. And skinny cables wrapped over/under unwrap easily without tangling. And as an electrician…who cares if the audio and video cables are getting damaged?


Starting in the middle is a great approach when wrapping 4-Ought distribution cable because it weighs about a pound/foot. If you start in the middle the most you have to pull into a loop is half the weight of the cable, about 50 lbs when you start. considering there’ll be 5 pieces of it in a 100’ run, your looking at a total of 500 lbs to wrap for each segment.


When you’re done, one end of the cable should be on one side of the coil, and the other end should stay on the other side.

Exactly. I tend to leave the free ends a little longer than usual so they hang down beyond the coil and can’t “dangle” through the coil by themselves. It helps to maintain the configuration you described during storage. That way, I never get knots.

Over-under is second nature now and I do it very quickly. I have the neatest cables and quickest stage setup/clearing time in my band. :smiley: