There are a handful of things that I’ve learned along the way as a worship leader: how to act naturally when you capo on the wrong fret, how to switch from guitar to keyboard when you forget to change the batteries in your acoustic pickup, how to tell the drummer to kill the backing track when you inadvertently skip a section of the song. And then there’s something that I call the Law of Guitar Cables.
The Law of Guitar Cables has become a bit of a mantra for me. I can be a bit absent-minded at times. And thus the following scenario has played out numerous times in my life:
Me: Hey, [sound guy], I’m not getting my acoustic guitar in my monitors.
Sound Guy: [checking front of house signal chain] Everything looks fine up here.
Me: [strumming] Yeah, something’s not right.
Sound Guy: [coming to the stage, checking DI box, wiggling XLR connection, switching XLR cables, switching DI boxes, re-sautering entire XLR snake, growing increasingly frustrated] You getting anything yet?
Me: [strumming] Nope, not yet.
Sound Guy: [handing me unplugged guitar cable] Maybe this is the problem.
Me: Right. Good idea.
I have sheepishly plugged my guitar cable in to my “not working” acoustic enough times over the years that I have developed the Law of Guitar Cables, which I now pass along to you, free of charge:
When faced with a problem of unknown origin:
- Assume it is your fault.
- Assume it is the simplest thing you can think of.
The first part of the Law of Guitar Cables is just a basic practice of good working relationships. When you don’t know the cause of a problem, start by assuming that it’s something you did. The reflexive transfer of blame to another person is seemingly hard-wired into the human brain, and it can be poisonous to relationships. It’s the same prideful mistake Jesus addressed in his oft-quoted “speck in the eye vs. plank in the eye” passage (Matthew 7:3-5). Instead of transferring blame, look first to yourself. In doing so, you may realize (to your dismay) just how many mistakes you actually make, and this may lead you to treat others with grace and humility when they make mistakes. (Jesus dealt with this issue rather harshly in the less-often-quoted Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, Matthew 18:21-35.)
The second part of the Law of Guitar Cables is just a basic practice of good troubleshooting. A subtle kind of pride tends to blind us to simple fixes and cause us to postulate significantly more complex solutions because we assume that heretofore our actions have been correct. But a key element of troubleshooting is eliminating the things that are not causing the problem, so as to arrive at what actually is the cause. If you fail to eliminate the simplest of variables first, you will troubleshoot yourself in circles (and probably erroneously replace a few pieces of perfectly good equipment along the way.) In my experience many problems are called by simple errors – power not getting to a piece of equipment, a cable unplugged or plugged into the wrong place.
So next time you’re faced with a problem, remember the Law. Assume it’s your fault, and assume it’s the simplest thing you can think of. Hopefully, you’ll save yourself a few headaches in the process.
And next time you’re wondering why your acoustic guitar isn’t working … check the cable.
David Ray is a worship leader, artist and songwriter in Houston, Texas. He and his wife Jess are the co-founders of Six Eighteen Music and the creators of Doorpost Songs, a series of multi-generational, scripture-based worship resources for churches and families. Find out more at daveandjessray.com.