Laptop Live Performance Tips - Part 7

by Clint on January 2nd 2011

Tape is not Tape

For Part 7, I'd like to elaborate on a statement I made in Part 6 in this series. "If you can't use proper gaffer tape (NOT DUCT TAPE) to secure these cables before the show, consider how adhesive velcro strips could help secure your controllers to whatever stands you use."

I've seen a few bloggers recommend duct tape for securing your rig on stage so I thought this point needed some more detail on why this is poor advice so I can point people to a proper reference.

You DO NOT want duct tape on your cables and equipment.

As per wikipedia; "duct tape was originally developed during World War II in 1942 as a water resistant sealing tape for ammunition cases" ... "Duct tape is commonly used in situations that require a strong, flexible, very tacky tape. Some have a long-lasting adhesive and resistance to weathering."

Without having to paste the whole thing, I think you get the point. Duct tape is made for LONG LASTING uses that require weather resistance. Cables and P.A. equipment are expensive. A single decent mic cable is going to cost you $50 USD (Monster 15 inch XLR Example). $50 bucks a cable! When you use duct tape to secure these cables, it will certainly leave behind a residue that is very difficult to get off. The gummy shit it leaves on there then, creates an absolute nightmare when you roll up all your cables and stick them in something to leave the venue. Ever get home after a show and spend hours trying to untangle a web of cables that have duct tape residue all over them? I have. Duct tape can completely ruin expensive cables.

Gaffer Tape, on the other hand, is similar to duct tape but is manufactured to different specifications that make it easy to tear and to remove cleanly. Gaffer tape will hold down your cables when you don't want them to move but not ruin them when you need to move them. The term "gaffer", normally the name of the head of the lighting department on a film crew, actually refers to taping down cables a stage or other surface, either for safety or to keep them out of view of the audience or camera.

Gaffer tape and duct tape look very similar, and duct tape is much easier to find in local stores, so it's a common mistake that people make to confuse one for the other. Use gaffer tape in your performances to secure cables. The annoyance of having to order gaffer tape instead of just using duct tape from the store down the street is offset by the fact that you wont be ruining your expensive gear.

One final tip on this. One of the reasons using actual duct tape ruins your cables is actually not from the tape itself, but from how people usually try to remove it when they take their cables up. Check this out. It may seem weird to watch a 5 minute video on how to pull up a cable but it's actually a great tip. the-secret-to-taping-down-and-removing-cables.

Others in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 8

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