Everything you need to know about guitar cables – from what they’re made of to how they work

Bundle of guitar cables
(Image credit: Future)

As electric guitarists, we all know that guitar cables are an essential part of our rig. We plug one end into our guitar, the other end into an amp or pedal, and we’re off – but how do guitar cables actually work?

In the simplest terms, a guitar cable carries the signal produced by the guitar’s pickups to wherever it needs to be. The signal produced by (passive) pickups is quite weak; it’s a low DC current with a small voltage. This then passes through the cable and is eventually amplified by your amp, and the signal is heard through the speaker. 

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Richard Blenkinsop

After spending a decade in music retail, I’m now a freelance writer for Guitar World, MusicRadar, Guitar Player and Reverb, specialising in electric and acoustic guitars, bass, and almost anything else you can make a tune with. When my head’s not buried in the best of modern and vintage gear, I run a small company helping musicians with songwriting, production and performance, and I play bass in an alt-rock band.