Thursday, February 21, 2008

Input Lists (The Other Part of Your Stage Plot) Part I

Previously I've posted a lot about stageplots. You'd think I'd've said it all, but the truth is I've glossed over something important: the input list. I recently got an email from David Freeland of the Kansas City Funk Syndicate who had a question about input lists. I'll get to his question in part II, and, today, focus on the basic facts of input lists, which are really quite simple.

Previous articles on Stageplots:

You might be tempted to think input lists are not that important. After all, if you're a huge touring act, you're probably touring with your own engineers who know your inputs, and if you're five-piece local act, house engineers might not even bother looking at your stage plots much less your input lists most nights. The truth is that unless you are a solo acoustic act it's very unlikely that any engineer is going to keep a complete input list in their heads and having it written down is the way to go. If you are ever asked for an input list, that means someone is trying to help you, so you should try and give them the best input list you can, so they can help you as best they can. Making good input list is ridiculously easy, and, as David's experience has taught him, having a good input list can save you some grief (actually, there wasn't much wrong with David's input list, and it still caused him some grief!). So let's just take a few seconds right now to get this right!

We've got a stage plot, why an input list?

Your stage plot clearly shows all your instruments, and should show how you want them connected to the sound system (via DI or mike -- you did do that, right?), so why do you also need an input list? There are a few reasons. The most common reason is simply a check list of all instruments so that the engineers can make sure they've got signal for everything. It can also be a place for additional notes or reminders. This is especially true if you've got a huge act and you simply can't put all the information you need on your stage plot. It's also a good chance to put the important stuff up top to help your engineers focus on what's import -- eg. lead vocals first! Since most mix engineers build their mix from the "bottom up" you might want to number your list backwards, like so, but we'll see in a moment why that probably doesn't matter:

7VocalsWireless Mike (We can provide)
6Acoustic GuitarDI
3-4Drum Overhead

Notice how the input list is ordered in the same way that the mixer might be set up -- so that the mix can be built from the "bottom up", and the "money channel" lead vocals, are at the top, where they are least likely to be missed. Notice, also, that stereo sources get two channels -- you'll do the same thing with stereo keyboards and so on.

For most acts, that's all there is to it. Really. You are done. It's that easy and it will make your show go that much more smoothly.

But, you say, what if, say, another act goes on first and uses channels 5 and 6 for toms, but is otherwise the same? What if the house mixer has inputs 1-16 reserved for some other purpose, like a multitrack feed? What if the the mixer is some weird configuration or the mix engineer like to put the vocals on the low number channels? What does the house engineer do? The answer is, they ignore your channel numbers. Completely. And that's okay, because most of the time you're channel numbers don't matter, and unless your channel really do numbers matter for some reason, you can stop reading.

If you think your channel numbers really do matter, part II is coming up.