Stage plots, riders, input list, schedules, order of service, etc. Anything that covers details of the event needs to be in your hand BEFORE the soundcheck. I like to see them several days before whenever possible.
Don’t assume that the paperwork stays constant. Band members change, shows change, gear gets replaced, new material requires new setup most of the time. Don’t assume that the band you mixed six months ago will have the same paperwork. Don’t assume anything. Read the paperwork.
The riders tell you what the client expects and what we agreed to do. It lays out every detail of setup, load in and rehearsal times, types of gear that they need, things they want and things that they don’t. If you can get one in advance, it makes life easier.
Not every rider has ridiculous stuff like the infamous M&M gag that Van Halen is credited for. But, there is usually something that is out of the ordinary. Make a habit to look over these when you get them.
They will have certain mics they want, some they absolutely don’t want to see. Most of the gear will be like this. It doesn’t matter if your favorite mic is that old Peavey from the 80’s, most bands will assume you are an idiot if they see it on lead vocals. Don’t argue when they tell you this. It’s true. Find out what mic they want and use it.
Even though it’s not the best vocal mic, most people will accept a Shure SM58. You can usually get away with a SM57 on most instruments. Very few people will complain about those two. Virtually any mic from Shure’s Beta series will satisfy most bands.
Some bands bring their own stuff. It’s a big time and money saver when you don’t need to rent a dozen specific mics and set them all up. Feel free to bang your head against something after you do that and then they walk in with the same mics. Read the paperwork.
Stage plots tell you where the client wants everything set up. They show the normal location of every microphone, monitor, riser, etc. Most bands and clients understand that they are at the mercy of each stage. Sometimes things have to be adjusted to fit. But, don’t try moving a drummer to stage right when the plot shows them on stage left. That is unacceptable.
It will show you which monitors go where and how many. It will lay out how the band is laid out. Don’t assume a three piece band sets up the same as the last one. However, there are some common setups.
If the band is using in-ear monitors, they normally don’t want floor monitors.
Most lead singers want to be front and center, two monitors at 45 degree angles in front of them.
Most drums will end up on a riser, center stage, 10-15 feet back from stage front.
Most bass players like to be on the snare side of the drums.
Most singers prefer boom stands. Backup vocals, that don’t play an instrument, can have straight stands.
Most corporate shows will expect at least two wireless lavaliere mics, two handheld and two wired.
Most A1 engineers will expect excessive amounts of coffee. Only the good stuff
Input list. This will show how they want the mixer set up. On corporate shows, nobody will normally have an input list. They don’t normally care. They just want the show to happen.
When it’s a band, that’s very different. They want to be able to instinctively reach for a fader and grab the right one. Almost every band will have a similar input list, basically. Drums start on the left. Kick, snare, hat, toms, overheads, etc. Kick drum will be channel one on 99% of all input lists.
From there it varies with each band. Usually bass picks up after the drums. Then keyboards, then guitars, then random weird stuff that only they would use. Then vocals. Effects returns and tracks usually end up on the last channels. I don’t like using the returns on some boards because you lose EQ and the ability to send them back to monitors.
Whenever I set up vocals, I try to make them idiot-proof. Good luck. Lead vocals need to end up near the center of the console. Why? Because in the studio you need to be dead center of the stereo image for the vocal. Try to make it a habit.
There will be some common items here, too. Not always, but some of these are considered normal.
Most drummers expect a Shure Beta 52 or AKG D112 mic on their kick and a SM57 on snares and toms.
Most electric guitars expect a Shure SM57 on their amps.
Most bass and keyboards expect a high quality direct box, not a cheap passive box.
Most drummers want a sub with their monitors, even when they have in-ear monitors.
When you setup your monitor mixes, there are some common setups there, too. Again. Don’t assume that this is normal or even close to what the band wants. But, this will help with most church or club bands.
Most stages can run fine with only side fills, front wedges and drum monitors. Most festival can do this every time.
Most bands want a separate monitor mix for each member.
Most do not want to share a mix.
Most churches and clubs can survive with two mixes. Front and back. Vocals front. Band back.
Most won’t like that, either. Most can get over it until they have a tour of their own.
Some bands expect a monitors mix like a house mix, some of everything in there.
Some bands want only minimal stuff in their mixes. This is more common.
Most singers want their mix to be mostly their voice, if not only their voice.
Most bands, who request side fills, will want primarily lead vocals in them.
Most of the band will not want to hear BGVs (back ground vocals) or horns. Sorry.
Most drummers want kick, snare, hat, bass and vocals. Not much else.
Most singers want to swim in reverb. Give them all they want in the monitor.
Most reverbs make the house mix suck. Don’t use it if you don’t know what you are doing.
Most singers get carefully timed delay with slight reverb in the house mix.
A quick note here about those effects. My general opinion was this…
Effects are like makeup. If everyone can tell it’s there, you are using too much.
Schedules, order of service and other funny things.
Some bands, churches and corporate events will stick to these like the whole world depends on it. It’s more common for these to be a rough framework for how they hope it goes. They are usually in the right order with the right content, forget the ones that include minute by minute fantasies.
What these are to be used for is notes. These give you a place to write down and set or stage changes throughout the event. If you are running tracks, you can note which track, when it starts and when it ends.
Which mic each singer will move to for solos or specials.
When to bring something up or down in a mix.
When to turn certain mics on or off.
When there will be a dead spot to let the new guy babysit while you run for the bathroom.
Stuff like that.
Take advantage of these when you get them. They can save you show and occasionally, your life. You don’t understand the value until you forget something. Like leaving some poor slob in the middle of a stage, alone, holding a mic, with five thousand people staring at them. What track was i supposed to play here?
Killing you will not be enough for them.
It doesn’t matter if you are a mega super genius with multiple degrees from smart guy university, you will forget stuff. Take notes and use them. Take care of your show. Lose the cocky attitude and do your job. Nobody is there to watch you. They are there for the show. The only reason anyone notices you is when you screw something up. It’s best if they don’t notice you.
Read your paperwork. Do your job.
Here’s some links to the referenced gear.
Shure Beta 52A Instrument and Bass Drum Microphone
AKG D112 Large-Diaphragm Dynamic Microphone
Shure SM57-LC Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
Shure SM58-LC Cardioid Vocal Microphone without Cable