How To Create an Input List For Your Live Show.

Present your input list in a standard format that any audio engineer, promoter, or rep, will understand.

Your input list is an important document that makes up your technical rider. “Input” in this case refers to the sound sources you use on stage that need “inputting” into the venue sound system. The input list for a four-piece guitar band may look like this:

1) Kick
2) Snare
3) Hi hat
4) Rack tom
5) Floor tom
6) Cymbals
7) Bass guitar amp
8) Sam’s guitar amp
9) Holly’s guitar amp
10) Holly’s vocal microphone

I mentioned that the input list should be ALL the sound sources you have on stage. You may just be a four-piece guitar band, but did you list the laptop computer that runs the drum loops you must have for the show? Or that the vocalist runs her microphone into an effects pedal and that she needs to hear both the original (dry) signal and the FX onstage?
Providing an accurate input list will ensure that any sound team will know how many instruments you have on the stage, how many inputs you need to go to the sound system, how many DI boxes you may need, and how many monitor wedges and mixes you require. (You can read a great explanation here about why you should use a DI box

The problem

Not having an input list can cause problems. Imagine you are a singer/songwriter who plays an electro-acoustic guitar; the guitar has a built-in jack output. Your input list will therefore be:

  1. Electro-acoustic guitar—jack out, needs a DI box
  2. Vocal

But wait a minute. Say a radio station book you to for a live session. You turn up, explain that you sing and have your electro-acoustic guitar. The studio audio engineer will set you up with a vocal mic and a DI box for the guitar and get you to play some songs to set the right levels. But halfway through your recording session, you pull out your other “proper” acoustic guitar (the one with no jack output) and play your instrumental number. To amplify the guitar, you pull the vocal microphone down to point at the guitar. At this point the radio station engineer freaks out and runs into the studio, shouting something like “what the hell are you doing?”. “I always do this when I play this tune in clubs—is it a problem?” you reply.

Yes, it is a problem. Audio engineers strive for audio purity. Modern recording techniques allow for each instrument to be recorded (or amplified) separately, adjusting EQ and levels to suit the overall mix. This applies to live sound reinforcement. In our example, the radio station engineer will have used an expensive, high-quality condenser microphone on your vocal. The engineer will have EQed, compressed, and added reverb to your voice, adjusting these to get the best sound into the recording device. With all that done, you yank down the vocal microphone and shove it into the sound hole of an acoustic guitar! Aside from offending the engineer’s hearing and possibly damaging the microphone’s diaphragm, the sudden increase in sound level will make the acoustic guitar sound bad—the compressor will cut in, and the warm tones of your guitar will be squashed into a reverb-y mess. Imagine if you did this in a gig and cacophony that would result from the volume that a modern PA can produce. So, you should note any variation or change in instrumentation in your input list.

Keeping with this example of you as a singer/songwriter, you have three separate sound sources: your vocal, the guitar with the jack output, and the acoustic guitar that needs a microphone. You would specify an input list like this:

  1. Electro/acoustic guitar—jack out, needs a DI box
  2. Acoustic guitar—microphone
  3. Vocal—microphone

Any audio engineer will set the best microphones, EQ, reverbs, and compression for each of the separate sound sources after receiving such a list. Providing this detail will give you control over your sound and conveys a more professional impression.

The solution

To create an accurate and relevant input list you should walk around your rehearsal room or home studio, and make notes on how many sound sources need inputting to the live sound system.
When you have collected this information, your input list should show:

  • A channel number. Having a channel number makes troubleshooting a sound- related problem easier. For example, you can say, “There is a buzz on channel 13,” rather than, “There is a buzz on the bass booms.” You may know what your bass booms are, but the house or festival engineers will not.
  • The name of the instrument or source.
  • Does the sound source require a mic or a DI box? Specify this next to each source.

You should also provide a stage plan. A stage plan should show where the sound sources are located on the stage. Showing the input list numbers helps the audio crew to connect the right mics and DIs. You can also indicate the positions of the monitor wedges if you feel like it. You do not need pictures of guitars, crosses showing where people stand, or 3D projections of the stage, for your stage plan. Stage plans and input lists work best when they are simple and convey relevant information only. You can see an example of an input list below and you can watch my video on making input lists and stage plans on YouTube.

An example of an input list and a stage plan laid out in a standard format.
An example of an input list and a stage plan laid out in a standard format.

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