Three Important Planning Documents
So, with that in mind, I always take the time and initiative to assemble three documents, in this order: a stage plot, an input list, and a cue sheet.
Nothing you do as audio mixer will save you and your team more time and energy, and in turn make you look more on top of your game, than taking the time to prepare and implement these three documents.
For the stage plot, work with the service director to assemble it. It essentially shows where the pastor, actors, musicians, and their instruments will be located on the stage. You can also include information on where you’ll place monitor wedges or which musicians will be working with in-ear monitors, where you might need power drops, etc.
This will allow you to have mics, DIs, stands, and monitors all within arm’s length of where the musician will set up before they walk in the door, allowing for nearly instant patching of your sources. It can also help you preempt and diffuse difficult transitions between events and elements of your service.
For the input list, you—not the director—should take the initiative to question the musicians and find out what instruments they’ll be bringing, and then list it out in a simple spreadsheet. Lay it out just as you would lay out your console and have it show everything you deem relevant about a given console input. Include info such as what microphone or DI you’ll use, what snake line or stage box the mic will be patched into, what kind of mic stand you’ll need.
Possibly have a “misc.” column that lists things such as quarter-inch cables needed, etc. You can even get console-specific and list what inserts you’ll need for a given input and include notes about its associated patch. This is especially helpful when using analog mixing systems.
There’s nothing wrong with having extra items handy and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Maybe the guitar player will bring an extra acoustic just in case of an arrangement change, or the drummer may bring an extra drum for a given song.
It will always be better to have extra DIs sitting patched and ready to go and not need them than it is to scramble to find and patch them while everyone is waiting on you to make it all happen. The depth of your preparation is only limited by your imagination and what your situation typically demands.
For cue sheets, again work with the service director and make simple but detailed notes for every “audio event” that happens in the service.
I usually layout every event that happens from “walk-in music” to “CD-R record ready” to “verify drama mics and stand by” to “mute acoustic during the breakdown” to “walk out music fades up” etc. With many digital consoles, you can incorporate a cue sheet note into every recallable scene on your console and have it displayed prominently on the GUI. Very handy indeed.
Believe it or not, this seemingly simple process has many overarching side effects. First, it’s a huge time-saver for everyone involved when time is the most coveted factor in rehearsal. It will also help you dramatically build self-confidence because you’ll be on top of the game and prepared for the job at hand, which will please the musicians and pastors and make for a much better performance.
And finally, it will relax you and allow you to stay focused on your most important duty: anticipating all the moves you’ll need to make throughout the service, and not simply reacting to them.