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Set List for the Sound Man or Women
© 2009 Loren Weisman

Do you ever find yourself wishing the soundman knew your songs or your music a little better? Telling yourself if he only knew about this dynamic or that change, or that you mean to make this horrible screeching sound that should not be compressed. Maybe you wish the monitors could be turned up at a certain section or maybe if there is a light guy to have him cut the lights right at a big accent.

You have seen it in larger shows where everyone just seemed in sync and you long for that, even if this is the only night you are working with a given soundman, monitor engineer or lighting guy.

The Forgotten Notes

A lot of artists will come up to a soundman and, before hitting the stage or during a sound check, barrage the soundman (or woman) with a series of verbal bullet points. More often than not, these are immediately forgotten, especially when there is a night where you are on a bill with a number of other artists. Your information will surely fall through the cracks and be history.

Then on the other hand, there are those places where the sound guy is going to get a linear level line just making sure that nothing is feeding back and everything can basically be heard. You are not going to see those nuances at that show. But, if you have the right venue, the right crew and the right information, you can take your show up a notch.

Give The Sound Man the 411

I heavily and strongly advise that every band has a stage plot and or input list printed out and ready to hand to the soundman once you arrive at the venue. If it is a larger venue, or you are going to have a monitor engineer side stage or separate from your soundman, then have two sets of copies. While some might look at you like you’re crazy, the professional soundmen will be both impressed and able to help you much more with your sound, your setup and your show.


Think of it like giving directions for someone to get to your house. If you just give the address, that means people have to look up the route, guess or try to find it. This can mean extra time and extra effort that is seen as a pain to many people. Yes there is mapquest out there, but think of it as if it was before it was easy to just look up directions on the internet. There is no mapquest for your music.

By giving the sound crew your stage plot and an input list, you are supplying them with a blueprint to your set up. and easy to follow directions to get the fastest set up and sound going for your band. Ask any engineer that is worth their weight and they will more than appreciate the effort and work harder for you. Think of it in this way….You have just made life easier for them, they will likely return the favor.

The Soundman or Soundwoman’s View

Take the view from the soundman’s side. All these bands want to have the best sound in the world and more often than not, do not do anything to help the sound crew make things go faster or easier. You now have a better chance of getting better sound on stage because you just made the job a little easier for the soundman.

Now taking it one more level, why not give the sound engineer a set list?

They do not need to know the songs by heart, but by handing off a set list with a description of how each song starts, ends and any abrupt or very important dynamic change along the way, you can give some additional direction and ideas to a sound crew that might go a little further for you.

For example:

1. Stuck In A Moment – Loud Rocking tune

     a. Starts with drum opening then fill in to the band
     b. Breakdown fake ending in the middle with bass solo
     c. Outro – every one ends together

So the soundman that reads this might decide to bring up the drums a little more for the beginning. If he is working lights or has someone by him doing lights, he might cue that person to raise the lights on the drummer. Since the soundman is aware of a bass solo, he may bring the bass up immediately in the middle, instead of what often happens, where the bass player starts the solo and then the sound crew realizes what is going on and makes adjustments half way through if at all.

So That’s How It Goes

Knowing the group ends together, he or she might pull the faders or even just cut the volume for an optimum effect.

Other things you might mention is about loops or samples that might be coming from the keyboards at certain times. If you are switching in between acoustic and electric guitars or switching instruments all together. Mentioning who is singing what songs so other microphones can be turned down to prevent feedback or extra noise.

Mentioning that the drummer might be using brushes, turning off a snare drum or anything else that might make the sound crew look up and wonder what is wrong. Give some simple directions that can make things easier for the front of house.

Of course you should be able to give the best show you can possibly from stage. I am not taking away from technical proficiency and basic showmanship as well as knowing how to perform on stage, but getting that extra boost from the soundman can help a great deal in adding that extra punch to a show.

Don’t Write A Book

Don’t go over the top with it though. Basic notes, basic song set list. Do not go asking for crazy things that change every song or if you really feel you need or want those elements, talk to the soundman about giving him some money or some type of incentive to do that little extra.

Otherwise, delivering a set list with a couple additional notes to the soundman can be a helpful extra that might make things sound a little better and make the sound crew’s life a little easier

Loren Weisman is an accomplished music producer and drummer based in Seattle, Washington. Having worked on over three hundred albums, Loren has also worked on numerous television, film, video game and radio productions, from New York to Los Angeles, Boston to Seattle. Loren is the founder of Brain Grenade Entertainment LLC, and the author of the Freedom Solutions Recording Plan. Loren has also written “The Artist’s Guide to Success in the Music Business”, a book to help independent musicians achieve self sufficient and sustainable success.

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