What goes where?

That is the question and the stage plot is the answer. This simple picture is usually nothing more than a large rectangle that represents the stage that shows where the musicians and their gear will be located within it.

Guitar and Bass amplifiers and speaker cabinets (including monitors) are typically represented with smaller rectangles, and the drums and cymbals with circles. Keyboards are usually just elongated rectangles, but sometime a representation of the actual keys can be added in.

another stage plot 060713 Stage Plot

Microphones can be represented with anything from a “x” to a small circle to a small mic icon. Often the lead vocalist’s mic is represented with a star (they seem to like that).

Other items can be on the stage plot including where power strips and D.I. boxes need to be placed, and even the names of the musicians in the various positions. The stage plot is usually accompanied with an input list of what will be plugged into the mixing console.

Stage plot example

Why a stage plot?

The stage plot is generally for the crew so they know where to place the gear as it is being loaded into the venue and being set up. In addition to the band’s gear, it shows where the risers, monitors, mic stands, and other gear being provided by the production company or the venue.

Since the stage plot is usually included with the contract for booking is faxed (or emailed) to the venue when the band’s production manager or soundman advances the gig, the initial staging (monitors, risers) is often in place before the band’s gear arrives.

(“Advancing the gig” is the term used for when the production manager who is the band’s or artist’s representative calls the venue and the company providing the pro audio, lights, stage (if not provided by the venue) to make sure that the list gear needed will actually be there, that any stage hands needed will be there at the appointed time, to be certain that food and beverages will be provided at the appropriate times, who will be the contact person at the venue, etc.)

The soundman and the monitor engineer will also use the stage plot in various ways including knowing before hand what gear they will need. And a nice perk is their being able to call the players by name during soundcheck instead of “hey, guitar player.”

Stage plot example

As musicians are generally creative types, and Photoshop has become a common tool, some stage plots have become more than the simple line art that they used to be. Actual images of amps, mics, and other gear helps assure the correct piece of gear is placed where it belongs. After all, Guitar Amp 1 and Guitar Amp 2 might be easily confused, but a Fender Twin Reverb and Vox AC-30 look different enough that they should end up in the right place.

Sloppy stage plot example

Some musicians have found themselves confronted with the need of a stage plot and hastily drawn them out by hand (yours truly is included with the group of musicians). This is less than optimum (too much room for errors) and certainly lacks the professional air one would assume that they would want their band to have…although, some wacky art might help defuse the issue.

Humorous stage plot example

If you want to try your hand at designing your stage plot without a lot of hassle, check out www.freestageplots.com where you select your instruments and drag and drop them on the stage.

An input list can be equally useful to the production crew, especially if it is coordinated with the stage plot. The list should follow some kind of order, such as grouping the vocals together (and aside from the lead vocalist, having them plotted left to right as the soundman views the stage). The order of importance helps to a degree, especially if there are a limited number of channels available on the board. The input list is also where mic preference and D.I. are listed.Elliot stage plot example

Some soundman conceived the road crew t-shirt that had the stage plot and input list printed on it…upside down…so they could read it while wearing it! Genious!!

A simple stage plot and input list goes a long way in making your band look professional. Carry a spare in your guitar case could save the day, as could having the image uploaded to your website and iphone…where it would nearly always be on hand and instantly forwarded to whoever needs it.

– Jake Kelly