Band Stage Lighting – Make Your Gig A Concert

Friday, August 17th, 2007 - Band Lighting - by:

The question that most of us who do lighting get asked is “My band is doing a gig next week. What should we do about stage lighting?”. You would much rather by playing your bass but, as your keyboard player is in charge of sorting a PA system, you have been given the task of getting some stage lights. On Stage Lighting gives you the lowdown on band stage lighting for beginners.

Guitar Band Lighting
Who cares about lighting! Let’s just get down.
Thanks to foreversouls for this image

Deciding what you need to light your band depends on the size of your gig but let’s assume that, as you are doing your own band lighting, it is not Wembley Stadium. Choosing your stage lights still involves exactly the same choices as those that face the Lighting Designer for the Stones (or Take That, if you prefer).

Power For Your Stage Lighting

The venue for your gig will have some(?) electricity so you can plug your gear in. You will need this to power your PA and backline gear so plugging lights into it is going to use more juice. Find out how much power is available and how it comes out of the wall (what kind of socket connections they have). In the pub venue in the UK, a single 13 Amp socket could provide up to 3000w of power and a 32 Amp ring main (a group of sockets wired together in the venue), up to around 7000w. With some band stage lighting equipment using up to 1000w watts each, you can see how important planning ahead is. And don’t forget that it might not only be your band that is using the power – what is supplying the bar and fridges? If you are in a venue with little power but you need lots of lighting, then LED lighting equipment could be the answer.

Rigging Equipment

This is what your stage lights are sitting on, hanging from or attached to. If the venue does not have any rigging positions you will probably want to use portable stands with cross pieces at the top (called T-bars). These stands mean that any stage lighting from the front shines down on you talented people, from a good angle, and over the heads of the crowd. It is standard practice to have at least two stands, one each side of the venue, with lighting shining at the band from the front (with theaudience). If possible, it is also great if you can have a lighting stand either side of your performance area, with lights shining across your band, or even from behind them. Other useful positions for band stage lighting is on the floor at the front or side of stage, including lighting for the drum kit.

Band Lighting Equipment

When you need your first band stage lighting equipment, you want it to be simple and cheap. The standard light for blasting light and colour at your band is the PAR Can. They come in different sizes and outputs but the stage light for a small band gig is the PAR56 , 300 watts of grunt with a frame on the front to place a coloured filter (gel) in. PAR cans also come in 500 watt and 1000 watt version and are brilliant, if you have the power. Eight to twelve of these Par56 little beauties would light your small band gig and leave some power for the PA on a 32 Amp ring main.

Lighting Control

If you and your bass are going to be locking the kick drum, you don’t want to worry much about lighting control. For band stage lighting on a small scale you have a few options:

  • Plug all your stage lights in a leave them on throughout your gig. Simple.
  • Let an automated chaser control your lights. This has 3 or more “channels” that you plug your stage lights into and it flashes them away to a timed beat or a sound feed from your PA.
  • Using a stage lighting control to “mix” your band lighting during the gig. This is a great option if have a mate/partner who can fiddle with the faders while you are getting down onstage.

If you choose an automated chaser unit, bear in mind that the your stage lights are powered through it, so if it only have a 13 amp plug on it, you can only plug in 3000 watts of lighting. If you think that your band deserves a stage lighting control and willing operator, you will need to get some dimmers to power/fade the lights. Some dimmers are available with integral fader controls so see what available in your area.

Disco Effects

There are plenty of cheap DJ and disco lights available that send out colours and patterns. These often move around to the beat of your band, using an internal microphone to control them. Just plug into an electricity supply and you’re away. These are particularly good for dancefloors and look amazing, despite being relatively cheap, when combined with smoke or haze to highlight the light beams. Oh, and if you are thinking that your 70′s covers band really needs a mirror ball, don’t forget to get some stage lights to shine at it. They don’t produce light on their own.

Band Stage Lighting – Hire or Buy?

If your band is going to be doing these kinds of gigs regularly, you might be considering clubbing together to buy your own lighting equipment. Before you part with your money, why not hire some lighting gear in to see what you like and how easy it is to set up. For more irregular shows or ones in different sizes and types of venues you might find that you would rather hire your band lighting in when you need it. It does mean that you don’t have to maintain it or store it in your garage.

Best of Luck.

You might also be interested in:

Hire Stage Lighting – What You Need To Know

Band Lighting Gels – Best Lighting Filter Colours For Your Gig

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Rob is a Lighting Designer and Moving Light Programmer and currently Senior Lecturer in Technical Theatre Production at Bath Spa University in the UK. He is also the Editor of On Stage Lighting and runs workshops in stage lighting practice.

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32 Comments

  1. francisco semeleer:

    Hi there ,I have a rock band and need some help, i have 16 par56 300W/110V ,4red,4yellow,4green and 4blue ,a chauvet dmx-44 controller and 4 dmx dimmer/relay (DMX-4)..and 4 lightstand .on each stand is an dimmer/relay pack with red,yellow,green and blue on each channel…now is the question , How can I setup the dimmer/relay pack and the controller so i can get only reds, only yellow ,only green or blue, or combination of them…..i read the manuals but still can’t get out….THANKS.. (Aruba)

  2. Rob:

    Francisco

    Sorry for late reply. Spam filter again.

    I don’t know much about the Chauvet kit but had a quick look at the manual. The simple way to do it is to set ALL your 4 Dimmer/Relay to DMX start Channel 1. Then using the Chauvet 44, select Scanner 1 and the first 4 faders will control all the different colours on all stands.

    If you want full adjustment, set your dimmers to DMX001, 005,009,013. The 8 faders on the Chauvet should control the first two dimmers using Scanner 1. The second two dimmers are controlledon the same faders using the page select button. I think….

  3. Andy:

    the general lighting i use for band gigs are 3 bars of 6 par 64s, 4-8 floor cans par 64, depending on the power in each venue i use 1000w or 500w lamps,3 any tronics 6 way paired dimmers. 4 martin roboscan 812s, and a zero 88 fat frog console, we use tank traps and t bars for riggin but we have just got a load of new trilite so im gona be looking a different ways to rig with that

  4. Andy:

    oh and a jem fogger to add to the effect of the movers and pars

  5. Rob:

    Hi Andy,
    That sounds like a good band lighting rig. Thanks for sharing it with us. Hope you are pleased with your new truss (get some mini trusswarmers like PAR16 birdies).

  6. Andy:

    yer we have got a load of par 16 we used for truss warming it looks great

  7. Helly:

    Hi there, I am in an acoustic duo and I saw someone using spotlights on the floor pointing upwards, any tips on what colours I should use to create a warm feel and what position I should put the spotlights in? Any help would be really appreciated, Im new to this, Thanks Helly : )

  8. Rob:

    Hi Helly

    Footlights (lights on the floor, pointing up) are often used by bands for pub / club gigs as they are easy to set up. Warm light coming from below gives a fireside glow that is great for an intimate gig. Putting lights directly in front, low down, can make you look like the monster from a horror film so try putting your spotlights off to the side and angle them back across towards your face. One light on each side lights your face a bit more evenly.

    Any warm amber, lavender or light pink gel looks nice on skin. Some amber gels look more green (eugh!), some more orange. I like Lee 004 Medium Bastard Amber (yes, it is really called that) or even Lee 176 Loving Amber (warm and more intense).

  9. stacey:

    How do u use ICT when doing lighting in a concert?

  10. GrahamDJ:

    What do you mean by ‘truss warmers’? where are you pointing your Par 16′s?

  11. Rob:

    GrahemDJ

    Trusswarmers are light placed to light up, or “warm”, the metalwork of the truss. They are often placed at the ends/corners of a truss, inside shining along the length.

    PAR 16s / PAR30s fit inside small truss quite nicely.

    HTH

  12. Rick:

    I have been reading this and other posts here and I have a question. I am currently running 8 par 56 cans and am looking at converting over to leds pars, mostly because of the low heat and power consumption (We played one club that after the pa and backline was plugged in was sending all of 90 volts to the stage, My controller kept shutting down due to the bad power). With the standard clubs my band play in we are talking about a 15 foot throw for lights. I was thinking of 12 par 64 leds. 8 in front and 4 for the drums, and building up from there. Maybe a laser or 2 and some moving lights. I guess my biggest question would be what kind of controller would you folks recommend? I have been looking at DasLight DVC 2 Gold. It looks like a good program and if I can figure out how to get sound into a laptop it would be more fun. Sooooo…. what do you all recommend?

    Thanks,

    Rick

  13. GrahamDJ:

    Depends on your budget but i use martin Light jockey, the software is free off the martin website but the dongle you will need can be anything between £450 and £1000. Believe me, This will do everything you want and more, but the realreason i recommend it is the product support, the user forum is the best i have come across, ask a question on it and within hours sometimes even minutes you get a reply from people who have used it over many years etc. Definately worth a look.

  14. John:

    Hi,
    I’m in a 3 piece 50s and 60s covers band (Guitar, bass, drums) and we’re looking to invest in a budget lighting rig. The gigs we play are usually in pubs or small venues.

    I’m worried that having coloured lighting might detract from the authentic look we’ve got. Would it be better to just use white lighting? I’m thinking coloured stuff might make it a bit disco.

    In your article it says that the standard for small band gigs is the PAR56 but even these seem a bit powerful for our needs. Would PAR38 or PAR16 lamps be suitable for the main lights shining on the band from the front?

  15. Rob:

    John,

    Even though too many vivid colours might not seem authentic for a 50′s band (I wasn’t around then)lighting your whole gig in Open White might not please the promoter. You don’t want the venue to look like a chip shop, after all.

    PAR56s are a pretty standard size for a small band rig, anything smaller doesn’t have any real power. The thing to do is to try some out – they’re not that powerful.
    HTH

  16. John:

    Cheers Rob,
    After due consideration, I think I’m going to buy a couple of LED PAR 56 cans and mount them to the PA speaker stands or on top of the speakers. This should give us versatility to have different softer colours to avoid the vivid 70′s feel or the bright white chip shop theme!

    Like these: http://www.bksound.co.uk/product.asp?numRecordPosition=1&P_ID=1250&strPageHistory=&strKeywords=&SearchFor=&PT_ID=238

    Do you think it would be worth getting some sort of cheap controller for the lights? Anything you could recommend?

  17. Sheena:

    Could anyone help me a little bit. I have been asked to do the lights for a band on a small club tour. The clubs will have lighting and the singer is a bit older and asked me to light him in a complimentary way. He mentioned that in some photos of the stage, from a previous tour, he looked like an old ghost. I looked at the photos and its clear that the lights were wrong.The lights were making him look bad. Does anyone know which sort of gels or colors would help in this situation?
    Thank you very much.
    Sheena

  18. Rob Sayer:

    Hi Sheena. On caucasian skin, warm colours like straws and light pinks give the singer a healthy looking glow. Avoid using cold colours like steel blue and green if they are worried about looking ghostly.

    Lighting angles can also contribute to your bad look. Uplighting (from footlights on the floor) or steep lighting from overhead is guaranteed to make your singer look like a character from a ghost train. Try to find some more flattering angles, as well as colours.

  19. Sheena:

    Thanks very much Rob.
    So as far as the angles
    your saying a light equal in height to the singers face is best? I’m not sure this is possible in most venues. Even in small places it seems like the lights either come from above or below. What did you mean?
    Also is the color gel called ‘bastard Amber’ a good choice? I’m really going to try to do my best to light the guy in a complimentary way.. any more help is greatly appreciated!
    thanks from Sheena

  20. LD SHARUKH:

    Hi Sheena
    A 226 lee colour correcton filter from a wide parcan at a distance of 16 feet above and at an angle of approximately 45′ should solve all your problems. Use lee 226 or equivalent only, i cant guarantee others.

    Basically you will have to light him from both sides of the stage using wide parcans only. Depending on the size of the stage. You can also use Straw lee004 it is the same as Bastard amber use it and try it. What colour skin is the singer?
    The above works for caucasian not dark skins
    ciao hope it helps

  21. dan winter:

    Hey, I converted 16 par 64′s to led kits and can now get fantastic colored stage washes, any color you can imagine. this is great for club stages. however larger concert stages seem to bring out the pulsing of the leds . is this a common problem? what if anything can change this effect. thanks, dan

  22. Steve:

    I’m in a 5 piece band and we run our own sound and lighting from the stage. One person runs 5 bars of 4 par 64s with a dedicated DMX controller/pedalboard. I run 2 Quad Gems used for back lights and 2-4 moving spots using a tabletop style DMX controller sitting on my amp which as you probably suspect gets tricky as well as distracting to watch on stage. The few dedicated foot controllers I’ve seen are, in my opinion, too limited. I’m trying to find a way to control the intelligent lights with a DMX controller that can be managed with a foot console of some sort. Ideally I’d like to construct “x” number of scenes for “x” number of songs per set and trigger them sequentially (or at least as no-brainer as possible). For example, say for the first song I need a few scenes: 1) spot on keys (250s) and a audio triggered sync from his keys triggering a pattern on the quad gems. 2) Guitars come in spots switch to guitar 3) vocals come in color change and spots on vocals.. etc. etc. I’d like to have a pedal board of say 10 buttons where maybe the first bank has the first 5 buttons set for each of the scenes above where I can just hit each button with my foot as the song progresses. I know life can get more complicated with this approach but that’s the basic goal I’m trying to achieve. My lighting controller vendor says this is not possible (or as least we not aware of how to do it since they appear to focus from the perspective of a dedicated lighting person). I can’t believe there isn’t a controller that can be manipulated in a standard way using MIDI pedal board or something similar. Is there a simple way (ok ANY way) to control either a hardware controller or PC based software via a foot controller? Does any one have any experience with this?

    Thanks,
    Steve

  23. John Valyo:

    We are a “Dad Band” that play on stages that average 10 X 18 feet. Though we play driving rock, we use a simple self powered Behringer PA and look for a simarlily simple lighting system that works itself (we have no lighting tech). Reliable, easy to move, and effective without being overkill, is more important than budget. And, BTW, I need to purchase the lighting system this week….our gig is on Sat 1/30. Many thanks. regards, JV

  24. Steve K:

    It seems there are a lot of us about (here and in other forums) who are trying to find a simple dmx/foot controlled stage solution, for not much dosh.

    I’ve been trying to find a DMX controller which will respond to a MIDI foot pedal and although there are lots around that will do this, the details of how they work seem to be thin on the ground. Even the manuals are of not much help.

    It seems the main question I should be asking here is this:

    I want to trigger chases on a DMX controller via a MIDI pedal and have them controlled by the ‘sound/music’ facility in the controller. If I set the DMX controller to ‘sound/music’ mode then select chases via MIDI will the ‘sound/music mode’ remain active or do I need to re-select this each time I change chases?

    Does anybody have experience of this? Can anybody give me the name of a DMX controller that can work this way?

    Cheers

    Steve

  25. jabels:

    any advice out there for a first time LD cutting their teeth on an old 80s metal band? colors,dos and donts etc?

  26. Bruce Kaplan:

    Hi, Rob,

    Thanks for the informative site!

    I am producing a small folk music concert series at a local church (USA) and the room is lovely, but the lighting inadequate. Its an octagonal shaped room, about 15-18 meters from side to side, with a wooden prism-esque dome ceiling. The potential for hanging a bar is poor, but there are a few small sort of soffits all the way across from the “stage” from which we could hang a spot light or two. Using LED lighting would be ideal from a heat and power point of view, as the church is old, and the wiring almost antique. But I wonder if there any that will through enough light that distance, or do we need to go to some sort of 500 or 1000 watt lamp. Any suggestions? Thanks, Bruce

  27. Rob Sayer:

    Hi Bruce, 15 – 18 meters is a fair old way, meaning you not only need to think about light output (500w would do something, 1000w would be much more punchy), but beam angle as well. LED spotlights are in their infancy at the moment and are not going to be within church budgets I’d suggest. Either way, antique wiring is never good, whatever electrickery you are plugging into it.

  28. MCTash:

    Hi folks,

    Any help most welcome.

    I am in a Dad rock band.

    We have 2 x kam parbar and would like to have the tempo of the lighting changed by the drummers ddrum trigger/alesis D5 module set-up, it seems we need to invest in a dmx controller with midi functionality. I have scoured the t’interweb and can not seem to find a good recommendation.

    Kind regards

    »crosslinked«

  29. Jon Cope:

    @Jabels
    I know its a late response but if your looking for a cheap easy setup, run 2 t-bars with Red, Green, Blue and open White, then you can make anything you need, (Think Large LED’s), If your feeling special turn two OW’s out to the audience and you have blinders, and on the do front, have fun, on the dont fun, make sure you drink but stay sensible (on a techie scale)

  30. Joe:

    I am having a band with drums, 2 guitars, and keyboard.

    I am not sure what is required from the electrical box ie:

    I have 220 capabilities but only have set up for the following::

    i have 1 single pole 30 amp breaker ; 1 single pole 20 amp breaker; and 2 single pole 15 amp breakers; will that be enough to supply for the bands lights and amplifier’s

    thank you for your help

  31. Kev:

    Please help- im new to this!
    Basically i have just bought 2 EUROLITE SLS-183/10 led lights.(dmx in/dmx out at the back)
    i want to control them with a footswitch,what do i have to do to connect!

    Thanks,i need this simple as possible…

  32. Callum vale:

    Hi I’m in a rock n roll band and we want some lighting just to make it more of a performance at our gigs. We are all young and cheapness is a necessity.
    We don’t have a complex pa and don’t want to complicate it more so having a simple set up and control is also important. Maybe only 2 lights (1each side) as we tend to play smaller places and our bigger venues have lights already there. What would you guys suggest?

    Callum
    Almost Blues

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