Any performance is greatly affected by how the performers are viewed. Stage lighting for bands is a tool for leaving a good, lasting impression in the hearts of the audience.
Having a good stage lighting during your performance, even if it is just a gig, is very essential. It enhances the show and keeps the attention of the audience where you want it. It is also useful in distracting the audience from things you want to conceal. To do this, you could hire your own lighting designer (which is really not feasible for a small gig) or manage the stage lighting on your own. If you are planning on arranging your own stage lighting, there are some stage lighting basics you might want to know first.
Band Stage Lighting Basics
See how much power supply is available at the venue. You will need a chunk of it to power your sound system (PA). Make provision for additional power supply or avoid using heavy equipment for stage lighting, in case you think it might cause an overload.
Check out the size of the stage on which you will be performing.
- Divide the stage into a number of ‘areas’, depending on the total stage area.
- Choose the areas or parts in an area which you want to highlight.
- Use a thick black curtain as the backdrop as far as possible. This will not reflect any light and absorb the extra light from unwanted sources.
Basic Stage Lights
Start with minimum or basic lights you will require for your performance.
- The number of light fixtures for a stage depends on the size and number of areas you divide your stage into.
- Light each stage area using two fresnel or PAR (Parabolic Aluminized Reflector) light fixtures. Most musicians prefer to use PAR cans as they are less expensive.
- Fresnels come in 500 to 1500 watts with varying diameters of 3″, 6″, 8″ and 10″. PAR cans are available in different shapes and sizes but the best option for small bands would be PAR 54 or PAR 60, depending on the power available. You could choose between PAR cans with clear lens (give narrowed light beam) or patterned lens (gives wider light beam).
- Set the lights in front of the stage at an angle of 45 degrees with the center of the stage. The two lamps should be at an angle of 90 degrees with each other.
Riggers are used to increase stage lighting possibilities, especially if there are not enough places to hang the lighting fixtures.
- You could make use of portable stands, stage lighting spigots and tripod base stands (t-bars) to rig two or more fresnels or PAR cans in one place.
- Lighting fixtures on these stands should be kept at angles which will illuminate or dazzle. Wrongly placed stage fixtures make the performers look shadowy or ghostly.
- Stage Truss, Push Up Stands, Wind Up Stands and Winch Up Stands are other possible components of a rigging kit.
- You will need to use stage hook clamps, scaffold clamps and wing bolt to clamp the stage riggers and attach lighting fixtures for the stage.
There are varieties of equipment used for effects, but you will get plain white lighting by using only PARs or Fresnels. Choose effects and colors according to the mood you want to create. Some options of equipment for stage lighting effects are given below.
- Dimmer Systems: They give a very good overall effect on stage lighting by dimming or eliminating a lamp or just fading a particular color.
- Gels or Filter Colors: They are square, tin plates with colored paper in between. Gels are used with PAR cans or fresnels by sliding them in front of the lens. A combination of dark and light colors on adjacent light fixture gives a very good colorful effect. The colors that you use on the fixtures set for stage areas, should not clash but blend.
- LED Stage Lighting: These have become quite a rave recently (despite their high cost), due to the fact that they are low in power consumption, clear and bright.
- Rope Lights and Clamp Lights: A strategically placed clamp light or a rope light spread near the drums, is great at emphasizing a particular spot or person.
- Stage Foggers or Hazers: Fog machines give a ‘cloudy’ effect while hazers, true to their name, create an even haze all over the place.
- Gobos: Lighting gobos (a metal or plastic piece with patterned holes), along with a rigging equipment, can be used to create a spotlight.
Other things that you can use for extra effects are strobes, lasers, moonflowers, siren beacons and disco lights, depending on your taste and budget. If you want to use a mirror ball for disco lights, be sure to focus a wash light on it from a proper angle.
Stage Lighting Control
Once you have decided on the lighting design, you will need to think about the control of stage lighting. You have three options:
- Leave them ON the same way, for the entire performance.
- Assign a trusted and knowledgeable person to, manually operate the stage lighting.
- Use a DMX, MIDI or a Footswitching System, which will allow you to change the stage lighting, as per your choice or according to other inputs from the stage.
Before deciding on your personalized lightning design, sit down with the other band members and think over the mood and atmosphere you want to create. Stage lighting for bands also depends on the kind of music and songs that will be played. Choose the lighting fixtures, stage riggers and light effects, especially colors, to create the desired effect. In case you decide to buy any stage lighting or rigging equipment for the first time, it is advisable to first hire them, to see their actual performance.