Lighting your band’s show is not only a cool way to add a new dynamic to your shows but also a great way to stand out from the rest! Adding production value to your gigs can make the difference between you getting top billed or being the eternal support act.
You can create an impressive effect on a reasonably modest budget. Stage lighting can be as simple as a set of par cans, or as sophisticated as a fleet of intelligent moving heads programmed to every beat of the music. The good news is that lighting has become more affordable and convenient, whether buying your own lighting rig, or hiring on a gig-by-gig basis.
Ten Simple Lighting Techniques to Make Your Band Look the Bomb
1. Who’s in the Spotlight?Typically profiles or spotlights are used on individual performers so that they can be a focus point during the show. Typically the lead singer would be lit up during a song’s performance, however if there is a lead break then the guitarist would become the focus point in order to direct the audience’s attention to them.
The spotlight does not have to be white, in many cases shades of amber and warm white can be used depending on the mood you’re looking to create. Some will go to the extreme of red for a ‘fiery’ performance.
You could start with one parcan but ideally need to use 2-3 for a small performance to get the light on the star performer from more than one angle.
The height of the lights needs to be somewhere between 1-2.5 m high which can be achieved using a lighting stand.
2. Backdrop or “Cyc” Lighting
A stage will generally have a back wall that can be used to project a backdrop or illuminated to match the mood of a song. Examples are using parcans with a set colour or changing colour as per a pre- programmed sequence (via DMX usually). If your music is upbeat and has a high level of bass to it, you can use the parcans or another disco effect set to on music activation.
Some bands will also use mood lighting such as a water effect or an oil effect if you’re looking for a soothing effect.
If you want to achieve brighter and more interesting effects in the background, use a couple of moving heads with gobos (gobos are usually built into the light and allow the light to project different shapes on the wall) rotating and changing shapes. This is obviously a more expensive option but can certainly be hired as needed instead of purchased to achieve the desired effect without breaking the budget.
3. Mood and Drama
Different colours can add mood and intensity to a show. Use darker colours like blue or violet for a dramatic blues effect or colours like amber or red for adding energy to the performance. The light source would usually be a par can or a wash led bar. These can be placed in different locations e.g. shining from the side onto the performers to add another dimension of colour to the show.
Always make sure the lead performer or singer is washed by a brighter colour than the rest of the band to draw attention to them. If there is no lead performer as such, then we recommend all members of the band to be highlighted by the brighter colour and have a clear contrast with the background lighting in terms of colour and brightness, i.e. background is to be generally darker and lower tones of colour than the performers.
4. In Silhouette
Lights can be projected from behind the performer to create a silhouette adding mystery and drama to the band or musician selected. This is obviously in contrast to the suggestion shared in our previous article because it depends on the effect you’re trying to achieve. One suggestion is to start the show with backlighting (and no spotlight on the lead) and progress to lighting them up a few seconds through the performance when the music picks up. This would create a more dramatic effect and heighten the suspense.
By placing spotlights or colour changers on H-stands at the feet of the performers and shooting up at them it creates a dramatic “up-lighting” effect. This looks even better when used in conjunction with your cyclorama to create depth and intensity from the front to the rear of the stage.
Colour changers are used to add visual excitement and to define the mood of the track. Certain colours can be programmed for specific verses while the chorus might be a flood of one specific colour. Even simple washes can look the business with the spotlights cutting through and profiling the individual performers.
Shining a different colour from one angle will add nice depth to the show and will look quite impressive as well
7. Add Fog for Effect
Fog or haze machines are used to create mood and drama and to highlight the beams of light that are being projected onto the stage. The fogger has been used as a stage effect in its own right with heavy rock bands in particular using thick blankets of fog to create intense backdrops. Types of lights used as an example are flood lights such as parcans or LED Bars.
Blinders are intense lights that shoot out at the audience seemingly lighting up the whole venue. The lights momentarily “blind” you hence the name of the effect. These are normally set up behind the band or on both sides of the stage pointing directly into the audience. Don’t leave those on too long otherwise your effect is too intense and it becomes annoying for the audience.
Strobes are intense white lights that flash fast and are used in short bursts during the performance to create the dramatic effect of slow-motion or during a crescendo or short drumming feature during the piece. Don’t use for more than a few seconds otherwise it can also become annoying.
Lasers are another perfect effect. You can place a couple of lasers behind the performers pointing up in diverging directions (like a V shape for example) and combined with fog will create a really awesome effect.
9. Moving heads
Moving heads are a fantastic option to add to your performance. They add movement, colour and shapes (gobos) to the overall effect making it look like a top notch production. You can place two or four moving heads on both sides of the stage around or behind you. The ideal way to program them is mirroring (see more about that in our previous post about lighting control shortcuts). They can rapidly change colours and direction as well as point to the backdrop and project gobos (shapes) which could rotate or prism depending on the capabilities of the moving head you’ve got.
Moving heads are typically more expensive than the average lighting fixture, so you can hire them if your budget does not allow it.
If using moving heads, smoke would really make the effect even more impressive.
10. Who’s in Control?
Most intelligent stage lights have DMX control capability on board and advanced control features on offer. A lighting technician or designer is usually used to operate the lighting rig in much the same way as a sound engineer, however there are simpler options. Running your lights sound active can look superb while some bands synchronise their lights to a drummer or keyboardist’s midi click track. Sound active can have its limits however and cannot be used with all types of music. It mainly applies to music with higher tempo and a good share of bass.
And Finally: Get Creative!
The best thing about lighting up your band or performance is that there are no hard and fast rules to follow. Creativity and practicality are the best ways to ensure that your band not only looks the bomb but also enhances the overall show. When the bands rocking out and the light show’s in harmony with the whole performance, it’s almost like a religious experience.
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