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The Basics of Band Lighting: How to Begin With Band Lighting

By David / 5 years ago

TheMost, if not all of us, have been to some kind of rock concert at some time of our life.

Whether it was a Skynrd show in the 80’s or the latest teen popstar show last year(I’m sure it was for the kids), we’ve all witnessed great band lighting in its element.

Great band lighting draws you in close, building an intimate connection between you and the lead singer, and then blows you away with huge looks and crazy movement to match the band’s energy on stage.

Do you want to create amazing lighting for your band?  If your desire is to setup some lights and watch them flash in sound-active mode, this isn’t the place for you.  However, if you want to learn how to do band lighting right, keep reading this page…

Beginning With Band Lighting Isn’t Easy:

You’ve got to figure out what lights to buy, what cables to use and how in the world to make it all work together!  There are a myriad of options out there, and everyone wants to sell you something different.  So how do you choose the right lighting for your band, and make the most out of what you already have?

The quickest and most effective way to have a great lighting show is the first learn how to use lighting well.

Start Here: What Makes Band Lighting Different?

Band Lighting 101

Band Lighting BasicsBand lighting is…(typically) isolated and lower in brightness.

Some band looks include lighting the audience via blinders and moving lights, but most of your band looks will be just lighting the band on stage with little to no house lighting.

Unlike worship or corporate lighting, you don’t want to include the audience in your lighting for most of the show.  But when you do include them, you make a huge impact!

Your job as the lighting designer is to bring people’s eyes to the band and keep them there.

Band lighting is…Backlight focused…

Most of your fixtures end up on the backlight truss in band lighting.

Band Stage LightingBacklight best conveys dynamics, shows color and looks awesome in haze.

For many shows, a simple black backdrop is the only set piece, so the flashing backlight doubles as the set.

Backlight is also able to make amazing graphic patterns in the air when you’ve got haze.

And let’s be honest, haze is kind of an essential to good concert lighting, as it allows the lighting designer to paint the air with color and match the band’s emotion.

Band lighting is…Vibrant, dynamic and showy…

Guitarist and LightingOne of my favorite things about band lighting is the ability to be highly dynamic and to really rock out with the guys on stage.

Band lighting takes it’s shape directly from the music – whether it’s slow and basic or fast and dynamic.

You need to watch the band to anticipate and react to changes in the music.

If you have even a basic understanding of time in music, it will help tremendously when lighting bands.

Most rocks songs are 4/4 or similar, with the snare on beat 2 and 4.  You want to time your transitions so that they start and end on beats that make sense musically.

As the lighting designer, you are effectively another member of the band with the dynamics you follow.  This also means if you “play” off beat or with too much energy, you’ll make the whole band look a bit off.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

There is a great art to listening to and anticipating music, and it’s an area that every lighting designer can always grow more in.

Whether you light band’s whose music you know or “busk”, that is light band’s you don’t know – you’ll find a love and knowledge invaluable.

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Band lighting is…Colorful – and there are really no rules!

Colored LightingWhen lighting a band, color is essential.

Whether it is the tiny color shifts of white, red and blue when lighting a metal band or the full spectrum of flashing hues bathing a pop band in light, band lighting really has no rules in regards to color.

Using color well does require a bit of a “feel” to it, but you can start by following the “rules”.

Once you’ve learned the rules of great color, the real fun begins and you can experiment, change things and light bands by feel!

How to Make a Rockstar Design on a Practical Budget:

Practical Band LightingAt this point, you might be thinking – “I want to begin upgrading my band’s lighting, but I just don’t have the money to do it right.”

At this stage in the game, you may set up all the lighting yourself, and you certainly don’t have the budget to pay a lighting person!  So what’s a band member to do?

The good news is that having a great show doesn’t have to be expensive nor does it have to be complicated.  In fact, you may already have the tools you need to create a great show without even knowing it.

Just by taking some basic design principles and applying them to lighting, you too can bring your lighting to an epic level.  Knowledge, and learning how to use lighting well is the key to great lighting for your band.

I have found this to be true in my life and in the lives of other readers of this site.

For example – by simply getting the right lighting console in place, you can have the ability to create lighting presets for each song you play, and to build effects to the music – even if you only have a few lights.

The best way to learn is to get off this website and work with your unique lighting system, seeing what looks you can come up with.


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  • Mike Ewing says:

    Thank you I hope this will be a great asset to the enjoyment of my gigs

  • I think what I’m looking to find out what the bare essentials are for lighting a band. Like the least that a band can get away with in terms of units and placement and still look good.

  • David says:

    Hey Ryan,

    Thanks for writing in! I’ll be sure to add a section/rework the post a bit. Great idea!

    -David

  • Ethel says:

    I have been to multiple concerts, and the lighting makes a huge difference. One concert was in the day time so the sun glare on one side was odd and made the instruments look shiny and reflective. However, when it got dark, their lighting production really amped up the audience. Like you said, it was vibrant and showy!

  • Faylinn says:

    My husband is in a band and they have a concert coming up soon and are trying to decide on their lighting options. The colors in their logo are black, green and white and so I think that a lot of green and white movement would make for an epic performance. What lighting patterns are there that popular bands use that he could consider copying and doing?

  • James Bergman says:

    Part of me is a little surprised that most band lighting comes from the rear trusses. However, if that is what it takes to make cool light patterns, then I think it is great. I also agree that color is essential for good lighting. It is the best way to instantly change the feel of the songs. I also think it is the best way to change the mood of the audience.

  • Chris Singer says:

    I’m a singer/songwriter and utilize my music and testimony to minister to people in recovery. What I do is emotionally charged and powerful and I would like a portable lighting scheme to accent the program. I have about $1,000 in budget for lighting…how should I spend it? Further, are there remote spotlights I can redirect as needed in the performance? Thank you!

    • David says:

      Hey Chris,

      You’ll want to enter your email on this page and get my free guide “3 Steps to Begin With Band Lighting”. It goes into exactly what you need right now!

      I know lighting will help you bring your program to the next level! Thanks for commenting!

      -David

  • I really like combinations of different kinds of lights. Colorful floods, rapid strobes, lasers, spots, and floor panels can be excellent tools to draw the audiences attention to a particular part of the show. Perhaps drawing their attention away from another part of stage where preparations are being made for another stunt.

  • Doc Drew says:

    This info was very helpful. I have an R & B band that is on need of some scaled down lighting effects for a 6 piece group. Any suggestions?

    • David says:

      Hey Doc,

      What does your budget look like? Have you checked out my “3 Steps to Begin with Band Lighting” yet? You can get it by entering your email on this page – it will walk you through the basics that you need to get started!

  • Fred Hero says:

    I do understand that lighting definitely is good because of the colour fills and fancies that goes with it. I’ve attended concerts and in the midst of some folks I do hear them complain about the stage lightings been to shouty and also distorting their view of the performance on the stage.

    • David says:

      I agree! Part of my mission here is to help people create lighting that is effective, but not overdone or distracting!

  • russell joly says:

    Newbie… just getting started. Would like to learn the 1-5 steps for setting up a nice show and not making mistakes that waste money. Crawl, walk, run… that’s my concept for bringing lights into our act.

    • David says:

      Hey Russell! Be sure to sign up for the free “3 Steps to Begin with Band Lighting” on this page – it will walk you through exactly what you need!

      Thanks!
      -David


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