Sunday, February 25, 2024
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Stage Lighting 101 for the Band on a Budget

You don’t have to be a lighting technician to understand that stage lighting can enhance any band’s musical performance.  Scene: the lights dim, the fog machine mists the darkness.  Spotlights follow the band as they make their way to their positions on stage.  The first note of your favorite song erupts into colors of blue, purple and red.  You are entranced into that very moment of rock n’ roll.

The earliest theatrical activity came about in the Roman and Grecian eras, where the purpose of theatrical lighting was simply to see what was happening on stage.  Nowadays, stage lighting is an art just like the talent that is being performed on stage. But unless you just happen to be Joan Jett (and that would be pretty amazing if she was actually reading this), you most likely play in a band that probably cannot afford a lighting technician, never mind lights in general.  But no worries!  As a band member your priority should be the music anyways, but that does not mean you cannot add a few simple things to your set up and leave behind an epic musical performance.

First, there are some important things to reference when thinking about basic stage lighting.  Those are the intensity, color, and focus. Here it is broken down:

*Intensity is used to describe the rate at which light spreads over a given surface area.  The intensity varies with the distance from the light source.  It also depends on the type of bulbs and the wattage used, too.

*Color has some kind of emotion tied to it and is just one way that we can express mood with stage lighting.  For example, red gives the connotation of heat, fire and passion.  Blues on the other hand are more calming and subdued.  So whatever the song style may be correlates with the color of light trying to set the mood.

*Focus on what you are trying to illuminate, but also don’t blind your drummer. This is very important when thinking about where to put your lights and what you trying to brighten.

Another thing to think about when it comes to Lighting 101 is that there are a variety of instruments frequently used in stage lighting. Although they vary in many ways, the basic ones you will need are:

*The housing is the metal or plastic container that contains your light source and prevents light from spilling into unwanted directions. A simple clamp light with a metal cover would work and simply clamp it on.

*Light source is the lamp or bulb that you using.  The two bulbs most often used for do-it-yourself stage lighting are incandescent par 38s and standard halogen bulbs.

*Gels that come in various colors that you can cover your light source with to get the mood you want to set.  Using heat-resistant tape, you can always tape the color gel you want to your light fixture. Or you can keep the gel way by purchasing a sheet-metal collar to fit over the light fixture.

*Extension cords and power strips are always a good thing to have with your set up.

Now the fun begins!  Play around at practice with an easy, quick set up for your band.  Always be prepared to set up your lights in an unfamiliar stage setting, and be ready to do it efficiently and quickly.  Your local hardware store should have most of the items needed for your stage lighting and would be most cost effective.  Another good source to use too is

Amy Arnold



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