Band lighting - small venues

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Horses eat the hay and sleep/defecate/urinate on the straw. Wheat and rye are used for most straw, hay can be a variey of plants varying from grasses to alfalfa. A hayride is usually a straw ride, not a hay ride. A roll in the hay is really a roll in the straw. Hay doesn't go on the ground. I used to deliver hay and straw to racehorse farms right before I became an electrician. What a miserable job that was. Snakes like straw. Carrying bales up in old failing barns, or in oven hot metal shipping containers. It was so dusty, I'd spit and it would be all black. 8 months of mostly misery lol.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Wait a minute. They have to hear us and see us?
I know I know - the very audacity of it!

Anywhere that we would play already has lights and a designated stage
Then job done :) Investing in lighting only makes sense if you anticipate regular use - same with PA gear. The idea of this thread is to provide at least some foundation as to a practical path & avoiding some common pitfalls.

I'm wondering if anyone has experience with or thoughts about using something like this?
I haven't, but so long as the light fittings are fairly lightweight, I see no issues, other than it's a bit ugly.

Great thread here brother! Most just rely on the venue to do lighting and armed with this knowledge, I'll pay closer attention.
We play at a small club where lighting is an issue as the "stage" is in a small corner. This will help..."shed some light" on our issue. =-D
Thank you, & good luck with the project. If you need detail specific to you, just ask here, then we can all share the outcome.

Snakes like straw.
& there's the deal breaker right there :(
 

Otto

Platinum Member
WOW Andy!

Nice!!...and thanks!!!
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
..Lighting is important - especially in smaller venues. Irrespective of the size of band / act, or the genre of music, lighting sets you apart. It turns that corner of a bar into a "stage". Without it, no matter how good you sound, you're all but invisible to the audience - especially an audience who hasn't visited that venue specifically to see you. Lighting announces there's a performance, something to watch, something special..


To me this is typically a discussion that (coverband-) musicians like to have..

I played 4 years in one of the biggest coverbands in my country for avarage audiences between 1000 and 1500 people each week and 2000 till 2500 people during the 'tent-season' (playing in big party-tents..)

We were not owning a own PA/lighting set, but had a deal with a company to rent that for each show, including their sound- and lightguy and a few roadies..

That set came each show with a truck..And with a truck, i mean a truck, not a big van..

And guess what, 99% of the audience couldnt care less..

Ofcourse there are always a few enthousiasts (mostly also musicians..) that like to mention the huge lightshow, but a normal visitor, like i said, couldnt care less..

I think actually with coverbands, the percentages are kinda like this..:

1% of the audience cares about lightning
10% of the audience cares about sound (especially if is too loud..)
10-20% cares a little which band is there to play

And 80% of the audience is just there to have a drink and to every now and then recognize a tune and shout a little along with that..
 

Judge

Member
Great post. Im really into lights. Even just around my house. Halloween is always big. Lights are so important at gigs.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Great advice, but I'm pretty sure I don't need to spend 5 grand on lights for a $50 bar gig!

Indeed, 5G's is something you would drop if you were playing ~100 >=$400 gigs per year for 4 years, doing sound/lights a twice a week, renting, or own a venue. Definitely not for the 2-gigs a month crowd.
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
Btw. My first post in this thread was not meant to criticize the list of advises from the topic-starter, but just my experiences on this subject..
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
avarage audiences between 1000 and 1500 people each week and 2000 till 2500 people during the 'tent-season' (playing in big party-tents..)

And guess what, 99% of the audience couldnt care less..

Btw. My first post in this thread was not meant to criticize the list of advises from the topic-starter, but just my experiences on this subject..
Understood & respected, but context here is everything. If you're playing 1,000 - 2,500 audience gigs, a show is expected. Maybe only a small percentage of the audience would mention lighting, but if they turned up to a gig of that size to find a band playing with minimal - no lighting & a vocal PA on sticks, I'm pretty sure they'd feel short changed.

Great advice, but I'm pretty sure I don't need to spend 5 grand on lights for a $50 bar gig!
Of course not - it's all about context & scale. At virtually all the venues I play in my cover band, we take at least 50% more in fee compared to other bands - sometimes double. That's mostly based on audience draw = straight forward economics, but feedback tells us that our "show" is at least a significant factor in differentiating us from other acts in smaller venues, & we get a payback from that.

Of course, in larger venues, a show is expected & comes with the territory, but that gear is typically provided by others, so outside of this discussion.

Bottom line - for a band playing small bar gigs, having a couple of floor floods to offer at least some sense of performance vibe / area is money well spent IMHO. That's a very modest investment.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I LOVE lighting! It can really change the focus of things in a venue.

Here's the thing I'm running into. The vast majority of stuff we do is during the day and outside. When we play inside, it's usually during daylight hours and we are usually in front of a huge window.

I'm already the drummer and the PA guy, so carrying one more thing is not something I'm going to worry about at this point. If one of the other guys wants to do it, have at it. Luckily, it's not been a need yet!
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
..Understood & respected, but context here is everything. If you're playing 1,000 - 2,500 audience gigs, a show is expected. Maybe only a small percentage of the audience would mention lighting, but if they turned up to a gig of that size to find a band playing with minimal - no lighting & a vocal PA on sticks, I'm pretty sure they'd feel short changed..

Thats the other extreme side of the spectrum..

And i agree that would be kinda weird to position yourself as a band somewhere in a dark corner of the bar..I just think that for the avarage visitor is not mattering a lot if that band has just 2 par-lights on each side or a very well-thought light setup..Maybe even especially in little bars..

And regarding the bigger venues, without wanting to be disrespectful in any way, but a coverband stays a coverband..And to approach a show like you are giving a 'stadium-concert' to me just always felt a little uncomfortable..

I mean, people nowadays are used to this, which to me means that all the huge light-sets that coverbands bring will always look a little 'wannabee-like' anyway, no matter what you try..But again, i agree that trying to setup a nice show can also just be nice..And when a part of the audience is reacting nice to that, then that can for sure also give some satisfaction..Thats why the list of advices that you made for sure can help some people..
 

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Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I LOVE lighting! It can really change the focus of things in a venue.

Here's the thing I'm running into. The vast majority of stuff we do is during the day and outside. When we play inside, it's usually during daylight hours and we are usually in front of a huge window.
Here's a shot of our new rear banner. Made from a twin material layer construction, it's completely non reflective (unlike standard PVC banners) & slightly stretchy. Handy for blocking off rear light sources. We use it for all but the very smallest of gigs. Larger daytime gigs (festivals / rallies), we put this up minus the lighting.
 

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PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Here's a shot of our new rear banner. Made from a twin material layer construction, it's completely non reflective (unlike standard PVC banners) & slightly stretchy. Handy for blocking off rear light sources. We use it for all but the very smallest of gigs. Larger daytime gigs (festivals / rallies), we put this up minus the lighting.

That looks awesome.

Like I said before though, I'm already the drummer and the PA guy. I'm not carrying anything else.

I'd LOVE to have something like that though. Those pics you posted at the beginning of this thread look nothing short of amazing.

I'd thought about getting some of those vertical banners made for whenever we play somewhere. They seem pretty easy to deal with.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I'd thought about getting some of those vertical banners made for whenever we play somewhere. They seem pretty easy to deal with.
They can look good, especially if you get the wide ones (circa 6ft).

Here's a fairly low def video showing the back banner & lights in use on Saturday. Only 3 lights (one spot + two floods) are used either side. Small venue https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrzCYEX1C-Q&feature=youtu.be Lights really kick in towards the latter half of the song.
 

Smoke

Silver Member
Okay, let me get this straight... I've got 4 foot (1.2 m), 6500K "daylight" fluorescent shop lights in my basement. Should I go with something warmer - say around 3000K? For back-lighting, I could use my headlight with the elastic headband. It's got green, red AND white LEDs. This could turn into quite the production!!! Thanks Andy!! I'm on it! ;-)
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Okay, let me get this straight... I've got 4 foot (1.2 m), 6500K "daylight" fluorescent shop lights in my basement. Should I go with something warmer - say around 3000K? For back-lighting, I could use my headlight with the elastic headband. It's got green, red AND white LEDs. This could turn into quite the production!!! Thanks Andy!! I'm on it! ;-)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAct7Ynxty8
 

kurbronj

Member
Thanks for the information. I agree that lighting is essential at concerts. It creates the right atmosphere. Many of my friends like it, although I'm uncomfortable with the bright light. I get a headache when I'm in the bright light for a long time. So even at home, I try to use dimmed lights. If I don't need a bright light for some homework, I use automatic night lights when it starts to get dark. It is very convenient and economical. The light is adjustable depending on your lighting needs. And it is also convenient that you can make an order online on Amazon and pick up the parcel from the mailbox.
 
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Janet Tambour

Junior Member
Due to some interest being expressed in this subject, & updating / building on a thread I started here years ago (now outdated), I though I'd open the discussion on band lighting in small venues that don't have a dedicated stage. I'm referring to bars, pubs, small halls, & similar places.

In such venues, I see bands either ignore lighting completely, or spend money but get it badly wrong. Lighting is important - especially in smaller venues. Irrespective of the size of band / act, or the genre of music, lighting sets you apart. It turns that corner of a bar into a "stage". Without it, no matter how good you sound, you're all but invisible to the audience - especially an audience who hasn't visited that venue specifically to see you. Lighting announces there's a performance, something to watch, something special.

The following assumes LED. Especially in small venues, the old incandescent lighting has had it's day, both in terms of practicality (heat, delicacy, control, bulk, etc) & power consumption. Many of us remember getting to the venue in a beat up van, only to find half the PAR64s didn't work / broken gels, etc, & spending too much of your gig money on replacement bulbs. Modern LED units are great "IF" you know what to buy. There's still a place for incandescent lighting on larger stages. It's still the gold standard in terms of light quality, but no longer a good choice for smaller venue use.

An important note on LED lighting quality. Always choose units with RGBW bulbs. Never buy units with an RGB setup. RGBW bulbs mix the colours within the bulb itself, & also deliver a "pure" white rather than mixing RGB. These typically deliver rich defined colour. RGB units use individual red, blue, & green bulbs to give you the resultant colour. The colours are typically weak / washed out & ill defined. Always opt for the most powerful units your budget will allow. It's almost always better to have fewer high powered units than more low powered ones, even though multiple units will give a more even light spread. If they're insufficiently powerful for the venue / ambient lighting, most of the impact will be lost. Always better to have headroom.

A final lighting quality note. All of the following suggestions are a small venue compromise in the context of professional lighting standards. In all options here, you will get shadows & dead spots without lighting placed up high & forward of the performers. Such setups will not be covered here, as there's rarely the room available, it requires much more gear in terms of trussing, etc, & often has audience safety / insurance implications too.

Ok, rather than penning the mother of all posts, I'll keep this to absolute essentials / broad guidance, in the hope questions will emerge, & details in replies. I'm grouping this for relevance, in the form of do & don't bullets:


1/ Let's start with the most basic setup. A small band / duo / wine bar / or other low key / low impact setting, or where there's simply no space. As a minimum, you want some colour in your performance area. Something very compact & convenient, yet delivers rich colour.

DO:

* Get two (or more) floor standing floods.
* Choose units with a floor stand / mount & adjustment.
* Choose units with barn doors - these will help direct your light / limit light spill.
* Choose units with manual control menu option, not dip switch DMX.
* Choose units with variable light intensity.
* Choose units that can daisy chain the mains feeds.
* Avoid units that use domestic lighting connections on the units themselves. These tend to be unreliable - especially USA 2 pin / 3 pin connections. Choose units with PowerCon if possible, if not, then IEC.
* Keep your light display static.
* Use a different colour for each flood (unless you want all white). This brings a richness / texture to your presentation.

DON'T:

* Ignore any of the above
* be tempted to use any of the change programs or sound to light - Keep it simple!
* Forget to order power link leads. These mean you can run all lights off one socket, & cuts down on stage cable mess.


2/ Next step up. Basic band flood lighting. Now were elevating the lights - typically either side of the performance area. If you've sourced the floor standing flood lights I describe in section 1/, you can simply stand mount them. Stands come in a range of heights & styles, but the tripod type can take up a lot of space. A single truss tower is a much better option, but require securing to something stable (possibly your PA speaker handles). The other common option is what's known as "Par Bars". These are a stand mounted bar, usually featuring 4 x small floods / spots, & with a built in programming unit. They can be either set to static lighting, program changes, or sound to light.

DO:

* Take note of all advice in section 1/.
* Mount lights as high as the venue will allow.
* Make sure your power feed leeds are long enough.

DON'T:

* Attach lights to the top of your speakers using tape.
* Set the lights too low so as to dazzle your bandmates.
* Use set change programs or sound to light.
* Suspend power reels. It looks ugly & it's dangerous.


3/ So you want to control your light show. Doing so will add impact and allow you to set moods. Stage flood lighting is all about setting the scene. A static display is always preferable to lights flashing all over the place through sound to light or sequence programs, but performance control adds a next level feel. If you go for the "Par Bar" option, these sometimes come with a foot controller that allows scenes to be programmed & operated by a stage performer. If you go for the more professional stand alone lighting units, there is no such option. With individual units, you'll use DMX control, & that requires a control desk. These desks can be fairly low cost & simple to use, but you'll be relying on someone else to operate the lights for you. You can easily set a selection of "scenes" on the desk for the operator to select with a single button. Frankly, it's not usually difficult to find a volunteer within your band circle. I'll leave the cabling descriptions to questions if asked, but suffice to say, you'll need to run signal leads in addition to mains feed leeds.

DO:

* Keep lighting settings simple. It's about the performers, not the lights. Discourage frequent light scene changes. One scene / verse, one scene / chorus is a good starting guide.
* Ensure signal leads are of sufficient quality & length. Cheap leads = issues.
* Before buying the gear, if you're going for the ParBar with foot control option, make sure a band member (usually the singer) is happy to operate the lights without detracting from their performance.

DON'T:

* Set scenes that include timed sequences - they never line up with the tempo.
* Use sound to light - it looks sh!t, no matter how much you want to show off your new lights.


4/ Rear stage lighting. Ok, we've covered the basics of flooding the performance area with light, or at least providing some colour to set you apart. Now let's look at impact lighting. This applies mainly to acts wanting a more dynamic presentation. Rear stage lighting is your wow factor. It's designed to give your audience an impression of a "show". These lights can be spot lights if you want to illuminate certain elements, or effects lights such as moonflowers, etc - the list is endless, depending on what you want & how much you have to spend. For small venues, my cover band uses 4 x moonflowers & 2 x spots. A very simple setup that delivers a lot of impact. It goes without saying, once you've decided on rear stage effect lighting, a control desk is a must. Another essential is a hazer (not a smoke machine). A hazer allows your lighting beams to become prominent & adds greatly to the presentation impact. Without one, effects lighting is essentially useless.

Do:

* Take note of all advice in sections 1/ & 2/.
* Pay attention to the footprint of the light mounting stand / stands. Tripod based units are often impractical. Trussing is better, & looks good too.
* Choose the highest power units your budget will allow. This is especially important with effects lighting.
* Carefully integrate your effects lighting with your flood settings. You'll need to dim your floods if you want the effects lights to dominate.

Don't:

* Use a hazer unless you've cleared it with the venue first. Hazers are much less likely to set of smoke alarms than smoke machines, but it's still possible. if the venue isn't happy, don't bring your effects lighting.
* Buy cheap haze fluid.
* Over use effects lighting. Less is definitely more.


Ok, that's enough for a starting guide. Hopefully, some of you will find it useful.
I've attached a few pictures of my cover band's setups. Unfortunately, they're screen shots from videos rather than photo's, so picture quality woeful, but you get the idea. Video links there too if you're interested.

Picture 1 - a tiny & packed daytime bar gig - zero room - two floor floods. Note: Floods were placed at the performer's feet due to extreme room restriction, & aimed at leg level so as not to dazzle. Daytime too, so worst possible lighting situation, but it still added.
Video:

Pictures 2, 3, 4, & 5 - a medium size bar gig (cap 300) using just 8 light units (2 x floods on truss towers + 2 x spots & 4 x moonflowers)
Video:

Pictures 6 & 7 - our full lighting rig & PA from which we select elements for smaller gigs.
Video:
Absolutely wonderful information thanks for posting this!!! You guys really look professional with the lights!!
I have a couple of questions:
1. Ball park it for us how much did your lighting setup cost you?
2. How much room does it take to transport it?
3. How much extra setup time does it take?
4. Do you have to clear it with the venue that you're going to be using them?
 
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