Think of your average venue and the functions it will come to expect, whether that’s a country house wedding venue, a hotel function room or a pub or club. Such venues may rarely hold any sort of theatre performance, but they’ll certainly have seen numerous bands perform – live gigs are an entertainment medium most consider essential for a respectable party!

Lighting a small gig is undoubtedly challenging however, not only are most performers faced with a venue they’ve never played before, but they’re also faced with the task of controlling the lighting with little or no lighting knowledge. You may be lucky enough to have some instruction and a sophisticated set-up, but if lighting expertise is lacking, then keeping a few key pointers in mind can be the difference between an amateur job and professional finish.

Optimum Positioning

In a small or medium sized venue, optimum positioning is key and traditionally backlighting is the preferred choice for musicians for that ‘rock n roll’ silhouette effect. For effective backlighting, most of your lights should be located on the bar furthest towards the back of the stage, or alternatively, angled on trusses to stage left and stage right.

For a more sustainable lighting solution, LED fresnels are an effective and powerful choice, but if your venue (or the venue you’re playing) only has the budget and requirements for cheaper solutions, PAR (Parabolic Aluminized Reflector) cans are highly adaptable and can be attached to any suitable devices. If the venue is completely lacking any sort of lighting infrastructure, PAR cans can even be attached to speakers, just ensure that you’re aware of how much power you can safely use.

Keep in mind that in a very small venue, backlighting can dazzle your audience, so ensure you have time to play with your angles before the main event. The number of lamps you’ll need will depend on the size of your stage and a stage and studio installation specialist will be able to advise on bespoke solutions to suit your space.

It goes without saying, house lighting should be low or dimmed to offer adequate lighting without detracting from the stage. Bare intensity in mind too, if the lights are going to be bearing down all night, you may wish to choose 500 watt lamps as opposed to 1,000 watts.

Coloured Lighting

Gel filters are a cost-effective way to add ambience to your performance and while the choice is completely down to you and the tone of your band, some colours work much better than others. Blues are a fantastic choice, and with a range of gel tones available, you can play around to determine which one does the most justice to your performers and the type of music you play. While the colour-wheel is your oyster, green is a colour best avoided unless your band is really unconventional!

If you’ll be playing on a summer evening and light will be spilling in, consider utilising some black-out drapes too, not only do they enhance your lighting, but they can stop light reflecting off uneven surfaces.

Controlling Your Lighting

Unless you’re playing the Wembley Arena, then no matter how sophisticated the existing stage lighting, it’s unlikely you’ll have a lighting manager to manually control your sequence. This is where intelligent lights come in. Intelligent lights (also termed ‘moving lights’) allow a band to pre-program a lighting sequence and then simply activate the sequence before their set. It is even possible to synchronise lighting to your foot pedals, allowing the musicians to change lighting at key moments in the performance.

An entertainment space which can host bands and live acts has become a selling point in popular venues and something that patrons have come to expect. By utilising simple tools, such as PAR cans and colour filters, a professional finish can be achieved without a heavy budget. For more information, advice and inspiration, please get in touch with our team at PG Stage to see how we can help transform your performance space.

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