Buying Guide: DJ and Band Stage Lighting Effects

When you’re needing help choosing the perfect lighting or effects for a gig, the following guide can help you determine what to use.

When it comes to an exciting gig, choosing the right lighting system with a well-designed setup of stage effects can be the difference between a great show or a dull one. The lighting has the ability to produce a massive amount of excitement and drama by offering visual appeal to the music. When considering the professional appearance your performance will have, the investment is relatively small as it captivates the audience.

There are various types of lighting effects and equipment on the market, what you choose should depend on the purpose, from looking into lighting a DJ show, band, house of worship, a nightclub or just a man cave. The second thing to decide is the mood you want to create, and a budget. The following lighting guide discusses the various terminology, equipment, and the technology behind transforming your gig from a plain set to an extraordinary one.

Assessing Lighting System Requirements

When you design a lighting system, considering your requirements is important. Below are general questions you should ask yourself before moving forward:

  • What type of ambience is needed? Should it be dramatic, exciting, soothing, mysterious?
  • What type o acts, spaces, and events will the lighting be used for?
  • Will the system light indoor events, outdoor events, or both?
  • Will AC power access be available? If so, how many outlets will be available, and what amperage does the lighting system require?
  • Do you have any lighting equipment already?
  • Will venues your event is held in have any type of lighting systems in place?
  • Who handles the setup and lighting control?

If you are going to handle the setup and lighting controls yourself throughout the performance, you should consider features including foot pedal controls, remote control, or programmability features.

Conventional Lighting vs. LED

The majority of modern lighting work either by a filament heated by electricity or by delivering electrical discharges to plasma or gas which results in the artificial light. Common household light bulbs, up to the stronger halogen-based lamps use a filament style design. Whereas, gas discharge designs are more common as fluorescent tubes. Although there have been many common fixtures created using both applications, thanks to technology LEDs have gained great popularity over the last few years.

There are many benefits offered by LEDs, and generally inexpensive compared to other options. LEDs provide brighter lighting options with a low-power design. For instance, high-end lighting fixtures are often designed using 1-watt or 3-watt diodes, creating a great impact. Usually LEDs are designated based on size, such as 10mm or 5mm, where as the 10mm diode provide a brighter light compared to that of a 5mm diode.

LED stands for Light Emitting Diodes, which have become a revolutionary type of lighting used in a range of situations, from homes to vehicles, flashlights, and more. LEDs provide various reasons for this popularity, including their on-stage lighting effects. Many well-known artists have started using LED lighting systems on tour, including Radiohead. Below are some advantages.


Power consumption: They are powerful, but small and require much less electricity compared to a filament style lamp. Besides the obvious benefits to the environment, they provide massive advantages with live performances when outlets or electrical circuits are limited. No artist wants their lights to trip the circuit breaker of a venue while playing a show – simply put, it is embarrassing and not professional. With LEDs, it generally saves to connect multiple pieces together using a 20-amp circuit without issues.

Heat: Less heat is produced, meaning performances will be more comfortable. Also, it lowers the risk of damage and burns occurring to staff or gear, which could happen with halogen style lamps.

Color rage: When designing the appearance of your performance, having a range of colors available is important too. Many systems use RGB LEDs, which offers 16.7 million colors. Additionally, adding white or amber LEDs increase the customizable aspect, controlling the “warmth” of the lighting. Prior to LEDs, colored gel sheets where required for filtering the white light.

Durability and longevity: LEDs have a longer life expectancy compared to traditional products. Also, they are much more durable, reducing the risk of damages and injury during transportation or setup.

Dimmerless controls: Because LEDs are designed with a dimming circuitry built-in, the brightness can be controlled with standalone models. Meanwhile, a DMX controller can be used for dimming full LED systems.

Lighting Effect Types

The majority of entertainment-based fixtures are categorized based on their available functions: wash lights, spot or effect. Furthermore, they get separated as non-DMX or DMX styles. Usually, effect lights are those which utilize various motions and beams to create an effect. The purpose is to improve the visuals of a show, not to brighten a certain location. For instance, gobo projectors and moonflowers.

Gobo: Often spherical, these are physical templates created from glass or metal with holes or slots for controlling the size and shape of beams passing through. To produce patterns, the source o light is placed either behind or inside the gobo, them projected on floors, walls, and ceilings.

Beam Effects: With various color lenses available, these are placed around a base source of light within a half or full spherical fixture (aka, a mushroom). They may contain a single or multiple motorized sphere that continuously spin, while some have varied directional spins.

Flower Effects: Usually, a standalone system that provides the ability to change attributes, including gobo type, beam color, rotation, etc. while allowing auto-control using a built-in mic.

Centerpiece Effects: Just like applied, these are designed to be placed in the middle of a rig, as the ‘centerpiece’ and are commonly pointed above the dance floor.