Skip to main content

Reply to "Best Lighting Choice for Jazz Quartet"

I play in a blues/rock trio and we use the following for what looks like a great light show that sets up & tears down fast (and didn't break the bank):

* 2 x 900w stage washes aimed across the front along the mic line (these color us and are set to scroll colors very slowly - not chained to the DMX controller, though they are DMX fixtures).
* 4 x small color changers on 2 DMX channels (in pairs) on trees at the rear corners of the stage. 2 of these (inner pair - DMX channel 1) point straight out to the floor even with the vocal monitors. The outer pair (DMX channel 2) point across the stage at the floor just outside each of our front 2 mic stands for a 'crossing' effect.
* 1 x small color changer we point at our stage backdrop/banner (DMX channel 3).
* 4 tiny pin spots that are on a dimmer set for DMX channel 4.
* An Elation/ADJ FC400 foot controller that the bass player uses to change scenes I set up in about an hours worth of screwing around with it at home one day.

The FC400 lets you set up 12 static scenes and scroll through them manually. You can get real elaborate with it if you like, but I use mine just as a color & scene controller, very old school I guess. It's about the size of a wanker guitar player's small pedalboard and can be tucked out of the way and only hit on the sly when you want to change stage scenes. Once you understand how to set up the scenes manually, it's really easy to program your light show so it'll look good and be a real no-brainer to run from stage during sets. I set up a couple scenes with all one color on all channels (a red scene, a blue scene, etc), a few with different colors (orange + blue, etc), a couple scenes with only one channel on and the others set to blackout for psuedo 'movement' (with no moving fixtures), one channel strobe + one all dim blue with a white spot on the stage banner (for breaks). I've had more than one person ask who's running the lights and I just point to the bass player. Then he's stuck showing the person our lighting setup and I hit the bar. ;D

Personally I HATE lights that respond to music for bands of any kind. People go out to watch the players in bands as much as listen to them and blinking lights detract from the performers. It's fine for DJ and recorded music because the lights for the most part are as much of the show as the music is while the dancers are on the floor, but venues hire bands as entertainers and if you just have non-stop blinking from your jazz quartet's lights, you might as well just use a bunch of colored strobes and save yourself a few hundred bucks. Keep your lights subtle and do NOT set them to respond to music. Change scenes when YOU want to change them and they'll have more visual impact for live music than a constant barrage of flashing lights. You want your lights to be subtle, yet cleverly theatrical, not modern techno - or am I wrong about this?

My 2 cents are :: Slow scrolling (and I mean as slow as the fixture will go so it's virtually not even noticable) for the front lights, with some nice scenes spread across the rear of the stage and a foot controller like the FC400 and you're good to go. I speak from experience using everything from 2 washes to 2 semis full of gear traveling across 2 continents over the last 34 years playing music. For the stinky little bar band I play in these days, an FC400, 5 small color changers and a couple stage washes look like a million bucks. In stinky little bars - and even in some larger places and smaller outdoor gigs it's just fine. Add a few pin spots and it looks like you're on tour in most places.

I wouldn't steer another player wrong.

- JJ
Last edited by gnarles