Stage Lighting Basics for your Bar or Nightclub

Stage Lighting Basics for your Bar or Nightclub

Whether you are having an Irish band or punk band, a comedy club night or an open mic, stage lighting basics for your bar or nightclub are a must. Lighting for stage performances varies slightly depending on what kind of act you’re setting up for, however, knowing the basic elements allows you to adjust accordingly.

Here are the parameters you need to consider:

Stage Lighting Illumination Levels

The first thing that you will want to consider is the level of illumination, or how bright you will make the performers. The basic notion here has to do with visibility. When it comes to stage lights for a comedian alone on the stage, the lighting goal is very simple, light the comedian up so the crowd can see his or her facial expressions.

On the other hand, if you are setting up stage lights for a punk or Goth band, they may want to remain partly in darkness or to have varying levels of brightness at differing points during the performance. If you have a simple club, you can get away with one kind of stage lighting.

If however you are trying to promote your nightclub as top notch live music venue, you will have to learn how to program these kinds of effects with a DMX controller or at least to set the intelligent lighting properly. (For more on DMX controllers see our article: How to Use a DMX Lighting Controller in your Bar or Nightclub .

Stage Lighting Color Effects

Stage Lighting Example at Amerika Disco

Photo Courtesy of Chris Freeland (via Wiki Commons)

The color of the lighting, though more subtle is also important for setting mood. Whereas a soft blue light might work well for lighting a live jazz ensemble, a rock band will probably prefer hot reds along with flashing strobes or lasers—all of which will help to raise the mood and keep it frenetic.

Stage Lighting Angles

When it comes to getting the right match between stage and lighting, one major consideration should be the lighting angles. Generally speaking, in order to light up a single performer you want to have two spots pointing in at the performer at forty five degree. In the old days, they used to use a single spot to light of a performer but these days it is considered better form to have multiple angles so that the performer is better lit.

Stage Lighting Special Effects

Some other effects you might consider for bands:

  • Dimmers: Dimmers allow you fade the stage lights in and out in between songs or sets. Occasionally a band may even request to have the rest of the band fade out, leaving the leader in a spot for a particularly intimate song.
  • Lasers, Eliminators and Foggers: Just like in dance clubs, these kinds of equipment can be used to light up the band and keep the mood up.

Stage Light Operator

Although it is possible to have a some basic stage lights and just turn them on, or have a basic sound sensitive lighting system that reacts to the sounds of bands that visit your establishment, this is not such a good option if you really want to have a nightclub known as concert venue. If you want to have place like the Whiskey-Go-Go in LA or Bimbos in SF, you will need to spend some time and money making sure that your stage and lighting match the level of the talent playing at your establishment.

Getting this match between stage and lighting right usually means having a guy or gal who is dedicated to the stage lighting in your establishment (as when you are going to feature deejays in your dance club, see DJ Lighting). This guy might have one or two other functions in you establishment (like doing the ordering or hiring new workers) but it should not be someone who needs to do too much else during the actual performances. (Thus a head bartender or one of the bouncers is not a good person for this job.)

The stage and lighting specialist should be there to make sure the lights are probably set and to trouble shoot any problems and fix them in between sets.

If you hire a promoter for your live acts or deejays, they may also take on this function and have a lot to recommend about the stage lights for his bands but this should only be a short term solution unless you intend to make the promoter a permanent part of your establishment.

Safety Considerations

One thing to make sure you consider is safety. Bright hot lights near customers is risk not worth taking. That is why you want to make sure that your par lights and spots are properly mounted on trusses when possible and to make sure stage and lights are well away from your clientele.

If the ceilings in your stage space is too low of trusses, you want to make sure that wherever you put your stage lights, the stands are well away from any kind of customer activity. This is the only way to avoid the risk of lawsuits.


Live acts are a great way to attract customers to your bar of nightclub, so do not be discouraged by the extra challenges of stage lighting. In the long run it is good to remember that just like theaters, bars and nightclubs are really in the entertainment business.

Filed Under: Bar / Nightclub DesignBar / Nightclub Lighting

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