Add LED Strip Lighting Effects to Your Rig and Live Show
By Chris Loeffler |
Adding LED Strip Lighting Effects to Your Rig and Live Show
Visual flair ... a bright idea
by Chris Loeffler
OK, hardcore “purist” musicians… if “show” sounds gaudy, you might as well move on, because there’s likely little for you here. However for those who like to add some flash to their performance or some ambience to their practice space, let’s talk lighting. Not the big old PAR cans, not seizure- (and fist pump-) inducing strobes, not even the “crank up the smoke machine” lasers that blow minds…I’m talking about the rising tide of affordable, micro LED effects targeted at DJs that increasingly flows from the East.
Amazon, Wish, ThinkGeek, etc. seem to have some type of deal on lighting systems and one-off visual novelties on a weekly basis, and it may surprise you how great they are. The heaviy emphasis on LED technology is a particular boon to musicians looking to add lighting effects without dirtying their power supply (not that tube technology and single coil pickups are picky or anything), and their diminutive size makes for interesting and novel applications.
One particular visual enhancer that’s both affordable and flexible in application is the LED strip made by manufacturers like TaoTronics. These slim profile (about 1/16” tall and 1/3” wide) strips can easily and non-invasively be applied anywhere for mood lighting; inside lip of a guitar speaker cabinet, a pedal board, underneath a keyboard, the inside shell of a drum, mic stands, etc. Most strips offer a couple dozen preset colors (with the option to blend between them for thousands of options) as well as multiple “modes,” from static color to gradual fades between colors to strobe-like cycling to even synced with audio (provided the strip comes with an included music controller).
The amazing aspect about these lighting “trinkets” is how much flexibility they actually allow. Not only are colors and effects adjustable on the fly with a (usually included) remote control, but they can be dimmed to be as in-your-face or subtle as your performance demands. Applied in places out of the line of direct sight, these strips cast a moody (the exact mood selected by color and brightness, of course!) aura from any piece of gear, and are particularly striking in low-lit performance areas. Obviously, bright stages and huge audiences will minimize the effect, but smaller clubs that are conducive to lighting effects in performances can really make these shine and add intimacy to a performance.
A final, fairly out-of-the-box consideration using LED strips is to create framed “performance pads” to illuminate individual performers (especially effective in sitting, acoustic performances). The performance pads are simply square frames (3’x3’ seems the most practical) of lumber or baseboard moulding with the LED strips mounted to the inside of the frame angled upward (or slightly inward) that cast lighting onto the performer when they are positioned within the frame. The effect is very similar to expensive and heavy wash lights, with every player able to have their own colors or be bathed in unified hues.
Whatever the application, it is remarkable how affordable and easy it is to add mood and control to your performance environment… if that’s your thing.
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.