As a DJ, the music is your primary focus. You spend most of your time learning to manipulate sounds and to create a unique mix. Most guys don’t even want to bother with the effects or the lighting until later in their careers. Standing out from your competition requires you to deliver a unique experience. Lighting and effects can help you to do that if are willing to put in the work.
Why Lighting Is Important
Your sound is the main draw for the people on the dance floor. Getting your crowd going with the beats you’ve selected is an art in itself, but human beings are visual creatures too. Control of the lighting helps you to fine tune the experience and deliver a performance that will you set you apart.
People do not want to dance in a room that is stark white and boring. They also don’t want to be stumbling around in the dark. Your lighting solves both problems. It also establishes a mood, and acts as a visual cue for the music you are playing.
A lot of DJs just leave the responsibility of lighting effects to the VJ at the event, but that isn’t always practical or as entertaining. Your job is to entertain. So make the commitment to step it up a notch.
Types of Lighting
Effects lighting is the most attention grabbing. Sophisticated lighting can move and pulse and even change colors. You can use these lights to create unique displays and really get things going.
Wash lighting simply covers surfaces of the stage and your setup with light. It helps to focus attention where it needs to go. Highlight what you want people to see and deemphasize the parts of your stage you want ignored.
Up lighting is exactly like the name implies. The lighting effects are located on the ground, but they are pointed up toward the ceiling. This breaks up backgrounds with beams of color. Boring rooms become dynamic and colorful spaces.
The old can style lights with manual dimmer switches are obsolete. Although some older DJs will recommend starting out with these types of lights, it is really a waste of your time and money to mess with them anymore.
Most modern lights are LED based and have controls that allow you to customize them. Static lighting is the easiest to use. It essentially stays on all of the time as one solid color. It doesn’t change or move. Set it up at the beginning of your performance, and turn it off at the end.
The next level up is programmable lighting. It can dim, pulse, or adjust colors at regular intervals. Although it is easy to use this type of lighting, they are not dynamic. They do not sync with the music.
Automatic lights react to the beats and the sounds that you are playing. Although better than programmable lighting, they run on autopilot. You really don’t have much control over them.
The best lights are fully DMX capable. DMX lighting is where the industry is going. These lights can be controlled from your DMX board and are highly customizable. Although they seem complex, learning to use them is easy. They are wired into the DMX board in series. The lights are given an address so the digital controller knows where to send instructions. Practice with these to control them at the same time you are interacting with your audience.
You can also add fog and smoke effects to your show. This further enhances the experience and makes your performance memorable. Make sure to practice using your lighting set up until you are able to coordinate the visuals with the music. Always check ahead with the club managers to get permission to use lighting effect before you book a gig.