Build the BandBlinder - Stage Lights on the Cheap




Introduction: Build the BandBlinder - Stage Lights on the Cheap

The goal of this project was to help out a friend's band by making a lighting kit for their shows that didn't cost the $150+ dollars that a normal light kit costs. It also helps out a lot when I record their concerts to make sure the lighting isn't too dim. The setup I wound up with has three dimmable color lights that can be clamped onto whatever stand you wish. You could easily expand out this setup to use however many lights you need though.

Step 1: Materials

The materials for this project can almost all be found at your local hardware store.

2x New Work (plastic) electrical gang boxes (the blue boxes your wall outlets are mounted into.)
3x Wall outlet dimmer switches (you can use the dial or slider type, I prefer sliders since you can control them with your foot more easily, but dial types are cheaper.)
3x Three prong wall outlets.
3x Clamp-held lamps
3x light bulbs (use plain old 60w incandecent lamps, compact flourecent lamps won't work well, the dimmers just make them flicker, not dim)
3x Par 38 gels (these are the color filters over the lights, you'll probably need to find a music or theatre store to get these.)
1x Three prong power cord (can be harvested from an old PC power cable or an old extension cord, the thicker the wire the better.)
2x short bolts
6x cover plates, one for each outlet and dimmer (i used the kind that snap together)
Several feet of electrical cable (having the solid-strand white-black-bare kind used in home wiring is probably best, though whatever thick guage wire you can use will work.)

Step 2: Assemble the Box

The first step in making the control box is to put the two gang boxes together.

First, drill two holes, the right size for your bolts in the side of each gang box, one should have holes on it's right, the other on it's left.

Next, drill a larger hole for all the wires between the two gang boxes, making sure they line up.

Bolt your gang boxes together, the right side will hold the outlets, the left side will hold the dimmers.

Depending on if your boxes have holes for wire already in them, you may need to drill a hole for your power cable in the dimmer side of the box as well.

Step 3: Wiring the Box

Next, you need to wire the box up, Try to keep as little slack in the wires as nessisary, that way when you mount everything you don't have to shove and possibly break wires. I'd suggest tying a knot in your power cable once you push it in the box so it can't be pulled out. Another thing to do is after attaching your 3 wires to each outlet, wrap the whole thing with a couple wraps of electrical tape to shield the screws on the side of the outlets.

Use the diagram below to help with the wiring layout.

Step 4: Finishing and Testing.

Once you've gotten this far the bulk of the work is done. You can now mount the outlets and dimmers into the gang boxes, being careful to not pinch wires.

Next put the cover plates on everything to keep things from getting in there, and to clean up the look of it.

Now you can test the whole control box. Start with all three dimmer switches in the off position. Plug one lamp into each outlet, then plug the power cord for the box in. Turn one dimmer on at a time until all three are on. You should be able to control the brightness of each light with one of the dimmers.

Now install the color gels. For the ones i have the gel is taped to a card stock sheet with a hole that was just the right size to pop over the edge of my lamps.

As you can see, I used a label maker to label each controller, I later added the label "BandBlinder" to the front as well.

Step 5: RAWK!

The only thing left to do now is clamp each light to a stand (unused mic stands work well) and play with it some. I hope you've enjoyed this project. I also have a sound triggering box that goes with this called the BandBlinker. You can check it out here.

Video of a friend of mine messing with his guitar while I mess with the lights.



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    25 Discussions

    how about using fan regulators in place of

    Wall outlet dimmer switches??

    You'd better watch out tying knots in those power cords, as this is illegal and dangerous in a lot of countries. Can i suggest the use of a cable gland?

    1 reply

    Better (or even best) practices are always better. That was something i made years ago as a 19 year old with no formal training. I still don't see any serious problem with an overhand knot as a strain relief on a hole without sharp edges, and tho not the norm i've come across many pre-80s electronics with basically the same.

    Built something quite similar to this in 1968. I used 600W rotary SCR's for the dimmers, and ganged the duplex boxes back to back in a 1X4 framed box. I hand cut phenolic cover plates with a drill and a coping saw. I used 16/3 awg solid strand household wire between the dimmers and the duplex outlets, and 16/3 awg stranded for my power cable. It was serviceable up to 2008 when one of the SCR's finally developed major issues.

    1 reply

    Pardon my poor electrical vocabulary, but would it work to wire another dimmer between the word "hot" and the three way split? Would that inhibit the normal functions? I'd like to be able to keep my ratios set with the freedom to raise and lower the lights holistically.

    Also- great build carpespasm and thank you so much. This project inspired me, and now I'm combining a few other Instructables to make an outdoor theater! I'll have a Facebook page for it soon so y'all can see photos and video of this thing in action!

    1 reply

    Probably a reply too late, but yes you could do that as long as you're not overloading that main dimmer. Be sure to check the wattage it's rated for and make sure your total lights all added together don't exceed that amount and you should be solid. Good luck!

    I wanted to quickly let you know about a new project I'm working on.

    It's called and the goal is to teach churches basic lighting skills. We hope to someday turn it into a well respected site of valuable information.

    Don't worry, I haven't added you to any lists and I won't be spamming you, but if you like the idea and would like to help out, here's what you can do:


    I'm building something like this right now, but I was hoping to also include a master dimmer that could control all three lights at once. Would it cause any sort of problem if I wire in a fourth dimmer that could control the other three?

    I'm trying to learn the basics on how lighting works - even if I don't build these, thank you for helping me understand in basic terms! This would be perfect for a small acoustic setup too-

    Its great to see that people are still doing this stuff! I never even thought of using those cheep clamp lights for this project. WOW. I built three light units like this a few years ago for a church production. I used four floodlight mountings, hardwired them all to two rotary dimmers and stuck a plug on the end. I have a basic understanding of electrical design from my BS in Architecture and I had some coaching from a mechanical engineer who served as set designer in his college's theatre program. My big change to your overall design here was that I put everything into wood boxes, painted to match the floor and angled to throw the light in the correct direction. My church continues to use them and I'm actually looking into building two more light boxes to hang from our sloped ceilings.

     I would like to see a photograph of how the wires are attached to each other. I know something about VERY BASIC hobby wiring, but it looks like some of your wires are joined in a "T" configuration, and I don't have any idea how to do that, especially with such stiff wire. I'm not sure if I'm reading the instructions correctly. 

    1 reply

    I have a couple suggestions for this build coming from a professional DJ light show designer, (I love the DYI stuff just as much as the professional stuff.) First, I would spray paint the outside of the boxes and the covers black to help hide them. Second, rather than bolting the two gang boxes together, I would run 3 power chords out of the dimmer box to 3 separate outlet boxes, that way you can run the outlet boxes back behind equipment or walls or whatever and possibly elliminate the need for extension chords running to the lamps. Third, Maybe you could come up with a way to build the band blinker into the band blinder... if you do this, to get the best effects, I suggest putting 1 band blinker per outlet, that way each light will still blink to the music/sound but it each light will blink independently of the others. *Special note: When combining the band blinker with the band blinder, it would be best to put the blinker part before the dimmer switches, otherwise you could break the blinker circuit boards as stuff like that is not meant to be on a dimmer. Also, and FYI American DJ now makes something very similar the the band blinker with 4 different colars and it has a built in mic and flashes with preset patterns. You can find it on sale for only slightly more than I estimate the cost of materials to be for this build. Cool plan though, I've been thinking about how to build something like this for years, but was never able to come up with an idea, so I bought the professional equipment. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions.

    1 reply

    Those are all ideas I've come up with too since making these. You're right about the price for them, If I hadn't had a bunch of the stuff already laying around then a more professional setup might have been a matter of 30-50 dollars more. The reason this kit is set up so the lights are close to the controller is because that works better for the people using it. They have to set up and break down the whole thing at the end of the night, and it's usually a band member controlling the light kit, so having it on stage is a plus. If you were trying to build a more stationary kit then making the gang boxes separate and putting the bandblinker in the same box as the dimmers would be a good idea. I'll save that idea for the Blink-n-Blind if I ever get around to doing that.

    A better way to go would be to use halogen lighting, which has a much more stable color temperature but would require more ventilation.

    1 reply

    Actually, we wound up using a halogen lamp in the blue light later on because the blue filter left the light darker than the other two. This made the light levels much easier to mix.