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Breaking myself of the dreaded "smiley face"

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Ski3223, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. Ski3223


    Mar 27, 2010
    Norman, Oklahoma
    After doing a lot of reading, I've realized that the "smiley face" EQ that I so love to play with has really hurt my live sound over the years. It's always sounded good to me on stage, but I never realized how little it cut through till I read some stories here.

    I've been playing like this for around 8 years now, and it's time to reevaluate my sound. SO, I've forced myself to set my 'Ray's 3EQ to flat, and my amp's (rumble 100, don't laugh please) EQ to flat as well, and go from there in hopes that I could 'detrain' my acquired 'smiley face ear.'

    The good thing about the rumble is that it has a CD in function, so I've been plugging my iPod up to it and playing with headphones to try and get a good idea of the sound without my carpeted room acoustics.

    My question is: Could this method provide me with a somewhat accurate view of what my bass would sound like in a live venue with a band behind me?
  2. It might be a step in the general direction, but probably not much use in a real-world situation. However, on the plus side, it should get you out of the "but a smiley-face EQ sounds brilliant at home in my bedroom on my own at low volume" view that a surprising amount of people take to the stage.

    What it can't do is emulate:

    1) How your amp interacts with the room (the physical space plus all those reflective surfaces)
    2) How hour amp interacts with the room when there's
    a) at least two other people kicking it out (guitar & drums)
    b) a crowd (the audience can change the room dynamic enormously).

    The only way to really figure out what works for you is at the venue (& each one will be slightly different).

    For me, a Happy EQ is a Sad EQ. :ninja:

  3. nsmar4211


    Nov 11, 2007
    I'm actually finding the sad eq to be a bit better....with a little smirk at the high end though (just for a touch of bright) :)
  4. Exploiter8

    Exploiter8 Demons run when a good man goes to war

    Jan 18, 2010
    Commercial FREE!
    I feel your pain! I'm guilty of "Smiling" but I'm not playing out anymore. Occasional outdoor parties with friends and basement/garage jams nowadays. I record everything, but notice the bass gets lost when I replay the jam later. I've forced myself to up the mids a little. I seem to lose some definition in sound while playing, but I can hear the bass on playback much better!

  5. JDJen


    Mar 18, 2010

  6. SpamBot


    Dec 25, 2008
    St. Paul, MN
    I've found I like flat a lot better than a smiley or frowney EQ. That's IMO, of course.
  7. VinKreepo


    Nov 13, 2009
    My EQ looks like this at home:
    | -- -- __ __ --
    |-- -- __ --

    But they are right, elsewhere, it has to be different. I don't even really use the setting anymore. Usually now it's just flat and some good clean overdrive

    EDIT: thanks TB for screwing up my diagram haha.... um it looks like a frown in the upper region to the left and a smile to the right in the lower region
  8. Go play a P bass with flats. If angels played bass, it would be a p with flats. Your ear will demand more, like a crack junkie after his first hit. Suddenly, it's easy to accept a frown eq, even on a jazz with rounds.
  9. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    scooped mids sound great by themselves, crappy in the mix. I too had to learn that the hard way.

    I generally leave my EQ dead flat... with maybe a touch of mid-boost, depending on the room.
  10. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
    If you haven't already, go wireless so you can hear yourself in the mix FOH. Adjust from there.
  11. the 'smiley' eq really makes very little sense in a mix. Boosting your lowest and highest freqs and cutting a lot of your actual harmonic content just sucks the energy out of your sound. A boost around 150-200 hz and around 1000 hz is much more reasonable.
  12. XXL

    XXL calm seas dont make skilled sailors Supporting Member

    Jun 14, 2007
    I always try to leave all knobs and settings as flat as possible. Sometimes it isnt that easy and I need to make adjustments, but only slight. A little goes a long way.
  13. Funny, I've used a scooped eq setting for years with my jazz, thinking it was the coolest sound ever. Then when I got my six string ibanez, I noticed the higher register strings weren't cutting through the mix at all, to the point where I was almost ready to send it back. I started to play around with flattening the settings on my amp, and boosting the mids on my six (it has low-mid-high onboard preamp). WOW! I'm not just cutting through the mix - I'm slicing and dicing it. Not just with my sixer, but my jazz bass sounds great as well!

    Agree, the scooped sound is great at home or at the music store, but MIDS ARE GOOD! Perhaps I'll try the sad face with a smirk.
  14. get your tone with your ears not your eyes..
  15. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Start with it all flat, and adjust to sound right in the room, in the context of the whole band. Don't start with preconceived ideas of what EQ "looks" right. The historical context of the "smiley face" EQ is two fold. The RIAA standard for phonograph records (those 12" hunks of vinyl) needed to cut the lows and the highs when mastering a record. Too much low made the needle jump out of the disc, and cutting highs also cut the noise (sorta like a cheapo Dolby). So, a phonograph pre-amp has a curve built in that's a smiley face- but only to put back what was removed earlier.

    The other reason for the smiley face is that it looks cool on the sales floor. Graphic EQs first started showing up on home stereos before they were widely available to the average part-time or amateur musician. So the stereo folks would use the Smiley to not only make a phonograph sound "better", but mostly to draw attention to the fact the gear HAD a graphic EQ! It looks better than having them all set flat.

    But it became available on semi-pro sound gear, and bass amps (Acoustic Control Corporation was a very visible one). And the same thing started applying- boost the highs and lows, it sounds ever so cool when you're playing all by yourself, and you've got something on your amp that draws some attention to it. Of course, the lows are getting into the area the kick drum sucks up, and the highs are covered up by squealing guitars and cymbals. And the mids you've cut out are where YOUR sound is as well as the part of the bass' sound that not only defines you, but makes the music work. We're bass players, but it's not just lows. If it was only lows, then we'd all be playing Gibson EB-1 and EB-0 basses 'cause we wouldn't need a Jazz bridge PUP.

    But it's not! It's about the harmonic overtones that make a P sound different from a Ric different from a Jazz different from a 'Ray. Also, boosting the lows robs your amp of headroom so you'll need a lot more power. And it's hard on speakers so you'll need more of them. It helps the amp companies and the retailers if you use smiley face. And you still can't be heard, so the solution is to buy more stuff, right?

    Save yourself some money, safe your bandmates from a crappy mix, and use the EQ right. Start flat, EQ as little as you can get away with, and only evaluate your sound as it mixes with the rest of the band, not soloed.

  16. SpamBot


    Dec 25, 2008
    St. Paul, MN
    Good post JTE, +1
  17. +1, I like that. Anytime I see a smiley-face EQ, I say to myself, "There's a guy who doesn't know how to use an equalizer."

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Pedulla Club #45

  18. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    I think that you would probably ok with a little boosting of your low and high end with your onboard EQ actually. With the pickup position on a stingray you should be sitting with a crapload of mids to begin with. If it was me, I'd probably boost the low mids at the amp and use the bass and treble boost to taste at the instrument. I've never been a big fan of the tone of boosted mids from onboard EQ.

    PS: Who/where do you play in Norman? I whore myself out around Norman and OKC, so there's a good chance we've run into each other at some point.
  19. Ski3223


    Mar 27, 2010
    Norman, Oklahoma
    I fill in at University Lutheran Church on OU campus on bass and drums and ONCE on guitar, I haven't done much else than that in a long time. I'm looking for more to do though! I'm also a drummer in the Oklahoma Scottish Pipes and Drums in OKC.

    Back on topic: Thanks for all the help guys, I really appreciate all the advice. I've retrained my ear pretty well, I just need to see what I'll sound like in a good mix.
  20. alangoldstein


    Jul 23, 2007
    Charleston, SC
    Endorsments: Aguilar, Hartke, DR strings, Analysis Plus "Oval" Cables
    every stage / gig is different. from flooring, to ceiling, etc.. walls.. carpets or not.

    def get used to loving you mids and lower mids to cut thru guitars!!!!!!!! i have a 31 band EQ in my rack =)

    leave the smiley face EQ for fieldy from korn LOL

    recording is a whole different ballgame. . . . but at least u can fix it later. live u cant fix once youve played!

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