Drop1s EQ tutorial

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Drop1, Jun 19, 2019.

  1. Drop1


    Mar 28, 2019
    Here is the eq tutorial I promised.

    Let me preface this by saying it is NOT a tone tutorial. There are thousands of tutorial videos online already. This tutorial is about sound reinforcement. This tutorial will give you a way to find and correct flaws in rooms using what you have. Every room is different. Thats why we cant share settings with each other. I will give you the tools to find and correct imbalances in your tone using 2 basic techniques. More importantly, I will share which method to use and when and how to instantly know the difference to be able to get to something approaching an acoustically balanced sound, so that things dont fall apart when you play somewhere unfamiliar.

    Who this is for.

    If you can tune a room by ear or work FOH for a living this will likely be pretty useless to you. Feel free to move on. If you find yourself unsure of how to approach your eq with purposeful intention, if you run a lot of effects and want those affects to behave logically from room to room or if you just want better, more consistent sound, read on, I will attempt to share my method for laying a solid foundation to build your tone on.

    There is no magic here. A clear, powerful tone comes from balance. You can push the boundaries but a balanced sound will always be the most versatile.

    To start you will need some information about your gear. Being honest, how many of you actually know all the specific center frequencies for every eq knob you have?

    This works best with an eq that can be used specifically for correcting the room. Ideally that eq will be last in the chain. Weather it be a pedal or your amps eq. Having a dedicated eq strictly for room correction will allow your settings on all effects and instruments that come before the eq to not have to be adjusted as much when you change rooms or venues. This can be done with your amps eq but a good graphic is better. A parametric best.

    Personally I have 3 sweep-able mid bands available at all times.

    Whatever EQ you intend to use, you will need to know its center frequencies for every dial or fader. This is critical. If you do not know them you will be shooting in the dark. This method is going to use your gear to tell you exactly which frequencies need adjusting.
    Now that all of that is out the way, Lets go.

    First thing. There are 3 major types of flat when dealing with audio. Mechanically flat (all knobs at neutral) , Electrically flat (your gears signal in the electrical system)and acoustically flat (a flat response coming from your speakers).

    Turn yourself up to the volume you intend to play with all eq set to mechanically flat (all eq knobs set to neutral, usually 12 oclock.) Because of the way human hearing works, we hear frequency different at different volume levels. If you want to know more about that, google fletcher munsin.

    Once you are at playing volume, eq set to flat , sequentially start playing down your E string 0ne note after another.

    Ignore any desire to adjust tone at this time. You are strictly listening for evenness .
    Every note we play has a specific frequency as its fundamental. We are listening for notes that are stronger than others or notes losing power.

    If while you are playing down the string you hit a single note that loses power in the bottom end, you are in a null or cancellation. So if at any time the sequence of notes sounds like this, Strong/weak/Strong you need to make an adjustment. You have 3 options. Move your cab, move yourself in relation to the cab or try to eq. Unless you have an adjustable Q eq you need to move the cab. Eqs made for adjusting tone just arent surgical enough to dig in to narrow frequency bands. Even if you have an adjustable q eq, you cannot eq up a true null. The sound is bouncing back on its self in a way that is causing it to cancel itself. Simply changing the angle the cab is facing can correct most of the issue.

    Make your adjustment to the cab and continue playing down the E string until you arent getting any sudden jumps in power from note to note. Its ok if notes gradually get louder or softer, thats what eq is for. We just dont want a sudden dip between notes. If you are having trouble hearing the deviations, you can roll off your highs and boost your bass for that part.

    Once you are happy with cab placement, its time to move on to eq. If you have reached a point where you can run all the way down your e string and the notes stay balanced, you have found your sweet spot. Any eq you do from there is purely personal choice. If some notes are still stronger than others, you can apply some eq.

    Here is how to find the frequencies you need to eq. I like to start with peaks.
    Every note we play has a fundamental frequency. E for example is about 82hz. 1 octave up on the E (the 12th fret) is about 164hz. The 24th fret is about 328hz. It doubles in frequency for every octave.

    Here is a chart that gives the frequency per note.
    Note-To-Frequancy-Chart-768x1010.jpg Open E is E2 in this chart. E at the 12 fret is E3 in the chart.

    So doing some quick math we know if we have a volume spike at A,thats 110 hz, or one of its harmonics which are just multiples. 110, 220, 330, etc. I dont look up the exact number. No one wants to do that. I know that e is 82 hz and its first octave is 164. so if i have a volume spike at the 5 or 6 th fret i know the frequency im looking for is about right in the middle of those 2, or about 120 hz in the bass region or 240 hz if its too much low mid.

    The way to find the specific frequency to be cut is to play the notes sequentially. If we have aligned our cab properly, the note will gradually get louder. we are looking for the loudest note. That notes corresponding frequency is the frequency we should be attenuating. After doing this a couple times, it becomes instinctive and you will no longer need any math. You will quickly learn which note equals what frequency by ear.Once you have removed the peaks, play down the fretboard again, this time listening for dips. If any dip is found, find the weakest note and adjust its corresponding frequency up until the weak spot fills in. Once satisfied with your low end and low mids and you have achieved a good note to note consistency, you can adjust your high mids and highs to taste. I suggest starting by balancing them to the lows and cutting what you dont like from there.

    I never do this past the A string. As bass players, the amount of upper mids and highs we use are just too personal and often change heavily. You can absolutely apply this to the other strings if you chose. I only use it to make sure I dont have vanishing notes and so that i have a solid low end. From here, knowing you have a well balanced low end, you can proceed to shaping your tone how you see fit on any eq up stream. if you get in the habit of doing this, your tone will be much more consistent from room to room and you can rest knowing the power region in your bass is solid. I do recommend checking after your personal tone adjustments that you havent damaged your low end by playing down the E string again. If you have some bad peaks or dips, you may want to adjust your tone.
    Though that was a very long winded post, in practice it takes about 2 minutes. Hopefully this all makes sense and you guys can understand the reasoning behind it.
    Im not good at explaining through text. I will edit it for simplification when I have more time.
    imabuddha, baSfo, zenandzen and 60 others like this.
  2. cosmicevan

    cosmicevan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Supporting Member

    Thank you for delivering. Its an interesting concept, but there are some logical holes...not knocking the efficacy of the method as I havent tried it, but logically you are saying that the angle of the cab to you plays a key role in this process...so what happens if you move? What about the audience or your bandmates if your eq is dialed in for where you are standing...what if where you dial it in is not where you stand when you play - gotta walk over, tweak, walk back, listen, walk back tweak, etc?

    These instructions would probably be amazing for setting your stereo's EQ (do those still exist?), seems like a big process though for bass and could take more time than a soundman will give you or that your band will tolerate while waiting to groove?

    I have found (for me) that the best way to dial in a room is w an LPF/HPF. Play, listen, twist one knob while listening, get it in the spot you like and then rip it all night long! Just one knob...two if you use an HPF to tame back the top end.

    But good on you for following through. Might give it a try just to see, but I dont see myself putting this routine in place. How long does this typically tale you to dial in a room? Plqying up and down each string and listening will require at least a few seconds × # of frets on your instrument × # of strings...for a 24 fret 4 string you are talking 4 mins if you spend a second on each note...2 seconds per note becomes 8 mins...any tweaking and this could be 20 mins easy.
  3. Excellent Thanks! Your a brave man in the know it all talkbass world...
    Mcr Red, FenderB, tonym and 4 others like this.
  4. Drop1


    Mar 28, 2019
    In practice it takes me about 30 seconds but I know what I'm listening for. I posted the chart for those that dont.
    zenandzen, Mcr Red, Mr_Moo and 4 others like this.
  5. brandinstroy


    Feb 21, 2001
    Colorado Springs, CO
    I Support the following: Fodera, Noble Amps, JHAudio, Trickfish Amplification
    This is similar to tuning a room. Listening to how a speaker system reacts in a room, then taking out the peaks and valleys, completing with tone shaping.

    You are on point and I give you a big thumbs up! Thanks for taking the time to write this process. As a production director and FOH engineer, I have noticed a lot of musicians do not know any of this info, how their gear interacts with a room. I hope those who read this will consider this information and try it out for themselves. Most will be surprised how much better they will hear what they are playing.....And for those who play in places with no PA support and have to rely on their bass rig, the audience will understand what the bass player is trying to say.
  6. Drop1


    Mar 28, 2019
    I agree. Most people dont seem to understand that power and clarity are sisters from the same mother and their mothers name is balance.
    Monolithbass likes this.
  7. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Open E is E1 (41hz), and E at the 12th fret is E2 (82hz).
    Fuzzbass, BlitzCraig, Mili and 11 others like this.
  8. Drop1


    Mar 28, 2019
    It would be nice is a mod would unlock the
    Technically correct though for eqing purposes with eqs built for tone it's more useful to use 82hz
    blocbul likes this.
  9. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Agreed. Especially true when a variable HPF is in the signal path.
    Avigdor and Drop1 like this.
  10. Thanks for not letting the Trolls put you off, that sounds logical and well thought out.

    Thanks for sharing, Maurie.
  11. Buzz E

    Buzz E Supporting Member

    Sep 25, 2014
    San Francisco, CA
    Nice! Thank you sir!
  12. Compelling stuff, thank you. I’m going to give it a go.
  13. Charlie Tuna

    Charlie Tuna Supporting Member

    Feb 21, 2005
    Key West, FL
    Thanks for the methodical approach especially since there are more and more EQ options to confuse us bass players.
    Carioquenho likes this.
  14. Moose22


    Apr 14, 2019
    I think this is just something to keep in mind. But aren't there still benefits?

    Let me sum it up. Bass frequencies can always end up louder or quieter do to reinforcement and cancellation. The smaller the room is, and the lower the notes are, the worse this can be. Most acoustic treatment in live venues doesn't do squat below 200hz, so standing waves are a real problem in any venue with lower ceilings or walls less than maybe 20 feet apart. I believe this is the problem neophytes don't understand until they're taught or learn through experience.

    So, practically, all those notes you're correcting are only going to sound correct to a listener standing exactly where you stand when you're correcting.

    But sounding correct there -- this is still probably a good thing. Because it means you'll not be playing way too darned loud on those fundamentals because you can't hear them where you are standing. The FOH guy can deal with the room if you're going into the board, and if you aren't going through the board you pretty much are at the mercy of the room no matter what you do. So balancing so YOU can hear well will help you give the best performance. Right?

    Or maybe I'm just coming from a perspective. I've played with too many bassists who were on top of their amp and had their EQ scooped and then just cranked it louder when they couldn't hear themselves instead of EQing it better and pointing the amp at themselves. Recently a venue I visit often has hosted an open mic where the bass amp is on the floor, horizontal, and if the stage is full with other musicians the bassist ends up standing so close it points at their knees. The bass is ALWAYS too loud in those circumstances, too. It gives me band argument flashbacks.

    I believe good eq and having the amp where I can hear it well when I'm on bass goes a long way to keeping me from making those mistakes.
  15. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    You definitely need to EQ for the location you will be monitoring from. The EQ will be most valid in the position you set it for, and varying degrees of invalid everywhere else.

    The way I like to use the EQ for bass is pretty consistent with what @Drop1 expressed with one exception: I fine tune the EQ for a relatively even tone in the context of the mix, rather than when I am playing by myself. This relates to masking and frequency slotting. IMHO, the EQ of a GK RB series amp is setup really well for this sort of EQ strategy, where you essentially balance the sound across the range of the instrument. But I don't feel RB series amps are particularly great for dialing in a "signature sound." Of course YMMV.

    Unfortunately & IMHO, the tone controls on many vintage tube amps are fairly decent for dialing in a signature sound, but not well suited for balancing tone. With most of the tube amps I own, I feel each amp tends to have one basic core sound that can be revealed and slightly tailored with the tone controls. So the best thing you can do with some amps is set your tone controls so the desired signature sound is revealed in a good acoustic environment and then forget about the tone controls. If you want to effectively deal with acoustic problems or balance your tone, you will probably need an EQ pedal that is more flexible and capable.

    I am also an advocate of EQ'ing for intended purpose. On stage I like bright and articulate sound because I want the bass to jump out of the quagmire as much as possible. This allows me to monitor at a lower level, so the low end produced by rig does not fight with the main PA speakers as much.

    My stage sound would be too gnarly for the main mix with most styles of music. I plug my bass into a decent DI and usually run the volume wide open and the tone controls flat, so the audio tech gets a neutral signal to carve up as appropriate.
    Mcr Red and Mr_Moo like this.
  16. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    :thumbsup: My personal strategy is to elevate the speaker and aim it at my ears. I want to hear the direct full range the speaker produces. But not everyone likes hear the full range of the bass. I get the impression that many only want to hear up to about 400-700hz or so.
    Moose22, LBS-bass and dralionux like this.
  17. From a practical standpoint, this isn't readily applied on stage in the real world due to time and space limitations. We don't always have the luxury of a personal soundcheck, and very often the space(and FOH engineer) dictates where your cab will be, giving little or no option to find optimal cab placement.

    Not trying to say it's not good methodology, just not practical or realistic in some circumstances, so not always readily applicable.
  18. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
  19. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    This is a valid approach, but in practice, if you consistently have problems with a boomy sound (which is mainly what this would help with), you'll get a lot more mileage from going to the source of those issues in your rig and technique, and address them there. For instance, using a cab that's big enough (for the driver/s) and tuned low enough that it doesn't have the huge low mid bump that many cabs use to disguise how weak they otherwise are.

    If you have a rig and a dialed in sound that are boomy to start with, mostly what this will be doing is undoing that, with the added complication of that interacting with the room. If you minimize those issue first, then you JUST have to deal with the room, and then this might be somewhat helpful if you can do it quickly enough to be somewhat practical, more so than just intuitively grabbing what you need to pull out, etc... But the other thing is that "the room" is going to have different effects depending on where your cab is and where you are listening from. Which means that if you get too aggressive with these kinds of adjustments for your own listening position, you may be hurting your sound in other parts of the room. So ideally you would adjust and then move around the entire room as much as you can to get a good sense of what is going on everywhere, and then refine or undo whatever you changed.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2019
    Fredrik E. Nilsen likes this.
  20. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    Also, this really should be in Live Sound and not Effects.
    lz4005 likes this.