Setting EQs Correctly?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Robert Palat, Apr 27, 2018.

  1. Robert Palat

    Robert Palat

    Apr 27, 2018
    I've been a bass player for about 2 years now, and up until this point I've really just been practicing at home and playing with my school's bands. Recently, I've been playing in more places (community bands, local musicals, Jazz Band) and I am having trouble setting my EQs so that they sound clear and not muddy. I've found that when I setup the EQ on my amp at home, or in the band room at school, those sounds aren't the same in other rooms. That makes sense, but I have a few questions:

    Is it better to set EQs at each venue rather than trying to set it all up before?

    When playing in a larger area (like a Basket ball court for example), what is the best way to adjust EQ so that the sound is balanced and the bass tone isn't overpowering?

    Sorry in advance if this isn't posted in the correct place.

    If it helps to know, I am playing through a Fender Rumble Stage 800 (finally saved enough to get a decent amp :)) with a 2014 Special Edition Jazz Bass.
  2. Coolhandjjl


    Oct 13, 2010
    Each venue will be different.

    Get a long cord so you can go in the audience area to hear it or have someone else play it while you head out there.

    Cab placement is important. Avoid placing it 2' to 8' from a wall or corner. (IOW, place it closer than 2' or further than 8')

    Most people end up cutting bass. A variable High Pass Filter like the FDeck HPF is very handy. The lower the frequency, the more problematic those long waves become so don't be afraid to remove them. Some areas like corners will always be problematic, so don't fret if everyone doesn't get the same listening experience. That's what skilled PA services are for.

    Mids are your friend for cutting through. A slight cut around 150~200Hz to clean up the mud with a boost in the 500Hz range is the key.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2018
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  3. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    Not only is each venue different, but the same venue may very well be different on different days, with different crowds, different weather, etc. all having some effect.

    Start "flat", with no boost or cut anywhere. It's generally better to cut than to boost. Use your ears more than your eyes. Make a change, if you think you need to or just want to try something, then check out how it sounds.
    Amano likes this.
  4. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member


    Coolhandjjl and JohnMCA72 have you covered! good luck! :thumbsup:
  5. ClusterFlux


    Apr 11, 2018
    If you don't mind my butting in ;) What's the reason for this?
  6. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    If your dealing with problematic frequencies, cutting is a good strategy. However, in terms of musical instrument amps, boosting can be okay. Many amps don't have a flat setting any way....and if they do, it's usually not with all knobs at 12:00. In dealing with boomy bass..."boost the mids and cut the bass," is common advice.

    In terms of PA, I generally prefer a primarily subtractive EQ strategy. Boosting is more likely to cause feedback and can also cause the system to exceed available headroom at the boosted frequency. One of the few places I use peaking is a narrow band boost around the resonance of the bass drum ~75 hz.

    That's my philosophy....YMMV ;).
  7. ClusterFlux


    Apr 11, 2018

    So I take it this is because:
    • PA is designed for a neutral tone, with a broad range of frequencies, which lets the sound tech manipulate it as needed
    • Bass amp is designed to color the tone, emphasize bass frequencies, and few adjustments during performance (maybe a boost or channel switch)
    • If you're using your own amp as a monitor (e.g. small club with PA but no monitor provided), you're probably better off bypassing the preamp circuits to get a better idea of the tone

    As far as boosting the mids goes, I take it the strategy with mid-scoop EQ settings is more about emphasizing the treble, and using those higher frequencies to cut through the rest of the band sounds.

    Does that sound about right?
  8. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    That's not really the way I view it.
    •Although it's good to start with a flat system, audio techs can do a fair amount of tone painting with the channel strips. Also consider the concepts of masking and frequency slotting. See video below.
    •I generally prefer full range flat response bass speakers, but respect those who prefer colored systems. Some are quite nice.
    •Although I often prefer a flat unprocessed DI signal for FOH, I don't recommend bypassing your EQ on your amp. When the bassist uses effect or relies on the amp to produce overdrive, a mic or post DI is preferred.
    •IMHO Too much mid scoop tends to disappear in a busy mix, although tt can be useful for certain slap styles. Boosting certain mid frequencies can help the bass cut through...once again masking and frequency slotting. Boosting the wrong mid frequencies can cause problems.

    Not a great video...but hopefully you get the idea.
    1BassDreamer likes this.
  9. ClusterFlux


    Apr 11, 2018
    So I can understand generally running flat to give the sound tech latitude, including for frequency slotting. I may be wrong, but it seems like that is not a common practice. :D

    It makes me wonder about preamps for this approach. Does an active bass, or fancy tone-shaping DI have any utility, if you're delegating most of the control to the sound tech or PA?
  10. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    IMHO, Ultimately the best results are achieved with compromise. As an audio tech, I tend to think the sound for the audience should receive priority, but the reality is the talent must be reasonably happy or the sound doesn't matter. Pre DI gives the audio tech a flat signal and allows the bass player to adjust his or her controls with out impacting the send. Post DI tracks all of the adjustments. Each configuration has valid pluses and minuses.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2018
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  11. FilTurd


    Dec 13, 2015
    Pacific Northwest
    Simple and excellent advise. Follow and you will find what you like in your sound.
    Good luck and most of all have a blast!
  12. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    Boosting raises the level of the signal, but there is no corresponding increase to the level at which it will clip. This has the effect of reducing your dynamic range (the difference between the average signal level & the level where it gets clipped).
  13. Kro


    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Also, and probably more importantly, boosting usually also increases volume. Psychoacoustically, louder usually sounds "better".

    If you cut a signal, and it sounds better, then you can better trust that you made the right choice, and it isn't just your brain playing tricks on you from the added volume.
    JohnMCA72 likes this.
  14. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    You have discovered something that it takes some people forever to figure out. Bedroom tone and venue tone aren't the same, and neither are solo vs band mix tone. What sounds great in a small space at low volume by its self isn't particularly useful. Learning to hear what will work in a band takes time. It also changes from band to band
    JohnMCA72 and Kro like this.
  15. misterCRUSH

    misterCRUSH It's all's ALL jazz...

    Dec 27, 2015
    Fayetteville, Arkansas
    EQ is different in every room you play in. Somebody mentioned having a long cord so you can get out by the people and listen to your sound. I do this but with a loop pedal . Just loop a nice little ditty and let it roll as you adjust the amp, no need to go back to the looper, just adjust , check, adjust etc..
  16. tjh


    Mar 22, 2006
    Couple quick thoughts I haven't seen mentioned ... there is a great deal of tonal difference on your Jazz where you play with your plucking hand, you can often clean up and add definition/punch to your notes moving closer to the bridge, and vice versa towards the neck ... center between pups is a sweet spot ...

    Check your owners manual, if your Fender amp uses the Fender tone stack, it can be different than some other brands, make sure you know what is 'cutting' and what is adding (can't help you much more but there is a lot of info out there, I haven't owned a Fender amp since the early 70's ... on purpose;))

    Finally, there can be a significant difference between your amp on the ground or having it slightly elevated ... chair, stool, amp stand, etc ... just something to be aware of ...

    Also, be aware of the 'sonic space' occupied by the other instrumentation ... sometimes EQ'ing to 'sit between' things like bass drum, keyboards, large bodied acoustic guitars, etc. can go a long way towards 'cleaning up' your entire bands sound ...

    I start every venue with my amp set flat (GK 'flat'), and work very small increments from there, often add Auralex pad if needed ... yours is quite likely not set 'flat' at noon ... again, info from manual or from other users of your amp ... I use a consistent 'starting' point and work from that, you will see patterns develop likely ... the amps I use I choose because I like the 'flat' setting and usually have to move very little from there, just to fine tune ... after a while you can usually predict close to where you should be once you see the room, and adjust accordingly as the venue fills up (hopefully not as it 'empties') ;)
    Last edited: May 4, 2018
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  17. bearfoot

    bearfoot Inactive

    Jan 27, 2005
    Chittenango, NY
    The technique I have learned, and should be applicable to bass, is "ringing out" the monitors. You purposely induce a bit of feedback by raising a mic level in the vicinity of a monitor speaker, and when it starts to howl, find and pull down that frequency from the 31-band master/monitor EQ. Then you know about where the peaks are where the mic is placed. You can expect the multiples and halves of the peak frequency(ies) to also be hot.

    So, if for instance the room has a big bump around 1khz, and also around 500hz, you might not want to boost your mids, which is usually helpful for bass clarity. Or if you do, boost it half as much as usual.