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Some thoughts on EQ (or whose gig is this anyway?)

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by BryanB, Mar 11, 2013.

  1. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I have been playing for years and also have mixed live sound many, many times. I think I have at least a good fundamental understanding of eq. But sound sculpting as a sound engineer is different from sound sculpting as a bass player, at least in the live performance realm. As a sound engineer, my only focus is sculpting the sound to perfection. And I do this continually during a performance. I was never one to set and forget when running a board.) As a bass player, my primary goal is to give my best performance. I find that I am only able to focus on tweaking the sound, via signal processing anyway, before the show starts, between sets and occasionally between songs. (The later usually is reserved for times when it is really necessary.) Most of the time I only have a short time to dial out the bad and dial in the good.

    My current amp, a Genz Benz ShuttleMax 9.2, has tons of tone-shaping options. It has two preamp stages with two shelving and two semi-parametric mids each. Plus the preamps can be combined! Add to that a variable bass boost, mid cut, and treble boost which can be controlled by foot switches. There is so much tone shaping, that after 3 months of playing with this awesome amp, I am only beginning to understand how to use it effectively. Add in eq options on the instrument, effects pedals, etc, it gets overwhelming pretty quickly

    I practice at home so that I can use my time efficiently on stage. (Forget rehearsal, my band-mates have little patience with and even less appreciation for tone tweaking.) i work on identifying the issue and finding solution quickly. This usually means dial out the bad, i.e. muddy mids, boomy bass, shrieking highs. Then there is adding in the good which means getting the right emotional content into the sound. Angry, sexy, powerful, gentle, caressing, aggressive, etc. But I still am have not really gotten to the point where I can go exactly where I want quickly.

    I realize that the problem is that I really don't know exactly what I want. I don't have 'that sound' in my head. I only have a rough idea at best. I fiddle until I found something that i like or I discover something that I had not intended but sounds fantastic anyway. Most of the time, I just leave it alone, cause I am just too damn busy having fun playing. Then I find myself looking down at the foot switch with the three eq controls and realizing that I haven't touched it all night.

    So, hats off to the guys out there that have a signature sound. Guys like Aston "Family Man" Barrett, Lemmy Kilmister, and Geddy Lee. I don't think I am mature enough musically to get to that point. In the mean time I will keep tweaking the controls until get that "Aha!" moment. At least for now I like the journey more than the destination.
  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You will. Best thing to do is sit down with a recording of your bass, headphones, and a 31 band EQ or similar plugin. Work each control up, down, and slowly around as you listen, and you'll recognize things you do that you like. Once you know what frequency centers affect your sound, it becomes much easier to dial in. Of course, twiddling knobs till it works is a time honored tradition as well, but it helps if you have some direction.
  3. MTBassMania


    Mar 5, 2013
    BFunk - I love fiddling with EQs. I'd take a slew of EQ presets on separate foot switches over a bunch of effects any day. I tend to make peaks and troughs - boost one level, cut the next, boost the next, etc. Sometimes I love what I can find, other times I'm like, "Man, this sounds like I'm dragging my bass thru a swamp." Boosting those mids are key for me, tho. I never do the "scoop." It sounds good solo, but once the drums and guitar come in, the sound just gets washed away. I think with that amp (I'm considering a 12.2), I would use just a bit of that scoop button (on the 12.2 its centered at 600Hz), then set my adjustable mids to either side and give them some boost. Then probably cut the treble. Not really sure, tho... Need to hear it and toy around.
  4. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Good advice above. I'll just add, try turning off all bells and whistles and set your eq knobs at noon (neutral) and play it in a mix. From there just change it only if needed to suit the room. Sometimes having so many options can be too much of a good thing, for me, at least. And I believe at least some, if not all, manufacturers plan on their amps producing a pleasing sound when set neutral. I know my Little Mark III seems that way. I mostly just turn the low knob back a bit and I'm good. I'd guess that anything else you wanna add to your sound from a "flat" setting might be best done in small doses until you get more of a hang on what you like best.

    But, I understand what you mean about finding a tone by serendipity and just going with it. I've done that a million times with something I didn't expect to find. Anyway, hope that helps, pal.
  5. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    For me it's not a technical issue at all. It is more of an aesthetic one. I have this terrifically flexible amp and a several great basses. Having all this great tone shaping capability gives me a lot of freedom to explore. This works great in the bedroom, or in the studio. Live, all that searching for the perfect tone gets swallowed up in getting a decent sound quickly. If I had one bass and a simple amp, say a Precision and a b15, getting that sound would be simple. (I am not saying that combo is a one trick pony, but it definitely has an aesthetic, a vibe.) There is a certain freedom in plugging in and getting the sound that you love right there. Assuming that is the sound you want, life is good. Plus you get the bonus of having that same great sound every time. But I like to explore, and that is the dichotomy. The more I explore, the less certain I am about what i want for a given situation. So when I plug in, I sort of have to give up on finding the perfect bass and the perfect eq. I go with what I've got and hope for the best. The results are sometimes great, sometimes surprising, and occasionally painful. In other words the more sounds I am capable of, the less likely I am to get the ideal sound in my head. When the show is over, I find that I have not really used the tone shaping capabilities as maximally as I could have. In fact I have hardly used them at all.
  6. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Yeah, I do agree about good amps having a good sound out of the box and with all eq set flat. I also carefully select bass and string combinations, adjust pickup height, etc to get the best tone out of the instrument. (Of course it all depends on my ability to coax the best tone from the instrument, and that can be more variable from night to night than I would like.) So my bar for 'just get a good sound' is pretty high. But getting that truly transcendent sound is elusive. I think I would get there faster if I only played one bass.
  7. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    I've been working on my tone for a zillion years and exploring the same amp since around 2005 (probably 4-5 years before I really got it figured out... using gain staging in the FX loop and such) with the same bass and various Mesa PH cabs. At this point I don't mess with my rig on stage. I only use the tone controls and sometimes pickup sweep on my bass. My tone sounds like crap solo but awesome in the mix.
  8. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass Supporting Member

    May 10, 2006
    It's easy to say "start with your amp in neutral" but where is that, exactly? For example, check out that thread on EQing the Genz Benz Streamliner. Neutral is not with the knobs at 12:00. The builder of my Old School Amps Model One tube amp said neutral is bass at 10:00, mids fully dimed, and treble at 10:00. I would never have guessed that, and sure enough he was right. So if you want to truly understand how your amp is performing when you twist those knobs, do some up front detective work and first learn where the knobs should be to produce a neutral signal across all spectrums. THEN twist away. At least in this manner you can apply standard EQ theory in confidence and rapid accuracy.
  9. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    Shuttle series amps really like the mids boosted a bit around 250 or so. Brings out a lot of punch.
  10. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I had about a 3 year period where I cared what amps sounded like with knobs at noon, despite almost never leaving an amp set with knobs at noon during the gig. One time on here I said how I didn't like to make boosts with the knobs. Then Roger Baer said to me, "If you're getting the sound you want with the knobs turned up, what does it matter what position they're in?" He was right, and now I have no more knob-nooning fetish anymore. It's still where I start with every unfamiliar amp I play, but invariably, they get changed. Hell, this weekend I turned the bass knob on my B-15 up all the way on some of our songs, and despite it being considered a no-no by TB nerds, it sounded absolutely magnificent. So in an EQing dilemma, go with your ears, not with TB nerds ;)
  11. odineye

    odineye Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2011
    Bear DE
    This is one of my favorites, and it's even better when you can re-amp. Every few months I'll run tracks from my DAW through my rig and experiment with different sounds. Another thing worth spending time on, if you have multitrack recordings of your band, is working out how the sound in your head works in a band context. Nothing worse than spending hours/days/weeks on a tone just to find out how underwhelming (or even worse, overwhelming) it is in a mix.
  12. odineye

    odineye Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2011
    Bear DE
    +1. Not that one can't achieve a great tone through blind or uninformed knob twisting but, knowing your gear can take you so much further with a whole lot less effort. One of the reasons I'm a strong proponent of reading manuals. Not that it won't end up in the "file pile" with many others, but at least one can start off on stronger footing knowing how a control is going to react before they adjust it. The Bmax pre is another great example. If you don't read the manual and don't take notice of the tone control's hash marks, well... you're going to have a fun time trying to figure out why you can't "crank those mids".
  13. odineye

    odineye Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2011
    Bear DE
    AMEN! :D
  14. Korladis

    Korladis Banned Supporting Member

    When I first got my current amp, I spent a while constantly making changes, trying to figure out what worked best for me.

    In the last couple years, though, I've pretty much had the settings all remain roughly the same with minor adjustments depending on how things sound in the room I'm in.
  15. 4-string


    Jul 23, 2006
    I tend to set it and forget it. Unless I play a particularly bad room I just plug in and play.

    I have stored 3 presets on my RH750, for three different basses, and haven't touched it for at least a year now. Luckily, a couple of those presets work very well with my other basses as well. :)

    Nothing wrong with knob twisting at all, for me it's just not worth the effort. Rather, it tends to get frustrating real quick. And my timing and chops don't seem to benefit from it at all. ;)

    Whatever gets you through the night. :)
  16. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    No nerd here, btw. The reason I said start with the knobs at noon is to see what that particular amp sounds like. Many amps provide a decent starting point that way. Then, with the knowledge stated above for that amp you can go from there. Of course, I had no idea that flat would be that far off from knobs at noon. But then, I never assumed that knobs at noon would be truly flat. Some amps are closer to flat that way than others. My main idea was to just make things simple. I often wish my amp just had two knobs, volume and tone. And, nothing wrong with turning knobs wherever in hell you like, as much as you like. Turns out for me my LMIII happens to like knobs at noon, so I'm happy. Then again I have turned them plenty, too. Nothing wrong either way as long as I like what I hear.

    Just because someone offers an idea doesn't make them a nerd.
  17. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Take it easy Russell, wasn't referring to you. You will at least turn the knobs if you need to. I've seen dudes who are getting a horrible sound with knobs at noon not do anything about it because they don't want to violate the "Knob-Nooning Rule Of The Bassist."
  18. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Well alright then.:D
  19. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    I literally almost never touch my amp after a show starts.
    I'll spend some time at sound checking tweaking to the room, which usually doesn't take much.
    From there, any tone changes I need for the show can be easily dialed in via right and left hand technique, and eq/passive tone at the bass.

    I don't know if that's helpful to you or not......................
  20. jjk2007


    Apr 16, 2008
    Austin, TX
    I found I love simplicity. That's why my Hartke LH1000 works for me. I do the 2-10-2 on the 3 band EQ and see how that works for the room the band is in. The lead singer usually spends a minute talking to the crowd every few songs so it's easy to make any needed adjustments. I'm at the point though where as long as a bass feels good, and gels good with the amp I'm playing through then it's all good for me. I usually find the sound within the first song and then I won't touch it again.

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