How NOT To Set Up A Bass Amp EQ

Bass
Strike A Balance

Even if you're a talented bass player, an imbalanced EQ can make it sound like you have something to hide. Here's where to start before you adjust those frequencies.  

I often go into a church or music store and see this EQ on the bass amp.

On the left are the frequencies that are low “bassy” frequencies, on the right are the high treble "hissy” frequencies, and in the middle are the midrange sounds. It is around 1K where the human voice energy is.

This EQ above is the the equivalent of a guitarist using a lot of effects like delay and reverb to hide their lack of technique.  The bass can actually sound quite friendly if you carve out all the mids like the picture and the bass guitar is the only thing playing. Perhaps you might use this setting if you were doing a slap or tapping solo on your own.

That is usually not what happens in worship, though. All the energy and clarity of the notes live in the midrange. Once the band kicks in, midrange is what is needed to hear the movement in the changes.

Start with your EQ like these in your next rehearsal and see how you feel about it when the band kicks in. 

If you have a graphic EQ:

Or if you have EQ knobs:

Songs like Phil Wickham's "This Is Amazing Grace" has even more of the midrange presence. If you flatten the EQ and actually cut some of the far left one (40 hz) and then boost some mids, you will find it is closer to the tone heard in verse 2 of the song.

Feel free to comment on this post and we can chat about what combinations of amps, basses, and EQs work for different players.

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Comments

Question

Our sound system is in bad shape and when I run sound, I notice it's hard to hear the bass. I brought my amp in( it's only 40 watts since I just started playing) and miked it up. I only have bass, volume, and treble on my bass. The amp has bass, mid, and treble, as well as overdrive and contour( not sure what that does, maybe pads the sound?). Anyway, any advice on tone settings? I know it is much louder miked up(my amp does not have an XLR input so I had to mic it). Thanks!

You are on the right track!

If your sound system is already struggling then adding a bass guitar or kick drum will send it screaming from the building like a bleating goat. If I play in a room with a small PA I usually try provide a warm tone from the bass amp and try not to get too much presence. If you crank the contour you will cut out the mids so my advice would be to leave it flat or if its super muddy then cut back on the contour. So Contour is opposite to mids. Keep in mind that a smiley face EQ is not wrong. If you are plating a bass show on your own or a slap solo without anyone else it will sound pleasant. I like that you are miking the amp. As with any open mic, feedback can be a problem so watch out for that but I would put the amp against the wall on the floor which will let it project into the room and give you more juice. Then supplement the sound with your mic in the PA if the Sound system can handle it. Alternatively, Get a direct box and go straight through to the mixing board and then into your amp. Start with the amp off so that the mains sound good and then fill it out a bit with the amp. Keep on rocking and let us know how it goes.

Great Article!

I have that Tone Hammer 500 that you pictured. I have wondered why sometimes my bass gets lost in my IEM mix when the vocals come in big. I tend to boost the low mids with the sweepable mid knob on the TH500. Maybe I should boost the mid-mids instead. I doubt I want the brightness of the high-mids. Does this sound like the way to go? I am not playing slap style.

Great Question

I think it all depends what frequencies are already being eaten up with the rest of the band. Imagine the bands of EQ like the parking spaces in front of the church. If all the singers are parked in the mids you will have to find a way to cut through the mud. It is also an issue when a sythh or piano plays in our exact register. I tend to make the bass thinner and have more mids in that environment and it works great. It is not necessarily the most pleasing sound on its own but in the mix it is great. Give it a try and let us know how it feels.

Active v. Passive

I have always had my EQ (graphic on a Trace Elliott) as per your second picture. I've always known that the mid range is where the power lies, whereas a boosted bass end just sounds 'muddy'. I have known musicians who even run an amateur mixing studio to apply the top picture EQ consistently!!

I found a huge difference when I installed active circuitry in my bass (and our sound engineer at the time concurred), and the power of the mid range was even better, so on my bass controls I found that THEN boosting the slightly lower frequencies on a cut/boost and frequency double knob gave the bottom end a bit more grunt as well. I would advise anyone with a passive bass to consider installing active. I purchased mine from east-uk and paid a local guy to install it for me. Total cost was around £350. Considering I have my bass insured for £2000 I was happy with that, but you can get much cheaper active circuitry that will work well.

I tend to keep my EQ on both my amp and bass sort of constant, and use my Boss GT-10B pedal to switch to different sounds and tones. Anyone think I should alter my EQ more for different songs?

Good Sounds

Hey Irish Rebel, Thanks so much for sharing your setup. This is so great. It is awesome that you have found a great bass and a great sound.
I personally primarily play passive basses but I do use a sansamp pre amp that does allow control and range for my sound. Different types of active circuitry will affect many basses differently and can sometimes really make a bass super hi fi and overly bright sounding. Having said that if you are largely leaving the EQ flat or as in your case boosting some of the lows you can really end up with a fantastic sound. It all comes down to your attack and style of bass playing too. I also want to check out the Boss unit you have. My only other piece of advice with using a range of bass effects is to spend some time working through them with your sound guy so they don't freak him out in a set and he brings down your bass and may forget to bring it back up once you change sounds again. Please share some of the eq's that are song specific that you have found to work with songs on the site here. Rock on!

EQ and Mono

We perform worship in a small church with Mono setup. Removing some of the mid-range for the bass gives more space for the acoustic and electric guitars and keyboard. So when we have all the instruments I remove the mid-range. If you do not have a full complement of instruments or you have stereo where you can use the pan to separate the instruments in the mix a flatter EQ works better.

Great Advice but...

I just registered with your website today and I have to say, a lot of this may seem pedestrian to some but this is great stuff and very well put together.. thank you!

So I play bass at a church (actually here in Nashville) with an amazing sound system and tech, I also use some very high end in-ears. However I still seem to lose some of that mid range and I'm struggling to balance that out, especially when the chord of a driving part of a song falls on the second string. I've been debating purchasing a compressor pedal to try and even things out but want to get your opinion on this. I'm no expert at this stuff so don't assume I know what I'm talking about, ha.

My current set up is a Fender Marcus Miller Jazz bass straight into an Avalon preamp and then straight to the house.

Midrange issue

Hey, sorry for the late reply. I wanted to see if I could help. I have experienced dead spots on some bass guitars I play and it is usually obvious on p-basses that are not set up to compensate with the D and G strings and they usually sound weaker than the others. There is a fix where the poles on the pickup are raised to compensate and make it more even.
If you are not running through eq then check the following. 1. Make sure that the sound guy is not shaping a lot of your sound and cutting certain frequencies before they get to your ears. (see if you can get the bass straight to you without his eq and effects. Then you will know if it is a problem on your end.) 2. check the action to make sure that the A string (if that is what you mean about the second string) is not higher off the neck (In turn higher and further away from the pickup) 3. Check that you have matching strings on the bass (all from the same pack and a good set. (if you personally put them on you will know for sure) 4. make sure there is not a lot of boosting of bass frequency on the Avalon pre because bass will always be amplified on the lower strings (lower notes ) and then you will end up with thinner notes on the higher notes/strings.
Try those first and if you have no luck reach out to me again and I will see what I can do to help.

I have some vids I'd like to

I have some vids I'd like to share for help with my sounf

send em on through

put a link in here for the vids on youth and we can have a listen

Amplifier

I'm totally a new beginner bass I've been on it probably 12 days and I'm looking for a reasonable light weight portable amplifier that I can put in the back of my car with my base guitar. Going between my house and the church and a friend who's learning piano I need something I can carry and quickly hook up thank you for your time

Bass amp.

I think the Fender Rumble 25 - 25W 1x8" Bass Combo is a great starter. Its super light and will do the trick. If you have a bit more to spend get a bigger rumble. Best thing is to take your bass to a music store and ask if you can try out a few entry level amps and then but the one that feels best with your setup.

This sounds a little like mud to me

I agree with scooping the 40hz but putting so much mid-range in the mix kind of muddies it up. I would say to separate the bass guitar and bass drum you should scoop everything below 100hz. The kick dominates the frequencies below 100hz. I'm not saying take all of it out, but just enough to separate the two.

Then boost between 100-200hz have a slight dip in around 500hz and EQ the rest to the room. This is what I have almost always found to be true. However, always make sure that you eq to the room you're playing in because every room is different and will emphasize different frequencies.

great point!!

Hey Billy,
All great info to add to this conversation. You have a good working knowledge of frequencies which is a massive asset as a bass player. My initial post really pertains to precision style and jazz basses but every little thing from what strings you use or how old they are, to anything you add to the chain pedal wise will definitely change a lot so I really should have made a disclaimer. The main take away that I wanted to give was that a smiley fave EQ where all the mid's are cut is generally a mistake. If you have a well balanced instrument then it may not be necessary to boost or cut any frequencies especially if you have a front of house mix guy who knows how to carve out a space for the kick drum and keyboards as you have mentioned in your post. Thanks so much for jumping in here and posting. We all look forward to hearing more from you. Please let us know what your current bass setup is.

Bass Pre-amp, glad you mentioned this...

I play a 2015 Fender American Jazz Bass(passive), Dean Markley Helix HD Nikki Sixx strings for the heavier G string primarily, an Ampeg PF500 with an Ampeg PF115LF cabinet. What I never realized is how much the Ampeg SCRDI would improve the overall response of the amp. Many of the DI boxes also have the added benefit of a practice amp with inputs for your MP3 player and a head phone jack. Boosted signal, clarity, growl, are all benefits of these little boxes. I run direct out of the amp head with an XLR to capture this extra tone and clarity. I'm glad you brought up the Sansamp as another option, I picked the Ampeg more for the practice amp perspective(input volume control, headphone jack), but there are many other quality boxes out there. I have played for almost 35 years and would never have imagined the added tonal response from the DI boxes available today. I have an active bass also, it benefits in some ways, though maybe not quite as much as the passive bass. I have ran an 80's Peavey Patriot single pickup bass with the box and it was night and day difference.

Thanks for bringing up the DI Boxes, it's a great tool and one I use the most to change tone between songs when needed!

Alles van die beste!