Bass Tone

Why Too Much Low End is Actually Hurting Your Bass Tone

November 25, 2016 5 Comments

Bass Tone

A constant challenge in dialing in your bass sound live is finding a tone that is clear and articulate, yet maintains power and heft in the low end. This elusive sweet spot will have to be dialed in on each and every stage you play on. Carvin Audio’s bass amps come equipped with all the EQ and tone shaping tools you need to make this happen; it’s just a matter of familiarizing yourself with the controls and using them correctly. This article will give a basic rundown on addressing an important aspect of your tone: your low end, specifically around the 40Hz frequency range.

The Problem with Too Much Low End

Low end is what gets the dance floor moving and the band grooving, so it makes sense to use as much as you can. They call it playing bass after all, right? But like with most things, it’s good to avoid excess. Since low frequencies tend to overpower and mask all other frequencies, your pummeling low end can have an adverse effect on your bandmates being able to hear themselves- and the audience being able to hear the band. Those big, powerful, slow moving bass frequencies can fill out the sound better than you think, especially in smaller rooms. When setting your low end, be judicious of the fact that bass frequencies have wavelengths of over twenty feet, which means that when you’re standing right in front of your amplifier you won’t necessarily be able to hear exactly how loud these frequencies are. If you can, step out into the room, gauge the sound, and make adjustments from there.

Furthermore, using too much low end can put unnecessary stress and strain on your speakers and use up a lot of headroom. If you’re going through a PA with subwoofers, you can rely on those subs to do the heavy lifting and set your amp more neutrally to cover the stage and provide for adequate monitoring.

EQ for Your Band Mix

If you are having problems hearing yourself live, you may think that turning up your low frequencies is the key. However, doing this can be counterproductive. Instead, try cutting your EQ in the 40Hz range; this will let the midrange punch through more clearly and efficiently, and let both the band and audience hear more articulation in your bass playing. If you feel like you need more heft behind your sound, try to adjust your low mids around 200-400Hz before you address the lows. This frequency also allows you to maintain distinction between your bass sound and the kick drum. This is not to say that you should leave your low end untouched, rather that it is not the only arrow in your quiver as a bass player. Think of your tone in the context of the band mix and your role in the band- your tone needs to contribute to the harmonic and rhythmic foundation. If your bass is a boomy, unintelligible mess because you dialed in too much low end, you aren’t supporting your band in the best way that you could.



5 Responses

Rick Erdman
Rick Erdman

December 07, 2016

Often times by simply rolling off low frequency on the bass guitar’s tone control will greatly clarify the sound and let that big bottom come through without being boomy or muddy. Many fellow bassists I have encountered as both a bassist and sound tech forget that their guitars even HAVE tone controls. They try to tailor their sound using just the amplifier controls/EQ.

Starting with bass and treble (also mid if so equipped) controls set to center and getting a close mix with the amp controls allows you to use the guitar controls to put the finishing touches on as well as giving you options to change your tone easily from song to song or even in the midst of a song!

Using your amps controls sparingly and avoiding extremes will produce excellent results and a better overall mix. Let the P.A. do the heavy lifting as the article advises and don’t try to project all of your tone from the stage. Your bandmates, the sound tech and the audience will all thank you!

Brian
Brian

November 28, 2016

You really don’t need to hear much bass but you need to feel it. As a sound engineer and bass player the biggest problem I see is bass player over doing the size of there amp. Finding that sweet spot is key to your sound but trusting the soundman is a must. When playing smaller gigs with no PA carvin has always been on top of the game. Great dimatics and overall great sound. Love them !

Michael Boos
Michael Boos

November 28, 2016

I actually heard a bass player, showing another guy how to play, say ; “Just turn the mid and treble all the way off because this is a bass guitar and we don’t need those controls turned up.”

Jim Colbert
Jim Colbert

November 28, 2016

Fantastic awesome advise

Fresh Jumbe
Fresh Jumbe

November 28, 2016

Good lesson

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