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.
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