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EQ tips

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  • EQ tips

    Last Sunday, I was listening to my guitar in the house mix and decided I didn't like the tone at all. Since I know it sounds great through my reference monitors at home (I use a Sans Amp modeler) I concluded that I needed to check the channel EQ.

    All three EQ bands were dialed back (below 12:00). Here was my dilemma when trying to EQ:

    I first thought, the guitar sounds dull like there's a blanket over it, so I need more highs.
    Then I thought, I like mids & mids make the tone cut through without having to raise the volume, so I need more mids.
    Then I thought, since the guitar sounds thin, I should boost the bass.

    Realizing that this type of thinking simply leads to my boosting all the EQ knobs which sort of defeats the purpose, can someone enlighten me as to how I should think of EQ'ing for the house?

    I think it's one thing for sound engineers to learn how to mix levels but most amateurs don't seem to have a handle on EQ....

  • #2
    Hey Greg, I'm not a sound engineer, but have wanted to get at our Behringer X32 board to adjust my acoustic guitar's EQ along with the bass guitar, which I think needs more punch. I assume that for your situation you are referring to your electric guitar? Either way, I came across the following link that may be helpful to you and has some great tips on EQ'ing using a two page cheat sheet. You can download the cheat sheet as a PDF. Here is the link...http://www.cheatography.com/fredv/cheat-sheets/eq-tips/


    • #3
      It might be an issue of making a FOH-specific channel on the SansAmp.

      I run through a Digitech RP500. I basically took the channel I use at home, copied it to another preset location, then went from there- ultimately changing the amp model. I'm a pretty big Fender fan, and on my copied preset I was trying to use the various Fender amp models, but I just couldn't get the sound I wanted. I started trying different amp models and found the JCM 2000 model worked well with our sound system (FWIW_ I try to leave the mixer channel EQ as neutral as possible). My strat sounded most like a strat and was able to cut through the mix. It isn't my favorite tone (I'm not really a Marshall guy), but when piano, keys, and a sax are going I don't get as lost in the mud- which is my main goal.

      Another big factor- the FOH system itself. The channel you are in, where does it go after the mixer? Is it loaded down with compression and effects? Is there a 31-band EQ or something downstream coloring the tone? What speakers is it running through? Does it run into some sub group in the board with a goofy setting? For example, do you run a lot of compression on the input side then the channel signal out goes through a compressor and reverb, etc. before it gets to the power amp?

      My church's board goes through a 31-band EQ and a compressor, so I don't run much compression on my end. I tried it and it sounded like one of those "Paper Jamz" things my kids had. So I had to be careful with that. I also had to be careful with the bass because the guitar ultimately goes to 2 Peavey 15" full range w/ horns. They have a strong low-mid presence with the 15's so I don't need to boost the bass a lot.

      The thing I learned in the year and a half or so I had this RP500 was I just had to spend the time to try some different things to get something that works decent.
      If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.


      • #4
        That was very astute of you to recognize boosting lows, mids, and highs would only result in the same tone at a higher level.

        One of the differences in looking at the mixing board and looking at your individual amp tone is that on a mixing board you're looking at the sonic space of the entire band. So you have to ask yourself, "where in this mix of voices, keyboards, drums, bass, etc. do I want the guitar to stand out?" Since the guitar, keyboard, and voices all use pretty much the same frequency ranges you have to be selective about what frequency to boost on the guitar that won't stomp on the others. This is why most mixing boards provide a parametric EQ for mids.

        What I find is that boosting around 2.5 khz will give the guitar more punch in the mix and 4 khz gives it more attack without interfering too much with voices or keyboard. My personal preference is to boost the 2.5 khz as I believe it blends in better with the rest of the band to give a more polished sound to everything. But this is where your ears and your situation has to dictate what's best.
        The Posse Band live performance tracks can be heard by CLICKING HERE


        • #5
          I was going to say something along the same lines as DunedinDragon. You can't look at the sound system the same as an amp or speakers at home. There are many factors and things to consider. The main two things are, one, house PAs do not sound like home/studio reference speakers (or headphones or the AC30 in the closet). Two, a best practice for sound is to NOT make everything sound individually awesome but to make things sound awesome together.

          With regards to different listening environments, we had a high school student that used to spend hours at home practicing and tweaking his sounds and then get extremely frustrated with us when we told him it didn't sound good in the mix. His case was that he had so much distortion that you couldn't differentiate between notes enough. Shocker that ear buds plugged into his headphone jack on the pedal board sounded different than it did through our sound system. The fix? A long cable so he could walk in the room and play his guitar while listening to the main speakers. He was able to hear what we were hearing and dial things in.

          Two is a major point though. When I train our audio volunteers I teach them that EQ is a two stage process. Stage one is making the input sound like it does when you are standing in front of it with nothing but air between you and the source. Stage two is making it sound good in place with everything else. You can get guitar toned dialed in where it sounds like magic... and then add vocals, keys, and a heavy rhythm acoustic and you get something that hurts your ears on the electric. As an audio engineer you have to constantly make compromises on individual inputs so that the sum of all the parts is as good as it can be.

          We have plenty of rehearsal time on Tuesdays, our entire team is on IEMs, and we have a digital desk that lets us save scenes... so we have an ideal situation for this process. We generally will begin EQ work in headphones but I always stress finishing things in reference with their playmates. After EQing an electric, for instance, in the headphones I will then push it up in the main mix, listening to it in the room WITH everything else also in the mix, but that one source a little louder. This lets me really hear how it interacts with everything else. I can then make a very educated decision to boost/cut that input or to pull something else back so that it doesn't get muddy or offensive.

          So, I say all that to say don't just try to make the guitar sound like it does at home. Try to make it sound good with everything else. What I am NOT saying is to leave the EQ alone as it is. If all the options are cutting, chances are it has just made your guitar a little quieter. EQs have different points where they interact and it isn't of course that simple, you've probably cut the lows, mids, and highs, and are left with a lot of sonic info in the low-mids and high-mids.

          Hope this helps.
          Travis Paulding,
          Production & Technology Director, St. Simons Community Church


          • #6
            Great advice everyone. How do different rooms effect EQ settings for the mix? How does the size, reverberation and the reflective surfaces affect things?


            • #7
              The most prominent feature to my ear makes me classify a room as either "bright" or "dull" when I first hear it. You'd think that's due to the amount of sound absorbing material in the room, but often it's more about the layout of the room, height of the ceiling, speaker positions and how sound reflects in it. Some of the very best rooms acoustically are ones with lots of nooks and crannies and odd angles. They have the effect of deadening the room.

              Generally speaking I don't correct channel EQ very often for a room. For that I tend to depend on the mix EQ.
              The Posse Band live performance tracks can be heard by CLICKING HERE


              • #8
                Originally posted by gregrjones View Post
                Great advice everyone. How do different rooms effect EQ settings for the mix? How does the size, reverberation and the reflective surfaces affect things?
                There are a lot of different ways- room layout, room materials , people, even climate controls can make a difference. How much time do you have?

                The short answer is room factors determine what the sound waves are going to do once they leave the speakers. One has to understand what can and what can't be fixed with EQ.

                The longer answer- metal rooms with short ceilings, tile floors and plastic chairs are prone to a lot of natural reverb, where playing in a library with carpet floors and rows of books would sound dead. Where the metal and tile are sound reflectors, the carpet and books are sound absorbents. Most rooms have some elements of both- like drywall for walls but a metal ceiling, carpet floor and cushion chairs. Or, block walls, wood pews with carpet and 'acoustically shaped' platforms, cathedral ceilings, you get the idea.

                Then add in room shape- the same square footage room that's narrow and deep will behave completely different than a room that's short and wide. The former, the sound in the front of the room is different than the sound in the back. The latter, you can have 'dead spots' in the middle where the speakers aren't covering.

                Then add people- people absorb sound waves.

                Generally speaking, it's harder to manage sound with metal & tile than carpet and cushions. Each have challenges, but with the metal & tile, a common challenge is controlling the 'mud'. When you have all these sound waves bouncing off the walls and not dissipating (think of a slap-back effect), they start crashing into each other. If one doesn't manage that factor, it's a bunch of low-end mud. In the other extreme, everything carpet and cushions (no reverb) it will sound flat and lifeless. In one example (metal and tile) you wouldn't want to crank the reverb- the room is creating reverb. You wouldn't want to boost the lows- in fact you might want to cut. In the library example you would need reverb to help give it life. But we've all seen people in reflective rooms boost the reverb and crank up the 18" sub- making a bad situation worse. In the case of PA overkill playing in a tin can, there just isn't much EQ is going to make better.

                With a room that has a mixture of materials, the sound can be so much different from one part of the room to another. The most common example I can think of is the churches that have a balcony or high cathedral ceiling that put the sound booth up by the ceiling. It seems like a good idea, aesthetically pleasing and maximizing space, but what people have learned is the sound near the ceiling is so much different than it is in the seats, they can't get a good read on the mix below. I've known a couple churches that have actually moved their sound booth down to the first level.

                Another factor is frequency ranges and types. Again, generally speaking, low end tends to take longer to dissipate and be more unidirectional than high end (picture walking up to a place a band is playing and you hear the bass & drums through the walls) while high end dissipates faster and is more directional (stand in front of a guitar amp that blows your ears off, stand 90 degrees to the side and you can barely hear it). In setting up a system, for example, placing a sub has different guidelines than placing mains. If you look at speaker manufacturers' directions for arrangement, there are usually guidelines for how to arrange speakers to maximize coverage without leaving 'dead spots' or creating out-of-phase situations.

                I was actually part of a NVH (Noise vibration & harshness) engineering seminar one time that was focused on engineering requirements for vehicle noise. The engineers did a test at 60 dB playing different frequencies- some were pleasant, others were downright harsh and painful. The punchline was engineers need to understand the effects of harmonics and damping, not just SPL. That's one thing that made me favor the 31-band EQ racks over the simple 4-band on most mixers. And it's the cut that is just as important as the boost (the thing that I wish every sound tech would learn)

                So after all that, what it boils down to is that everything affects everything else. There is no direct 'formula' because each and every room is different. Each and every sound system is different.

                This is an article from presonus that is one example of EQ and other things based on room factors


                And another link that covers some basics on how to use EQ effectively


                There' I'm done now

                Hope some of that is helpful.
                If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.


                • #9
                  If the house speakers are in front of you, it is not going to to sound the same to you as it does to those in the actual house. I would never base adjustments off when I hear out of the house because typically the speakers are in front of the band and the sound is going to sound much different to anyone behind them then it does to those they are directioned at.