EQ stands for equalisation and is used to cut or boost frequencies in the sound spectrum. Sound is made up of waves of frequencies which are measure in hertz (Hz) of kilohertz (kHz).
EQ is not as glamorous as, say, an octave effect or phaser but it's the most common way to alter your bass tone. Want to sound a bit like Marcus Miller? Need a reggae tone? Well, you need to know about EQ.
Watch the video below for everything you need to know and scroll down for a free PDF with EQ tips and frequency ranges to be aware of.
Bass Guitar EQ Tips
•Fundamental frequency range = about 40Hz to 400Hz
• Harmonics/overtones (a lot of interesting stuff goes on here!) = up to 4kHz
• Low bass = 80 to 120Hz
• Mid bass = 120 to 200Hz
• For clarity/definition: boost 800Hz
• To remove muddiness, find the sweet spot between 60Hz and 1.2kHz (where the upper-order harmonics sing) and boost
• Remember there are other instruments competing within the same frequency range. Select EQ that works with the other instruments (ESPECIALLY the kick drum)
•Don’t just boost EQ. Cutting can help you sit in the mix better as well as to fine tune your tone for the room you’re playing in.
Specific Bass EQ Tweaks
Marcus Miller: boost the bass and treble frequencies, leave the mids.
Reggae: boost the bass (palm muting also sounds good)
Rock: use fresh stainless steel strings. Some overdrive, and boost the treble and bass to taste.
Jaco: Play near the bridge and boost mids.
Remember that these principles apply whether you are using the onboard EQ, amp EQ, or outboard gear like a pedal.
Different Types Of Bass EQ
Active basses have EQ onboard and are powered by a battery or two (9V). These allow you freedom to make quick changes without having to use a pedal or go over to your amp.
Aguilar make a very popular preamp that can be dropped into your existing bass.
Bass EQ Pedal
Boss make an affordable EQ pedal with set EQs that can be cut or boosted (this is a 'graphic EQ').
The other type of EQ is a parametric one where you select the frequency that you want to cut or boost. It's a little more complex but you get far more control over the exact sound you want. This one from Empress Effects is great.
Of course, you can control the EQ via your amp. That's what session legend Carol Kaye used to do in her thousands of session in the the '60s.
This Ashdown EVO IV features a 9-band EQ, with familiar Bass, Middle and Treble controls and six sliders providing precision cut and boost at 100Hz, 180Hz, 340Hz, 1.3KHz, 2.6KHz and 5KHz.
Just remember that a little EQ goes a long way and that your bass frequencies compete with the frequencies of other instruments. It's not always about boosting - cutting also contributes to a desirable bass tone.
Just get used to whatever you have and also make sure to experiment and, above all, use your ears!