How to Use the Graphic Equalizer For a Louder Monitor Mix
In a live sound situation, the graphic equalizer is one of your favorite friends. It helps you crank as much volume as you can out of your monitors.
A graphic equalizer has certain frequencies that you can either cut or boost. Some Hi-Fi stereos have these, as do various music amplifiers. They usually have around 10 frequency bands, but the professional models used in live sound have around 31 frequencies.
So as you can guess, 31 sliders allows you a certain degree of control over which frequencies get through.
And when working as a monitor mixer, these 31 sliders are a life-saver.
Perfect for Monitor Mixing
All monitors have a certain frequency curve that accent certain frequencies more than others. Due to this, certain frequencies are more susceptible to feedback.
Imagine the frequency response of a dynamic microphone. Monitor speakers react the same way.
To the right is the frequency response of a Shure SM58 a monitor, those frequencies would peak first.
So what can you accomplish by knowing which frequencies are louder than others?
By cutting or lowering only certain frequencies you can effectively raise the overall volume of the monitor. You want to flatten the frequency response in order to make the monitor as loud as possible.
So if you know the frequency specifications of a speaker this comes very easy as you can just pinpoint the frequencies that have more power and cut them.
By carefully cutting these frequencies and then raising the volume you get a flat frequency response, similar to what you see in the diagram to the right.
But sadly, you don’t get a manual with every monitor. You usually have to figure it out the hard way.
Find Feedback by Generating Feedback
First order of business is increasing the volume of the speaker and making the feedback frequencies pop out.
Step 1. Turn up the volume until the monitor starts making a little feedback noise. Be careful with the volume knob because you don’t want screeching feedback on stage, just a little noticeable feedback hum.
Step 2. When it starts to hum, fiddle around with the sliders on the graphic equalizer. Try boosting certain frequencies and see if they add to the feedback. If they do, cut them and raise the volume of the monitor.
Step 3. Repeat this exercise. Raise the volume until you get feedback, then find the offending frequencies and cut them. Some frequencies may generate more feedback than others, and usually the high-mids are the most problematic regions.
Step 4. When you end up with a monitor that can’t be raised any higher unless all the frequencies generate feedback then you know you have a flat frequency response.
After a while you get to recognize the frequencies and you instinctively cut the ones you know will be problematic.
A graphic equalizer is a great tool for better monitor mixing. By using it to its full potential, you can get a louder and better monitor sound at your gigs. It enables you to get more power out of your monitors and helps the band hear themselves better on stage.
Having a happy band is crucial to a good show so you should do whatever you can to make their stage sound good.
Have you tried flattening out a monitor like this? What do you struggle with in your live sound? Leave a comment below!
Image by: mattcashmore
Live Sound Tips