Whether you like the soft 80s pop sound or huge and thick distorted guitars, there is always some room for you to use a chorus effect. Chorus is a modulation effect that duplicates your signal and slightly changes the pitch of it. When mixed together with the main audio signal, it creates an effect which sounds like multiple instruments are being played at the same time. Basically, your sound seems more spacious, thicker, and richer when chorus effect is on.
Basic controls of a chorus effect include rate and intensity (or depth), and control for a mix and level or dry/wet ratio. Modern chorus pedals or VSTs can also have bass and treble controls or low and high cut filters. Variations of the effect include mono chorus, stereo chorus, and surround chorus.
Being a modulation effect, the general rule for guitar players is that chorus pedal goes after overdrive/distortion in the signal chain, which gives the clearest sound. Otherwise, you’ll get sort of a “muddy” and indistinct sound. However, it is up to the individual preference and taste of the guitar player to place it where it is needed for the sound. It is always good to experiment and see how things go and choose what you like the most.
The first uses of something that we could call a chorus effect can be traced back to the 1930s, with the usage of Hammond organs. It was basically the first time where one signal was out of tune on purpose, and it was physically created detuning.
Later on, during the 1960s, some studios started incorporating Automatic Double Tracking effect, or ADT. It used a copy of the recording, slightly delayed and played over the original one. It gave the enhanced sound of instruments or voices in the mix. The first use of this effect was in Abbey Roads Studios when The Beatles requested it in 1966.
Some combinations of organ and synthesizer technology were also used to create the similar sound, like the string ensemble effect. One of the examples would be Solina String Ensemble. But the classic chorus we know today was developed by Roland in the mid-1970s, and the first standalone chorus pedal was Boss CE-1. The circuitry it used was already presented with Roland Jazz Chorus amp. After that, in the late 70s and all over the 80s, the usage of the effect simply boomed. By the late 1980s, it was even considered as being overused. Some even had to make requests to studios to not add chorus in the mix. For some, it was a must, and as the years went by, guitar processors incorporated chorus effects. It also has a widespread use for bass guitars today.
Notable Chorus Effects Pedals
- MXR M134 Stereo Chorus
- Boss CH-1 Stereo Super Chorus
- TC Electronic Corona/TC Electronic Corona Mini
- Dunlop M148 MXR Micro
- Dunlop M83 MXR Bass Deluxe
- Fender Chorus Guitar Effects Pedal
- TC Electronic SCF World Standard
- Boss CE 20
Uses in Rock Music
Nirvana - “Come As You Are”
Dream Theater - “Pull Me Under”
Ozzy Osbourne - “See You On The Other Side”
Pretty much most of the stuff Zakk Wylde plays live
Numerous Queen songs
Police - “Message In The Bottle”
Daft Punk - “Get Lucky”
Guns N’ Roses - “Paradise City”
So what are your favorite songs with chorus effect? Do you like using chorus effect, and do you prefer to use it with clean sound, or distorted sound? Or, perhaps, both? What are the best and the worst chorus pedals in your opinion, and where do you place it in the signal chain? Share that in the comment section below.