Chorus Effect: Brief History and Uses in Rock Music

For all those who like their sound served spacious and thick, both clean and distorted.

logo
Ultimate Guitar
Chorus Effect: Brief History and Uses in Rock Music
21

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.

History

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.

Boss CE-1

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


YouTube preview picture

 

Uses in Rock Music

Nirvana - “Come As You Are”



YouTube preview picture

Dream Theater - “Pull Me Under”



YouTube preview picture

Ozzy Osbourne - “See You On The Other Side”



YouTube preview picture

Pretty much most of the stuff Zakk Wylde plays live



YouTube preview picture

Numerous Queen songs



YouTube preview picture

Police - “Message In The Bottle”



YouTube preview picture

Daft Punk - “Get Lucky”



YouTube preview picture

Guns N’ Roses - “Paradise City”



YouTube preview picture



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.

46 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Monkedelic
    I've only ever owned blue chorus pedals. Now when I see chorus pedals that aren't blue, my brain says, "pfff.... that thing will never work."
    shwilly
    For me chorus = Cure, Smiths and pretty much every song recorded in the 80s. Walking on the Moon, Run Like Hell, A Forest, Purple Rain, Don't Dream It's Over, I Ran, Need U Tonight, Time After Time, Matte Kudasai, Echo Beach... Also, anything by this band...
    Oh, and Plush by STP, probably my favorite song using that effect (or does anyone think they used a flanger instead?)
    regresion_12
    Heroes Del Silencio: a totally underrated band around the world (except in latin america and Spain). By the way, one of the best chorus sounds I've ever heard, this band totally had it.
    petter_6666
    Entre dos tierras is a fine example. Incredible intro with chorus and delay . They are legends here in latín america
    Slackerbitch
    I'm pretty sure the modulation in the studio recording of Run Like Hell is a flanger together with the Yamaha rotating speaker. But I'm sure Gilmour used a chorus for it on some later tours. Hearing the difference between a chorus and a flanger can at times be tricky, I usually only know it by reading about it. But yeah for me also chorus = The Cure.
    jerome snail
    One - Metallica
    Slackerbitch
    I used to have a Boss CE-5, which I did enjoy for a number of years, but my current pedalboard has no chorus at all. For modulation I use a flanger, a univibe and a phaser, and those are more than enough for me.
    sugeci
    For me, the flanger would be the closest to the chorus, especially if it has a mix/blend control. I have a neo vent 2 rotary simulator and although it has its own sound, it can easily double as a chorus and even a light uni vibe.
    Slackerbitch
    I use the EHX Electric Mistress Deluxe and I really love it.
    sugeci
    Yeah I remember that pedal being especially good for dialling chorus dominant tones
    Drache Wachter
    The entirety of Iron Maiden's Somewhere in Time album. They used the chorus built in to those GK 250ML/RL amps.
    PaisleyWilde
    I love chorus! My first chorus was an EHX Neo Clone. I have since purchased an analog man mini chorus with a 3-way tone switch and mix knob. I also have a long dash Boss Ce-2 from like 1981. Good clean fun!
    Funnyname99
    I hate chorus, makes everything sound like your amp is broken.... But.... I appreciate that some bands can use it sparingly and well....
    brojomayor666
    Steven Wilson used it on Don't Hate Me performed live on the 4½ EP. Its my favorite effect and he insulted it... Where is the 12 string guitar? Sounded great with Yes and Eric Burdon
    RedLabelRecords
    I have an old DOD Chorus pedal. That thing is shines! I also have an old EHX Small Clone. I rarely ever used them though.  Always preferred my DOD Flanger and my Univibe. I also have the Univibe Stereo Chorus. Not really a chorus pedal, but it's a weird one and kind of unique. Makes my guitar sound like it's going through a washing machine. 
    richey2195
    Fun fact: Stevie Ray Vaughan loved using chorus effects via a Fender Vibratone (their version of the classic 'Leslie' cabinet) or (studio only) a Roland Dimension D rack unit.