Desert Island Pedals #1: Chorus

Was thinking about writing about my next guitar project, but instead I wanted to talk about effects pedals. Just to vary it up a bit. In these blogs I want to tell the story behind some of my favorite effect pedal types and give examples from my own small stash of not-so-secret secrets.

After finishing the title doubt struck my mind: “I should call this “Desert Island Pedals #1: Chorus (and Flanger and Phasers)”, or not?” Choruses, flangers and phasers share a lot in common, but I’ll dedicate the blog to this specific effect. Maybe later I can add a DIP about these other effects, I do love me some good ol’ flanging and phasing!

Even if you are not an avid fan of bands like The Cure or The Police, or pretty much every (pop)song from the 80s for that matter, you will know what a chorus sound is in an instance. Explaining it to someone who doesn’t know what chorus is just by giving the dictionary definition is harder than you think. Trust me, I’ve done it, it was messy. If applied tasteful you can’t go wrong with chorus, don’t overdo it though. Looking at you, 80s musician…

My love for chorus pedals actually started with one of the aforementioned effects: the flanger. One of my first effects pedals was an old purple box from the 80s, a Japanese Boss BF-2 I bought for around 40 euros. Inspired by Robert Smith of The Cure I needed at least a good flanger on my proto-pedalboard (i.e. the floor). Still playing only bass guitar at the time the BF-2 succeeded in adding that moody atmosphere on my bass tone, think Simon Gallup during the “Faith” album from 1981. While I wasn’t using my onboard chorus that much on my tiny 1×10 Roland combo, the sound was big and lush.

Fast forward a few years later and chorus has been taking up more of my sonic real estate. My time as a bass player has learned me that the non-intrusive effects are often the best choice in a band mix or for your guitar tone (or even keyboards/vocals). Adding a chorus with any number of effects will thicken up your sound and emphasize the dynamics when you want to. Sure I wouldn’t use it all the time, but the same can be said for reverb, delay or even overdrive. Or people who don’t know how to use a distortion or fuzz pedal properly in a live situation… please don’t use it if you can’t get at least a ‘decent’ sound that doesn’t overwhelm the band or implode on itself.

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Besides my trusty old Boss flanger, these are 2 of my current favorite choruses: a 70s Boss CE-1 and an Ibanez SF-10 from the 80s. Yes, I know the Ibanez is technically a flanger but this pedal is a sleeper chorus treasure! A friend of mine bought one and after trying it for the first time I was amazed at how good the chorus sounded with the proper settings. The CE-1 is another one of my all-time favorites and is already considered the Holy Grail of choruses. This pedal is basically the chorus and vibrato section from the Roland JC-120 amplifier in a separate box. JC-120’s are famed for their lush built-in chorus and superb stereo sound. Got it ‘cheap’ several years ago, because someone painted it black (Rolling Stones fan maybe?). Don’t know why, aside from that it was done quite nicely and it saved my a lot of cash. Honorable mention goes to the Electro Harmonix Small Clone (old or new), haven’t personally owned one but I tried it multiple times on bass and guitar. Really a one knob wonder box!

Next time I will be completing the first part of Guitar Projects, featuring my first assembled-from-parts guitar. This tribute guitar is being made according to the specs of one of my guitar heroes, who nobody has heard of probably (but you should!). Raising the curtain a tad: it’s another offset, a Fender Jaguar.

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