In the previous article on the chorus effect, we described what the chorus effect is. In this article we'll discuss common chorus settings and what they mean.
The chorus effect is controlled by two main parameters: Depth and Rate. Let's examine them.
Chorus Depth (or Chorus Amount)
The chorus depth setting, or amount setting, controls how extreme the chorus sound is. Depth controls the amount of pitch-shifting and delay time created by the chorus effect.
Listen to this example with a high chorus depth:
Here is an example with a medium chorus depth:
Chorus Rate (or Chorus Speed)
The rate, or speed, setting of the chorus effect controls the modulation rate. The modulation rate is the frequency of the LFO (low-frequency oscillator) we discussed earlier.
The chorus rate is how fast the effect moves back and forth from one extreme amount to the other. It controls how fast the swirliing of the chorus sound moves.
Listen to this example with a really high rate:
Do you hear how it warbles? It's probably too fast to be useful for us bass players.
The chorus effect is gentler and more useful at a slow to medium rate:
Now that you understand depth and rate, let's look at other common features found on bass chorus pedals.
Mono and Stereo Outputs
Many chorus pedals have stereo outputs. The chorus effect really shines when it is in stereo.
For example, you might have the dry signal on the right and the chorused signal on the left:
To use the stereo chorus effect in a live setting, you would need two amps. Most of us don't have two amps, and it's hard enough to trick the drummer into carrying one for you. On top of that, you'd probably need to spread the amps out pretty far apart to make a difference for the audience.
Most likely, you'll just run the effect in mono. Save the stereo chorus effect for recordings or when you have roadies.
Bass Chorus EQ
The chorus effect can get pretty thick sounding pretty fast. Many chorus pedals allow you to control the EQ (equalization) to cut out excess low frequencies which can muddy your sound.
This knob or setting may be simply marked EQ. Other times it may be marked Low Cut, Low Filter, High Pass, or something along those lines.
On the bass, you might want to adjust the EQ so that the chorus effect is more pronounced on the higher frequencies and keeps the lower frequencies clearer.
Listen to the bassline example with the EQ control cutting the lows of the chorus effect (allowing the highs to pass). The chorus sound is subtler, but more noticeable on the high part:
Some chorus pedals or plug-ins allow you to control the number of voices the chorus effect uses. Remember how I said the chorus effect is like a choir? This setting lets you select how many singers you want in your choir. Raising this can really create a big sound.
Here is my example bassline with 6 voices of chorus:
This control simply adjusts the output volume of the chorus pedal.
Using Chorus on Bass Guitar
Do you need chorus if you're a bass player? Unlike a compressor for bass, chorus is not essential. Many bass players never use it. Some use it on a song or two. Others use it all of the time and it's part of their signature tone. It's really up to you and your tastes.
Here are some reasons you might consider using chorus on bass:
Cutting through the Mix
If you're competing with many other instruments, a subtle amount of chorus can help you break through the mix. The key word here is subtle. You might barely hear it.
Sweeten High Parts
Sometimes you want your high-range fills to shimmer a little more.
While a lot of the time bass players aren't there to steal the show, sometimes you want to bring attention to the bass part. Flipping on your chorus pedal at the right moment can bring the focus to the bass. Just remember to turn it off when your four bars of glory are over.
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