The award-winning MXR Bass Innovations line has a new member: the Bass Chorus Deluxe, a pedal that allows bass players a full range of liquid chorus and metallic flanger tones without sacrificing low end clarity and punch.
Bass players have been using chorus and flanger effects since at least the late ’70s. Legendary jazz virtuoso and groove machine Jaco Pastorius awed listeners with his use of chorusing on the Weather Report’s 1977 album Heavy Weather. Rather than use a pedal, Pastorius split his signal to two separate Acoustic 360 amplifiers, running one with its on-board tremolo effect activated and the other unaffected. A couple years later in 1979, Sting created spacious, chorused textures on the Police’s reggae-influenced Walking on the Moon.
By the 1980s, pop music was awash with all kinds of analog and digital processing. Guitarists were playing through refrigerator-sized racks of signal-processing gear, and keyboardists were using all manner of synth tones to play basslines. One of the most popular ways for bass players stand out in this context was to use chorus and flanger effects.
At the start of the decade, studio veteran Marcus Miller used chorusing David Sanborn’s 1981 Run For Cover to set the stage for a whole new genre of soulful, R&B-influenced jazz. Later, in 1983, Pino Palladino expanded the bass guitar’s range of sonic possibilities by running his 1976 fretless Sting Ray into a chorus pedal and an octave pedal on Paul Young’s pop hit “Every Time You Go Away.“
In the mid-to-late late ’80s, modulation continued to be used by bass players from a variety of musical styles. Tony Levin used a rack signal processor create beautiful sonic landscapes on Peter Gabriel’s 1986 duet with Kate Bush, “Don’t Give Up” from the album So. In ’87, Guns N’ Roses bass player Duff McKagan proved that chorus could have attitude on Appetite for Destruction, also using a rack signal processor. That same year, the Cure’s Simon Gallup, who used modulation effects throughout his tenure with the band, recorded a classic example of their use on “Just Like Heaven” from the album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.
You can’t talk about bass and chorus in the 1990s and 2000s without mentioning Type O Negative’s Peter Steele and Tool’s Justin Chancellor. Steele, known for using multiple effects chains, used a chorus pedal to add ambience to his “clean” sound and a thick, ethereal quality to his distorted tone, which you can hear on 1993’s “Black No. 1” or “Too Late: Frozen.”
Chancellor, likewise, has never shied away from creating a vast sonic canvas from the ground up. You can hear him use flanger and chorus effects on songs like“Forty-Six and 2,” from 1996’s Ænima, and “Vicarious,” from the 2006 album 10,000 Days.
So what does the MXR Bass Chorus Deluxe have to contribute to this history? We sat down to talk about that with Dunlop Bass Product Specialist Darryl Anders and Senior Engineer Bob Cedro to find out.
Darryl, why did you decide to add a chorus/flanger pedal to the MXR Bass Innovations line?
Darryl Anders: Chorus and flanger effects add very musical, expressive qualities to a bass’ top end in a way that other effects can’t. But you have to have bass players in mind with an effect like this–there are many chorus and flanger pedals originally intended for guitar that sound pretty good on bass, but “pretty good” doesn’t cut it. You can’t have your low end sounding weak and powerless.
So I asked Bob to build a pedal that keeps the low end tight and focused while the top end has all the lush textures that chorus and flanger effects are known for. He nailed it and then some.
Bob, what steps did you take to keep the low end tight and focused?
Bob Cedro: In two ways. First, the Bass Chorus Deluxe has Bass and Treble controls for shaping the tonal character of the modulation. Second, I added a X-Over (crossover) switch. When engaged, X-Over Mode dramatically filters out low end chorusing, from 100Hz and lower, while boosting low end of the dry signal. By taking those two steps, we were able to get upper harmonic chorusing with a strong, non-affected low end.
How does the Flanger mode work?
DA: You just push the Flanger switch, and all of the pedal’s controls function for that effect, including the X-Over switch.
What kind of bass players will be into the Bass Chorus Deluxe?
DA: Any bass player looking for a way to stand out in a mix. This pedal lends itself to very melodic and inspiring basslines. And if you play a lot of chords or you play a fretless instrument, you’ll love the way this pedal sounds.
Which effects are best paired with the Bass Chorus Deluxe?
DA: Overdrive, distortion, fuzz–they’re all tried and true with chorus and have been used to great effect by funk and rock players. Pino Palladino combined chorusing with an octave effect for a very interesting sound. Chorus is a very inspirational effect. I encourage bass players to experiment with the Bass Chorus Deluxe and discover how it complements their own sound.
Check out this first-look demo of the MXR Bass Chorus Deluxe by our friend Blyss…