What Is Chorus In Music Mixing? – All You Need To Know

By Richard Pryn •  Updated: 08/26/22 •  6 min read

Chorus is one of the two standard audio effects in audio production as defined by the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (midi).

Reverb is the other effect (reverberation). When applied to a sound, chorus gives it a swirling quality that thickens the sound.

What Is Chorus In Music Mixing? - All You Need To Know

For instruments such as electric piano, guitar, and synthesisers, chorus is frequently used.

Chorus and reverb are typically both included in sound cards with an inbuilt MIDI sound set.

In this article, we will be going into more detail on what chorus is when applied to music mixing.

We will give you all the information that you need to know so you can use it with confidence.

What Is The Chorus Effect?

One of the most widely utilised phase modulation effects in music is the chorus effect.

“Chorusing” is designed to mimic the minute changes in pitch and timing.

This usually arises when several artists or singers perform the same note at slightly different times and pitches.

As a doubling effect which creates thickness, shimmer, and makes a signal sound “bigger” than it would on its own.

As a result, chorusing can also be characterised as a sound.

Brief History Of The Chorus In Music Mixing

Although it’s far older than that, chorus is perhaps most closely related to the pop music of the 1980s.

The Hammond organ, which pioneered the idea of purposefully detuning one signal against another in the 1930s, was the main centre of early progress in the field of man-made chorus.

Initially, a second pitch-offset tone production method was used to physically create a static detune.

During the decade that followed, Hammond unveiled the well-known scanning vibrato effect, which made it easier to create the iconic Hammond vibrato chorus.

Vibrato chorus created a sophisticated and unusual animation by combining the tone wheels of the organ’s standard signal with a vibrato-treated signal.

Throughout the late 1970s, chorus started to find a place, and in the 1980s, it took off like a rocket.

The quality of recordings, as well as the medium available to consumers (audio tapes) and consumer playback systems, all improved in the 1980s.

Chorus excelled at this time because everyone sought a bright, glistening, clinical sound.

Early digital synthesisers sounded quite thin and needed more body, thus chorus was the ideal counterpoint.

Chorus also aided in giving life to a number of the clean, single coil guitar tones.

Which started to take the place of the heavier rock and post-punk sounds at the beginning of the 1980s.

Chorus was heavily utilised in pop music throughout the early 1980s and was taken advantage of by many of the artists associated with the era-defining New Romantic movement.

In some circles, chorus on guitars practically became a requirement.

Bass sounds were also heavily influenced by chorus or its descendant, the flanger.

Eventually, chorus was overused and, in any case, growing monotonous by the middle of the 1980s.

This was because of its popularity during the initial half of the decade. Nowadays, chorus is still used, but it is much more subtle.

How Does Chorus Work?

By making a copy (or several copies) of a signal, changing the period (pitch), then combining the modulated replicas with the original signal, you can create a “chorusing” effect.

A chorus creates tiny variations in pitch by modulating the waveform’s delay time with a lower frequency’s oscillator.

Rather than a pitch circuit, as in the case of a vibrato effect (LFO).

The phase difference between both the original signal and the replicated signal is constantly changing. This is a result of the timing discrepancies.

Additionally, because of the greater wait times compared to phaser and flanger ones.

The final signal’s frequency gradually shifts, altering the pitch of the copy. A slower speed or rate will often provide a modest chorusing effect.

Whereas, a quicker speed or rate will result in more phase-shifting and apparent pitch variations of the original signal.

Choruses have far longer delay durations than flangers do, creating a sound that more closely resembles two signals being layered than a comb filter.

Choruses often use delays of 15 to 35 milliseconds.

What Can You Use Chorus For?

What Can You Use Chorus For?

People are unaware of the chorus effect’s diversity. This effect was used heavily during the 1980s when there was a guitar solo.

However, it doesn’t mean this effect can’t be used in more modern mixes.

A lot of music mixes could benefit greatly from using chorus. These include the following:

Subtle Width

Place the chorus on an instrument that needs a little extra width. A plucked acoustic guitar, for example, or an electric keyboard.

Use it sparingly and as a send effect rather than an insert. You can then decide how much chorus to add to your instruments.

People overuse chorus, which is why it receives so much criticism. For a soft shimmer, lightly combine it beneath an instrument.

Instead Of Reverb

Your instrument’s signal is delayed by the chorus by around 20 milliseconds.

When down to its most basic elements, a chorus is really just a brief delay pedal that has been slightly detuned.

So when you want to give your instrument a little more depth, a small amount of chorus can help.

It will position it in the mix without adding too much extra space.

Vocals

Chorus is excellent for voice doubling. You can create a richer sound that simulates a double-tracked vocal part.

This is done by layering a small amount of the chorused signal behind the lead vocal.

It’s an easy method to use and wonderful for giving your lead vocal a little more depth.

Similar results can be achieved using backup vocals.

If you route a lot of panned voice parts to a stereo chorus, you may produce a pretty lovely wash of backup vocals.

Next time you need a dry voice part that you don’t want to bury in the background of the mix, give it a try.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Is The Chorus Effect Used?

Since chorus is a modulation effect, it should be added relatively late in the pedal chain.

It should be used before your delay, tremolo, or reverb pedals.

Although it should also be used before your wah, compression, overdrive, and distortion pedals.

What Is The Difference Between Chorus And Reverb?

Reverb and chorus are distinct from one another because reverb describes sound waves in a space that continue long after the original source has faded and vanished.

On the other hand, the chorus plays the same signal in a little off-key and out-of-tune fashion. It is a parody of a real “chorus.”

What Is A Plugin Used For?

Solo guitar, bass, or rhythm guitar sounds can all be enhanced by chorus effects.

They work well with distorted sounds, but are also a great method to produce rich, clear tones.

Chorus creates a sense of space when used with a stereo amp setup 9.

Richard Pryn

Hey there. I am an award winning composer for movie trailers, including Bladerunner 2049, Diablo II, WandaVision, and loads more. I am the founder of The Trailer Music School where my aim is to teach everything I know about music composition, production, and generally being a functional human being. I podcast, blog, vlog and jog (sometimes). I also love coffee, nachos and self-improvement. I live with my wife, three kids and numerous pets. I am also known by my pseudonym, Richard Schrieber (it’s a long story).

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