Looked back through some old posts and saw a comment on one of earlier posts on the TC Electronic Corona Chorus where a commenter believed that the chorus pedal was one of the more useless pedals. I didn’t take offense to that statement, because everyone has their tonal preferences, but for me, chorus has been an integral part of my sound for years – especially when I’m playing acoustic guitar.
I started using a chorus when I saw Michael Hedges start using one way back in the early 80′s. Before he hit it big, I used to watch him at least a couple of times a week at a local bar, and one day he showed up on stage with BOSS CE-2. I instantly fell in love with that sound. He never went over the top with it, but he used chorus in a lot of tunes after his first album. Done right, chorus can be absolutely inspiring.
Here’s a video of Michael playing the first three songs off his Taproot album. The first song, The Naked Stalk, is one of my all-time favorite Michael Hedges tunes. It is super-simple, but that’s the beauty of this piece. Anyway, take a look:
If you’ve read this blog with any regularity, you’d know that I’ve lamented trading away my original BOSS CE-2 Chorus for a Multi-function DigiTech pedal. Hey! I didn’t know better at the time. The CE-2 was cheap when I got it new back in the early 80′s, and so I figured, what would be the harm in trading a cheap pedal for another cheap pedal, especially if the new cheap pedal was all-digital! Oh well, I’ve redeemed myself. I finally got a CE-2, and for a GREAT deal on EBay!
To me, THIS chorus sound is the chorus sound that defines the entire gamut of chorus pedals. Say what you want about the others. While they’re all good – and I’ve heard and played many – the CE-2 chorus is the sound I grew up with as a young guitarist. To me, nothing matches its warmth and the liquidity of its tones. This is pure analog Chorus goodness.
I did some really quick demos about fifteen minutes ago. All clips were played clean with my Squier CV Tele 50′s running into my pedal board and into my Aracom VRX22. Excuse the 60Hz hum from my Tele and the ambient background noise of my fridge. Each clip starts with a dry version then the CE-2 is engaged.
First up is a little clean blues groove. The chorus, when engaged is set to 3pm on both Rate and Depth to get a sort of vibey effect:
Next up is a simple chord progression done finger style. The CE-2 has both Rate and Depth set to noon:
Finally, the last clip demonstrates how well the CE-2 plays with other modulation effects. It first starts out with my VOX Time Machine and Hardwire RV-7 Reverb. When I play it over with the CE-2, the CE-2 is set to my favorite setting, with Rate at noon, and depth at 2pm (some things are just etched in your memory):
Of course I realize that appreciation of tone is an entirely subjective matter. But even after all these years, I just can’t get over how much I love this chorus sound and thick and liquid it can get, but still be crystal clear and articulate. My CE-5 did a great job for real subtle chorus, but cranked up, it was unusable. But with the CE-2, there are usable tones, no matter where you set it!
I have to admit that I am absolutely emotional right now. I’ve got all these memories flooding through my head from almost 30 years ago when I first bought it: Memories of watching a young Michael Hedges work his magic on his acoustic; trying to cop Andy Summer’s tone; late nights in my parents’ house plucking away at my guitar; lots of memories, both good and bad. Wow!
You know… For the most part, I have few regrets about my life. Yeah, I’ve made my share of mistakes, and have learned from them, but there are some things that just seem to stick in my craw, especially when I reminisce about gear that I’ve had.
Back in the 80′s, I was a big Michael Hedges fan, and must’ve seen him play live more than 50 times. I remember the day I saw him and he had added chorus to his chain. Mind you, he was an acoustic guitarist, and before he became widely known, it had always been Michael and his guitar, straight into the PA. Then he added a rather sophisticated EQ. But what struck me the hardest was when he added a chorus. For as much of a fan that I was, I don’t know which one he had. But when he came out with “Breakfast In the Field” in 1981, and used the chorus to amazing effect on songs such as “The Magic Farmer” and “Rickover’s Dream” which, incidentally, I had already heard live before the album came out, I knew I had to get a chorus!
At the time, I didn’t know an amp from a refrigerator. I was your classic folk acoustic player who happened to know cowboy chords. Be that as it may, I saved some money and went down to Guitar Center where I bought a cheap in-hole pickup for my guitar (which I still have 30 years later – it’s a Yamaha FG-335), a Roland 25 amp, and a Boss CE-2.
Even through all that cheap equipment, there was something special about the CE-2. It had just two knobs: Rate and Depth, and you could dial up incredible chorus tones with it! I can recall the warmth of the tone, and the magical way notes danced in the air. Hey! I sucked at the time, but I remember the feeling I got. Perhaps part of it was due to the satisfaction that I could cop some similar tones to Michael Hedges (though I could never play like him). Who knows? But that was one special pedal. And I traded it back in the late 80′s for some DigiTech multi-function reverb/flange/chorus pedal that I thought was “neat.”
Okay, hindsight is 20/20. Who could’ve known at the time that a cheap $79 pedal could define the chorus tone. I don’t care what other people say about other choruses that have since come out. I recall someone “correcting” me in the early days of this blog about the TC Electronic chorus being more of a standard. I was pretty new to the blog scene and didn’t want to piss anyone off at the time, so I didn’t really come back with anything. But had I more balls at the time I would’ve said, there’s a reason why people are paying for the MIJ green and black label choruses for over twice the price of the original. There was something extremely special about that Roland JC-120 chorus circuit. Everyone else who followed with their own version just did a tweak. Mind you, there are some GREAT choruses out there. But in my mind, the CE-2 had the goods!