Archive for November 20th, 2013

Some of my best friends still insist on going straight in;  guitar, guitar cord, amp.  While there is a lot to be said for this purist approach I still believe there is plenty of room for subtle improvement in simple ways and so I want to make some suggestions and show you how to add depth to your guitar tone. While I also am not a fan of highly processed over saturated guitar tones and lean more towards purism, I have always loved the way the basic tones of one’s playing can be enhanced through great simple effects like phasing, flanging, and chorus.

Long ago one of the first effects in this regard was the venerable MXR Phase 90. When I first played through one it was one of those “Wow!” moments. All of a sudden my flat sounding chords opened up with a new life of sweet, swirling depth. The Phase 90 soon caught on as a must have device as it opened the door to a lot of worthy competition.

The operation of the unit was very simple and therefore appealing. Preset depth to how far out of phase your signal wil be taken  and by one rotating knob the speed of the effect was adjusted. That’s it and that’s all you needed. Simple but effective. At the lowest speed, slipping in and out of phase has a pleasant  eeriness as your tone slowly goes from full and sweet, to hollowed out of phase and middy. At the other end of the spectrum, full speed gave a very much tremulant effect. Personally I was never a big fan of tremolo and to me this was quite similar. My favorite spot on the dial was between 12 and 2 o’clock. Within those spots I felt was the best and sweetest in phase/ out of phase swirl to be had.

MXR Phase 90 / 117 Flanger

Jet Phasing!

Next up is flanging. Again, I was one of the first on the block to jump on the new MXR 117 flanger. I thought that flanging was simply one of the coolest effects on the planet but up to this time figured it was just a super studio only effect having heard it on records but never live. The MXR 117 did it all for me. Having four adjustment controls meant that you could basically cover phasing, flanging, chorusing, ring modulation, and stationary tone settings within the in phase/ out of phase realm by disengaging the oscillator. This unit had a bit more depth to it than the simple Phase 90 and allowed for one to really get carried away creating chimey ring modulation steel drum like sounds all the way to simulating the doppler like soar of a jet plane. Very cool.

Finally chorusing. When I first heard of this effect, I really did not know what it was. Actually it is like a mixture of phasing and flanging a bit and gives a smooth dreamy ambience to your sound. Chorusing can alter the phase of the signal but the real kick is the detuning effect that really thickens the sound making it very sweet and full. A flanger can be set to give chorusing, but as I said I really like a dedicated chorus for that effect because it  gives a very lush sound without excess detuning. The detuning very much simulates the doppler effect produced by a rotating Leslie speaker. The doppler efect simply is that the pitch of a tome drops as the distance between you and the source inceases, and conversely  raises as the distance decreases. At slow speed you can have nice creamy ethereal swirl, at fast speed it really can warble. As with phasing and flanging, I am not a big fan of the fast extreme setting which I think has limited applications, but I do like the in between speeds very much.

Cool Cat Chorus

Very Cool Sublime Chorusing!

As we all know there are a plethora of these pedals now on the market, some better than others and of course these effects are also part of many multi effects units. Although I really like the convenience of multi effects in one box; no interconnect cords, batteries, daisy chained wall worts etc., I’ve always felt that a good dedicated single effect is better and has the edge tone wise also usually being more adjustable and tweakable. Multi effects pedals often arbitrarily chain effects into presets that allow only limited adjustments. How many times have you played through a multi effect pedal and land on useless presets like “screaming demons from hell’ which yields a total over processed totally useless sound?

I prefer a simpler approach. A littler overdrive just to give my tone a little bit of fur, a touch of reverb to give some space, and then some judicious use of phasing, flanging, or chorusing. So get yourself one of these pedals, experiment with settings and add some depth to your tone.

Have fun!

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