Round 1: Super Subtle
While I love obvious effects that completely change the tonal game when kicked in, I also often find more subtle effects quite usable in a live mix. Sometimes little things like a touch of compression or a slight EQ change can completely change the feel, but not the fundamental tone.
And just sometimes, I experiment with using other types of effects – that are typically meant for other purposes – to create very subtle changes that I can use as always-on type effects rather than something I punch in during melody or solo parts (like that ever happens).
I have sometimes had success with this approach using reverb – you can hear an example here in the review of the Mad Professor Silver Spring Reverb, and sometimes you can achieve something similar, yet very different, with chorus.
So, let’s try to add some very subtle chorus to a ‘normal’, low-register bass line. But first let’s hear the DRY version.
Now, let’s add just a touch of chorus: SPEED at 2, DEPTH at 2, LOW CUT at 10 and MIX LEVEL at 2. I set the LOW CUT at 10, which may seem strange when applying the effect to a low-register groove, but it only affects the wet part of the signal and I feel it actually helps tightening up the sound, while at the same time making sure that no additional mud is applied. And since the MIX LEVEL is set so low, I don’t feel that it takes out any low end of the core tone, which is of course not the idea.
Let’s stay in the same ballpark, but take the character of the chorus effect up a notch: SPEED at 4 and DEPTH at 3, while LOW CUT and MIX LEVEL remains the same.
Now, the effects becomes a little more ‘obvious’, but it’s still so subtle that I think no one but yourself would notice that chorus was added to the bass, but the general feel and place in the band mix may well improve. I have no set rules for how to apply modulation or reverb effects with this purpose, so just experiment away, and I guess if you should point out a single guideline it would be add effect and stop as soon as you can ‘obviously’ hear it – then back it off a bit.
In fact, you may think that this is so subtle that it has no effect, but please try to play the above sound clip again and then the DRY version (I put it in again below) right after. I assure you there is a difference.
Let’s move on to Round 2 for a more ‘traditional’ use of chorus, applying it as a very obvious effect – and not back it off!