What is Chorus – How to Add Color and Width

After we’ve done all the EQ and compression in our mix, it’s time to start thinking about space. While we might reach for reverb and delay, you might find you can get the effect you’re looking for using chorus. Let’s answer what is chorus and how you can use it to add color and width to your mix.

What is Chorus

The obvious question, what is chorus?

what is chorus

Chorus is an effect which simulates multiple, slightly different sounding instances of a single source.

Unlike delay which simply creates a clean and unaltered copy and repeats it at whatever timing you choose, chorus uses modulation (a real time changing of parameters) via an LFO (low frequency oscillation) to slightly shift the timing and pitch of these “duplicates” in an evolving manner.

It uses these copies to create width, depth, or generally just color your audio.

As such, chorus is a versatile effect which can be used for a number of purposes which I’ll talk about in a moment.

Chorus Settings

Every plugin has its settings, so let’s take a look at a few of the most common chorus settings you’ll see. This will also help us better understand what is chorus, how it works, and what it does.

Note that I’ll be referencing Arturia’s Chorus Jun-6 plugin as well as my stock Ableton Live Chorus.

The main two settings to be familiar with on every chorus plugin are rate and depth.


Typically measured in Hz, the rate controls the speed of the modulation. Setting this lower means that it’s a slower transition between max and minimum extremes of the tunings. This creates a lusher, smoother chorus effect. Maybe better said, it’s a more transparent chorus effect.

Conversely, if you turn the rate up, this transitions between the tunings much more quickly. Turn it up enough and you almost hear a phaser like choppy effect as it jumps between tunings.

The chorus effect becomes much more noticeable the more you turn it up.

Play with this setting to find that sweet spot for your source material where you get a nice and evolving glide.


chorus depth

Typically measured in ms, the depth or amount setting on your chorus determines the amount of range between the tunings extremes and essentially the intensity of the effect.

Don’t confuse this with the Wet/Dry knob as even with the depth/amount knob at it’s lowest position, there’s still a subtle widening effect on many chorus plugins. There’s still technically a difference in the tunings, and microscopic as it is it still creates a sense of width with that duplicate.

Depth and rate work hand in hand and are the main settings which affect the overall chorus effect that you get.

You can generally achieve that classic lush chorus effect that we think of when we think of chorus by contrasting a slow/lower rate with a higher depth.

This means you’ve got a lot of range between the tuning extremes, but it’s a slow transition from one to the other.


Some chorus plugins have a phase setting which allows you to adjust the phase position.

The phase position determines at which point in the wave form the duplicates begin. On the Chorus Jun-6, setting this at the max is 180 degrees. This essentially means that the phase of the chorus instance of the audio, the wet signal, is completely inverted from the dry signal.

Setting this out of phase with the dry signal adds to the combined width and thickness of the two.


The delay setting on your chorus plugin is another way to create space between the dry and wet instances of the signal. This is done by literally just adding a delay to the wet signal to create width.


The feedback control on a chorus plugin feeds more of the wet signal BACK into effect alongside the dry. This creates some interesting effects.

When kept on a lower setting, you can get some nice blended results.


Some chorus plugins have a voice option which essentially just creates more copies of the dry audio. This can be a nice way to add even MORE width or depth to your track if you need it from your chorus.

Be careful about going overboard on this setting if your chorus plugin has it as this can begin to muddy that track, not to mention likely tax your CPU.

The Best Chorus Setting

Admittedly it’s a subjective thing, but as I mentioned earlier, when we think chorus we typically think wide and lush.

This is my preferred “flavor” of chorus as it can add a lot to vocals, guitar, or anything you can imagine (more on this in a moment).

The best way to achieve this is contrasting a lot of depth with a slow rate.

This again means that you’ve got a lot of range between the extremes of the tunings that chorus is alternating between, but it takes its time getting there thanks to the rate.

Specifically for the best chorus setting, try a depth of 4-5ms and a rate of .4Hz.

This creates a nice slow oscillation from one extreme to the other, the result being a blanket of sound which can give any instrument some pad-like lushness. Speaking of instruments, let’s talk how to use chorus, or what to use chorus on.

How to Use Chorus

Now that we’ve covered what is chorus, its settings, and how to dial in the best chorus setting, let’s talk practicality, or how to use chorus.

Widen Vocals

Chorus works quite well as a send when you want some added width on your vocals. Drop your chorus effect of choice on an aux/return track and blend in the desired amount via a send.

As always with aux/return tracks, make sure that the effect is set to 100% wet so that the send amount is all chorus.

Blend it in and feel your lead get some subtle width. Be careful about blending in TOO much, as even on a send this can push your vocal into the background.

That’s a good rule for using chorus in general. It’s great for creating that sense of depth on a track, but on some tracks we want to keep them front and center in which case chorus or better said TOO MUCH chorus can be a liability and remove focus from the mix.

Backing Vocals

Sometimes we want our backing vocals to be a bit wider to contrast with our lead. Chorus is a great way to do this as a send, as well.

Alternatively, you can use chorus to create a contrast on your backing vocals with your lead vocal. Try it as an insert to make those backing vocals a bit fuzzier while your lead maintains all of its clarity.

This creates a nice contrast between the two to help the lead stand out more. You can replicate this same effect on any type of instrument when you want to create more of a contrast.


A lot of times we want more width and depth from our guitar in the mix, and if we can add a little color to the tone at the same time, it’s a win win.

This is why chorus is arguably most commonly used on guitar.

Try blending in a smaller depth with a slower rate to create a little extra size in the mix for that guitar.

If you want more, simply adjust accordingly, but once again by wary of overdoing it and sending that guitar too far back.

Chorus Effect Reviewed

  • Chorus is an effect which uses modulation via an LFO to vary the timing and pitch of an audio source to artificially create the effect of slightly different instances of the same source playing.
  • This effect is useful for creating a more colorful width and depth which you can’t get from delay.
  • The depth setting on chorus determines the range between the extremes of the pitch.
  • The rate setting on chorus determines how quickly the extremes of the pitch are alternated.
  • Achieve that classic lush chorus effect with a slow rate of around .4Hz and a higher depth of 4-5ms.
  • Try adding chorus to vocals, backing vocals, or guitar especially to add color and width but be wary of using too much and adding too much depth/losing clarity.

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  1. Pingback: Audio Effects Explained - The Complete Guide - Music Guy Mixing

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