From time to time, the MXR design team likes to invite guest designers to collaborate on pedals. It’s one of many things we do to keep a fresh and forward-thinking perspective, serving MXR’s ultimate mission to provide players with innovative, practical stompboxes that will stand up to the rigors of the road. In 2014, we worked with Italian pedal designer Carlo Sorasio to create the Il Torino™ Overdrive, and in 2015, we worked with Fuzzrocious Pedals’ Ryan Ratajski to create the MXR Bass Distortion.

This year, we worked with Shin Suzuki, Japan’s most celebrated pedal designer and the owner of Shin’s Music, where he also builds custom amps and guitars for artists. He leant us his intimate knowledge of a legendary boutique amp to create the Shin-Juku™ Drive, a pedal that provides smooth, wide open overdrive with tons of sustain and incredibly fast response time to every playing detail. The Shin-Juku Drive’s simple three-knob interface allows you to call up a wide range of sounds, from an organic boost to full on grinding overdrive, with a Dark switch to cut high frequencies for a darker, mellower sound.

Since we came out with the Cry Baby® 105Q Bass Wah, it’s been the #1 choice for bass players who want to sweeten up their grooves with the rich expressiveness that only a a Cry Baby Wah can deliver. With a specially designed potentiometer and custom EQ circuitry, the 105Q applies the wah effect to the mids and highs only, leaving your low end big, full, and round.

We took all that funk and functionality that made the 105Q the go-to for the world’s top bass players, and we put it into a housing that’s half the size and made from lightweight-but-sturdy-aluminum.

One of the coolest things about using effects is all the different ways you can combine them to create entirely different tonal palettes.

The MXR Bass Innovations line has a number of pedals that sound great when chained together, so we put together a list of our favorites. Feel free to experiment with the placement of each effect, as your mileage may vary, but these are our preferred arrangements.

If your music demands crystal clear notes and fluid, dextrous picking, get yourself a pack of Primetone Sculpted Plectra. Made with Ultex® for superior tonal definition and durability, each pick is burnished by hand so that its sculpted edges glide smoothly off your strings like a broken-in pick.

We developed these picks to have the elusive sound of tortoiseshell, and this is the closest we’ve ever gotten. Because tortoiseshell was infamous for being slippery, we gave every Primetone pick a grip with enough traction to give plenty of control but low-profile enough so you can still shift it easily in your hand. If you prefer a smooth surface, all models except the Jazz III are available in non-grip form, which have also been designed to have a slightly warmer tone.

The beveled edges were inspired by guitar players’ high mileage celluloid picks, whose edges have been worn into a natural “sweet spot” bevel that makes playing practically effortless. Some players even go as far as using emery board or sandpaper on their picks to get the same effect.

We decided to save you all that time and effort and just sculpt that sweet spot right onto the pick so you have it straight out of the package. Each pick’s edges are hand-burnished to further break them in and then inspected by one of our pick technicians.

We asked a handful of Primetone Sculpted Plectra players a couple of questions about why they’ve made the switch. Here’s what they had to say.

How does the Primetone Sculpted Plectra affect your technique and the way you play?

Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders; AAL Jazz III XL Grip): It’s really the perfect combination of material, shape and dimension. The beveled edges make picking feel fluid and unobstructed.

Zach Blair (Rise Against; Triangle Grip): I play hard, so I need a pick I can depend on not to break or wear down. I know that Primetone picks will stand up to everything I put them through.

Scott Fore (Former National Flatpicking Champion; Small Tri Grip and Smooth, Standard Grip and Smooth): The grip and bevel allow me to greatly vary my tone with subtle changes in the pick angle, and the beveled edge allows a greater string to pick contact area, which gives a much fuller tone. The grip surface prevents the pick from unwanted movement, but I also like the non-grip picks. Their darker tone allows for a big, fat, clear tone on even the brightest of guitars. Perfect picks for all styles of playing. The Ultex material doesn’t get scratchy or noisy from wear, which is another great benefit.

Jude Gold (Jefferson Starship; Editor, Guitar Player; Standard Grip): They have the classic vibe of celluloid picks, but they don’t break and they don’t slip or get sweaty, especially with that center grip. The beveled edges give you a bit of that comfortable, broken-in feel, and I love that. A broken-in pick has songs in it.

How do Primetone Picks open up your tonal possibilities?

Tosin Abasi: When the pick glides off the string, it produces a beautifully full and articulate tone. You can hear it even when the guitar isn’t plugged in.

Zach Blair: I’ve come to expect a certain tone out of the Primetone pick, one that’s dark and well rounded. It’s affected my playing and overall style immensely.

Scott Fore: The Primetone picks offer the best tonal possibilities of all pick materials available, even the revered tortoise picks. They sound full and clear, producing an open, balanced tone from the lowest note to the highest note.

Available in six shapes.

STANDARD

With a beveled edge, the tried and true Standard shape gets the smooth, quick release of a well-worn pick. The standard’s shoulders are also beveled for players who like to turn their pick around for a different sound.

TRIANGLE

The Triangle shape gives you three beveled edges and a wider gripping surface for greater control. Great for bass players.

SMALL TRI

The Small Tri is a shape that’s been gaining in popularity. Like the Primetone Triangle, the Primetone Small Tri features three beveled edges, but its smaller profile really lets you choke up and dig in with greater control.

JAZZ III

The quick-release Primetone edge enhances the Jazz III’s famous control, speed, and precision. Only available with the low-profile Primetone grip.

JAZZ III XL

Get the Jazz III XL shape’s tight maneuverability and laser-guided, lightning-fast tip with the hand-burnished beveled edges and flexible, snappy attack of Primetone Sculpted Plectra.

SEMI-ROUND

The warm and mellow sounding Semi-Round shape features three beveled edges and two different playing tips so you can easily change up your attack and your sound.

Chorus is an effect you should always have in your tool box, whether you’re slamming out riffs, firing off precision-guided arpeggios, or weaving ambient sonic tapestries. You can use chorus to fatten up your sound at lower settings, add depth and fluidity at moderate settings, and go full on space age at extreme settings.

How does it work? Chorus pedals double your signal and then delay the duplicate at a constantly varying rate—usually with an LFO, or low-frequency oscillator—before mixing it back into the original signal. Varying the duplicate signal’s delay time causes pitch shifting thanks to the Doppler effect. This pitch shifting mimics the slightly off-key sound created by a choir of singers—even though they’re singing the same piece of music at the same time, no one person is singing with exactly the same pitch and intonation as any of the others. And that’s why we call it chorus.

Guitar players first got their hands on the chorus effect in 1975 as a feature of Roland’s Jazz Chorus Amp. Pedal versions followed shortly after, but it wasn’t until the ’80s that chorus really found its place in popular music. Since then, artists from all over the stylistic map have embraced the effect, from Alex Lifeson and Andy Summers to Eddie Van Halen and Slash.

The MXR Line

MXR® first entered the chorus market in 1980 with big, yellow, three-knob box simply called the Stereo Chorus. The original Stereo Chorus was all-around great sounding pedal, but its most defining feature was its Manual control. As with the MXR Flanger, the Stereo Chorus’ Manual control allowed players to adjust the effect’s delay time (the Speed control adjusted the oscillation rate).

The Micro Chorus followed the Stereo Chorus in 1981. With a single Speed knob for straightforward operation, this pedal is to chorus what the Phase 90 is to phasing. While compact and easy to use, the Micro Chorus pours out volumes of rich, modulated shimmer with a hint of flange around the edges. A few years back, we re-introduced the Micro Chorus—along with the Micro Flanger—as a faithful reissue of the original circuit.

The Stereo Chorus returned to the MXR line several years ago with a complete circuit overhaul. Today’s version has a very clean, modern sound with a very pronounced pitch shifting quality. Running on 18 volts, the Stereo Chorus now has a ton of headroom. The MXR team swapped out the Manual control for an Intensity control—essentially a wet/dry mix—and added Bass and Treble EQ controls and a Bass Filter switch to remove the effect from low end frequencies.

The Analog Chorus is MXR’s take on the classic “dirty” analog chorus sound. Compared to the Stereo Chorus, its pitch shifting quality is more subtle, but with lower headroom, this pedal breaks up nicely when pushed with a little extra gain. Like the Stereo Chorus, the Analog Chorus has controls to tweak the wet/dry mix and shape the high and low end of the chorus effect. The Analog Chorus is a natural fit for hard rock and metal—just ask Slash and Rise Against’s Zach Blair—but its tweakability makes it an incredibly versatile pedal.

Using the Chorus Effect

How you use a chorus pedal depends on your needs as a guitar player or bass player. Here’s a few tips to get the most out of the effect without overdoing it.

First, have an idea of why you want to add chorus to a song. Adding ambience and movement to a slow piece, making your solo stand out, thickening up strummed passages—these are all good reasons to use a chorus pedal.

When you decide how you want to use your chorus pedal in a song, experiment with different playing styles and control settings. You’ll have to play differently with a subtle tone thickening sound dialed in than you would with a spectral, ambient sound or with an all-out deluge of swirling oscillation.

Finally, try combining chorus with other effects. Experiment. Overdrives, distortions, and delays are a great place to start. If you want to take your modulation game to the next level, try adding a flanger or a phaser to the mix. As for the order of effects, there’s obviously no hard and fast rules, but most guitar players willx tell you to place your chorus pedal after the effect you’re pairing it with. This allows the chorus effect to fully develop and work its magic on the rest of the signal.