Multiple modulation modes and malleable voices cement a venerable pedal’s classic status.
Huge range of mellow to immersive modulation sounds. Easy to use. Stereo output. Useful input gain control.
Can sound thin compared to many analog chorus and flange classics.
TC Electronic SCF Gold
When you consider stompboxes that have achieved ubiquity and longevity, images of Tube Screamers, Big Muffs, or Boss’ DD series delays probably flash before your eyes. It’s less likely that TC Electronic’s Stereo Chorus Flanger comes to mind. But when you consider that its fundamental architecture has remained essentially unchanged since 1976 and that it has consistently satisfied persnickety tone hounds like Eric Johnson, it’s hard to not be dazzled by its staying power—or wonder what makes it such an indispensable staple for so many players.
The latest incarnation of the Stereo Chorus Flanger, the SCF Gold, underscores the timelessness of TC’s classic. And the richness of its modulations, its broad versatility, and very accessible price still add up to a most appealing multi-modulator.
Complex Sounds from Simple Controls
Pedals that combine chorus, flange, and vibrato aren’t uncommon. But given the fundamental similarities between the effects, it’s curious we don’t see more boxes that bundle the three. Obviously, specialization enables enhanced control and more refined and radical results. But for gigging guitarists and studio players that need to work fast and intuitively, there is an undeniable appeal in a pedal that covers all the bases competently.
One beautiful feature of the SCF Gold’s ageless design is the simplicity of the control set. That simplicity is essential, however, because the three controls are highly interactive and vary in feel and function depending on the mode you use.
The speed knob spans rates ranging from an ultra-lazy 10 seconds per cycle to fast, rotary-style 10-cycles-per-second pulses. The width control governs the delay time between waveforms. The intensity control is the shape shifter of the bunch. In chorus mode, it’s effectively a wet/dry blend. In flanger mode it becomes a feedback control. And in pitch modulation mode it regulates the balance between vibrato and chorus effects. The input gain control situated just below the mode switch may look less vital, but the grit, body, and volume that it adds to a signal transforms many modulations into thicker, less clinical, and sometimes more organic and cohesive sounds—though that sometimes comes at the expense of the SCF’s excellent focus and clarity. It’s also critical for overcoming some of the volume loss that you perceive at intense modulation settings.
In both live and studio settings, the extra top-end clarity makes the SCF Gold pop.
Clear-Eyed and Wobbling
If you had to pick a single characteristic that sets the SCF Gold apart from other classic analog choruses and flangers, and the contemporary pedals that imitate them, it’s the TC’s focus and clarity, particularly in the high-mid and high frequencies. Many analog chorus pedals end up with a fairly dark voice—partly as a function of bucket brigade circuit design, but also, perhaps, in an attempt to tame resonant peaks and better simulate the more liquid qualities of rotary speakers and tape flange. I love those smoky modulation colors. But there are times, especially when I’m working with a dense arrangement, that I want a chorus to sit more present and distinctly in its corner. The SCF Gold’s relatively bright voice enables these simultaneously more prominent and less bossy tones. For players that revere the heavy, unmistakably underwater sounds of Electro-Harmonix’s Electric Mistress flanger and Polychorus or the Boss CE-1 chorus, the TC might sound comparatively thin. But I love the fidelity I can hear in its less murky modulations. And in both live and studio settings, the extra top-end clarity makes the SCF Gold pop, which is killer for underpinning ’80s-style applications and modern indie-pop hooks.
There are countless textures to uncover among the SCF Gold’s modulations, including a wealth of familiar classic chorus and flange sounds. But there are scores of surprising highlights, too. Mating fast and fairly intense vibrato pulses to high input gain settings, for instance, generates a fair approximation of Magnatone amp vibrato in a pinch, and a nice Boss VB-2 style throb in cleaner settings. And high flange speeds coupled with modest width settings create gently pulsing waveforms that are redolent with hints of phase, tremolo, and delay. Adding intensity in this setting adds progressively more vowely and metallic overtones—yielding some of the coolest sounds the pedal has to offer.
Among the chorus sounds, the most traditional late-’70s/early-’80s modulations were the most enticing and addictive to my ear. But the chorus also dishes stylish approximations of 12-string electric (particularly with a bright Fender bridge single-coil out front) and trippy faux-rotary sounds, which sound extra immersive in stereo.
If you’re a gigging player, the utility and jack-of-all-trades flexibility of the SCF Gold could make it indispensable. And if you’re into pedalboard economy, it could conceivably replace multiple pedals. Whether you’re chasing the most versatile modulator possible or just authentic ’70s to ’80s chorus and flange sounds, the SCF Gold’s $149 price represents an excellent value. The modulations may not be as deep or queasy as those you’ll hear from other classic analog choruses and flangers. But the low noise floor and focused EQ profile make it easier to wrangle in many musical situations.
Does it better the many variations of the SCF that have come before it? Well, with crown-mounted 9V power and an input gain circuit that bumps the pedal’s already considerable headroom, we’d have to say yes. However minor and incremental these improvements may be, they are reason enough to investigate this fun, multifaceted, sweet sounding, and super affordable multi-modulation device if you haven’t already had the pleasure.
TC Electronic's 1st Pedal Reissued! SCF Gold Stereo Chorus Flanger Demo | First Look
A father-and-son team work together to create an original, futuristic gold guitar, and the result is extremely satisfying.
Frank and Eli Doris
Frank and Eli Doris with the Yellowcaster. A Crate neck and various electronics completed their 3D-printed axe.
Hometown: East Northport, New York
The father-son team of Frank and Eli Doris decided to create a guitar after Eli got a 3D printer and wanted to use it to create a guitar body. In the time-honored tradition, Frank sketched a design on a napkin, then Eli used a CAD program to design the body and knobs. The 3D printer produced the body, which had to be done in sections, since the printer was limited in the size of the sections it could manufacture. The body sections are held together with super glue. The body is made from Eryone PLA 3D-printable filament, and Frank and Eli decided on the silk gold color, since it was something different from the usual Fender and other guitar colors.
Being a longtime guitar player and tinkerer, Frank had all the parts and electronics on hand, except for the Crate neck, which he bought on Reverb for about $50 (with tuners already installed). The neck and middle pickups are Fender MIM Strat pickups, and the bridge pickup was taken from a 1970s Univox Les Paul Custom copy (the original gold-plated pickup cover had to be removed to allow the pickup to fit in the pickguard). The bridge is a stock Fender with import (MIM, Squier, etc.) string spacing.
The knobs spell out “BÖC,” the abbreviation for Blue Öyster Cult, Frank’s favorite band (Eli likes them, too), and, of course, the “Ö” has the umlaut!
When Eli was assembling the guitar, father and son were thinking, “With luck, this thing won’t just explode as we’re putting it together!” They had no idea if this would actually work. In fact, during the first try, the body cracked and had to be reinforced, and a wood block was inserted to block the tremolo. When stringing the instrument, the guys tried .010-gauge strings at first, but settled on .009s as these put less tension on the guitar.
Frank notes, “When we plugged it in, we were expecting it to sound like a banjo, but the guitar actually sounds great, with a lot of sustain. It also plays like a dream! We took a chance on the neck, but it’s great. The guitar is also surprisingly ergonomic and falls right into place when sitting down.” The Yellowcaster isn’t heavy, either, weighing in at just 6 pounds, 13 ounces.
“The only things we forgot were to add holes for strap buttons, and to think about whether it would fit into a case,” says Frank. As a result, the Yellowcaster doesn’t fit into a standard hardshell case or gig bag, but does fit into a bass gig bag. “We can’t wait to take this guitar out and see people’s reactions!”
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Diatonic sequences are powerful tools. Here’s how to use them wisely.
• Understand how to map out the neck in seven positions.
• Learn to combine legato and picking to create long phrases.
• Develop a smooth attack—even at high speeds.
I prefer to not teach each position based on a modal name, as sometimes they are taught. Personally, I’ve found labelling of positions like that can lead to confusion when learning the modes in a harmonic situation. To further emphasize this, no harmonic context has been given (aside from the fact that these are all based around the parent scale of G Major to give us positions to work with).
The goal here is for you to learn the sequence, pick out what you like from it and then work it into different applications. These applications could be taking a sequence from one position into another position, seeing if you can keep the same contour. Most importantly, you can spend time starting and ending the phrases around certain intervals to emphasize the chord that you’re playing over.
A technical note before we get started: I’ve transcribed the various hammer-ons and pull-offs that I use when playing these phrases at full speed. However, the secondary goal here is for you to find your own way of playing the examples that suit your style and sound. I use a mix of legato, hybrid picking, and sweep/economy picking. My advice is to look at the lines and listen to them. See what feels right for you.
Despite what angry YouTube comments might say, technique is feel (and vice versa) We can talk about technique and all the ins and outs of it, but unless we try it and feel how it is to play, we won’t find our own path and sound. We won’t develop our own confidence. As the Zen saying goes, “The thought of your mother is not your mother.”
Let’s start in 3rd position, a fitting way to begin our exploration in G. Ex. 1 is a legato phrase that starts off with an eight-note pattern that repeats across adjacent strings sets. The final measure outlines a G major triad with a trick string-skipping phrase on beat 2.
Working through the diatonic arpeggios is a great way to create new lines and sequences. In Ex. 2, I go through Em7, Bm7, F#m7b5, and Cmaj7 before I outline an Am9 arpeggio.
Rhythmic variety is a crucial part of any well-rounded vocabulary. Moving between different subdivisions is a great way to inject new life into a lick. Ex. 3 moves between straight 16th-notes and sextuplets (or 16th-note triplets). Although the pattern is relatively easy to hear, it moves fast, so focus on discovering the best fingering for you.
Ex. 4 moves around quite a bit, between legato fragments and arpeggio fragments. In the middle we have a classic displaced ascending sequence of fours through the scale that starts in the end of measure 1. We also utilize some slides on different strings. Watch out for this! I’ve found in my playing that timing can go astray on slides.
Ex. 5 is built around finding 3-1-3 and 2-1-2 patterns within this position. These terms are based on the number of notes before you change strings. A 3-1-3 pattern consists of three notes on a string, then one note on the next string, and finally three more notes on the final string. A great example starts on the second note of the phrase (G) and ends on the F# before beat 3.
There are some shifty slides like the last phrase (watch the timing!) and there’s also a mix of legato and picking to emphasize certain parts of the phrase. The line ends with a large arpeggio based on Em7 and F#m7b5. Dig the 2-1-2 phrasing here!
Since we are roughly thinking in the key of G major, Ex. 6 is sometimes referred to as the “minor” position since we start on E, the relative minor of the key. This phrase is built on a sequence based around a 3-1-3 pattern and we aim to keep this sequence going throughout the whole position. This lick is a great one to move around the neck.
Ex. 7 runs away with an initial legato sequence similar to the one found in Ex. 4, however we keep it going through the whole position before ascending through a fragment based on Ex. 1. Then I fill in the gaps of each phrase with some chromatic notes. The goal here is to aim for evenness of timing on the 16th-notes.
With these licks—or even parts of them—you will be able to navigate the fretboard with ease. Just remember: These licks are simply raw materials. It’s up to you to make music out of them.