No doubt, delay is my favorite effect, unless you consider distortion an effect. Delay adds a depth and richness to my tone that I can’t live without. There are many ways to apply delay (which is also called echo). Before getting into the applications, though, let’s go over the basic parameters of a delay effect:
- Feedback: controls the number of repeats of the delay.
- Delay-time: controls the length of the repeat, usually in milliseconds (ms).
- Effect level: controls the volume of the repeat relative to the volume of the original signal. (This is often called Effects Mix, depending on the unit; a higher mix = a higher delay level)
Any delay pedal should have at least these parameters for controlling it. Many amps also have delays built into them these days; in this case, there is usually only control over the delay time and level. There are three types of delay: tape-based, analog and digital.
The first delays were tape-based, such as the Echoplex or Roland Space Echo. These units create delays by actually recording the guitar signal on a tape. The speed of the tape moving through the machine controls the length of the delay. Analog delays use circuit-boards to do this. Digital delays use chips to process delays, and thus offer substantially longer delay times than either tape-based or analog delays; however, the old school delays are often more sought after , because of their warmer tones.
Higher end pedals, dedicated rack-mount delay units, and guitar multi-effects units often offer more parameters for controlling delay beyond the basic three mentioned above. More advanced settings for delay include:
- Tempo delay: this allows you to set the delay to the tempo of a song and then pick a synchopation for the delays; e.g., a quarter-note, dotted eighth-note, etc. Tempo delay is often controlled by tapping the tempo, either with a finger- or foot-switch. You can also use math to figure out tempo delays, but it sure is easier having a chip do it for you!
- Ping-pong delay: delay that pans from speaker to speaker; this is a stereo effect.
- Multi-tap delay: stereo delays with two different delay times. This often causes some crazy sounding effects!
- Reverse delay: the delay of your guitar is reversed, creating a backwards guitar effect.
- lbp/hbp: low-band pass/high-band pass. This allows you to eq your echoes, making them brighter or darker.
- Modulated delay: the delays are modulated creating a chorus type sound (think: The Edge)
I’m sure there are more parameters, but this should give you an idea of some of the things you can do with a delay. I would suggest spending some time with your manual, or even better, just push buttons and twist knobs until you figure out what they do. This often leads to the best discoveries!