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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Delay Effect Pedals

7. Delay Pedal Uses

Delay is perhaps the simplest audio effect. It can be used as a ‘doubler’ by using a very short delay time to create the illusion of two people playing together, or a longer delay time can create an echo. However, delay also is the primary building block for many other effects such as chorusing and flanging, as we’ll see later.

Doubling

When two people play in unison, it’s unlikely that their performances will be absolutely identical in timbre, timing or tuning. It’s these differences that make the sound bigger and more pleasing to the ear. By using a delay pedal with a short delay time, usually around 20 - 40ms, it’s possible to simulate this effect. This is a similar, but simpler effect to chorusing, a more detailed explanation of which follows below.

Slapback Delay

By adjusting your delay pedal to a slightly longer setting of 50 - 100ms, you’ll actually hear a distinct repeat of the audio signal, slightly later than the original. This is the type of effect heard on many records from the 50s, and much favoured by John Lennon on his own voice. Remember that this effect can also be used on other instruments, being particularly effective on guitars and snare drums.

Feedback

Most delay pedals have a ‘Feedback’ control. This controls the amount of the delayed signal that is fed back into the delay line. When set to zero, there will be only a single repeat. As you turn the control up, you’ll hear more and more repeats. With short delay times, this tends to sound like a very bad spring reverb, but with longer settings, the result is a much more ambient effect.

Tempo Delays

By adjusting the delay time of your unit, it’s possible to time the delays or repeats created to sync exactly with the piece of music that you’re playing. This is a very addictive effect, commonly heard on guitar parts and synth patterns. Many famous guitarists have used this to create whole pieces of music!

The delay time can be set to any musical, or indeed non-musical value. Some modern delay pedals have a ‘Tap Tempo’ feature, which allows you to tap the footswitch in time with the music to achieve the delay setting you require, or even to sync with an incoming MIDI clock signal.

Tap Delays

‘Tapping’ the delay line is the term used for taking delay outputs from within the actual delay line, effectively giving the user delays on delays! For instance, a 4-tap delay would have 4 individual delay times. On more basic pedals, the extra delay time is usually a simple division of the primary delay time. It’s very common for the tapped delays to be panned hard left and right - this effect is sometimes called ‘Ping-Pong’ delay, as the delayed sound appears to bounce around the stereo field.

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Delay Effect Pedals overview

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