Whether you’re new to guitar playing or already a skilled guitarist, you most probably know that delay pedals are the most popular effects devices in this field of music. The reason why they are such a hit among guitarists is simple – they are powerful and flexible and they expand the sonic possibilities of one’s performance significantly.
What such a pedal does is to delay the playback of the guitar signal. The original tone of a guitar is called the “dry” signal whereas the delayed sound you get through a delay pedal is known as the “wet” signal. Although the principle of repeating a sound is simple, what happens to this segment of sound is where expression pedals show their beauty.
You can thus use effects to make this segment longer or shorter, repeat it a varying number of times, change the tone of the repeated segment, add modulation to it, distort it, and so on. To help you get the most out of your delay pedal, this particular article will provide you with a few ways and steps to take in order to do so.
Where to place the delay pedal in the chain
Yes, the place of the pedal in the chain counts a lot when it comes to the sonic output you get, especially if you use other pedals such as distortions, fuzzes, and overdrives. A delay pedal should be placed after dirt pedals. This way you will delay the distorted signal and not distort the delayed signal as it would happen when placing these pedals in the opposite order.
A distortion pedal is typically placed at the beginning of the chain or earlier in the chain, however, because it has the strongest impact on the tone. This means that the delay pedal should be placed toward the end of the chain so you can repeat the effects you’ve added to your sound.
As we’ve said before, you should experiment and see which order suits your sonic personality. In case you’ll place the dirt before the delay and use the distortion from the amp, you might want to insert the delay pedal into the amp’s effects loop in case it has one. By doing so, the delay will be placed in the chain after the preamp gain.
Know your pedal controls
You can’t get the best out of your delay pedal if you don’t know what its controls can do. Therefore, learn what they can do before you take the next step and use them. All delay pedals come with Time, Feedback, and Level controls.
As the name suggests, the time knob will give you control over the length of time between two repetitions of your signal which is measured in milliseconds. Different models come with different time ranges you can choose from.
The Feedback control will help you select the number of repetitions. When you set it at the lowest level, you will get only one repetition of the original signal whereas as you turn up Feedback, the number of repeats will increase.
By using the Level knob, you will control the volume of the repeats. When you use its minimum setting, you will actually hear no repeat. You can hear it as loud as the original signal when it is set at its maximum level, though.
Getting familiar with these controls and how they affect the sound produced might take a bit of time and practice but once you get to know them well, you can use them in various ways to personalize your sonic output and express your personality.
There are so many things you can do with a delay pedal that one could write extensively on the countless sonic possibilities. To keep it short, we will highlight a few tricks you can go for to flavor your sound with such a pedal.
In case you’re interested in thickening your sound by using a subtle delay and thus get a doubling effect, you need to set the Time control between 50 and 100 ms and the Level all the way up. Plus, the Feedback control should be set to provide only one repeat or two.
The repeat will occur so rapidly that you will feel like there’s another guitar playing with the original signal rather than hearing an echo-like sound. If you want to produce flanging or pseudo chorusing sounds, you will have to lower the delay time to 20-50 ms.
Faux reverb and slapback echo
Learning a few basic things will help you flavor the sounds you produce quite easily. For example, if you want to enjoy a reverb-type effect, the Time control should be set between 100 and 200 ms, the Level knob at about 50 percent, and the Feedback should be set to deliver 5 repeats.
For a slapback echo that can usually be heard in country music and rockabilly, you will have to set the Time to 80–140 ms, the Level knob at about 50 percent, and the Feedback set to 0, which means you will get only a single repeat.
In case you’re working with lead phrases and a shorter rhythm and you want to enjoy a phrase-repeater, then you will have to use longer delay times. Therefore, you should set the Time to at least 1,000 milliseconds.
The Feedback should be set to a single repeat and the Level should be a bit less than the level of the dry guitar. Once you’ve taken care of all that, you can play a short phrase of a few notes (two or three), then pause and allow the delay to play that back.
To sum up, you first need to know where the delay pedal goes into the chain and what its controls can do. From there, you can easily learn tricks that will up your sonic adventure and help you communicate more about your idea of sonic beauty through the endless nuances a delay pedal can produce.