You can do an enormous amount with a delay pedal – to prove it, here are some classic delay guitar tones
The delay is one of the most versatile guitar effects available. Though better known as a straightforward ‘echo’ effect, there are innumerable tones that can be achieved with a delay pedal.
By limiting the delay time to barely noticeable lengths, modulation effects can be created. By tweaking feedback, reverb type effects are possible, and all manner of synchronised effects are within the delay’s sonic grasp.
Here are some classic delay guitar tones that are easily achievable with most delay pedals.
Double tracking/ doubling
By setting the delay time low enough such that it won’t be discerned, and feedback to one repeat, you can recreate the effect of double tracking (the same part recorded onto separate tracks and played back simultaneously).
Set ‘delay time’ to between 20 and 40ms, set ‘feedback’ to a single repeat, and ‘effect level’ to max, or near max.
Slapback delay is one of the earliest effected guitar tones. Again, it uses a single repeat, but with a slightly longer delay time than for double tracking. Setting the delay time to between 60ms and 130ms whilst keeping the settings as above will result in this classic rock ‘n’ roll and country tone.
This is a tone that has been fully exploited by many guitarists to produce immensely complex guitar parts. Essentially, the delay time is set to an exact division of a bar length at the tempo of the track to be played. Setting a delay time to 8th notes can work very well to create a driving, complex feel.
More popular is a dotted 8th length. This technique creates a more cascading, feel, and the illusion of a more complex, note-packed part that is synchronised to the track.
The delay length must be calculated to get it right for the tempo used. The simplest way to do this is time a bar, and divide this time according to the division you’re looking for (8, 16 etc.) There are numerous online delay calculators, however.
Many delay pedals now have tap tempo features (which allow you to tap the tempo with your foot) and delay types that will synchronise to this tempo. Just look for the ‘Tap Tempo’ button and you know you’ve gota pedal that you can dictate the amount of delay using your foot.
‘Feedback’ and ‘effect level’ are set according to taste here.
There are countless other effects that can be achieved with delays. If you have the ability to modulate delays on your pedal, you can create phaser-like effects. By taking slapback settings and increasing the number of repeats, the result is similar to a spring reverb.
There are few guitar effects that are capable of such a huge array of tones – every pedalboard should have a delay.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.