Posted by: worshipguitarguy | February 16, 2007

Delay… lay… lay… Introduction

Here it is…  after a long wait, it’s our series on using delay in your playing.  I’ll warn ya, we’ll run this series for a bit, because there’s alot of depth to this subject.  In the process, I’ll try to keep the info simple and down to earth as much as possible. 

To start, let’s define delay.  Scott Lehman in his article “Delay, Effects Explained” on harmonycentral.com says “A delay takes an audio signal, and plays it back after the [specified amount of time].”  Usually you’ll still hear your regular guitar signal come through, followed by a repeat or series of repeats that will come after it.  Delay is similar in some ways to reverb, the former though being the return of the signal to you the listener, and the latter being the effect of sound reflecting off surfaces.  Still, they are both what we call in guitar world “time-based effects.”

If you’re ever hanging around some really smart guitar guys, you may hear them throwing around phrases like “wet” signal or “dry” signal.  These loosely relate to whether or not a signal has time-based effects placed on it.  A dry signal refers to one that comes out of the amp without delay or reverb applied to it, and a wet signal means there is a degree of time based repeats applied to it. 

For the rest of this article, we’re taking a look at some of the specific types of delay equipment that’s commonly used in guitar playing.  This is big because if you use delay modeling, many of the models will be closely related to these:

Tube Based Echo:  The original delay devices were introduced back in the 60’s, and used tapes, coupled with tube based technology.  A cool feature on tube based systems is they introduce distortion into the signal.  These devices (and models) tend to let you make your delay repeats very grungy and dirty. 

Analog Tape Based Echo:  In the 70’s manufacturers were replacing the tubes in the echo devices with electronic transistors.  This cleaned up the delay signal quite a bit, but these devices still used recording tapes to create the delay sound.  Fulltone now puts out a delay device built on this same technology… (although it costs nearly $1,000)

Multi-tap or Space Echo:  Roland’s Space Echo is one of the most coveted delay devices of all time.  It’s still tape based, but it uses multiple recording heads in a layered approach to creating delay effects.  The Multi-tap model is probably my favorite on the Line 6 DL4.

Analog Electronic Delay:  In the late 70’s and early 80’s, manufacturers figured out a way to replace the tapes in delay units with electronic signal buffers.  This opened up a whole new world for guitarists as they could now put delay stomp boxes on their pedalboards.  The Boss DM-2 and Electro Harmonix Memory Man are two popular delays from this time period.

Digital Delays:  Advances in computing technology led to true digital based delays in the 1980’s.  Some of these devices were called low res because they only sampled at 8-bit, unlike 16-bit which is the rate of CD technology, or 24 bit which is used in many computer recording settings today.   The big distinction between analog and digital signals is that analog delays tend to be warmer but less defined, while digital signals tend to be crisper and clearer.  Digital delay settings are often used with rhythmic 8th note strums, because they don’t make the signal as muddy. 

Stereo Delays:  This isn’t as much an effect device as it was taking a dry guitar signal and processing it in stereo.  The two output signals were then sent through different delay paths to make the delays different.  For example, the left side might be sent through a dotted eighth setting, while the right would be sent out as a quarter note.  This created huge sonic walls of tone and is still a very much used effect today.

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Responses

  1. Good stuff. Two things…

    1) Had the distinct pleasure of having a good friend in SoCal who had a Roland Space Echo. Hours of fun.

    2) Re: stereo delay… a guitar player by the name of Pete Nelson (played with a band called The Kry; is now pastor at Calvary Chapel Albuquerque) let me play thru his rig once. He was using a Boogie TriAxis (I think) thru one of Mesa’s huge power amps, and had a couple of the Eventide Harmonizer / Digital Delays in his rack.

    It was all fed thru a Bradshaw switcher (w/ the rest of his gear) and then split to stereo Boogie single 12’s. I could’ve stood there and played w/ the stereo delay stuff for a month. Unbelievable.

  2. i’m looking forward to this series. i’d be interested in reading about the settings you used on the presets for your DL4 at some point in the series.

  3. As usual, excellent, useful information. I have a DL4 and a DD-20 on my board and use some sort of delay in almost everything I play.

  4. Wonderful post, my good man. Delay is something I’ve always been afraid to mess with. I use it on a few songs with my band, but I’ve never jumped head first into the world of delay. I guess having a delay guru such as yourself as a friend should afford me some inside tips, to which I have not taken advantage. I’m still using Jake Randall’s old DigiTech digital delay and, for what I use it for, I love it. It gives me the sounds I want and the type of delays I want. I know it can do so much more, I’m just not knowledgeable enough (yet) to max out it’s capabilities. Hopefully once this series is finished, I’ll be able to play delay, Gerry Leslie style :0).

  5. hey…I hope you post about my favorite…long delays :). You know what I’m talking about…keep up the good work. I think it revolutionized your sound. go…play…have fun…I’ll check back.

  6. Great article… Sorry I haven’t been able to help you out with the posting.

  7. I can’t wait for more info about delay. I understand the concept of delay, but I still don’t understand why it’s valued so much as it is. I’m just beginning guitar, and I love playing around with my Boss ME-50, just to see what kind of sounds I can create before I invest money into single pedals. And those “endless possibilities” with a delay pedal. I’m guessing I don’t see that because I am not too keen about listening to my guitar sound, but thanks for the post and the upcoming ones as well!

  8. Awesome, looking forward to the articles, I’ve got a DD-20 coming in the mail this week.

    It’s a going to be a long week. 🙂

  9. […] To start, let’s define delay.  Scott Lehman in his article “Delay, Effects Explained” on harmonycentral.com says ”A delay takes an audio signal, and plays it back after the [specified amount of time].”  Usually you’ll still hear your regular guitar signal come through, followed by a repeat or series of repeats that will come after it.  Delay is similar in some ways to reverb, the former though being the return of the signal to you the listener, and the latter being the effect of sound reflecting off surfaces.  Still, they are both what we call in guitar world “time-based effects.” (more…) […]

  10. I’ve been using delays since the Ibanez AD202 rack unit. That was my main guitar delay until I sold it recently. I still have a Roland SDE-1000 rack unit.

    I want to tell the world – I discovered a little diamond in the rough! Seriously, you GOTTA check out the mini pedal by Danelectro called the PB&J!

    Simply pure amazing tone in my guitar chain! I’m gonna get me another one – one – one.


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