Delay can add a galaxy of lush ambience and vibe
to a guitar part. As a result, it’s like a drug you can’t
seem to get enough of, but it’s a blessing and a
curse. When used properly, it can add dimensions
to your sound that you could only have imagined.
When abused, it can make you sound like pails of
mud. Here are a few quick ideas to keep you out
of the muck.
The Army of Darkness
This is when the listener can’t really tell where the real
guitar lines end and where the delays start. This is
usually a function of the regeneration (sometimes
called feedback) knob turned up so high it almost has
a life of its own. I like to try to keep the regeneration
down to the point where the tail of one delay does
not go over the bar line of another. This allows the
listener to actually hear the lines that were meant to
Many times, I have had a single track of guitar and
wished I had tracked it in stereo. If you just put the
signal through another input or duplicate it, you have
them in stereo but they seem a bit too sterile in their
sound—too much alike. My solution is to open up an
aux track and place the delay on that second track.
Set the delay to 8.5ms with the mix on 100% so that it
is all delay and no original signal. Make sure the regen
is set to zero as well. Take your send off of the original
track in pre and bring up the gain so that both signals
are equal in volume when the faders are at unity. Pan
them hard left and right and voila: instant stereo.
Aside from all of the Fender guitars, Twin Reverbs, and
blonde girls waiting to hang ten with you, the best way
to get that early ’60s Malibu is to use a delay. Try
using a delay set on about 25ms with a feedback of about 20 % with a wet/dry setting of about 40% wet.
The Ventures will have nothing on you.
I would never be so arrogant as to reduce Pink Floyd’s
production aesthetic to saying it’s all delay, but they
do employ them with the skills of a surgeon. Try this
one on and see if pigs really do fly. Set up two aux
tracks next to your source track. Place a long stereo
delay (left side at 800ms, right at 1,500) on one and a
dark hall or church reverb on the other. Send two separate
aux sends to both tracks respectively and place
them in pre fader mode so they can be controlled separately
form the source track. Set up an aux send from
the delay track to the reverb, as well.
This setup is a powerful one, as it gives you the
following options: dry guitar in track; dry guitar and
delay in track; dry guitar, delay, and reverb in track;
delayed guitar and reverb in track; just reverb in track.
Here’s a little trick to get a secondary guitar part—meaning
a lick or line designed to be “ear candy” within a
track—to be more present without making it too obvious.
Bring up two aux tracks (one mono, one stereo) next to
the guitar track, and put a mono delay on the mono aux
track and a reverb for the whole guitar part on the
stereo aux track. Send an aux bus from the guitar track
to the delay track and to the reverb, as well. Send the
delay through an aux bus to the reverb. Both aux sends
should be set to pre for a bit more control. Set your
delay to about 125ms (this will depend upon the tempo
of the track) with a 5–10% regeneration setting, and
send that signal over to the reverb. Here is the capper—
you will use none of the original delay sound in the
track. You will use only what we hear through the reverb.
This, in combination with the original guitar track, gives
you a three-dimensional sound that makes the part pop
out, but in a ghostly and vibey way.