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How to Use a Guitar Delay Pedal

There are a plethora of ways a guitarist can utilize a delay pedal – you can use it a bit to spice up your tone, you can rely on it to enrich your solos, or you could craft something unique to you. We’re here to help you with all three scenarios.

Where does Delay Pedal belong in the pedal chain?

Before you learn how to use a delay pedal, you should first know where to put it. Selecting a bad spot for it in the chain could ruin your tone in more ways than one.

The Delay pedal should be among the last (if not ’the’ last) pedal in your signal chain. As most experienced guitar players already know, every pedal affects every other successive pedal; this means that compressor, volume, and EQ pedals come first as they ’define’ the bulk of the tone while the pedals that are used sparsely sit at the back of the chain.

Understanding the difference between analog and digital delay pedals

Analog delays typically feature BBD chips that ’mechanically’ alter the original guitar signal via capacitors whereas digital delays utilize DSP chips to ’digitally’ alter it. The final result is more or less the same, although trained ears will be able to notice the sonic difference between these two types. Ultimately, the main difference between digital and analog delay pedals is their method of operation.

Get acquainted with the control knobs

Every pedal is designed with different control knobs, and learning everything you can about the ones supplied to your pedal will help you tame it and use it in any way you want. On the flip side, guesswork will leave you in the dark regarding what’s happening to your sound and the entire signal chain for that matter.

For example, Boss’s DM-2W is one of the simplest delay pedals on the market; it’s supplied with ’intensity’ and ’repeat rate’ knobs, both of which are relatively straightforward. Eventide’s Rose is a bit more complex as it features multiple filtering options, a wave-shape selection button, direct controls to feedback, and advanced mixing settings.

If you feel like you are ready to move over to some of the most advanced delay pedals, you should check out Source Audio’s Nemesis; it offers a huge number of controllable settings, including a variety of delay voices, numerous factory presets, tap-tempo adjustments, feedback controls, and so on.

Understanding the delay ’time’

Delay pedals work in such a way that they modify the original guitar signal by altering the ’time’ of its reproduction. Having an understanding of these instances will provide you with more control over the desired effects.

The ’time’ knob is among the most common delay settings, and it directly affects the ’delay’ between the original signal and the altered signal’s reproduction. Smaller gaps typically result in higher feedback as the altered signal enters the automatic oscillation mode while larger gaps may end up overlapping the two signals.

The key here is to find the sweet spot. It may take some time and it will most certainly require plenty of trial and error, but over time you will learn how to navigate your mix, control settings, and your guitar’s tone.

Stacking your delay

Using a delay pedal will give your tone a huge boost, but this effect is overused to death and may end up sounding a bit bland if utilized in ’traditional’ manners. That’s why many guitarists resort to delay ’stacking’ – creating delay effects within delay effects.

This process naturally occurs whenever a delay pedal is used with other time-oscillating pedals, such as loopers, echo, or even other delay pedals. If you are looking for a versatile way to enrich your delay pedal’s sound, consider mixing it with other pedals and creating loops that you can play in real-time on the spot.

Making your own delay presets

As we mentioned earlier, many modern delay pedals offer custom presets as well as the ability to create custom-based profiles that you can save or load on the pedal itself. These presets are typically well-balanced and offer a healthy dose of feedback, optimal delay time, and just a hint of overdrive.

Factory presets are normally meant to accommodate any playing style and music genre, but they usually aren’t versatile (or expressive) enough to definitively articulate your tone.

You can start from scratch and fine-tune the control knobs if you know precisely what you are looking for. Another suggestion is to pick a preset you like the most and alter its presets to your liking before saving it as a custom sound.

Experiment with different techniques

Inexperienced guitar players associate the delay effect with guitar solos, which is not necessarily wrong. This part of the song’s structure is arguably tailored for the use of a delay pedal, but that’s not a rule set in stone.

Delay pedals are expressive, but they are also incredibly responsive. They will react to different guitars, amps, and they will react differently to different kinds of guitar techniques. Palm-muting with a delay pedal may be used to compensate for the lack of speed in certain parts; hammer-on techniques with a delay effect mimick pull-offs; slides can help you achieve the ’reverse delay’ effect.

The idea behind this tip is to put an accent on the fact that learning delay pedals inside and out involve the playing aspect as much as it involves the tinkering aspect of it.

Improvisations and jamming to delay

Delay pedals are great tools that can heavily complement any given playing style, but they can also be used as sources of inspiration. In a sense, holding a lick in ’delay’ will keep you at that moment for a second longer, providing you with a bit of extra time to come up with a following riff or note.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that the delay effect is not something that can be ’mastered’ overnight. You should play and practice using it until you can confidently utilize it into your arsenal in a live setting.
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