A Brief History Of Delay Pedals

Guitar pedals have an unique history and remarks regarding their development, and delays are not the exception. This type of effects were already used during the 50’s and 60’s, but I will suggest that it was during the 70’s and 80’s where things really started to have a better immpulse; I’m willing to say it even branded the sound of whole genaration.

The Edge
The Edge doing his stuff.

He wasn’t the first one to use it, but Dave Evans, better known as “The Edge”, was able to install in our minds the rythmitic and ambient sounds that where only possible through the repetition delay units could bring to his effective guitar riffs; he didn’t only built the flagship sound of U2,but inspired countless of other guitar players that were eager to imitate to some extent his peculiar way of creating guitar parts and song arrangements through delay.

Going back to the history lessons, in the early stages, this effect was achieved using magnetic reels. Depending on the length of the reel and the playback heads. By the 50’s, the Tape Echoes were already in the market and guitar players as Brian May and Jimmy Page where already using them. But it was in 70’s where things became to start looking more interesting. A company named Roland got into the game with his Space Echo unit; it still used magnetic reel techonology, but in a more ellaborated way and some of the models even came with an Reverb effect.

By the time the mid 70’s arrived, techonology allowed to have the very first models in pedal enclosure; these were the famous analog delays (more on that on this post). In order to achieve this, “Bucket-Brigade-Chips” where used on the circuit boards. From this one the big names on analog delays started to show up like Electro-Harmonix (EHX); the date is uncertain (at least for me), but the Memory Man from EHX is considered the first delay pedal; the first version of this pedal goes way back into 1976. Perhaps some day we can ask the founder of the company, Mike Matthews about this :).

Boss DD-3
The DD-3 was pretty much the same as the DD-2, but is was cheaper. It is still in production!

But things never stay still in the effects pedal market, and the guys from Boss (actually, I think it’s the guys from Roland, but they’re the same company, so, who knows?), were more than ready to make their appearance and in 1981 the came up with the Boss DM-2, an analog delay pedal that is very sought after by collectors and guitar players even to this day. A few years later, in 1984, the came up again with another delay pedal, but his one was a little different… it was digital delay pedal, the Boss DD-2. Due to the high prices of the chips to making them it wasn’t an immediate succes, but two years later, they relaunched the pedal with the name of Boss DD-3. In essence, it was the same pedal but cheaper, because the costs of making them were not as high as two years ago.

And the rest is history, it repeats itself (you got it, right, it repeats, like a delay :)). Nowadays, the market is much more bigger than those decades, and lots of guitar companies have at least one delay model in their arsenal. Throughout the website (and as days goes by) you will find information about this comanies, their products and some thoughts about their delay units.

So… What Do They Basically Do?

We’ve seen bits and pieces of the history of these units, but in essence, what is it that they do? Well, in the simplest of terms, they get the sound signal of your instrument and they reproduce it back with some lag or delay, hence the name of the effect. The new signal is mixed with the original and that helps to create in some cases like a “wall of sound”.

For instance, when you play a note on the guitar, the delay pedal will repeat what you played a certain amount of times and within a certain amount of lenght; to do that you use two basic parameters, time and feedback, but more on that later.

If you do it correctly (and if you play accordingly to the time signature), the effect allows you to fill the void in the music or to enhance the sound of what you’re playing.

In the following posts, we will be discussing how you can apply a delay pedal to your playing as well as some usual settings to start experimenting with.

Until the next time,




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s