In order to understand how to use a delay pedal, I think that you actually need to know the basic settings and configurations you can have in a delay pedal. What I am trying to say is that you need to understand how the delay pedal works. Here is basic delay pedal:
Time Knob: The time knob as his name suggests, allows you to configurate the time of the repetitions. It is usually expressed in milliseconds. The knob works clock-wise; the more you move away from the initiall position (0 milliseconds), the more time-space you have between repetitions.
Feedback: The feedback knob gives you the possibility to determine how many repetitions you will like to have, you can go from one, two, three, and so on and so forth. I you move the knob all the way to the right, something curios will happen: you will make the pedal to auto-oscillate. This simply means that it is repeating itself, and repeating itself, and repeating itself… you get the idea. The pedal will start making strange sounds and it cause the volume of your whole rig to go really high. Some guitar players do this intetionally because it creates some sort of “warp effect” and in certain cases, sounds cool.
Wet/Mix: I’m pretty sure you know by now what this knob does. This is how you determine how much of the effect will appear into your signal. The more mix you add to it, the more the effect it’s going to be heard. The lower the signal mix, the more subtle the delays are into what you are playing.
To finish this section, I will leave with three usual settings you can start experimenting right know with your pedal:
How Can You Use A Delay Pedal?
Basically you can use delay for three main things (I’m sure there are more uses, but these are the ones that comes to mind right now):
For Rhythmic Sounds:
This where The Edge excelled during those early U2 albums. With the help of a delay pedal, he created the effect that he was playing more notes than he was actually doing. Think for instance in songs like Pride (In The Name of Love), God’s Country and Where The Streets Have No Name; he was able to achieve this cool pulsating rhythmic effect because of the way he dialed up the pedal: 3 to 4 repeats and the mix kinda high. But the main challenge or issue here is that you have to set the delay time to match the tempo of the song; this is essential! If you do not do that you can end with very “interesting” results (it will not sound right :)). A lot of modern delay pedals have a tap tempo feauture now that helps with this, the Boss DD-7 just to mention one, has both an internal and external “tap-tempo” function. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do or adjust the delay time on the fly, manually, but it is a litte more difficult.
For Enhancing Your Sound:
What you’re trying to do here is to get a bigger sound so your guitar signal is not so dry. For achieving that you usually set the delay time in between; by that I mean that is not so fast but not so slow either (if the delay time knob would be a clock, I would say around 11) and to adjust the mix and feedback parameters to around the same levels (10-11). These settings sometimes are more sensitive and will vary depending on the pedal you have, but nonetheless the general idea is the same. The good thing here is that you don’t need to have the exact tempo of the song to sound great. This is because the effect is more subtle, and remember this, in music, sometimes less is more.
For Ambience Sounds (any worship guitar players around? ;)):
Beleive it or not you can create synth/ambience sounds (like keyboard pads) with a delay pedal, but… yes, there’s always a catch, you usually need the help of a reverb effect pedal. Combining those two creatures can lead to incredible results. You achieve this by having long repetions on your delay with a medium/high mix. In your reverb pedal you follow the same principle: high mix and long decay.
The trick here is not to overplay. Don’t use big chords (sometimes work, but the sound can get really muddy), you should try to use triads; single notes can also come in handy. You need to also take heed of your overall volume. It’s better if you do “volume swells”. This simply means that you first play your guitar with the volume down, and as soon to finished playing the note/triad, you start turning up your volume gradually. You can do this with your volume knob on your guitar, but it is easier if you have volume pedal.
In time, we will be discussing more in depth some of the things described in the post, but until then, have fun and experiment yourself, because that’s the best way to learn.
Until the next time,