How To Combine Two Delay Pedals

Having one delay pedal can satisfy pretty much most users, but your sonic boundaries can really expand if you have more than one delay unit on your board. If you learn to combine the two of them, your sound pallet suddenly get new colors and former simple, gray arrangements can come into new life. On this post we’re going to discuss three ways you can combine delays in order to have some tasting results.

Rhythmical Patterns

I think this the most common way people tend to use their two delay pedals. You can stack two units in different tempo settings and this will help you get some interesting rhythmical sounds or patterns. In order to achieve this, it is better if you have units that can allow you to select the tempo subdivision (for instance, quarter notes, eight notes, triplets, dotted eight, etc.); tap-tempo function is also preferable but not strictly necessary. This is important because what you’re trying to achieve here is a combination of two times, but that are locked or complement well each other. What I’m trying to say is that you need to have everything in the right tempo :). For instance, one of your delays can be set to quarter notes and the other can be set to triplets; as you can see one is faster than the other. If you’ve done this correctly you’ll end up with a galloping effect, which is similar to a dotted eight. The difference is that layering two units allows you to create a more atmospheric effect and broadens your sound; this is especially true if you have the possibility of running your sound in stereo with two amps. This is a technique I first saw explained by Nigel Hendroff, one the guitarists from Hillsong. You can watch the video of him doing this and how he applies that to one of their songs here:

As final observation, it needs to be point out that he uses rack delays to achieve this, and that is not a necessary constraint, you can have this galloping effect with conventional stomp-boxes, the same type of pedals I mentioned at the beginning of the section (for instance, two delay units preferably with tape tempo). One more thing, I think your mix shouldn’t be so high, but the effect needs to be noticeable; also 4 repeats on each unit should do the job. Of course this is a simple guideline and you can experiment with your own ideas.

Ambient/Dreamy Sounds

Usually guitar players use a combination of reverb and delay to achieve this effect, but you can get to similar results if you have two delays pedals, although there are some considerations. In my opinion this works better if you have a combination of analog delay and digital delay. What happens is that the analog delay tends to have a warmer and imperfect sound and this is helpful when you want to achieve that dreamy/ethereal effect; in fact you can do that by just having an analog delay pedal with some modulation, but the addition of another stomp-box is what helps you create a more robust ambient effect. The technique is as similar as creating a rhythmical pattern, but I have good news for you: it is not necessary to sync both tempos. What you need to do is to set one of your pedals to a shorter delay time and the other to a longer delay time. Usually you start with the faster tempo (shorter delay) and then you set the other pedal with a longer delay time. One more thing, the combination between the two doesn’t have to be perfect and sometimes, the more random, the better. This is because when you are playing with this type of set-up, the lead lines or chords are not necessarily being too much stressed; the idea is to create a layer of sound so it feels like a keyboard pad. If your analog delay has modulation, this is the time for using it; it will add a sweet sonic flavor to the overall sound. Also, you should normally place your digital delay after your analog one; this way your digital repeats can help your sound to cut better through the mix, but as always, nothing is written on stone here, and you can experiment with the order and probably, you will end up getting a unique sound and approach to the technique.

To Fatten/Warm The Sound

This is the approach I’ve taking for a while now, and actually, I “break” some common pedal order position rules. It is so because I run my Boss DD7 into my Memory Boy; what this means is that I put my digital delay first and then my analog delay. Allocating the pedals in that order gives my guitar a warmer and modulated sound allowing me to get somehow a fuller tone; in my case, it is what I need because often times, I’m the only electric guitar player in the band and this creates the effect of a bigger sounding guitar.

Memory Boy and Boss DD7

It’s worth mentioning that I almost never turn off my analog delay; I set it up in a way it doesn’t get much in the mix, with the time around eleven/twelve and with just a little bit of modulation; you can definitely feel something is going on there but it doesn’t mess up the entire sonic spectrum (at least it sounds good for me :); lastly I choose the chorus setting on the pedal (the Memory Boy) to have some of that too. But the main dish is served when you engage the digital unit; the repeats sound less cold and with some overdrive on, you can get a nice tone for song parts and general arrangements. My DD7 usually has a higher mix (altough I might change that depending on the song) and most times I tend to leave the pedal into de the dotted eight subdivision.

Some Final Thoughts

With delay pedals the possibilities are pretty much endless and I’m sure there a more usages for these units than the aforementioned examples. We haven’t yet fully discussed for instance, ambient tone, but that might be material for another post. What I would like to stress is that it is not strictly necessary to have always engaged your two (or three ;)) delay pedals. There are times when it is nice to play without some delay or to have a delay pedal assigned for a specific task. I think it’s worth your effort experimenting with shorter delay times as well as some dynamics you can add to your playing without exclusively having your echoes always on. As a final note, it’s also important mentioning that it can come in handy to practice without delay; I know it sounds counter intuitive, but delays can cover a multitude of sins if you know what I mean; if it sounds nice clean and simple, it’s almost guaranteed it will sound awesome with delay :).

Until the next time,


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