Tutorials / 19 September 2018

Learn about Effects: Delay

Last month, we looked at the reverb effect, the indispensable and utilitarian effect that gives life and space to your sound. This week we’ll show you another tool which creates ambience, texture and complexity to any element in your mix – delay.

What is delay?

Simply put it, delay is the audio world’s word for an echo.

A delay effect takes your original signal, a guitar chord or vocal passage for example, and plays it back after a period of time.

Using delay

Delay is one of the most popular effects today because of its versatility. When used subtly it can give the impression of a thicker, richer and more ambient sound – think David Gilmour’s epic solo on Comfortably Numb. On the other hand, a more upfront delay can get you the percussive dotted 8th sounds on U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

On BandLab, there are plenty of delay presets to choose from in both the web and mobile Mix Editor. On mobile, add a track and then hit the Fx button. Each preset is carefully designed for a complete sound for your instrument. For example, the Psych Lead guitar preset is a combination of Brit-style overdrive layered with a phaser and a subtle hint of delay. The guitar effect presets with delay effects are: Ambient Lead, Deep Space, Echo Machine, Psych Lead and Echo Chorus. We’re always working to design and create more presets and sounds for you to express your creativity, so look out for new presets in the coming future.

Fine-tuning

On the web, you can tweak the parameters of each preset, or build a chain of effects from scratch to make your own unique sound. To do this, choose a preset effect and click the fader button to open up your settings panel.

To start from scratch, make sure your Fx selection is set at None, then click the fader button. Click the “+ Add Effect” button and from the drop-down menu, you have two options for delay – Delay and D-Delay Pro.

Select Delay and you’ll find four parameters:

  1. Mix controls the amount of delay you can apply to your sound. When the knob is at zero, you will only hear your dry (original) signal. As you turn the knob clockwise, it blends more of the wet (‘effect-ed’) signal into your sound. When the knob is maxed out, you will only be able to hear the delay sound and none of your original sound. At 50%, you will have a 50:50 balance of your wet and dry signal.
  2. Delay refers to amount of time the delay will take to fire. Fully left will produce shorter delay time which is perfect for slapback delays. Turn the knob right and the delay time will increase and get longer, up to one full second (1000ms). Notice that the amount is measured in milliseconds, which is really useful if you are trying to time the delays to your beats per minute.
  3. Do you want just one repeat? Or many trailing repeats? Feedback controls the number of times the delay is triggered. At hard left, you will get one repeat. The further right you turn the knob, the more times your sound will repeat.
  4. Cutoff is like a tone knob for your delay. To dial back the harshness of your repeats so they don’t clash with your original sound, roll the knob back to the left. You’ll hear the repeats become darker, which sit perfectly behind the original sound.

D-Delay Pro includes more options for fine-tuning your delay sound. Unlike one individual mix knob, there are separate controls to dial in how much dry and wet signal you want. It also takes the cutoff control further – you can dial in as much high or low frequencies you want out of your wet signal.

Watch this space for more crash courses on the many effects we pack into our Mix Editor. Next time, we’ll be touching on compression and how it helps shape your sound.

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