A while back, one of my VIP members was asking some questions about delay in the VIP members forum.

I ended up posting a few delay tips for him, and I thought I’d share ’em with you here on the blog.

Here are 4 quick delay tips…

Roll off the high end.

Delays (and even reverbs) normally sound better if they don’t have a lot of high end, especially the sibilance in the vocals.

I’ll normally roll off above 5k or maybe even lower.

Use distortion.

A tiny bit of distortion on the delay can create a very nice-sounding delay…it almost sounds like an old-school tape delay.

Sync to session tempo.

If you’re not wanting a standard slap-back delay, then make sure to sync the delay up to your session tempo, then play around with making the delay a 1/4 note, 1/2 note…or maybe a dotted 1/4 or even a triplet 1/4.

Lots of interesting options here.

Make it stereo.

As mentioned above, if you want to make the delay stereo, select the delay amount you want in the step above, THEN manually adjust the time of one of the delays (left or right).

Make it 10-50ms different, then listen to the nice, wide image!

These tricks may not always work, but if the delay isn’t quite working for you, try one (or two…or all) of the tips above, and you’ll probably find something that works really well.

What about you? Got any fun delay tricks for us? Leave a comment below!

If you’re itching for more training on how to get great results with EQ and delay, become a VIP member. It’s currently only $5/month, and you’ll have access to Understanding Reverb & Delay plus a bunch of other goodies (including a private forum). If that sounds like your cup of tea, join here.

20 Responses to “4 Quick Delay Tips”

  1. Terry Nelson

    Another use of delay is for panning. Unless you are in the ‘sweet spot’, standard level panning means that for people listening to the left of centre, all right pan signals will be a bit lost a vice versa (Precedence Effect, anyone?)To get panning that everyone can hear, send both signals equally to L/R and then pan to taste by introducing a very slight delay to one of the channels, depending on whether you want L or R placement.

    • Joe Gilder

      But you wouldn’t do this to a mix though, right? I just use the pan feature on my car to put the drivers seat in the “center.”

  2. LargerLife

    Dynamic delay on vocal rules. Put a compressor after delay on the aux, and sidechain it with the vox track. The result is a clear, crisp vox with a little bit of sense of space when singing, and with the right release the line endings will stick out gently and lengthened. You can go crazy with this effect, and you can always control with the compressor settings. I always use this little trick, when I need the effect, but drowning in delays is not an option.

  3. TakeAwayTracks.com

    If I use a delay not just for ambience, but for “creative” purpose, I always try to automate the “FX send” of a synced delay in order to have subtle or more obvious effect on specific words/phrase: that’s nice especially on words that need attention from the listener and it’s a simple way to change the 2nd strophe from the 1st or to fill a gap (if the song need it) without adding other instruments.
    Simo 🙂

  4. Jody Daub

    Kind of a delay tip: if you’ve got a “tape delay” plugin (Logic users do), you can set your delay time to 0ms for a bit of that tape saturation sound on your track. I’ve used on individual tracks and on a stereo buss. It can add some warmth to your tracks.

  5. theaudiogeek

    one note on using distortion with delay, the order of the two effects really changes the sound. Distortion before (or within the delay plugin) will be far more subtle than a distortion or saturation plugin after the delay.
    If you wan those echos loud, distortion after is the way to go.

    ps- Joe I noticed that timestamps are missing from your posts recently, just wondering why?

    • Joe Gilder

      Good call on changing up the order.

      I took off the timestamps to make things look cleaner. Also, almost everything I post is fairly timeless. Some people, when they see a two-year-old article, they assume it’s out-of-date, which is not the case here on HSC.

  6. Bobby Phillipps

    I record instrumental guitar rock, and use delay on most of my lead tracks to help widen it just a little bit. Every now and then, I use delay for a large ambient sound (think the kind stuff that would make you go “Whoa! Far out, man!”). When I do that, I’ll set each side to a different rhythmic sync. 1/4 note on the left, dotted 1/4 note on the right, for the sake of example. On short staccato passages, this will give a pretty obvious ping-pong effect, which is not what I’m going for, but put on longer, more droney passages, this is the perfect effect to give that sense of size and ambience that I’m going for.

  7. Kyle Estep

    Could you provide some quick sound clips of the vocal delay examples you talked about? I think it would be helpful to “hear” what you’re talking about. Just a thought… 

  8. Mark Bodah

    cool. i actually do 1 and 3, but i never thought to add distortion. i’ll give that a try if i can remember. so much to remember…

  9. Felipenoris

    Your first 2 tips opened a new universe of possibilities for me! Thank you!



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