When a sound is played in a room, or in any space, we perceive the direct sound from the source, followed by the reflections of that sound that bounce off the surfaces in that space. When the time between these reflections is long enough, it create an echo effect, where we can hear the original sound repeating several times. This is what a delay effect is designed to do.
A delay effect will repeat any sound it receives. It usually have 2 main parameters: a delay time, and a feedback.
The delay time is the time between each echo, and the feedback is pretty much the number of those echoes.
For example, on Ableton's simple delay, you can set a different delay time for both channel left and right. They can be by division of the tempo or in ms. Or you can link the channels left and right to use only one delay time. Then you have the feedback and the dry/wet knob.
Then, like on any reverb, you would have a dry/wet knob to mix the original sound with the delayed sound.
When playing with these parameters, you can create different textures or different sounds. Create different effects for different uses, so thats what I'd like to show you now.
1. The most simple use of the delays would be to use it as a rhythmic element, by repeating any pattern it receives. You can then create a more complex pattern starting with a very simple one.
2. Delays are also great to add space around your sound, so it is a very good companion to a reverb effect. They are often used hand in hand as they both simulate reflections we can find in real spaces. So with a subtle touch of each, you can make something sound a lot bigger.
3. If the echoes happen once on the left side, and once on the right side alternatively, you end up with a ping pong delay. You can mimic this effect by setting different delay times for the left and the right channels. But most of the time you would have a ping pong mode in your delay. Here in Ableton it comes as a different effect.
4. If you set the feedback very low, you should get only one echo. Then if you have quite short delay time, you'd have what is called a slapback delay.
It is used a lot in the context of a mix on vocals or on guitars. It adds a good sense of space without washing out too much the dry signal.
5. If you make this delay even shorter, the dry signal and the echo will start to blend. And you can then achieve kind of a doubling effects, that can make the sound thicker.
But be careful with the phase cancellation when you do this. Some frequencies may become silent when the dry signal and the echo mix, so you may want to fine tune this.
6. You can also put the dry signal on the left and the echo on the right, or the other way around, to create a wide stereo effect.
Or on this delay, you can put the dry/wet all the way up so we hear only the echo. And the feedback all the way down so there's only one echo.
Then set one side to 0ms so it's basically like the dry signal, and the other side a few ms later. This will make your sound a lot wider.
This is known as the Haas effect.
7. Let's go back to mono, but let's keep a very short delay time. If we increase the feedback, we increase the number of echoes, and as they are very close to one another, they will create friction. This will make the original sound resonate on a certain frequency and that can make it sound like some robot voice.
It can be really cool to make a note resonate so you can resample it. But you will most often have to retune the note as it's very difficult to tune it with th delay directly.
But, if I'm not mistaken, that the same technique that is used by the effect resonator in Ableton. And in that one you can chose the note at which it will make resonate, and you can even layer several of them to make chords.
That's already several ways you can use any delay effect to create different sounds. But some delays are made more complex than others.
8. Some delays add one or several effects before or after repeating the echoes, such as the tape delay.
The tape delay is a delay effect, that makes echoes, but before repeating these echoes it distorts the sound. With a very smooth, very soft saturation, to add warmth to the sound.
It was originally made with analog tape machines. So here we'll try to replicate several aspects of this tape.
First, let's start with a delay and add a tape saturation to mimic the tape's warmth.
The old tape machines didn't have a sync button, so it what near impossible to have something really locked to the tempo, and that gave a particular swing to it.
To emulate that we can either use a rate time in ms, to have it not synced, or we can use a synced rate, but offset the whole thing by a few ms.
The old tape machines were kind of low fidelity. They used to compress the sound a lot and be quite poor in high frequencies.
So for the compression part, we can use a compressor with a high ratio and a low threshold, with a quick attack and long release, to mainly take down all the peaks.
And then we can also add a low pass filter to cut some high frequencies.
This will have a double advantage of letting some room for the unfiltered sound layered with this effect, and pushing the delay more toward the back of the mix, to give it a good sense of space.
Old tape machines also used to have an irregular speed of playback, which would introduce shallow pitch fluctuations in the echoes. That's something we can also emulate with the delay effect.
You can right click it and select repitch. This way if we move the delay time, it will pitch the sound up or down, which is basically the behaviour of a tape that goes up or down in speed.
So instead of moving this by hand or automating it, I will control it with an LFO so it goes slowly up and down automatically. It doesn't need to go up and down very far, small values are enough for the subtle effect we want.
Now we have a chain of effects designed to replicate the grit of the tape, it's compression and frequency response, with the pitch fluctuations and the time irregularities.
Now this kind of effect often sounds better as a parallel effect, by layering a sound processed by this effect with the same unprocessed sound.
So to do that, let's group all that. Then we can either put it on a return track, say return track A, and send any track to return A. Or you can simply create another chain in the group with no effect in it. So any sound that goes to this rack will go in both chains. You can then then adjust the ballance between the two chains with their volume.
So in the same way, you can create your own composite delay by combining any effects you want, saturation, flanger, etc... and you can even create several parrallel chains to layer different delays.
For example, let's make a delay that uses several other effects. Let's make a Dub delay
9. Dub delays usually combine a very long feedback with a lot of effects for a very lush result, usually with a lot of movement in it.
So to do that, let's use a return track. So let's put a ping pong delay for once on the return track A, with a long feedback and a dry/wet at 100% as it will be layered with the dry sound anyways, and then we send an instrument into it.
The cool thing about return tracks in Ableton Live is that you can send a return track back into itself to create a feedback loop. That's what we're going to do, but before, let's put a limiter at the end of the chain to protect our speakers. Because feedback loops can go out of hand pretty quickly.
So then we can send the return track A back into itself.
To add motion we could use a filter with a LFO. We could use the built-in filter in the ping pong delay, but let's use an auto-filter, so we can use the built-in LFO it has.
Or for a more complex sound, we could create anoter delay on another return track. So the return track A would be sent to return B, which will be sent back to return A. Don't forget to add a limiter at the end of each chain though.
Then to add movement, you can automate any parameter of any effects you would add in, including the knobs sending the sound to return A and return B.
Or you can also put the delay in repitch and play with the delay time.
But now I'd like to have a closer look at the last thing we did with our delay effect.
10. We loaded a delay effect, then we right clicked it to chose the repitch mode.
You can use this mode to automate the delay time to create either ascending or descenting pitch. That's a great technique to create risers and ambiant textures.
There is a pretty similar effect that is used a lot in dub music for example. It is not a delay effect, but as it's pretty similar, let's include it here.
11. You can use a sampler as a looper. Basically, you take a sample, most of the time it's the sample of a voice. You put that in the sampler and you put it in loop mode. This way, when you play a long note, the sample will play in loop.
And then you can automate the pitch of that sample, or the pitch of the note.
This way the sample will play higher and higher, but it will also play faster and faster. It is very effective to make a good riser.
As we just saw, delays are a great tool to find new textures or to add space to a sound. And delays are rarely used on their own. To give a sense of space, they are often used with a reverb. And like reverbs, they are often used as parrallel effects. It is a great effect with both timbral and rhythmic qualities.