This post is about something simple – adding a delay to a guitar solo to make the solo more full-bodied. A delay is just single repetition of the sound, a bit later in time and a bit quieter (i.e., with some delay in time and decay in amplitude). It is like an echo that repeats only once.
The delay effect is probably the most used effect. But then it is so simple and, when explained in words, sounds so counterintuitive to what you might want that beginners ignore it. Who wants an echo in their song?
The guitar solo
Here is the beginning of the guitar solo. I pulled this out of a recent song that I have been working with. Since it is important to hear how the solo fits in the song, I have left the drums and bass, as well as the rhythm guitar.
Click to hear the dry solo.
This song is not produced. There is some minimal reverb on the drums, a high pass filter on the bass and rhythm guitar, and some panning, but nothing else. The solo is as recorded, dry, with no effects. The rhythm guitar is busy and might be a bit annoying, but, for now, it is what it is.
The first thing we will do is add a simple delay, but we will do so with a plan.
First, I find simple delays, echoes, and reverbs overwhelming when the delayed sound is too loud. Lately, I have been setting the delayed signal at about 20-30 percent of the original signal. In the actual song, I ended up at 20. Here, I am using 30 just to make things easier to hear.
Second, this song was recorded at about 100 beats per minute, which is about 600 milliseconds per quarter note. I am using a delay of 300 ms. Then, if the delayed sound is too audible, it will hide behind the drums.
With sizeable decay and measured delay, the delay itself will not be heard. The solo itself, however, will be different. Here it is.
Click to hear the solo with the delay.
Of course, there is a lot going on in this piece anyway and so we do not have to be so precise. Moreover, this is just one song. Other songs may need something else.
The delay bounce
We can do more though. Here is the solo again. We retain the 300 ms delay and 30 percent decay in the left channel, but we change the right channel to 450 ms delay and 20 percent decay.
Click to hear the solo with the delay bounce.
Now we have ourselves an echo, because we have two repetitions. The first and louder one comes in the left channel and the second and quieter one comes in the right channel. Since the solo is already panned a bit to the left, perhaps I should have switched them to truly bounce the solo from left to right and back.
Again, the repetitions are not audible, but their effect on the solo is. The solo is fuller and more spatial. In this song, it works better.