Using delay, live???


When I was first getting into gear and pedals I was a delay junkie. I just left it on all the time, and people got used to everything always being really "wah wah wah echo echo echo" from me.

What I slowly learned the hard way is that the repeats can often get in the way and clog the tone, especially with distortion. So I continued using delay, but started to turn the mix down to something more subtle.

At some point further, it almost felt pointless to be using a delay pedal only to turn the mix almost all the way down. But I still like having "ambiance" to my tone. So I just use a reverb trail instead these days. It gives me the ambiance I want without unnecessary repeats.

If what you are going for is explicitly an ambient vibe though, delay is a very nice thing to have, and it doesnt hurt to pull out a super saturated delay tone for such purposes. It's just that, for general purposes in a variety of musical situations, it's a bad idea to impose your "ambient saturated delay" tone on literally everything. An Eric Johnson style tone swimming in delay is not necessarily going to work for your funk or straight ahead jazz gig.


Very much depends on your situation. In my last band I was the only guitarist, playing very Smiths-style lines, lots of arpeggios and single notes, no distortion at all. I had a low-volume digital delay on 100% of the time, and it was perfect for filling out the sound. But if I were up there strumming harmonically dense chords with distortion on, that would be very different.


I have reverb and delay mixed fairly low so, you cant really tell but, it adds body and atmosphere without being overbearing.

If it was totally dry, youd hear it.


Supporting Member
I’m from the Holdsworth, Henderson, Metheny, Stern school of guitar sound, so a certain type and setting of delay is a natural augmentation of lead sounds for me.
It helps to have a delay that has a bit of smear to it similar to a tape echo. Set a certain way this gives you a little depth and special sauce to lead sounds or chordal swells.
Obviously I’m going to turn it off while playing a James Brown tune.

Hack Prophet

vile mighty wretched
I dislike it live personally, always seems to curtail the aggression in my rig. I mostly play "americana" (blech that word) styles, except with generally more aggression than is traditional


Supporting Member
I always have a slight delay on. It’s so subtle you probably wouldn’t notice it if I didn’t show it to you without everything else happening. At the same time, you’d say my guitar doesn’t sound as full without it.


Still breathing
Gold Supporting Member
I use spatial effects to sculpt space (i.e. to place the instrument in a specific part of the four dimensional representation of sound - 3 D space plus 1 D time). I do this intentionally as an EFFECT, but more often to place my instrument somewhere specific in the mix and in the room.

Delay and reverb are important tools in my arsonal. The amount they enter the soundstream depends on the room, the mix, and the intention.

This is not axiomatic.
It is an effect. I like using it for either clean guitar parts, i.e broken chords or during some kind of epic solo type Gilmourish moment with fuzz/distortion. I am not a speedy player so some echo is usually fine.

snow and steel

Supporting Member
It's great for slapback for certain songs [if its in the original]. It's great for Gilmore type stuff. Some bands, like U2, have used it so much I'm not sure you can do it without delay.

I really like it for solos - adds a great effect and feel that just makes it sound "bigger".

mad dog

Silver Supporting Member
Subtle delay is not at all pointless. It enhances reverb, adds a touch of extra space and dimension. For me, always on that way. Much as I love delay, I almost never use it the more typical way, as multiple, obvious repeats, prominent in the sound.


My current band jams a bit, so I'm trying to approach these with a bit of variety. I tend to do some delay swells with a volume pedal, and I'll usually lead a jam per night where a rhythmic delay is the featured sound.

Ultimately, I guess it just depends where your tastes lie as well as the appropriateness to the kind of music you are tackling. I say slap one on your board and experiment a bit. It's not like you have to break the bank to get a killer delay these days.

Good luck, my friend.


Tim Bowen

Except for dead stops and such, I'm a delay-on-most-of-the-time guy. Very subtle mix & repeats, 450-600 ms, is one of my staples. My go-to for general ambience is analog with ample headroom and repeats with very little percussion. Maxon AD-900 is tough to beat for on-all-the-time in this time range.

I also like analog for my short delay time staples. BOSS DM-2 is a fave. I use moderate-to-pronounced doubling occasionally for funky single note riffs, and even for funk scratching chords, with the mix dialed back. Slapback is great for rockabilly and two-steps and all sorts of things.

I keep a digital onboard to augment my analogs. I like digitals with modulation as subtle floaters on top of analogs for the airy stuff, at similar or different delay times.
It's all about the quality of the reverb delay and guitarist . If you have good gear know how to use it properly and good ears you can achieve Alot.

Some session players I see live play on anything usually crap that I cringe at but still get AMAZING sounds.

Note they use the best pickups though.

Makes me jealous lol
The new reverbs definitely can muddy up sound . I had a soldano with tube reverb and my god was that amazing if you guys ever get to hear a soldano disotion with their reverb it's truly amazing to say the least.

I used to do these ambient swelling passages and audiences was blown away every time .

Comes in handy when you aren't feeling it for a ripping solo.


Lots of professionals use subtle delay to make their sound more spacious. Jimmy Page and John Mayer, for example. The Edge and David Gilmour use delay more for effect. You'll find that once you know how to use it, that delay is fantastic effect. If it's making the sound muddy, that's user error. Sometimes I think that they should rename this site, The User Error Page.
I'm saying that it makes the sound of the whole band muddy. I'm talking about a band with several instruments and not a lot of sonic space for guitar. In that case, it just adds sound to the whole mix, but not in a good way.


I'm saying that it makes the sound of the whole band muddy. I'm talking about a band with several instruments and not a lot of sonic space for guitar. In that case, it just adds sound to the whole mix, but not in a good way.
So many examples where that's not the case. But anyone can screw things up, I suppose. Mixing, EQing, and the application of effects is an art that evades many.

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