Delay is practically as old as modern pop music. Its origins lie in the reel-to-reel tape loop experiments of musique concrète pioneer Pierre Schaeffer during the 1940s, and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Elektronische Musik” of the 1950s and 1960s. But it wasn’t until the late 1950s, when Ray Butts’ EchoSonic—a small amplifier equipped with tape echo—and the Echoplex arrived, that delay began entering mainstream recording.
With the Echoplex, a player recorded a guitar track, and the tape would loop it back so that a guitarist or keyboardist could play over top it again at variable speeds. Similar units, like the Roland Space Echo, were widely used throughout the late 1950s and into the 1960s and 1970s. Then, of course, came analogue pedals, then digital ones, and eventually an almost limitless variety of software delays.
While there are many creative ways to use delay in music, our task today is to explore five of them: on guitars, percussion beats, hi-hats, synths, and basslines. We’ll use iZotope’s DDLY plug-in to add delay to our tracks (download a free 10-day demo or buy it for $49).