Delay is great to play with and incredibly useful, especially when you don’t follow any rules, and just go with what sounds awesome. Last week I talked a bit about the Haas Effect, which is a simple way to use a delay to spread out the stereo image and improve the perception of a sound within the mix, but without any echo effects as are usually associated with delay. This week I’ll take a look at some ways to create new sounds and textures with delay.
With many digital delay plugins, there is an option to repitch the delayed sound as the time is changed. This effect is, of course, from the tape delay used in these plugins are modelled on. This effect can be used to change the pitch as the delay time is adjusted throughout the track. I use this to increase tension, as the delay changes speed and thus pitch into a transition within the track. Because the pitch change is based on time, the resultant frequencies are often not harmonic, or in key, with the rest of the track, but for a few beats or bars, and on key sounds in specific places, this technique is incredibly useful for piquing interest and adding flavour to the track.
Some of my favourite plugins are the delay-based Glitch Machines devices. I find myself going back to Hysteresis, Fracture, and Convex, for nearly every track I produce. All of these plugins are fantastic for glitchy delays and aural artefacts that can be changed in time. Convex is particularly useful in this way, with extensive LFO and envelope banks. Not only will they produce delays, but we can also use these plugins to change the pitch of some echoes, use reversed sections of the original audio, change the grain size that is echoed, and of course modify each parameter with an LFO or a repeating envelope. I will use these effects sparingly on main track elements, and heavily on background elements, adding some additional interest and randomness.
As for delay return tracks, I do use one for some builds to increase tension or allow a sound to naturally fall out of the mix, but I primarily set up each delayed sound with its own delay parameters; increasing the complexity of all the subtle and primary delay elements by allowing them to create their own micro-rhythms and strange artefacts created with multiple release times and feedback settings.