Dotted-Eighth Rhythmic Repeats
Guitarists like Eddie Van Halen, the Edge, and David Gilmour took delays to new heights by making them an integral part of compositions like Van Halen’s “Cathedral,” U2’s “Where the Streets have No Name,” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1.” They popularized a trick using dotted-eighth-note delay repeats to create the illusion that they were playing more notes—and faster—than they really were.

Delays such as the Line 6 Echo Park feature dotted-eighthnote modes that make it a cinch to create rhythmic parts in the style of U2’s the Edge or Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.
To do this, set your delay to repeat everything you play a dotted-eighth-note (three 16ths) after you play the original note, and then pluck continuous eighth-notes. After the delay’s initial entrance on the last 16th of the first beat, it will fill in the second and fourth 16th-note of every successive beat—as long as you continue to play eighth-notes (newly picked notes will cover the first and third 16th of every beat). To make this sound as natural as possible, set your delay pedal’s Level knob all the way up so it matches the volume of the original signal, and try to keep the notes as precise and short as you can to avoid having a picked note overlap with a delayed note.

Some delays, such as the Line 6 Echo Park, have rhythmic subdivision modes built in, so dotted-eighth repeats won’t be a problem to set up. However, if your delay doesn’t offer subdivisions, you’ll have to do some math to get the Time setting right. Here, again, the “Calculating MS fromBPM” sidebar will be a big help.

Delay as Harmonizer
If you want to play twin-guitar harmony parts à la Iron Maiden or the Allman Brothers but are the only guitarist in your band, you can use a delay to create a similar feel. This tends to work best when you’re playing parts that are pre-composed rather than improvised, because the harmony line has to match the contour and rhythm of the original line. Unless you have a flawless, photographic memory and can recall and harmonize improvised passages in real time, it’s very difficult to do off the cuff. You’ll have more luck with worked-out phrases that are rhythmically consistent and predictable, like the repeating, arpeggiated climax to the solo in the Eagles’ “Hotel California.” This type of simple figure is easier to follow and harmonize than something rhythmically complex, too.

One caveat with using a delay to perform harmonized lines is that you won’t be able to easily start both parts simultaneously. You might try using a volume pedal to mute the opening line and bring the volume up when the harmony begins, but the more common approach is to just start a line and opt for a staggered entrance of the harmony line. In fact, some songs were written with staggered harmony parts. For instance, the intro to Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” has a built-in layered entrance of a harmonized line and can be pulled off by a single guitarist using a delay pedal.

If you’re new to harmonizing, here’s a quick overview on creating harmony parts. Typically, the intervals of a harmony part are fixed (i.e., the part uses the same interval, shifting between its major or minor form to accommodate diatonic notes) throughout the duration of the line, with thirds and sixths being the most common choices (although fourths, fifths, and octaves are also frequently employed). Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and different intervals can be used throughout a line. For a more in-depth exploration of harmonized lines, consult a book such as A Player’s Guide to Chords and Harmony: Music Theory for Real-World Musicians by Jim Aikin or David Baker’s Arranging and Composing for the Small Ensemble: Jazz, R&B, Jazz Rock, an advanced workbook with a forward by Quincy Jones.