Creating your own sound is akin to putting your own twist on a classic recipe. A lot of this, a little of that, and hopefully you come up with something tasty. One option I believe we don’t explore enough is combining multiple versions of our favorite sounds. The following examples illustrate a few possibilities of this sonic layering technique.
I generally use three delays in my rig: a single
repeat short digital delay (175-350 ms) for
solos, an analog delay (350-500 ms) with a
few repeats for clean sounds, and a long tape
delay (500 ms or more) with piles of feedback
for ballad solos and effects. The wet/dry mixes
range from 15 percent on the short delay, to
as much as 70 percent on the long delay.
Each delay is fine on its own, but if you combine two units, you can create polyrhythms.
Or use all three delays with a volume pedal for
orchestral swells. (Using multiple delays yields
richer sounds than you can get with a single
tapped delay.) To explore different textures,
experiment with the order of which delay
feeds the next. Try running all the delays into
a looper to create an ambient backdrop.
You could connect everything in mono, but
this multi-delay technique really takes on a
new dimension in stereo. That said, unless
your delay is true stereo, you probably have a
dry output and a wet output, so for flexibility,
use a mixer—ART and RJM make great ones
small enough to mount on your pedalboard. Take the first delay’s wet output
and feed it to the next delay unit. From the
second delay, the wet output feeds the first
input on the mixer. The dry out feeds the third
delay, and both of the third delay’s outs go to
the mixer. You can now pan the delays on the
mixer as you like, then route the mixer’s outs
to your amps. The cool thing about this setup
is that your delay units can feed each mixer
output as opposed to many stereo setups,
which only route the dry signal to one side
and the wet to the other.
Want a great Leslie sound? My multi-unit combination includes a rotary effect with controls
for EQ, overdrive, and horn and drum speeds,
a phaser for a Doppler effect, a slow chorus
for swirl, and—if you’re not using an expression pedal to control the rate on the rotary
unit—an optional vibrato effect for warble.
Most rotary pedals have two outs: Hi
for the horn and Low for the rotor drum. In my
setup, Hi feeds the phaser and Low feeds the
chorus. One of the stereo outs from the chorus
feeds the vibrato unit. The rotary is 100 percent wet; the other pedals are mixed to taste.
Depending on the result you want, you can set
the rotary to a fixed speed, or use an expression pedal to vary the speed. (See the April
2010 "Guitar Tracks" for more details.) I usually
set the phase at a lower depth and higher rate,
while my chorus is the opposite. My vibrato is
usually set at a really high speed and medium
depth with a lower overall volume.
For many players, the coolest and most desirable chorus is the Dyno-My-Piano Tri-Stereo
chorus. It uses multiple independent speeds
and depths to create a non-static, super-broad
sound. But by combining multiple chorus pedals with short "doubling" delays and pitch
change or detune effects, you can go well
beyond this to create sounds that would make
the Cocteau Twins smile … well, almost smile.
Here’s how to route your effects:
The stereo out from the first chorus hits two
more choruses, one on each output, and
these also split out to stereo and feed a mixer.
Each chorus should be set differently from the
others. For chorus effects, the general rule is
the lower the rate, the higher the depth. From
the stereo mixer, one side feeds a pitch shifter
(10 percent wet) while the other side remains
unaffected. Feeding all of this to delay or
reverb units creates a lovely, lush tone.
When combining effects, my preference is to
not stack the same make and model of pedal or
processor. Different manufacturers use different
components and designs, and these variations
offer more sonic dimension than you’d get using
several identical units. This principle applies
whether you layer pedals, plug-ins, floor processors, or rack processors.
Sweetwater Sales Engineer Robert Williams has terminal
G.A.S. He also has years of experience as a guitarist,
engineer, video editor, and broadcast automation integrator
at sites across North America and the UK. Contact him at
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