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1 minute 32 seconds
Artist website: www.facebook.com/nunorocks
What makes this video great?
- cool Rimsky-Korsakov inspired piece
- creative use of delay effect
- combination of different playing techniques
- diminished 7th arpeggios
What can you learn from the article?
- how the "delay trick" works
- other players who used delay creatively
- how to calculate delay times
- source of Nuno Bettencourt confirming his use of delay on this track
Takeaway: Delay is one of the most commonly used effects for guitarists. Therefore it's important to know how to use it effectively. While most modern units help you set-up your repeated notes so they fall into a rhythmic subdivision automatically, it helps to understand the formula behind it.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 8 seconds
The Good Ol' Delay Trick
A delay effect is one of the most common used effects for a guitarist. Many players use it to fatten up their lead sounds. However, when you start to increase the delay time parameter, you can also use it to add a more pronounced echo effect which allows you to play with/against yourself.
The following guitarists are known for either having used the technique or using it all the time:
- Brian May
- Yngwie Malmsteen
- Eddie Van Halen
- The Edge from U2
Set-up The Delay To Be In Time With Your Song
To get the best, most useful effect, set-up your delay so that it repeats the notes as a subdivision related to the tempo of your song. This way the additional notes are integrated into the song and the effect is more musical.
Let's say you configure the delay to repeat what you play a 16th note later. Now you only need to play 8th notes while the end result is a constant stream of 16th notes. So the delay would do 50% of the work for you. Nothing wrong with that, right? After all, that's what tools are here for.
But how do you know which settings to use?
The Science/Math For The Trick
Almost all modern delay units (VST plugins in the digital realm or hardware stomp boxes) have a mode that does the calculation for you. You simply either tap in the tempo or set it in the settings as BPM, choose what sub-division you'd like to get and the delay unit does the rest.
If your device does not have that automatic option, you can still achieve the effect. It's just slightly inconvenient and you'll have to do a quick calculation before entering your settings manually.
Here's how it works...
Tempo is measured in BPM meaning beats per minute. So for instance, 134 bpm equals 134 beats per minute. If 134 beats take 60 seconds, then 1 beat takes 134th of the time.
60/tempo = length of one beat in seconds
Lets stay with our 134 BPM example.
60 seconds/134 = 0.447 seconds = 447ms. Now you know the duration of one beat at this tempo. An 8th note is half of that (224ms), a 16th is a quarter of the value (112ms), an 8th note triplet is a third (149ms) etc.
Our "Flight Of The Wounded Bumblebee" is much more manageable now. It still has its challenges (to get it clean sounding, memorizing the chromaticism patterns, switching between playing techniques) - but again, it's manageable.
No-Delay Note-For-Note Transcription
The crazy thing is, there was a "note-for-note" transcription by Dave Whitehill in the January 1991 issue of "Guitar School" magazine as if played without delay.
I bet there were a lot of people extremely frustrated because they couldn't learn the piece. Although some very dedicated people might have even managed to play the piece despite the increased difficulty. Kudos to them.
Nuno himself confirmed the use of a delay in an interview/workshop. Here's what he had to say:
I saw Whitehill's transcription. It was really on the money, but the thing is, I didn't literally play every single note you hear. I used a digital delay for the part you're talking about. All I actually did is this [performs Figure 10], the delay fills in the rest.
January 1992 issue of Guitar World magazin, p. 66
So when you do want to add this solo piece to your repertoire make sure to use a delay. After all, that's how Nuno did it, too. 🙂
How Do You Use Delay?
How do you like to use a delay? As an addition to your lead sound or do you use it for rhythmic/textural effects as well? Please share your ideas and favourite ways of use in the comment section below.