August 1, 2013

A Brief History of Delay

The history of effects that are used in modern music dates back to the early ages when electro-magnetism was still be worked out and motors still used brushes.  Let’s just say that the delay effect is pretty damn old.  The delay is actually the precursor to many other effects, mainly echo – but the same principal can be used to create flanging and reverb effects.  These days, these effects are produced digitally by machine that can process millions of bits of information a second.  But in the olden days, the concept was very basic and therefore produced through basic means.

It works like this.  You have your live signal which is untouched and clean.  Alongside that signal you another copy of that signal which is ran through a process that either slows it down or speeds it up.  In the case of delay, an electro-static signal is run through a substance, like a liquid or oil – which offers some electrical resistance.  Using this resistance allows that original signal to delay itself from the untouched signal.  When started at the same time, you have created a virtual delay.  Today there is no can of oil that needs to be used for this process, but the idea behind it is still used in almost every digital implementation of it.