Reverb and Delay


Have you ever been inside a cave or a large empty room and noticed how “alive” every sound is? Ever been impressed how good even your bad voice sounds in the bathroom? Why do you think everyone sings in the shower? What you’re hearing is the effect of Reverberation and paired with Delay they are the perfect partners to boost your tone and make you sound awesome! Let’s find out more about these two must-have effects.

Reverberation, or reverb for short is the persistence of sound well after the initial sound source has diminished. To put it more plainly, when a sound is made in a confined space and is allow to rebound of surfaces freely, you will hear the original sound reflected back to you in an ever decreasing amount until the total amount of sound has been absorbed by the wall material etc. When the complete source tone is not returned totally, this is called reverb (when it’s returned in its entirety it is known as delay – but we’ll talk about his later) and is a very desirable effect for most instruments especially voices and guitars. Bass instruments are the exception because if reverb is applied to bass instruments they can sound muddy because of the cacophony of low frequencies combine to create a bass soup!

Sounds without reverb or delay effects are referred to as dry signals and of course they are wet when they are applied. The tonal landscape changes dramatically when you use reverb because it starts to sound more real and natural and it rounds out the edges of your sound and makes it just a little loose and more pleasing to the ear. Reverb is especially effective when you apply it to distorted sounds. It will even out your sound and highlight your overtones.

Reverb is available to us as musicians in 2 distinctly different mediums. First there is Digital Reverb – this is where the reverb is simulated through circuits (digital reverb) and the second is delivered via either springs in a box or a plate that resonate the sound waves fed into them to create a reverb sound (analogue reverb). There are various types of reverb but the 5 main ones are:

These are considered better for guitarist because they seem to emulate a truer reverb sound than a digital simulation, but for other instruments including vocalists, digital can work just fine.


Let’s go back to that cave again….. have you ever been in a cave or an empty building and called out? If you yelled “HELLO” it would go HELLO….HELLO…HELLO…HELLO…. What you’re hearing is called delay! The sound of your voice is bouncing of the walls, glass, cave walls whatever – and it is being returned to your ears as a complete signal (all the sound frequencies) but in a less audible amount each time. It is in many ways very similar to the reflected sound of reverb but delay is delivering a complete tone source to your ears rather than the incomplete source of reverb.

Delay has 3 main parameters

Delay Time – how long between sounds (usually shown in milliseconds {ms})
Feedback – the number of times you will hear the repeat
Level – How loud the repeats will be
Modern digital delays have tap tempo (where you can tap a time for the repeats while you’re playing), hold (holds the delay indefinitely until you release the switch) and other cool little extras that can come in handy. All this came from the early days of effects where a small piece of magnetic tape (similar to the tape used in cassette tapes) was spliced together into a endless circle and ran over 3-4 recording heads. Some of these devices adjusted delay time by adjusting the distance between the playback and record heads and others used fixed heads and adjustable tape speeds. The sound was repeated as the tape rolled over each of the heads creating a delay effect known as a “Tape Delay”. This was based on the technology of the time and was called analogue delay.

Many players today still prefer the sound of an analogue delay over a digital delay. They like the smoother, less clinical sound of the old style unit and while there are practically no players out there using a tape style unit for playing live the pedal manufactures jumped on the guitarists preferences and developed a device that reproduces the sounds of the analogue delay and to their credit – they did an excellent job, they sound very much like they did back in the late 60’s……..

So, in the wash up – when you combine reverb AND delay you get a match made in heaven! These two effects are pretty much the cornerstone of sound effects and while there are countless others, these two are definitely the place to start. Now you know what they are and how they work, you can experiment to get a tone you may not have thought possible. Best of luck.