The Three Effect Knobs You Can't Live Without

What do you really need in a delay pedal?

While I keep tone discussions fairly basic in the individual song lessons, The Green Room allows me to expand on those ideas so you will start seeing more tone discussions, gear demo's, How-to's, etc.  Before I dive into those posts, I thought I’d give a brief primer on the Delay effect.  We use it on almost every song, but what do you really need to know about it?

The Bare Minimum

Delay pedals can do a lot of things but on the most basic level, they need to take whatever you played and repeat it.  It is a basic feature and requires three controls to make it useful.  They may go by different names but they all make the same adjustments.  If your gear doesn’t allow you to make these adjustments, throw it away and get something that does.  Better yet, throw it in the microwave for an hour.  I've always wondered what would happen.


The first control is the “Level” and it describes the volume of the repeat effect in relationship to the dry signal (your original picked note).  A good pedal will allow you to go from zero volume to at least as loud as your original picked note and many far beyond.


“Feedback” controls the amount of times your original signal is repeated   Generally you should have options as low as one repeat all the way up to infinite.  The infinite thing is cool, but it can get out of hand pretty fast so be careful. 


The third control is the “Time” and it controls the time interval between each repeat.  Most pedals will keep this interval constant but there are others that allow you to speed up or slow down with expression pedals.  With tap tempo or presets, you can match your interval to the tempo of the song by setting 1/4 note, 1/8 note, dotted 8th etc.  While this is a great feature, it’s much more important when your effect level is loud.  In live situations I generally get my time setting in the ballpark and just lower the volume of the repeats.  It creates a nice wash without clashing if the band tempo varies a bit.

The best way to get to know your effects is to play with them in the privacy of your own home so try identifying which one does what and see what kind of effects you can get with them.

Jason Houtsma serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA, Husband to Alli, Father to Bjorn and Asher, and guitar instructor for

The Three Effect Knobs You Can't Live Without

Login to post comments


Dotted Quarter Notes

I've only watched a couple of your lessons so far, but in them when you talk about tone you mention a delay of a "dotted quarter note.". I have a Boss delay pedal with a tap foot switch that allows setting the tempo of the delay. My music theory is some what limited, but the "dotted quarter note" timing you talk about, would that be like tapping my foot switch on "1 - AND" count?

There's a bit of a trick to it

because if you needed to tap past 1 measure the beat changes. It would be like this:

ONE and two AND three and FOUR and / one AND two and THREE and four AND /

Math for dotted delays

If your delay allows you to assign the delay time in milliseconds, there are some simple math formulas to use also if you have a fixed tempo and know what that is (like playing along with click tracks/metronomes).

For dotted 8th delays, the mS needed to dial in to your digital delay is:

delay time in mS = 45000/bpm.

For example you are playing "All Because of Jesus" by Fee, at 136 bpm. This song uses dotted 8th delay, with just a single repeat for feedback on the delay. A dotted 8th can be thought of as 1 and a half 8th notes, which is 3/4 of a quarter note.

45000/136 = 331 mS. That's what you would punch in for your millisecond value.

For a song requiring a quarter note repeat for the delay, the formula is 60000/136= 441 mS.

For a dotted quarter note, that's basically 1 and a half quarter notes, or 1 and a half beats.

The formula for a dotted quarter note repeat would then be (1.5*60000)/bpm, or 75000/bpm and using a bpm of 136, this would be 551 mS

To generalize the formula:

(Percentage or ratio of a quarter note)*(60000 mS/Minute)/(quarter notes/minute).

If you recall how to do unit cancellation from middle school and high school math (the teacher always said there would be real life uses, remember?) all of those unit cancellations of the quarter notes and minutes leaves the answer in milliseconds.

Or, just buy a delay or Multi-FX unit that lets you pre-set the multiplier and tap-in the tempo like the inexpensive Zoom G series, some of the Vox Tonelabs, higher end Digitech units (RP1000 has a handful of multipliers, RP500 and below do not), etc.

Dotted anything - Zoom G-series are cheapest way

The Edge made dotted 8th note delay an expected sound - modern worship music made it essential.

I spent several months trying to find out the cheapest way to get the ability to tap-in tempo with quarter notes or 1/8th notes for 6/8 time, and then have the delay pedal do the hard work of setting the actual delay time with what is called time multiplication.

I also was going non-traditional and wanting this combined with amp simulation, because our sanctuary is small enough that having a real amp on stage simply isn't practical for the levels to be reasonable in the room.

What I found is that the Zoom G-series of multi-fx and amp simulation are the easiest way to be able to dial in a time-multiplier. I bought a G5, which has other very practical features, and an external tap-in pedal that connects to the G5. There are a bunch of time multiplication settings included for nearly any tempo-sync-able effects. At last check these are available: 16th, 1/3 of a quarter note, dotted 16th, 8th, 1/3 of a half note, dotted 8th, quarter, dotted quarter, 2 quarter notes (half note), 3 quarter notes, 4 quarter notes (whole note), 5,6,--16 quarter notes or 4 measures!

You access these multipliers by setting the mS setting knob all the way past 5000 mS and these multipliers show up on the LCD.

My favorite amp sims in this unit are the Two Rock Emerald simulation, and all of the Fender sims.

To get classic 'Edge' sound, set it for dotted 8th, with only 1 or two repeats.

With the two axis pedal (Z-pedal), I set up the level of the delay on the up down axis, and the amount of reverb I add in on the horizontal axis. With the Two Rock sim, my Epiphone Nighthawk Custom Re-issue with it's frankenstrat-o-SG pickup combinations, and delay and reverb in the G5, I can cover just about anything that Bethel or Hillsongs throws at me with one single patch and never reach down to touch the unit for anything during a set.

Delay pedal

Do you have one or two pedals that you would recommend?

I am actually doing a lot of research on that right now

I have used the same delay pedal for years but I don't use tap tempo and in the studio I use software-based delay which isn't practical in a live scenario. Once I've tried a decent amount I will be posting gear demos and reviews shortly which will hopefully answer this question for you. Any particular pedals you want me to try?

Boss GT-100

While trying to replicate various sounds within a set I can only see one way to adjust so many pedals between songs.....that's a multi-effects pedal. I've been using the GT-100 but could always use tips and tricks to make it run better. The thing is like the cockpit of a fighter jet. I know it seems like $500 is a bundle but it's really only 5 individual pedals worth. There is some aftermarket software - the GT-100FxFloorBoard that helps me.....but expert guidance would certainly be appreciated.

I've gotten to play around with one

A student of mine and I actually spent about an hour dialing some tones for him to use in his worship sets. Think something like that could be useful?

Strymon Timeline/Eventide Timefactor

I've always wondered about high-end delay pedals; they obviously have a lot more settings and presets but how often would you end up using them? Is it worth the investment?


A topic I'm looking forward to exploring.

Line 6 HD500x for worship

Just learning how to use this multi-effect unit. learning to love the possibilities with this set up. Seems to work great for worship services. Besides Lincoln Brewster been known to use this one.

pedal review

just wondering about having this as a pedal line up and what you thought of them
electro harmonex soul driver
dyna comp mxr-compression
tc electronic flashback x4 delay
srymon blue sky reverb
and my amp which i probably should have gotten pedals b4 amp is a line 6 spider valve 112

Those are some great pedals.

You've got them in the right order though you might want to play around with where you put the compressor. I'm not really familiar with the line 6 spider. The old ones were pretty bad but from what I've read they've made a lot of changes. How do you like that strymon?

Will do

That's one of the first ones I'm looking at.


That wasn't for me. Getting used to this commenting structure...

Order of pedals

Hey Jason, How about the order of the pedals....Like does Chorus go before Reverb? Where to put the delay and sustain - Noise suppressor.... Oh, how about the proper way to mic the amp! Thanks man, I've been looking forward to your new format.

I've gone over that a little bit

I spent a couple minutes on that in this lesson

But I could definitely stand to get more detailed. I'll be sure to post something on that. Thanks for the input. I've been waiting for this format to as well. Getting to know this community of players on a different level is awesome!

Effects order - I have a blog post on that

Jason, killer site. I love the lessons.

I did a fairly extensive blog post with downloadable diagrams for various setups, whether pedal and amp, multi-fx and amp, or multi-fx and amp simulation (go this way and your sound engineer will love you!)

Great post!

I will start frequenting your blog. Thanks for the shout out as well. :)


Here's a pedal for you to try:
Love listening to Andy at

That looks awesome.

I could definitely stand to get my hands on that one. It's like POG meets the Holy Grail. I'm a big fan of simple pedals that do unique things. Thanks for the tip. I'll definitely check that out.

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler

I've used several, and I've actually gotten the most enjoyment from the Line 6 DL4. It has a ton of delays to mess with from ping-pong to stereo, plus reverse, sweep echoes, and a great tape delay...or my personal favorite the auto-volume echo (combining that with the 18 second looper and you can lay down some awesome swells, with practice even get a serious violin style tone) includes the tap-tempo, as was as independent controls for delay time, repeats, "tweak" "tweez" and "mix" (the latter 3 have various effects depending on which delay model you're using)...the only downside is it does take up more space than the average delay pedal does...but I consider it a standard piece of my rig...especially as an accent to my acoustic work, if you're a soloist, you can really add depth to the general worship song with an echo-delay, just use it sparingly, check out Phil Wickham's "Sing Along" albums for a good example of using delay on a single acoustic

TC Electronics Delay

You've probably already started your research, but I'd like to know what you think about the TC Feedback pedal. I have the cheaper Transitions pedal, but notice there are some better options on the Feedback. The thing I like about these pedals is that they'll give you quarter, eighth, and dotted eighth by just toggling a switch after you've set the tempo. There's also a programmable channel that you program with your smartphone by playing a signal into your pickups on your guitar. Thanks


there are so many pedals that i finally just bought a couple to experiment with and hope there keepers:1) soul food driver 2)flashback x4 delay and 3) strymon blue sky reverb.
problem is I can't seem to get them all figured out in a lineup, and wonder at all if the blue sky is even needed with the flashback x4. couple all this frustration with my line 6 112 tube amp and I'm spending so much time trying to get the right sound. so also i have a mxr dyna comp compression pedal which i put first in the chain then drive then delay then reverb. In your opion which if any should i keep or not and I am currently owner of a new tele select which i changed out the bridge pick up for a lil 59, and thinking about the neck one as well-not sure. would appreciate any of your feedback. I havent even hooked up the line 6 short board yet as I'm electronically challenged. thanks.

Studio Delay Time Trick

During my years as a studio engineer we often needed to find the delay time(s) for a song we were working on. This was before sequencers, midi, etc. I don't think it was mentioned here, but I have one more delay setting trick if your delay pedal will allow you to enter delay time in milliseconds.

If you have a stopwatch on your phone or, golly, if you actually are still wearing a watch these the recording of the song you want to match tempo with. You will be counting 11 quarter note beats.....

So, anywhere in the song....starting counting "one, two, three.....eleven," counting on each consecutive beats. Start your stopwatch on beat "one" and exactly stop it on beat "eleven."

You have effectively timed the length of 10 beats. Look at your stopwatch. The time displayed will be your quarter note delay time in milliseconds.

For example, I picked a song I'm working on that is wonderfully taught by Jason here on this site...."Your Grace Finds Me."

Timing a count from 1 to 11 quarter note beats in that recording, I get a time of 7.90 seconds on my iPhone stopwatch. So a quarter note would be 790ms. Pretty neat.

Delay times

I'm going to try that, sounds simple but at the same time brilliant!

Which Pedal?

Hi Jason! I have been looking at the Boss pedals and the Dispach Master for a good delay pedal. Which one would you recommend? (For good tone, durability, etc.)