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130406_tape delay ableton_004

So I’ve some catching up to do. My hand is healed and I’ve been making up for lost time. I’ve got a lot to account for. New workflow ideas, new gear, not enough actual music-making, and even less thinking about what I’ve made and what to do with it. It’s that last part that usually leads to posts here, and I just haven’t been contemplative with my work much this year.

For now, I wanted to post a simple thing that came from a happy accident, that actually came from a lot of thinking and working out kinks. This began several weeks ago when I was looking for a good way to replicate the wonderful degrading delay feedback of the Strymon El Capistan, but with software. Basically, searching for a way to emulate a tape delay in plug-ins. There are a lot of plug-ins that purport to do this, and some of them do it well. But it was a post on the Muffwiggler forum from Andreas Wetterberg that got things moving where he suggested a string of Ableton’s built-in effects. I slapped my forehead and scolded myself for not thinking modularly in the first place. There’s so much that can be done with the stuff I already have. Why throw money at a VST solution, especially when these things come with iLoks and other limitations?

The chain I ended up with, Ping Pong Delay > Utility > Saturator > EQ Eight, is pretty similar to the one he suggested, with a few tweaks.

bb tape delay

The EQ Eight, in particular, really brings some game to the rack. It’s like a tone knob on a delay pedal, but much more powerful. In fact it’s made me wonder how I might replicate this with hardware. I know the answer is to have a dedicated EQ pedal or, better yet, a 500 series rack unit. One thing I would like to spend some time doing is rearranging the effects in the rack. For example, running the EQ before the delay, or before the saturator. In addition, any number of effects could replace the Saturator with interesting results. Try Erosion, Redux, Dynamic Tube, Amp or even something not built into Live, like Uhbik’s Runciter.

Now the trick with this effects chain is to put it on a return track in Ableton, not as an insert effect. Then you control-click the send of the return track in order to utilize the feedback that this creates. You still get the delay without this last step, but it’s a nice safe delay. With the ‘send’ of the return enabled, it feedbacks on itself. (You’ll see what I mean when you listen to the track below.)

So fast forward a couple of weeks. I was going through some files that I’d saved off of my guitar looper. (Do you have this problem? Where you keep saving loops and copying them to your hard drive but rarely ever actually end up using them?) I had one file that was made one day when I had the looper on and tested to make sure my pedal chain was working. It’s just a single pluck of each of the A, D, and B strings. This was put on a track with a ‘send’ to the tape delay enabled. I controlled the various parameters of the effect chain as well as the return track’s feedback via the ‘send’ knob, and I got something surprisingly good.

It’s an easy rack to put together, but if you like you can download it here. Have fun.

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