Tape Delay on YouTube.
Hi, welcome to the first episode of a new series called “Thinking Outside the Box”, focusing on music production techniques in the analog world. In the video, we’re going to talk about how to create tape delay with a simple semi-professionel reel-to-reel tape machine using a digital signal from the DAW.
Tape delay has been around since the dawn of tape recording and its invention cannot be possibly pinpoint to a single pioneer. However, I can cite many early adopters including Jimmy Page and David Gilmour respectively using two of the most popular tape delay devices on the market: the Echoplex and the Binson Echorec.
Although the Echoplex was famous for its preamp and was used by many guitarist as a signal booster, the unit had a single loop of tape with movable record and play heads in order to alter the delay time. Whereas, the Echorec had four different tape loops in parallel allowing for intricate rhythmic patterns of echoes but a single speed variable for all loops.
So how does one create tape delay with a reel-to-reel? We have two important variables to take into account when calculating the delay time: the speed of the tape and the distance between the record and play heads on the actual machine. The math is then trivial; divide the distance between the heads by the tape speed to find the delay time. For example, if the heads are spaced 7.5 inches apart from each other and the machine is set at 7.5 ips, then the delay time will be 1 second.
Of course if you have a varispeed control, you can further adjust the delay time to suit your project tempo or needs manually.
To find out more about tape delay using a tape machine, you can watch the video above or on YouTube here.