Last year, I became fond of a popular
techno technique for keeping a simple,
repetitive riff interesting: using dramatic
delays as the part evolves over the course
of a track.
This trick is so effective that it can be
used in a wide variety of contexts. For
example, [renowned producer] Wolfgang
Gartner and I used it to enhance the
lead in our Toolroom release, “Yin.” A
few months later, I revisited the
technique in a much more obvious way
for my remix of Josh Gabriel and Dave
A bunch of people have asked me how
it was done, so this month I’m ripping away
the curtain and delivering the goods on this
handy little maneuver. Click here for an audio example of the progression from steps 1 through 4.
Step 1. Create a stabby lead patch to be the highlighted sound in your track, then create
a simple repetitive pattern with a bit of syncopation. The key here is leaving enough
space to hear the results of the delay effect. Too many events (e.g., a sixteenth-note
pattern), and the delay will be masked by the notes.
Step 2. Create three effects returns.
Each will host a different delay.
Step 3. The first delay should be quite short: 40–80ms. The second delay should be a bit longer, in
the 100–150ms range, without being too obviously synced. The third delay should be tempo-synced
with some syncopation, like dotted eighth-notes.
Step 4. Once you have your delays set up, let the sequence play for a minute or so. If you have a control surface (a Korg NanoKontrol or something similar), you can
“play in” the automation moves and record the results. Otherwise, you can use a mouse for the sends, or just draw the automation by hand. Once you have a pass or
two that you like, just edit and arrange as needed.