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Defined as the distinct repetition of sound, dedicated delay effects were first seen in recording studios in the 1950s in the shape of cumbersome tape-echo units that used actual reels of magnetic tape (just like an old audio cassette) to record and play back sound.
Solid-state technology brought delay to a more practical stompbox format in the 1970s. Although the most common delays these days are digital, many replicate the natural warmth and grain of much-loved early tape echoes and analogue delay pedals.
Common delay sounds in rock and pop music range from short ‘slapback’ echo effects to multiple repeats with a long decay. Slapback sounds are synonymous with 1950s rock ’n’ roll and rockabilly (think Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley or anything by Brian Setzer), while examples of delay with multiple repeats range from the signature chime of The Edge’s dotted eighth-notes in U2, to the epic widescreen guitars of post-rock bands such as Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky.