Delay Trails 1 TonePrint by Lee Ranaldo

I use delays in many contexts, mostly for single note lines but also to mass up minimalist, repetative textures of overlapping notes. This is a warm sounding analog delay similar to the Ibanez AT80 which I've has played over the years. I've added a controllable chorus mix to the effect.


Sound examples by Soren Andersen

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TC: Who inspired you over the years when you were creating your own personal guitar tone? Lee: Lots of different people. Early loves would definitely be the Beatles and Keith Richards, a lot of acoustic guitar players from the 60s like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Steve Stills and David Crosby. As to electric guitar players, I would definitely have to put Jerry Garcia in there and people from New York City like Tom Verlaine - him especially when we’re talking about tone. Every once in a while you just hear someone whose guitar just has the most amazing tone and Tom Verlaine is a player like that. This guy named Mark Rebow who plays with a lot of different people, he’s a player like that too. He’s an amazing player, but he is also one that just gets incredible tones out of his guitar. James Damascus from Dinosaur Jr. for a certain kind of tone - a kind of knarly tone. I would put Thurston and Kim from Sonic Youth in there too. Also John Fahey and Leo Kottke when it comes to the acoustic side.

TC: What are the main ingredients in your tone in terms of effects (e.g. chorus, flanger, delay, etc.)? Lee: Well, we worked on the Flashback Delay pedal, and I would say that a delay pedal is probably the single main ingredient in what I use. I use overdrive and distortion boxes, but if I had to pick one pedal that I couldn’t live without it would be delay pedals. A couple of particular ones that I use a lot – I don’t know if I should mention them – the MoogerFooger, but mostly I use the Ibanez 88 or 8080 or 89 – there’s a couple of different ones, short analog delay pedals, and I use this DOD 2 second delay. This thing, the Flashback Delay can do a lot of those things that the pedals I use regularly can do, but up until now, they are pretty much the pedals I’ve used. Delay pedals and certain kind of overdrive pedals. I use one that is handmade in Sweden called the HoneyBee, a little gold box that’s one of my favorites for overdrive. I also use an old Hughes & Kettner 2 switch overdrive that is really cool. They are the ones I use a lot.

TC: Have you ever been so inspired by a tone you created that you ended up writing a tune based on ideas triggered by that specific tone? Lee: That happens for us all the time because we’re playing in different tunings. This tuning here I’ve played with for a little bit. There are lots of C’s and G’s, a lot of unison notes. We sit down and start listening to the tone, especially playing with the feedback controls, and we start to get something happening on the controls and just immediately start playing something that goes with it. So I would say: that happens all the time since we are working a lot with guitar texture and less traditional rhythmic structures. We’re always writing songs around a sound, a certain guitar with a certain combination of effects has a sound and we’ll use it and write a song about it.

TC: Do you work on developing your tone continuously, or do you feel that you have found a fundamental tone that will last throughout your career? Lee: I feel it’s a combination of the two. I definitely feel I’ve found some tones that are ‘my voice’, what I like out of a guitar and pickups. But I tend to feel like I’m always looking for new and interesting tones. I’ve been playing the same kind of guitars for a long time, so recently I’ve picked up some different instruments made by different companies and I’m finding I’m getting other kinds of tones out of them, that I haven’t played around with too much before. For me it’s definitely cool to both have something that I feel is a home base tone-wise and be able to feel like I can still push it in different directions.

TC: What inspired you when you created your TonePrint(s)? Lee: What inspired me is the kind of things I would like to hear out of a delay pedal starting with a particular tuning and starting to play a particular thing. I just start playing something with a lot of delay and overlays, and thinking about something like Fripp and Eno’s ‘No Pussy Footing’ records or something like that, where they are just getting lot of heavy delay tones and using it almost to shape and create a piece. This is a particular kind of sound and you can’t play anything that’s too rapid with a sound that’s got that long and complicated delay. Definitely we’ll work something around that particular patch.

TC: Normally, do you prefer having access to many parameters, or do you like simple pedals with just a few knobs better? Lee: Normally, I don’t think about combining a delay tone with choruses and vibratoes. We were playing around a little bit with that, like adding in some chorusey stuff and some vibrato stuff. There’s definitely some cool stuff in there that could be worked on further.

TC: And these effects are only applied to the delays itself? Lee: You are getting a clean sound underneath the first sound, so you’re not loosing some of that articulation so it’s kind of layered on top of it. I kind of like that too, that you keep the clean sound right on the surface. One of the knobs is designed to mix in the sweep of the chorus, so you can control exactly how much of the wet chorus sound you want on the delay itself.

TC: How come you signed up for creating your own personal TonePrint(s)? Lee: It’s an area of electric guitar sound that I’m interested in, you know, the idea of playing around with it in a particular way. Mostly, when I use simple basic pedals that are kind of: I ask them to do one thing – and that’s all I really want them to do – I mean: this pedal can do a lot of different things, and probably, if I were to use this pedal, I’d probably find a few things that I liked in it, and that’s all I would use it for, but the fact that it’s got all these different capabilities, different players can find the things that are good for them in it.

TC: In your opinion, what is the single coolest thing about TonePrints? Lee: Well, I think the single coolest thing about it is, that as a player at home, you can download patches that different players make. Maybe some you admire, or whose sound you like. When you’re a guitar player, you learn other peoples songs, you learn their changes, but in this case you’ll also be able to play around with their sound patterns. I think one of the coolest things about it is the fact that it has this added aspect that you can grab stuff off the net and download it right into the pedal and work with it.

TC: How does this TonePrint fit into your current sound and setup? Lee: Well, I’m writing songs for a solo record right now, so I’m looking for different sounds and different kinds of things to do and I have some friends of mine who asked me to do some collaborative work with them. So maybe something that we’ve done today will lead to something I can give to them and see if they can do something on top of it.

TC: How did you go about creating this specific TonePrint? Lee: We sat together and just went about it by ear, looking for what sounded good and if it didn’t sound good, we tried something else. I was asking for different things and you were manning the computer and we found a couple of things that we liked, went down some roads we didn’t like, came back and went down some other roads until we found something that we were really happy with.

Read more about Lee Ranaldo

Flashback Delay