Alright, so enough of all this ‘new ambient album’ and ‘actually creating music with the gear you have’ junk. Time to get back to what’s really important. And that is delay.

It rules guitarists with an iron fist. It is their mistress, and it is their haunted soul. At night, if the settings weren’t quite right at the gig, it rouses them violently from sleep with torment in their souls. (That part’s true.) Kingdoms (of tone) rise and fall and bend to its will. It is the siren. It is the dryad. It is the beautiful cruelty. It is delay.

And you can get them for cheap, which is even better! Enter the mistress Arion. Back in the ’80′s, they made these gloriously lush analog circuits that sounded better than almost anything else out there, and then housed them in the cheapest plastic boxes they could find. And here’s the thing…they are pretty much the secret to ambient swells. Now, this post may bore some of you, and if so, I humbly offer you the video at the bottom of this post. But here’s the serious thing: this blog has kind of become a circus of self-promotion the last few days (or at least it feels like it to me…I’m stoked to finally be able to release an album of my music, but at the same time…it kind of feels gross to mention it; and good…it’s very odd), and so I really wanted to work hard on a post that mattered, and might be of some help to a few people. And as requests continually come in as to what pedal settings you need to do ambient swells and ambient music, I figured that’d be a good place to start. So this will be part 1 of creating ambient music, and we’re going to start with the basics. Ambient swells, two delays, and a phaser.

The Basics

A digital delay capable of at least 1 second of delay time, and a volume knob.

The Secrets

A washy phaser before the delay, and a fast-set, dark analog delay after the delay.

The Extra Love

A Multi-tap fast setting spacious delay after the first digital delay, a volume pedal, and, if not deemed overused yet, a reverb pedal with a shimmer setting. And a Hartman Germanium Fuzz. :)

And How to Do Ambient Swells:

That’s pretty much all you need, at the basic level. Obviously, there are eventual embellishments. But that’s for later videos. In this video, you can hear how the Arion pedals, more specifically the SAD-1, just inject magic onto the ends of the swells. Part 2 will be coming soon, and it will deal with the chord voicings to create ambient music. For now, we’re dealing with the basic building blocks you will need for those chords. And in case you missed them, here are the pedal’s ambient settings. These, as well as the stuff I did in the video, are by no means the only way to do ambient music, or even swells. Everyone’s ears, tastes, hands, and gear are different. These might be good to use as a launching board for your own creativity. :)

Boss DD20 Ambient Swell Setting:

Arion SAD-1 Ambient Wash Setting:

Arion SPH-1 Ambient Setting:

Damage Control Timeline Ambient Background Multitap Setting:

Behringer RV600 Ambient Shimmer Setting (for use within a parallel looper):

(And on this one, if you don’t use it in a parallel looper, just turn the mix down to taste.)

Hopefully this will be somewhat of a help in creating ambient music. And more importantly, in buying, using, playing…and loving…delay.


P.S. Alright for those of you, who either hate ambient swells and delay (meaning you pretty much hate life ;) ), or you’re way past all of this, or you actually read the whole post and got to this place……we live in a physical world, and in that physical world, somehow, this video exists:

Best part is 2:35. So matter-of-fact.

P.S.S. (Yes, I know.) I promised I would give the real reason for working so hard to release an album. And it is this:

This is Edge. (It’s frightening to think how many things in my life he is the reason for.) When he was 26, he released this:

I turn 27 next week. I needed something. Anything. So I worked my keyster (what is going on) off to release this:

…at the same age Edge released Joshua Tree. So this is my Joshua Tree. Please listen to my Joshua Tree to make me feel better:

Karl’s Joshua Tree

Thus far, Edge’s Joshua Tree has outsold mine by 99.9713%. But I didn’t use a compressor pedal on the album, so I think that makes us about even. In my mind. Which is all that matters. But still…listen to the album, and together we can make take that number down to 99.9712%. I believe it can happen.

And this has probably been the saddest thing I have ever written. Except that I mentioned The Joshua Tree, which just made me turn it on, and the world is somehow magically all better within 3 seconds of that first swelled D chord. :D

This also makes my world magically better:

The Joshua Tree for guitarists.