How to Add Texture and Depth with Delay Time Modulation

Hey, folks! Matthew Weiss here —,, and

I just did an EDM mixthru. It’s really cool, I hope you guys check it out, and it inspired me to do a tutorial that’s a little different. It’s going to be on sound design, so first I’m going to show you a cool little trick. Then I’m going to give you a practical example of how that might work in say, like, a mix scenario.

So, we’ve got this snare here.

[snare drum]

And I’m going to put a delay on it. So we’re just going to do a really simple delay here. I’m going to do a mono delay. Right in the middle here. I’ll do a little bit of feedback. Turn the mix level down…

It sounds like this.

[snare with delay]

Right? Pretty straight forward here.

[snare with delay]

Okay, so now, what I’m going to do is add some modulation, and I’m going to link it to the delay time.

So let me explain what’s going on here. This is what’s called an LFO. It’s a Low Frequency Oscillator. If you’re not familiar with the term, it might sound weird to you, but the way you can think of it is – picture this as if it were a MIDI controller or a controller of some sort where you have a bunch of knobs.

The oscillator is going to be like a robotic hand, and you assign it to a knob, and it’s going to turn that knob back and forth. It’s going to oscillate, right? And it’s going to oscillate at a certain time, and it’s going to turn the knob a certain depth, and those are the parameters that we’re going to control.

That can happen for any kind of parameter, so in this particular case, we’re taking the delay time, and we’re slowing it down, and then speeding it up, and then speeding it up, and slowing it down. Back and forth, right?

So, I’ve got these linked, and what I’m going to do is I’m going to turn this on all of the way. This little delay offset bar here. What this means is that I’m going to go the entire range of the knob as I oscillate this, and instead of oscillating up, then back, I’m actually going to reverse the order.

So I’m going to slow it down, and then speed it up.

[snare with modulated delay]

Interesting, right?

[snare with modulated delay]

So what this does is it causes the pitch of the delays to change, because it’s as if you’re slowing down and speeding up a record as it’s being played back. It’s the same sort of idea.

So, the pitch of what’s coming out is going to modulate.
And you can play with these controls and get different results. So if I turn the oscillation speed up, which you can see in this little bar here, it’s like I’m doing this, but the entire range of the whole knob.

Sound familiar? It’s like scratching a record, right? Because that’s what you’re doing when you’re scratching a record. You’re pushing it forward and moving it back very quickly.

[snare with modulated delay]

And there it sounds like the tape-stop effect, because that’s effectively what I’m doing, right? I’m taking the record and I’m slowing it down.

And so, this can be a really useful technique in terms of getting special effects like what I just did, or you can use it in a more practical example, and I’ll show you that real quick here with this lead synth.

So, here’s a lead synth with just a regular old delay, no modulation on it.

[synth with delay]

Right? It sounds good.

Here’s the same delay, but with some modulation on it.

[synth with modulated delay]

And you can hear a little bit of that distune happening in the very tail where it’s exposed, right?

[synth with modulated delay]

You hear a little bit of that wiggling of the pitch.


What I like about it is that by wiggling the pitch a little bit, it causes some kind of a time and pitch distortion between the delayed signal and the dry signal, and to me, it creates a sense of texture and of depth, and it also thickens the sound a little bit, because it has almost a kind of chorusing effect, and in this case, I’m actually modulating the two sides, because it’s two taps going on: a left and a right.

I’m modulating them – as I’m turning one down, I’m turning the other up. So it’s kind of doing this – as opposed to doing this – if that makes sense.

So what ends up happening is the pitch on the left side is detuning down, and the pitch on the right side is tuning up. So it ends up creating a slightly wider sound as well.

So let’s listen to that real quick…


Right? It’s subtle, but it kind of has a more alive feel to it, and that’s why I like it!

By the way, you don’t need the FabFilter Timeless in order to do this. I like the FabFilter Timeless because I like the set of controls it gives me and how easily I can do this and automate it, but you can do this with any delay that allows you to automate the delay time. You just need to move within a very small amount to get the effect that I showed – or a big amount depending on what you’re trying to do, and sometimes, that’s even better, because you can customize it exactly how you want. The key is you can – as long as you can do draw automation to the delay time, you can make this effect happen.

So I hope that you learned something. I think this is a really cool part of sound design and something that can be useful when you’re trying to create delays that are a little bit more sophisticated and interesting than just straight-shot, multi-tap delays. But yeah, have fun! This is what it’s about. Having fun.

Alright, until next time, guys.

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch:
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