Delay Settings For Lead Guitar – The Best Settings

Delay and lead guitar go together beautifully because it gives your lead guitar part the real estate that it needs and deserves during a key moment in a song like a solo. Even if it’s subtle to the point that you might not even notice it, your favorite lead guitar parts likely have SOME delay on them. Lead guitar delay can be used to thicken the guitar part with subtlety or it can be completely take over the mix, depending on what the part calls for.

Let’s cover a few lead guitar delay setups which you can dial into any delay plugin in your mix to perfectly suit and enhance your lead guitar part.

Delay Settings for Lead Guitar

Delay Settings for Lead Guitar

When we talk about lead guitar delay, there are four main delay settings which are especially driving the sound.


The time or note setting on lead guitar delay relates to the amount of time, measured in time or linked to the BPM of your song, respectively, before the delayed signal is heard.

While you can set it to a specific time in milliseconds, setting it to sync with a specific note interval (1/8th, 1/4th, etc.) is ideal in keeping the guitar’s delay tight with the tempo of your song, right in the pocket.

Specifically I recommend 1/4 note delay for lead guitar. It’s a relatively long delay which gives the lead guitar a lot of presence and size in the mix in a time when that’s what it needs to help it soar above the mix.

The one exception is when you want a specific effect which you can only get from a complex form of delay timing called “Dotted Delay”.

While quarter notes sound great on your standard rocking guitar solo (think 80’s power ballad), dotted delay sounds great on certain riffs.

As I covered in my overview of the types of delay, dotted delay introduces additional syncopated notes at 1/2 the value of the timing you have set.

The best way to understand dotted delay is through examples. 8th note dotted delay has been the signature guitar sound of U2’s The Edge, and is the delay used on the familiar intro guitar on The Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition”:

Dotted delay is great in particular when you have a riff which isn’t taking up enough room in the mix.

Try putting some dotted delay on otherwise simple riffs to hear them come alive and sound much more complex.


Feedback affects the degree to which your guitar’s delay is repeated.

Setting feedback at 0% means you’ll just get the single delay after the initial sound. This is the basis of slapback delay, and it makes for a very dry, simple, yet clean delay.

As we turn the feedback parameter up, we begin to get more reflections, albeit at a diminishing rate. This simulates more reflections which gives the illusion of depth to the guitar which, in the case of lead guitar, can work well in giving it even more domain over the entire mix in that moment.

The more pronounced you want the reflection and more dramatic the effect, the more feedback you should dial in.

Begin with 25% as a feedback amount but note that you can get away with more delay feedback depending on the context of the mix, and particularly when the guitar is the star in that moment.

Be aware as you approach 100%, you’ll create a feedback loop (hence the name) which will stack reflection upon reflection as it gets louder and louder.


Most delays come with low and or high pass filters to take off the top and bottom ends of the delayed signal, respectively.

While you don’t need to filter the tone, it helps to contrast with the lead tone, get out of the way of the next note, and makes the delayed signal sound more natural as a reflection in nature would naturally be losing some of its top end in particular.

With lead guitar, I just like to adjust the filter knobs enough so that you can tell a difference between the delayed signal and initial signal, particularly on the low and high end.


The last parameter which has a huge impact on the sound is obviously the mix dial which affects the wet/dry blend between the initial tone and delayed signal.

Normally I recommend using delay as a send rather than an insert by way of an Aux/Return track. This allows us to apply the same delay to multiple tracks in our mix which works well for spacial type effects in giving multiple tracks the sense that they exist in the same space, even if they weren’t recorded in the same space.

When using delay (or any effect) on an Aux/Return track to send other tracks to, we want to set it to 100% wet. This turns the send knobs for each individual track into the controller for the blend amounts.

In the case of lead guitar, however, we’re going for a very specific delay which is tailored for this one track, so it works better as an insert. Really any time you’re adjusting settings on a plugin for a specific track, it works best as an insert.

All this to say, when we’re using delay as an insert, that wet/dry knob is important for again solely controlling the blend between the initial and delayed signals.

Setting this to 50% will make the volume between the two equal to one another.

I generally recommend setting the Mix knob to 30-40% when adjusting the delay settings for lead guitar as this keeps the initial sound in the forefront while blending in a healthy amount of reflections in the delay, particularly when you’re factoring in any feedback you’ve also dialed in.

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