If you’re wondering what delay settings to use for imitating Buckethead’s Big Sur Moon, this is the post for you!
As you already may know, Buckethead has an insane number of albums. But for this guide, we’re going back to his fourth record, 1998’s “Colma.” Its fifth track is a brief instrumental called “Big Sur Moon.”
Although one minute and thirteen seconds long, it caught the attention of many guitar players. After all, it’s a pretty catchy little instrumental. And it’s also a great exercise.
Additionally, the song has this seemingly simple delay. However, it’s actually pretty tricky to figure out. I’ll clear things up about it and examine the delay settings on this masterpiece.
The Delay Setting
In its essence, there’s nothing too elaborate about this delay setting. The only issue is that it’s hard to figure out. And, once you do, it may be tricky to play at the same time.
There are a few important things to cover here. These are:
- Delay time
- Number of repeats, or feedback
- Volume of repeats
Firstly, let’s look at the delay time. You should set it at around 300 milliseconds. Some sources also claim that it’s below. Try to see what works for you. But in my experience, it shouldn’t be lower than 280ms.
As for the number of repeats, there should be only one. You can achieve this easily with any delay pedal. Just put the feedback control at the minimum setting. As a result, you get just one repetition of what you play.
Finally, we get to the volume or the mix control. The repeated note should be as loud as the original one. Or just slightly quieter. It should create an illusion of two guitars playing at the same time.
Other Settings and Pedal Features
For this purpose, your delayed note tone should be as clear as possible. This is why I’d prefer digital over analog delays. They’re as sterile as it gets.
(But analog delays are great for some circumstances! And if you want to read more about analog delay pedals, check out our Aqua Puss vs Carbon Copy gear comparison!)
If your delay pedal has an EQ or a tone knob, keep it neutral. All of the settings should be at exactly 12 o’clock. Remember, the repeats are identical to what you’re playing.
A lot of delay pedals these days have additional tone-shaping controls. As fun as they seem, you should completely avoid them. There should be no additional modulation effects engaged here.
Your pedal may also have various modes. Always keep these in neutral settings. The labels for these are usually digital or standard. Again, as neutral as possible.
You should probably have no issues with most digital delay pedals. And, in my opinion, a lot of analog pedals these days are okay. After all, they have delay times that are long enough for “Big Sur Moon.”
Playing the Piece is the Real Trick…
Now, the real magic of this piece is not the delay setting. It’s how you play it. This is where all the fun starts. And, like it or not, there’s a bit of math involved in here. But don’t worry, it isn’t that complicated.
The main thing you need to do here is to sync perfectly with the delay. First, figure out the clean melody. Play it without any effects and do it as clean as possible. The tempo should be 150 bpm.
Now, the delayed repeats should act as an additional guitar, as I already explained. However, this so-called second guitar should be exactly one dotted eighth note after what you’re playing. Technically, this is the length of three sixteenth notes.
Now, let’s get back to the tempo. If you’re playing at 150 beats per minute, we have exactly 400 milliseconds between beats. The length between two sixteenth notes should be 100 milliseconds. So a dotted eighth note should be at exactly 300 milliseconds.
This is why it’s extremely important that you stay on the tempo. Sure, I know practicing with a metronome is boring. But it’s crucial to stay on tempo when playing “Big Sur Moon.”
Some sources also claim that the tempo of the piece is 160 beats per minute. To be honest, I’m not sure if I could exactly determine the song’s bpm rate. However, if you do decide to play at 160 bpm, then set the delay at exactly 282 milliseconds.
Changing the Tempo
Of course, if you want to practice at a different tempo and still use delay, you need different delay times. There’s one very useful tool for this which you can check out at this link.
Set the desired tempo in the main field. Then look for the value of the 1/16th note in milliseconds. Multiply this one by three and you’ll get your exact delay value.
Sure, you may not be able to dial in super-precise delay time on an average delay pedal. But just try to be as precise as possible. If you’re using a delay plugin in a DAW, you’ll be able to dial it in precisely.
Big Sur Moon Delay Settings: Conclusion
I hope this has been a helpful guide to Big Sur Moon delay settings on the guitar.
And if you have other questions about this or another guitar-related topic, feel free to leave a message in the comments below!