Les Paul’s 1920s Electric Guitar
The Invention of Phase Shifting
The Invention of Analog Delay
Les Paul: In His Own Words
Something I discovered in that learning process was the delay effect and the way it could enhance sustain and the fullness of the tone. Very few people know I was the one who discovered that effect which is so common now. Delay was a problem I worked on for years to figure out, and it was so simple. It’s just a matter of chasing it until you realize it’s been right in front of you the whole time, but for some reason you can’t see it. The remaining important element In achieving my goal was controlled delay. I was after a different sound, and I knew it was right there. I just hadn’t heard it yet. One night Lloyd Rich and I were out having a beer and I told him about my problem. I said, “I don’t want the empty concert hall reverb because it just lays there and muddies everything up. I want an actual echo I can control.” And Lloyd said, “You mean an echo like the same note repeating again as soon as you play it?”. When he said that, the light went on and there it was. An extra play back cartridge just next to the recording head was the answer, and I knew it as soon as the idea flashed in my head. So Lloyd and I went immediately back to the garage and started doing surgery on one of the disk cutters, experimenting with placement of a second arm wired to play back what the cutting stylus had just inscribed. As soon as we started getting a result, and as soon as I heard the clear echo enlarging the tone with rich sustain, I knew I’d found my sound.
Excerpted from Les Paul: In HIs Own Words