How does tap tempo work in guitar effects

With the advent of tap tempo pedals, effects pedals have evolved immensely from their predecessors from the 1970s and 1980s. Edge-Esque delays are possible with this feature, regardless of tempo and without twisting knobs!

You can easily synchronize your effects with the song’s tempo using tap tempos. Unlike turning knobs on your pedals and hoping for the best, this method is also more accurate.Get your tapping shoes on, and let’s tap!

What is “Tap Tempo” on a guitar pedal?

By using tap tempo buttons, you can synchronize certain pedal parameters with the music. In most cases, it would be the repeat timing of a delay pedal or the rate function of a modulation pedal. Most guitar pedals have a separate footswitch for this function. 

There are many pedals that incorporate this into their design (such as the Strymon Timeline for delay times, or the Keeley Verb-o-trem Workstation for modulation rate), while others, such as the TC Electronic Flashback II, require you to add a separate tap tempo switch. There is an additional cost associated with purchasing a separate footswitch, even if it isn’t a big deal to some players.

Some pedals also use a “strum to sync” function instead of a tap tempo, like the original TC Electronic Flashback. By holding down the switch on the pedal for a few seconds, you will be able to strum the tempo into the pedal along with the music. 

There is no separate switch for this feature, but the signal cuts out, making it impossible to set tempos while a song is playing (you’d have to do this before the song starts).

How to use the tap tempo function on a pedal?

Using a tap tempo couldn’t be easier! It only takes a few taps on your pedal, in time with the music, and usually on a quarter note pulse (though you can also go faster or slower). 

As a result, the delay time/modulation rate/whatever parameter is assigned will be synchronized with the music.
There are some delay pedals, such as the TC Electronic Flashback and the Boss DD-200, that have the ability to divide repeats by quarter notes, dotted 8th notes, or both). 

Making sure that those subdivisions are also in time with the music can be achieved by tapping in time with the music. Consequently, you’ll sound like The Edge in no time!

Why would a guitar pedal have a tap tempo function?

You’ll love the tap tempo function if you need delays and modulations synced up. 

This is practical, quick, and only requires you to tap your foot. It’s also possible to mark the tempos on the pedal after finding them on the knob. Keeping your effect in sync is harder if tempos fluctuate. 

Just a few taps and you’re back on track!

Kinds of pedals that usually come with tap tempo functionality

Tap tempo is most commonly seen on delay pedals, which allow you to adjust delay time on the fly. Many digital delay pedals do this, like the Strymon Timeline, the Boss DD-200, and the TC Electronic Flashback x4. 

Several analog delays have added this feature to their pedals, including the MXR Carbon Copy Deluxe, the Way Huge Supa-Puss, and the Jam Pedals Delay Llama Xtreme.

By using this advancement, analog delay pedal fans can take advantage of a function otherwise reserved for digital delay pedals.

Is tap tempo better than dialing tempo manually?

There’s no better way to sync your effects with the music than using the tap tempo function. 
Playing multiple songs is definitely easier than marking delay times on a pedal (that’s a lot of marks!) Since you’re taping along to the beat, tap tempo will give you the closest tempo to the song. 

For those who want to be precise, tapping is best! While there are solutions to get you as close (i.e. marking up your pedal) without it, it’s best to mark it up!

How do you define delay?

There’s a clue in the name. You hear the same note a few seconds after you hear it the first time. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

Within that short timeframe, there are so many things that can affect how the delay behaves and what it does to your guitar sound.

Below we’ll cover this in more detail, but on a typical delay pedal you can control:

  • Time – The interval between the first note and the first repeat.
  • Feedback – You can choose how many times you want to hear it. Depending on how low the feedback knob is, you might only get one repeat. You’re probably approaching self-oscillation if you turn it all the way up.
  • Level – It’s the overall level of the repeats. You’ll get the same volume on the repeat as on the first note. You can get a subtle fattening sound by keeping it low

Basically, reversing the delay repeats creates an ethereal, otherworldly tone similar to playing a vinyl record backwards. Jimi Hendrix used the reverse delay tone on tracks like Voodoo Child and Are You Experienced?

How do I use a delay pedal?

You can be really creative with how you use the delay effect. You can get so many different sounds and they’ll usually remind you of an era. Particularly since it was used on surf guitar sounds as well as rock n’ roll vocals in the 1950s.