Experimental Recording Techniques: Creating Vocal Slap Delay with a Cheap Garden Hose

We're back at Rax Trax Recording studios here in Chicago today for another installment of our Experimental Recording Techniques series. We've covered a lot of funky concepts so far, like how to pitch-modulate an acoustic piano with a Leslie speaker and how to stack drums for a massive snare sound—just to name a few—and this new installment is no exception. Today, engineer Andy Shoemaker is demonstrating how to make a delay out of a cheap garden hose.

Inside a Cooper Time Cube

What we're emulating is an old, very rare Universal Audio/UREI-branded delay called the Cooper Time Cube that was created in the 1970s. A mechanical delay, the CTC works by sending live audio through long pieces of garden hose-like tubing, creating delay times of 14, 16, or a combined 30 milliseconds. Because of its limited feature set, it was outshone by the more popular and flexible tape echoes of the same period, and only 1,000 CTCs were made in total. Still, the CTC made it onto some hit funk records like "Tell Me Something Good" from 1974's Rags to Rufus and War's "Low Rider" from a year later.

Back at Rax Trax, Shoemaker traces the dry signal chain from the Neumann U 47 clone (a Bill Bradley/Mic Shop MS-47) into a vintage Neve 1073 and then a vintage 1176, before being sent through to the Little Labs reamp box and then to a Hiwatt Custom 50 guitar amp, which powers the talk box in the next room. Hopping into the live room, Shoemaker shows off the DIY Cooper Time Cube next. "Sound travels somewhere in the range of a foot per millisecond, so you can kind of time your delay by how long your hose is," Shoemaker explains, gesturing to his own setup, which features multiple garden hoses connected together. "It's not exact-exact, but it'll at least get you in the ballpark."

Shoemaker also warns that one major thing to note if you're looking to give this unconventional CTC delay a try is that it's just that: unconventional. "This is not gonna be the sort of delay that's going to give you perfect, tempo-matched 1/4-note or 1/8-note delays. This is definitely a slappy delay. If you record it on another track, you can always adjust it to fine-tune that if you want, but without any of that, the length of the hose [60-something feet, in this case] is creating that acoustic delay."

On vocals for us today at Rax Trax is the talented Jennifer Hall, singing her song "Make It Out Alive" from her self-titled 2015 EP. Be sure to check out the full lesson above, and let us know what you think of this DIY delay in the comments below.


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