Time varying delay – Frippertronics and crafty guitarists


Robert Fripp (King Crimson, The League of Crafty Guitarists, League of Gentlemen, solo artist…) is known as one of the greatest and most influential guitarists of all time.  Evolving out of his work with Brian Eno in 1973, he devised a tape looping technique to layer his guitar sounds in real-time. It used two reel-to-reel tape recorders. The tape traveled from the supply reel of one recorder to the take-up reel of the second one. Then the tape from the second machine is fed back to the first one, and the delay can be changed by adjusting the distance between the two machines. Furthermore, it also provided a recording of the complete overlayed recording, and could be used in live performance. Fripp’s girlfriend later named this technique ‘Frippertronics,’ though we would describe it as a time varying delay with feedback. Also among Robert Fripp’s more unusual contributions, are many of the sounds for the Windows Vista operating system.

Many other famous guitarists are also known for music technology innovations. For instance, Tom Scholz of the band Boston designed a wide range of novel guitar effects devices, including the Rockman amplifier. But one of the most famous guitarists is also one of the people who most influenced music technology, Les Paul. His solid body electric guitar designs were some of the first and most popular, and he is credited with many innovations in multrack recording.