Psychedelic music techniques

I want to know what techniques and effects you all have used or implemented in your music that gives an other worldly, trippy quality. I have always been utterly fascinated by the psychedelic experience and have always tried to create music that captures that experience.

Some of my favorite albums that I feel embody and have had a profound impact on me are Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective, A Wizard / A True Star by Todd Rundgren, and Lonerism by Tame Impala.

A common technique that I often employ taking a delay or reverb and modulating the time parameter on the delay or the reverb “size”. I also love using a slow, chewy phaser on whole elements of the mix. I’m trying to incorporate more field recording and pitch shifting of different elements of the song as well. Occasional reversing I found is great for creating the sensation of breathing. The deliberate slow use of panning and volume control is also essential!

I would love to hear from all of you on experiments you have done to replicate these feelings, music that has invoked a mystical experience, and anything else interesting dealing in the psychedelic experience. Looking forward to your responses!


While it doesn’t necessarily fit in with the way “psychedelic” is used as a sort of genre label, I’ve always found arpeggiators to present the potential for creating melodies that feel like they fit with my own other worldly and trippy imaginings. When used a certain way, I find that they can really bring a sense of evolving and ever changing colour to a piece. Perhaps I’m mildly synesthetic? ¯\(ツ)

A book could probably be written about the uses of delay in psychedelic music. If anyone knows of anything like this (book, documentary, article, etc.) please do share!


Cross-posting this podcast recommendation, where Jon Hopkins talks about how he made his music for psychedelic therapy album


Not exactly a musical technique, but I can’t help but think about the Spacemen 3 recording “taking drugs to make music to take drugs to”…

I would mumble something about the good old days, but…


Take 2 free-running LFOs. Patch the triangle or sine output of LFO 2 into the frequency input of LFO 1. Patch the output of LFO 1 into a panning VCA and a filter cutoff. Put on headphones.

Make a weird percussion sound. Record yourself speaking or singing into Morphagene. Then run Morphagene through a low-pass gate. Use the vari-speed control to make your voice sound as creepy as possible.

Spring reverb is inherently psychedelic because it goes SPROING. The emulation in the Magneto is pretty good, but a guitar amp is the best.

Contact microphones.

Try and remember your dreams.


Kind of in a different vein, but Terry Riley’s use of live sound on sound tape loops and slow attack sax notes on his Poppy Nogood/All Night Flight material always scratched that itch for me. Definitely trance inducing, a bit dark, though. Bad trip? :slight_smile:


I saw J Spaceman a month or so ago. It was pretty full-on.


For a few years now I’ve been mining theories of hypnotism, animal magnetism, Hemi-Sync™, etc. for techniques I can apply to FM synthesis. It started as kind of a joke but it keeps leading me to cool sounds so I keep doing it. I developed a loose system or rules and guiding principles around it that I call hypnowave, but it mostly just boils down to minimalist rhythmic repetition with subtle variation in the stereo field, use of combination tones, slow tempos, delays, shifts in textural foci rather than compositional structure, that sort of thing. I find FM synthesis is really well suited to this kind of practice, and I like the rich metaphors it provides: of consciousness as a carrier wave and music as a modulating signal, of the sine wave and the hypnotist’s pendulum.

Subtle pans and LFOs are great. A nice trick for big pads and drones is to mirror a patch across the stereo field and assign LFOs to different parameters with different speeds to the L and the R, to get some evolving textures and combination tones. Throw in some stochastic elements. At a compositional scale, sometimes it’s fun to speed the textural changes up over time to move toward a peak, then a nice slow comedown. I feel like you have to be careful with it, but a good tremolo at the right time just melts reality in the best way.


Here’s a older take of mine - I often find myself veering into psychedelic territory by getting into a rolling groove that I build on. It’s usually the bassline that kicks things off and I can stay in this groovezone for hours on end.


Ooo, interesting topic. Things that come to mind:

Once I remember playing with a freeze pedal and a guitar, and ending up with a note/frequency droning for 30 minutes that left me feeling like I was floating for several hours around Brooklyn. Definitely felt like I was high.

Second, I’ve had some psychedelic experiences listening to ELEH in an office with some loud HVAC systems — new notes, feels like the world is breathing around me, etc Radiant Intervals I | eleh

Lastly, most music often labeled as “psychedelic” has never actually sat well with me on while on a psychedelic. It always feels like they’re overdoing it. “That’s too many notes, man.”


I think delay/pitch/reverb are a big part of the sound of sort of hypnotizing mind bending type music which I’d consider psychedelic just in how it affects time and space and our perception of it all.

Just turning up the mix on my reverb or stretching out the delay always kinda blisses me out. I probably overuse it to some degree but it’s the part of the magic of the music that I like.

I almost always pitch stuff down too. it’s sumn about everything feeling like it’s in slow motion. It’s like a sedative. I also think music pitched up can sound sort of glitchy and tweaky and kind of plays with the head a bit.


great ideas!

could you post an example of these techniques or a link to your YT, IG, or BC?

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Can’t help but think of MBV here.


This is a recent project where I was trying to solidify and refine those ideas a little, feels at least partly successful in that regard.


Delay effects are kind of the crux of the psychedelic sound I think. Echo, reverb, flanger, phaser, doubling, all of them are really just various configurations of delay. Using them in less common orders does wonders like putting the reverb before the echo or putting the doubler at the end.

One of my favorites is using Ableton’s delay effect with the left and right channels unsynced and automating the times at different rates. You get some odd spatial effects.


The word psychedelic is interesting. Because it emerged in the 60’s, it can be hinged on 60’s style music. But with a second wind in the 90’s in relation to goa trance and cyber culture etc, psychedelic can have a whole other, and somewhat redefined sonic identity.

To me, psychedelic is a meaning personal to the beholder, much like beauty, but I also think psychedelic is more of a visual term, as is commonly the psychedelic experience, and the sounds that identify with the psychedelic. Psychedelic can of course be very ugly, too.

In some ways noise music techniques could be considered psychedelic, if literally thinking of psychedelic sounds then this type of thing can be present ie tearing sounds, crackling, high pitched, buzzing etc.

But like Jon Hopkins, I think of psychedelic mainly as cultural association. He could have just released that album without saying anything about psychedelia and folks would probably have just called it ‘ambient’.

The other thing you could say, is sound itself is inherently psychedelic…

I really like Peaking Lights 936 album. It’s pretty psychedelic to me


Got hip to their work really late but I got one of their records recently and love to throw it on and just sink innnn <3


I’ve had fun exploring abletons grain delay lately. Turn off synch and set time to a very low number, feedback up, freq low (3-4) and experiment with random pitch. Gives you a very nice phasing effect whick might fit with the topic


a classic Spacemen 3 technique is to get a tremolo, preferably on a Vox amp, and play in-between the positive duty cycles so there is no attack.


The Byrds “Younger than Yesterday” (1967) album is perhaps the quintessence of psychedelic from the emergence of the form.

Lots of reversed sounds.