What is a Drummers Click Track ?
A click track does the same job as a metronome, so there’s nothing new there. It’s a pulse or time keeper for a drummer to follow in their headphones when they are playing in the recording studio or live on stage.
Lets get straight to the bottom line. If you’re a serious drummer, then there’s times when you’ll need be able to play along with a click and there’s times when it’s just a bad idea. Either way you should be able and confident in following a click.
Why Work With Click Tracks ?
Click Tracks, you either love them or hate them but you should never be frightened of them. They are your friend in the studio, rehearsal room or live gig. Timing is what you do as a drummer there’s no getting away from it. The band follows the drummer and if the drummer has got something to follow then that’s going to make your band a whole lot tighter.
When playing live alongside backing tracks it’s essential for the drummer to come in at the right place so the backing track will be in the right place for the chorus, middle 8 etc. It also means you can synchronise the lights for the show so the whole ‘Live Production’ is running together, giving the audience a better live experience.
- Assures Steady Tempo
- Many Top Producers Expect It
- Top Pros Use Them
- Takes Practice
- Requires Planning and Setup
- Additional Cost
Voice count-ins ? – Top Tip
When working with backing tracks many drummers will use the simple ‘Voice Count in” in their monitor mix to flag up where you are in the song. A simple sample of 1,2,3,4, before the chorus or middle 8 keeps you exactly on track with the backing track. I know singers and drummers from stadium acts that use this method to keep track where they are in a song when they’re on stage.
Best sounds for using click tracks ?
As a Pro it took me a long time to get confident with them because I used to go about it the wrong way. An important thing about a click track is what the click sounds are, what beat they play on and how loud it is against the rest of the band in your headphone mix.
Here’s what I recommend, see if it works for you.
- Use a quarter note. A simple sound playing on 1,2,3,4 … easy.
- Use a Cowbell for the 1 beat and a ?Clave for the 2,3,4.
- Set the volume of the Drum Mix to a?comfortable level in your headphones.
- Add the Click Track just below the Drum Mix.
- Drums loudest, click just under the Drums and other instruments under that.
Why use a Cowbell and Clave ?
Well keep it simple, you don’t won’t loads of clutter in the click track, its there just for you to hold you to the tempo of the song. The sound of a clave will cut through almost anything, there’s a lot of ‘energy’ in a clave sample and the Cowbell will always tell you where the 1 of the bar is to help you not get lost. The downbeat (1 & 3) and the backbeat (2 & 4) are what you need to keep under control. Nail those guys down and the rest will follow.
The Clave will simple count you through the rest of the bar then back onto the 1 or downbeat with the Cowbell.
You’ll find over time that you stop hearing the click, it just becomes a pulse that your brain hooks onto, but when you need it you can find it in the mix. That 1 beat will always tell you where you are.
Do click tracks change your groove and the way you play?
With practice you can play a little in front or a little behind the beat to suit the song and feel. You have to get comfortable with the click in your ears and play as if it wasn’t there. Eventually you don’t notice it. It’ll take a bit time to get to this stage but when you do it’ll improve your timing hugely.
What equipment do I need for playing live with a Click Track ??
There are 2 different setups you will need both require for either Studio or Live playing. A good pair of Sound Isolating Earphones and a Wired or Wireless Monitor Pack.