If you’ve done much recording you’ll have encountered the Click Track. And you’ll probably either love it or hate it!
Often when a band comes together to record a song, there’ll be a discussion on whether to record with or without a click track. Here’s some thoughts on the merits of using a click.
Ok, this sounds obvious, but if you have a drummer who’s playing to a click, he’s going to be able to keep in time a lot better. Drummers often speed up on fills – they may even still do this when playing to a click, but they’ll be able to recognise that they’ve got ahead of the beat and rein it in. It’s so important for the rhythm tracks to be steady. If you have ever played to a drum track that varies in speed, you’ll know how difficult it is to play along to, because it’s not predictable. When you’re listening back to a song that has been recorded without a click, you’ll often hear all sorts of timing variations. Sometimes, they might be able to keep the various instruments together with the speed ups and slow downs, but often there are discrepancies between the timings of individual instruments, and things can start to sound weird quickly!
But doesn’t a click track make everything robotic and lifeless?
This is a common argument, but if you consider the vast majority of music you listen to is recorded to a click track, how much of that do you consider to sound robotic and lifeless? Having a solid groove that is a consistent tempo doesn’t necessarily translate to lifeless music – it can do just the opposite and enable the band to lock into a groove that’s musical. When you’re bobbing your head to a song, it’s usually because it’s got a really tight, consistent tempo and everything just works within it. This also doesn’t mean that the musicians can’t play with the swing of a groove to play deliberately in front or behind the beat – in fact, it enables them to do that because they had a click track to lock into.
If you record to a click, everyone is locked to a grid. So in the DAW, you’re easily able to edit, cut, copy, paste and quantise knowing that your cuts across multiple tracks are all going to paste in somewhere else without throwing the rhythm off. Without the song locked to a click, it makes editing like this nearly impossible!
But I Just Can’t Play to a Click!
Yes, some people find it difficult. But it’s worth getting used to, and there are things that can make it easier. For example, if you’re multi tracking, it’s possible that only the drummer needs to record to a click. The other musicians laying down tracks after that can use the drummer’s time keeping instead of a click.
There’s nothing to say that the click has to be a click, either. It could be a simple drum loop, or percussive pattern. The point is simple that it is consistent and in time.
The click is ultimately your friend. If everyone records to the right tempo, you have an end result that sounds better, and you make life easier for anyone editing and mixing your songs, which means they can do more with your recording, again making for a better end result. And people, it’s all about the end result!
Have you thought of any ingenious ways of using a click track to make it more natural or easier to get along with? Let us know in the comments.