Are click tracks overused?

ottawadrummer

Junior Member
Click track woes

Went to a couple sessions last week where a click has killed the band. But the producer insisted on using a click. We wasted time and it turned us all into feeling like robots and stressed about the whole situation because we couldn't nail some takes and the more we failed to nail them the harder it became, no one was relaxed anymore. And then each hour was studio dollars, etc., etc. Not good times.

We then just recorded live and it sounded way more human and it was way more relaxed and expressed way better the way the songs feel.
The tempo might've fluctuated a few bpm here and there but at least we were together as a band.

I'm no pro but I practice enough to have decent time and practice every day to a metronome. But in a band situation, metronomes destroy me... I am not the guy you want in your band if you have backing tracks lol. People dance at my gigs so I take that as a compliment that I at least have some kind of sense of rhythm ;-)

But no matter how much I prepare before hand it will always feel unnatural to me to be in a booth trying to play my part to a ticking sound and a pre-recorded take of my band. How can that possibly get the best emotional "feel" out of a song? I guess I'm not a studio guy.
 
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WallyY

Platinum Member
There's a self-reflection loop that happens when we pay too much attention to ourselves instead of the whole situation. We think it's better, or worse than it really is to others.

A click may seem stale to the musician, but no click may also seem amateurish to the non-musician listener. It all depends on how well you pull it off in both cases.

There are good production reasons for using the click. a delay on a guitar can be accurately set to the song, a bass drum fundamental can be cleaned up and added to with a sine wave by quantizing only a certain part of the song. A single errant time mishap can be quickly fixed without making the rest of the song sound weird. Also, the drums can be taken out of the headphones for the other musicians who can't get the timing right when the drums are hiding their performance slop.
 
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eclipseownzu

Gold Member
I think they are overused, but that's not to say they don't have their place. I think quite a few bands who would be better off just going in and jamming out the songs use a click track because they think they have to. I would say in those cases the click is unnecessary. But if the band is doing a lot of overdubs, or making a technical death metal album, then the click is absolutely necessary. The last two albums I have made were recorded completely differently. One was to a click and a scratch track, then the drums were edited to be perfectly on the grid. The other was done live with the band just playing together in a room. Both had their challenges and both were fun, but I would not say one way was better than the other. Just different methods for different results.
 

veecharlie

Senior Member
well... there is always the good and the bad side of a story.

I'll be honest with you. I believe that the whole "robot" thing is pure b*******.
That has to do with the fact that even in the 70's, I don't know if you noticed, but for example if you listen to a live recording of Pink Floyd in those times, having no IEM system or metronome next to them, they had a perfect timing.

If music does not follow the same tempo as the other musicians, your music can get cahotic, same as speeding up or down. Depending on what case it is and how bad it is, it can be as subtile or ruin the entire performance.

A metronome is very useful when playing in a group, as it can give the perfect cues for any moment of the song, but it needs to be trained. The drummer has this responsibility to carry that "metronome" in his beats, that's why a group has a drummer. But the fact that it's "robotic", at that point sounds more like more practice is needed.

Once you reasonably master an internal tempo, you are the metronome. At the point that your internal clock is set, your freedom starts on the kit. Every note is well tought and spread across a grid. You now have freedom where you want your notes and your notes make sense, it makes it musical. Suddently, you are not more a robot.!

Let's just assume a normal 4/4 case, if you start putting notes a bit early or late than the standard 4 beats, assuming they don't follow a sudivision (just out of time) it WILL sound bad. (a big example here is when we where beginners and tried to do fills they sucked, simply because we didn't understand how they are composed and have a good "feel" or "memory" to know what to do).

Don't be discouraged, because it's a skill we all can learn and it just takes us a bit of effort to master it!

EDIT:
It's VERY OFTEN overused nowadays. Everybody forgets about having an "internal clock" and just follows a metronome, that's easier for everybody! I got in some cases that some bands just refuse a metronome or refuse to play without it no matter what (!)

UPDATE:
I found this a great topic to talk about in my vlog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueeKavTFaJU
 
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Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
It depends on the style of music and the "sound" the band is going for.

It is absolutely true that some music sounds better when it's played in good "human" time rather than machine. There are concrete reasons to want to play outside the lines and waver tempo for parts.

However, as musicians there's no excuse for not having the ability to play to a click... It should be an artistic decision, not one made out of the fact that you literally cannot keep the songs in time if you want to.

Make sense? I'm really not trying to be a jerk. Most of us go through a phase where we see the click as the enemy to our creativity and it's something that not everyone actually gets over.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I'll be honest with you. I believe that the whole "robot" thing is pure b*******.
Not in my opinion. I can often hear when a tune is too quantized and robotic, and it turns me off sometimes. Over-production is a real thing for a lot of music types and bands.

That has to do with the fact that even in the 70's, I don't know if you noticed, but for example if you listen to a live recording of Pink Floyd in those times, having no IEM system or metronome next to them, they had a perfect timing.
Well, first, I don't think they had "perfect" timing without a click; secondly, Led Zepp most certainly didn't have anything even close to perfect time and they were still able to shake a few butts here and there.

A metronome is very useful when playing in a group, as it can give the perfect cues for any moment of the song, but it needs to be trained. The drummer has this responsibility to carry that "metronome" in his beats, that's why a group has a drummer. But the fact that it's "robotic", at that point sounds more like more practice is needed.
The idea that the drummer is a metronome for the band is not good. Unless there's an actual click going in ears, every musician should have good time and be playing with all the other musicians; not everyone relying on one person to have good time and following that.

It's VERY OFTEN overused nowadays. Everybody forgets about having an "internal clock" and just follows a metronome, that's easier for everybody! I got in some cases that some bands just refuse a metronome or refuse to play without it no matter what (!)
It goes in both directions. You don't want to be dependent on a click(which I think is more of a mental problem), and you don't want to not be able to play to a click (which is usually more of a lack of the skill).
 

ottawadrummer

Junior Member
However, as musicians there's no excuse for not having the ability to play to a click... It should be an artistic decision, not one made out of the fact that you literally cannot keep the songs in time if you want to.

Make sense? I'm really not trying to be a jerk. Most of us go through a phase where we see the click as the enemy to our creativity and it's something that not everyone actually gets over.
Totally makes sense.

I think I am allergic to studio click tracks haha. Is this a known condition? I practice to a click everyday at home, and at our live gigs I have good timing. I'm not really a chops drummer so timing is all I have going for me. Been playing for 20+ years but then I go in the studio with a click and it all falls apart. I feel like a beginner again.

Maybe it's the studio environment, who knows. But playing live off the floor with the band my timing was actually better than when I tried to play with a click. Figure that one out...

Here's a sample tune I did a while back without a click. I'm not going to win any awards but I'd say my timing is pretty solid:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0ByKcfIHuZmJubVhaTlczdG1pNDQ
 
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KamaK

Platinum Member
A world where drummers don't occasionally bend time is like a world where guitarists don't bend notes, singers don't use vibrato, and fret-less basses don't exist. While I do enjoy Chet Atkins, Sade and JamesJ, I'm glad that the alternatives exist and thrive.
 

ottawadrummer

Junior Member
Check out the top albums of all time and I bet there are lots on there that didn't use a click.

Just sayin'. I'm not making excuses for myself, honest :p

Speaking of albums recorded without clicks, I encourage you all to check out Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet's new "Jersey" album released today. Incredible! I'm not a huge jazz guy, but the drumming is astounding. And no click on that either ;-)
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Totally makes sense.

I think I am allergic to studio click tracks haha. Is this a known condition? I practice to a click everyday at home, and at our live gigs I have good timing. I get complimented on my timing after gigs and from other musicians. I'm not really a chops drummer so timing is all I have going for me. Been playing for 20+ years but then I go in the studio with a click and it all falls apart. I feel like a beginner again.

Maybe it's the studio environment, who knows. But playing live off the floor with the band my timing was actually better than when I tried to play with a click. Figure that one out...

Here's a sample tune I did a while back without a click. I'm not going to win any awards but I'd say my timing is pretty solid:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0ByKcfIHuZmJubVhaTlczdG1pNDQ
Ah, so now you're seeing the other side of this coin. Everyone in the band (or at least everyone tracking with you) needs to be fully locked into the click or you're going to have a bad time. If they are following you following a click, no go, we don't think about it much, but as musicians we actually adjust on a micro-scale constantly according to the input of the other players, it's what makes us sound "together" or tight. None of that can happen when you're all supposed to be dead on with a click.
 

Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
A quarter note click still gives you plenty of room to manipulate time. If you play in two, four, or eight bar phrases and then line up with the click on the "one" once the phrase is completed the click will simply keep the time solid through out the song.

If you can't play with a click your time may not be as solid as you think.
 

ottawadrummer

Junior Member
A quarter note click still gives you plenty of room to manipulate time. If you play in two, four, or eight bar phrases and then line up with the click on the "one" once the phrase is completed the click will simply keep the time solid through out the song.

If you can't play with a click your time may not be as solid as you think.
If people want to dance to it, is that solid enough? :)

In my case, I can play along to a metronome in isolation no problem. I do it everyday in the basement "shed", practicing gap clicks, etc. Obviously still working on it and I'm no pro for sure but solid enough to get gigs.

But once I'm in the studio I feel like my time is way worse than it is when I'm home or out playing gigs. With the live band in there and the click I start to lose it and I lose the feel. Something I definitely need to practice but definitely does not come easily to me... For me I naturally feed off the other musicians and not the beep of the computer.

Last session I had a recording of the click with a bassline that I took home and that helped for practicing.
 

veecharlie

Senior Member
Not in my opinion. I can often hear when a tune is too quantized and robotic, and it turns me off sometimes. Over-production is a real thing for a lot of music types and bands.

Well, first, I don't think they had "perfect" timing without a click; secondly, Led Zepp most certainly didn't have anything even close to perfect time and they were still able to shake a few butts here and there.

The idea that the drummer is a metronome for the band is not good. Unless there's an actual click going in ears, every musician should have good time and be playing with all the other musicians; not everyone relying on one person to have good time and following that.


It goes in both directions. You don't want to be dependent on a click(which I think is more of a mental problem), and you don't want to not be able to play to a click (which is usually more of a lack of the skill).
If you read the context instead of precisng words, you will see that at the end of the day we agree with each other ;)

the idea of "perfect" with the earlier years bands, it's the ability to keep a good internal tempo and ability to listen to the others.
I'm sorry if I was too straight, but we pretty much say the same, in conclusion.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Given more than 95% of the recorded music industry (in pop, rock etc) is using them I would say they are the norm and not overused. I'm no fan of 'quantized' music either.
Regarding technology, to me 'Autotuning' somebody's vocals is way more un-natural than using a click to sync up tracks.
 

ottawadrummer

Junior Member
If people are in the mood and they like the song they will dance. The more excitement the band generates the better for the dance floor, but it doesn't mean the band has great time.
And as a gigging hobbyist drummer that is all I can hope for, that people will enjoy the show and have a good night.

Perfect time does not necessarily mean good music. Some music needs fluctuations in feel and time to be interesting.

I much prefer hearing a drummer who has a good groove and plays with feeling but doesn't have perfect timing compared to one who has perfect timing and no feel.

Some of the old funk and rare groove records are great examples of this. I love that stuff, it's kind of sloppy but the groove and swing is so infectious you can't help but get into it... You could argue those bands have bad time (scientifically), tempos are all over the place in some of those tunes. But I get way more feeling out of those songs than an over quantized song with no feel/groove.

Of course if you have both groove and perfect time then the world is your oyster...
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Practicing to a click and playing music to a click live are 2 different skill sets. It's in a drummers best interest to make good friends with the click. Steely Dan is click tracked, from what I'm told. It doesn't seem to detract at all.

It's all about how well the player can get along with the click.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Here's a sample tune I did a while back without a click. I'm not going to win any awards but I'd say my timing is pretty solid:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0ByKcfIHuZmJubVhaTlczdG1pNDQ
Sounds great. Tempo-wise, if that's not good enough, I give up. I guess it might have picked up a BPM or two by the end, or not. Here are a couple of hit recordings with Harvey Mason and Jim Keltner on them, which speed up/slow down 3-4 BPMs, and it's more noticeable than any tempo movement on your track.
 

ottawadrummer

Junior Member
Practicing to a click and playing music to a click live are 2 different skill sets. It's in a drummers best interest to make good friends with the click. Steely Dan is click tracked, from what I'm told. It doesn't seem to detract at all.

It's all about how well the player can get along with the click.
Agreed, it is definitely a tool in the arsenal that a pro drummer must have these days.

Funny that you mention Steely Dan though. Everyone's taste is different but that to me is a perfect example of music that is timing and studio-wise quite amazing but missing in the feeling/soul department. My opinion of course... I'm sure people will debate me on that one for hours ;-)

The production is amazing, the drummers are amazing (Gadd and Purdie!), the musicians are amazing and yet it is missing soul to me. Maybe just the time period, I don't know, it's bland and uninspired to me. All personal opinion of course! And not saying I could play anything even 0.001% as good as those cats but compare that to Love Supreme by Coltrane, now that has feeling...
 
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