Can't Groove To A Click!

ricky

Senior Member
Okay, I know...practice.

I have kicked up practice (just a part-time drummer here, wouldn't even dare to call myself one), so hopefully eventually I'll get it.

But it's so frustrating. I feel when I'm playing with the click that I'm in the groove, even the simplest of beats, but when I listen back, it's rubbish!

When I play without a click, it seems so much better to me.

How long did it take you to be able to groove to a click?
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Okay, I know...practice.

I have kicked up practice (just a part-time drummer here, wouldn't even dare to call myself one), so hopefully eventually I'll get it.

But it's so frustrating. I feel when I'm playing with the click that I'm in the groove, even the simplest of beats, but when I listen back, it's rubbish!

When I play without a click, it seems so much better to me.

How long did it take you to be able to groove to a click?
Not overnight, to be sure. A few years at least.

I find that for practice's sake, playing to a click is only one of the tools in your toolbox for learning to play in time. Playing along to most modern music is effectively playing to a click, but also has other musicians playing, which always helps your feel.

One of my worst habits is humming as I play to a click. This is a horrible habit because I nearly have to duct-tape my mouth closed when recording. But at least there's some music to groove to!

Even in the studio, I very rarely play to a naked click track (although I try to learn the songs well enough that I could if I had to). I will usually have someone playing alongside me, even if they aren't recording, so that I can interact with them musically and they can help the groove along.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
If you can change the click sound into something else, try making the click a bass drum sound. It makes it easier to groove to. Or make it a tamborine sound.

I'm not sure a drummer should be grooving to a click anyway. What would be the purpose of that?
If a whole band is grooving to a click, then they are not grooving with each other.

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toddbishop

Platinum Member
It helps to understand the rhythmic architecture of what you're playing-- knowing the rhythm of all the parts put together, and being disco-solid with the rhythm if you were to count it out loud. And also having your coordination worked out, so things that are supposed to be in unison are in unison, and sequences of notes have the right amount of space between them.

It seems like it should be a thing you just feel, but it isn't-- right now playing by feel is leading you to not play in time. Groove is a thing you have to build by taking care of the architecture; once you're doing that, then you can start feeling it and have it be legitimate.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
A couple of things I did that helped.

First was a slight change of perception. I stopped thinking of playing to a click and started to imagine playing with the click. It's a subtle variation in thought, but it helped me to better imagine the click as just another player......a player that happens to have perfect time. And from there I found it a lot easier to lock in with it instead of fighting against the quantized nature of the "beeps"vs my own tendency to waiver.

The second is to change up the subdivisions. Spend some time with the click set to eighth or sixteenth notes. Having the spaces filled in allows you to feel the time and better lock in with it. Pull it back to quarters once you're feeling it.



I'm not sure a drummer should be grooving to a click anyway. What would be the purpose of that?
A drummer should be grooving whether he's playing with a click, a guitarist, or a monkey grinding an organ for peanuts.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
A drummer should be grooving whether he's playing with a click, a guitarist, or a monkey grinding an organ for peanuts.
I guess I should not have said anything.
But since we are discussing it, I need to understand what grooving with the click means.
If you are drumming "in the groove" with the click, does that mean you are staying perfectly in time with the click?
"Perfect" such that if you were hitting the snare on the click beat, then you would not be able to hear the click?


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J

JohnoWorld

Guest
+1 for playing along to music that has been recorded with a click.

I would also suggest (if you have the recording capability) recording yourself playing to a song. Just press record on your DAW as you press play on your music player, then import the mp3 or whatever and sync them up.

Another thing I've been doing is recording video with my tablet at the same time. I then sync the video with the audio in the DAW and it shows me up for the shower of sh1te that I am :)

I do most of my practicing along to music, various types of dance music, hip hop etc
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
+1 for playing along to music that has been recorded with a click.
+2 but.........

What I would add is that there is a lot of music recorded that was recorded without a click, just played by drummers with an amazing feel and timing.

If you can learn to push and pull around the click that is the trick and that's where the feel comes from. Jeff Porcaro did a Q&A that's on YT where he talks about recording with/without a click.
 

Elpecs

Senior Member
Recording and listening back is a really helpful tool. Are you having problems with every tempo playing any type of groove? Or are there some that are giving you more difficulties?
Also a good tip for slower tempos is to have the click playing eight notes instead
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
But it's so frustrating. I feel when I'm playing with the click that I'm in the groove, even the simplest of beats, but when I listen back, it's rubbish!

When I play without a click, it seems so much better to me.
There's a few things to consider before we can know that the click is the only issue at play, but assuming for the moment that it is...

If all you're doing is putting up a quarter note and going for it with some beats and fills, then yeah, it's going to take a long time, if it ever happens at all. It's not just about practicing -- it's HOW you practice with that click.

Setting the click to other subdivisions is a good call. Try 8ths and 16ths for straight grooves, and triplets for grooves with a swing feel (jazz, shuffles, etc.).

Set it to quarters, and practice deliberately dragging behind the click by a small but consistent amount. Do the same thing, but while rushing ahead of the click. Alternate between minute-long stretches where you're dragging, playing on-center, and rushing. Keep your playing very, very simple here -- simple beats, no fills.

Practice with the click only playing on beats 2 and 4.

One last thing: when you play 16ths with one hand, are they even? Or do you commit that very common mistake where you space the "e"s and the "ah"s a bit too close to the notes before them? This is a real groove killer.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
It's a never ending thing.

As always, slowing down will make things more clear to you.

Having the click on other parts of the beat really forces you to focus.

Just playing alone without a click is also a good exercise. What you're training to do is really to just spot the tendencies quicker and have complete focus. Record yourself playing a basic beat completely unassisted for 5 mins.

Sometimes when playing it take so much focus that we can't give the musical result our full attention. That's really what we mean about technique serving the music and the goal is really only have to and give all your focus and attention to that. We know you can hear it when listening nack. Don't kill yourself over it. Just notice what's going on and next time put your attention on the flaws you noticed.

You are really training your focus and sensitivity.

Working with a metronome the right way you are essentially playing a duet. Listen to the click as it's a band member and make it feel good. Then try to accomplish the same unassisted. Sure consistent time is a skill and you are partly training for that, but mostly it's abot feeling good.

If a click on all fours is hard I suggest doing some exercises that further expose your tendencies. Maybe just working with hands, even just on a pad with an offbeat click. There's no way to drift while doing that. You must stay focused. If your mind drifts so does your playing.
 

ricky

Senior Member
Thank you all, lots of great ideas, appreciate it!

Here's a side question I'm just sort of curious about.

What part of your body do you use to keep time? Left foot/leg, right foot/leg, body, head, no part?

I've noticed some keep their left foot constantly moving, or sway their whole body, or things like that. I was without really thinking, moving my right leg...and sometimes I feel like I'm moving my whole body...I'm not sure any of these are really good (for me), maybe it's best to remain mostly static and just feel the beat through the ends of limbs. I also realized I was too tense, arms too tense, and oddly, I have a tendency to clench my left foot subconsciously.

Just wondering what you all think about that aspect.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
The main timekeeper depends on the style and mechanics of that groove.

Locking the hats or ride ca work. During a fill keeping time on the left foot may help, or not, depends on you.

If it's free and linear you can't really depend on a limb.

A typical trick at slower tempos would be to simply count or feel an shorter subdivision internally. Understanding of course, that certain tempos or playing cut time is to allow for a certain quality of mor "living" pulse.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
What part of your body do you use to keep time? Left foot/leg, right foot/leg, body, head, no part?
I used to keep my left foot going pretty consistently, and eventually found it tended to make me gravitate towards tempos at which it was comfortable to move my leg. I would struggle with certain tempos where it was hard to find a good leg motion. Lot's of people do it, I don't think it's great practice. These days I use my mind-- any physical motion I'm doing starts from that; I'm not moving to tell me where the time is by feel. You can do that by doing the things I suggested-- understand the rhythm you're playing, be able to count it solidly, and also memorize the tempo you're playing-- either memorize the sound of the count off, or the sound of the opening riff.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Thank you all, lots of great ideas, appreciate it!

Here's a side question I'm just sort of curious about.

What part of your body do you use to keep time? Left foot/leg, right foot/leg, body, head, no part?
None. Keeping time with any limb should be optional, purely. Whether to move a limb is first and foremost a musical decision. It shouldn't be done in order to maintain a tempo.

If you're playing a repetitive beat or lick, and your body needs to move in order to better enable that thing, then so be it. But bodily movements should be the result of playing, not vice versa.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Good job of being honest with yourself. That will serve you well. If you can't groove to a click, groove isn't in your toolbox yet. Groove can be learned, I'm walking proof. I didn't groove for most of my life. I finally started to get it in about 2009, not too long after I joined here. Related? I think so.

My time is in my head. I keep time with my brain. There's no limb that is relegated to just keeping time. That's my approach, yours may differ.

What is groove? IMO...the ability to divide time evenly down to the 10th of a second for 10 minutes at a time. The ability to make a beat feel good, front to back. The ability to keep great time while maintaining a certain individual dynamic level with each limb. The "locking in" with the other's. Groove is great time, maturity, and steady dynamics played on a drumset.

Simplify it by thinking of groove as time. If your groove faltered, it's most likely because the time faltered.

Time is what you need to study to get the groove going.

David Stanoch's "The Tables of Time" is a great starting point.

Study time and nothing but until you feel the groove. It's that important. Everything else can wait. Understanding time is the first, second and third most important thing, after you get comfortable with the sticks and pedals.
 

Rosemarydrumco

Senior Member
This may sound harsh, but the idea the band or you as a drummer can't groove to a click is absurd. This is typically what people that can't groove to a click say. The best thing for learning to groove to a click is just practicing to the click. Using gap clicks that drop bars out can be very helpful as well. There are metronome apps on the phone that will do this. Practice practice practice.

Typically a lot of studio situations and many live ones will require playing to click. Learning to play in the pocket while using the click is part of being a great drummer. We should all spend time with the click.
 

whiteknightx

Silver Member
This may sound harsh, but the idea the band or you as a drummer can't groove to a click is absurd. This is typically what people that can't groove to a click say. The best thing for learning to groove to a click is just practicing to the click. Using gap clicks that drop bars out can be very helpful as well. There are metronome apps on the phone that will do this. Practice practice practice.

Typically a lot of studio situations and many live ones will require playing to click. Learning to play in the pocket while using the click is part of being a great drummer. We should all spend time with the click.
This is 100% true! It's hard at first. So was everything else about drumming. You get better you just need to put in the time with it.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
My progress working with a click has come over years, not months. I'm still on that journey, but if I could go back and do it over, I'd have spent more time doing this: Set the click for 40bpm and play alternating quarter notes with the right and left hand, trying to land right on the beat. That's what got me the fastest improvement. I wasted time practicing other exercises with the metronome that brought fewer returns. You'll want to incorporate the feet also at some point.

It feels brutally slow at first—each hand is basically playing 20bpm—and it takes a while to be able to line up with the click after that long wait. But you'll strengthen so much, from your internal meter to your physical execution. It really gets you focusing on every aspect of each stroke, from upstroke to the instant the stick hits the surface (of the head or pad). Also work on different volume levels with each hand. You'll find that nailing the beat is complicated when some notes played are soft and others are accented, because you're accounting for a longer movement with each hand. This was a HUGE area of improvement for me. I found that varying dynamics messed up my timing.

To the question about using a limb to keep time: I find that this exercise helps me subdivide the time in my head rather than with a limb, which can come in handy in playing situations. There's no end to improving at this stuff. Using a metronome that has random mute can make the above exercise even more challenging, with the click dropping out for one or more bars at a time.

So there are shortcuts like using a busier pattern for a click when recording. That does make it easier. But I think it's worth practicing the harder stuff so that regular things seem easy by comparison. The whole concept of headroom.

My two cents.
 
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