DRUMMERS, How do or would you handle falling off the click on a song with a backing track?

ERock82

Junior Member
So, my band of the last 2 years uses backing tracks for all of our songs in our set. I hear a click in my in-ears and am pretty good about staying on it. When I first joined the band I had a slip up and had to pull the tracks (run from a laptop) due to missing the count in. Fortunately, that song didn’t have a lot on the backing track which are mostly keyboards. Some of our newer material is a bit heavier on the keyboards and electronic sounds and it worries me if these have to get pulled during these songs, especially if at a big show. I know I could go dozens of shows without an issue but I still can’t completely relax knowing this. Just playing to a click is so easy because if I fall off I can quickly find my spot but it’s a whole other story with the backing tracks.

To any drummers out there who have experience with this, what is the procedure if you were to ever fall of? I think even the best drummers could be susceptible to this even if once in 300 shows. If they are playing an arena and get distracted from something I can’t imagine them just cutting off the tracks, especially with these newer bands that use them heavily.

So, is there any special things done if this happens for the big bands?

Thanks.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I have a click on about half of the songs we play, and without trying to be immodest, have never lost it. Ever. The secret is, you have to be listening to the click.

Sounds obvious, but too many drummers underestimate the power of a mix. And that power is to make or break a performance. Drummers want to hear a nice mix of the band, and normally that would seem to be a good idea. EXCEPT when you have a click. Then, different elements of the band can be a liability to hearing and staying with the click. That is, the band can actually interfere with your ability to hear the click - and yourself - clearly. The better you hear the click, the better you will stick with it... assuming your time is decent to begin with. So a click & drum-heavy mix with some music & vox for reference is a smart approach. Don't be concerned about not hearing a nice mix, your job is to stay with the click.

Now there are times when the track has a hiccup or gets cut-off or starts late, and every effort needs to be made to keep that from happening. A proper audio server is a must (a Mac Pro does nicely.) Even a sample pad that you control would be reliable as long as its power isn't cut off (a UPS is good to have.)

As for what happens when there's a problem out of your control, it's definitely a helpless feeling. If the track cuts out, you had better pray it doesn't come back or start over or pick up where it left off! The instruction to the sound person in such a case is to NOT try to recover that song - it's just not going to work.

So what to do if the track carries a lot of the sound and the band suddenly sounds empty? That's a discussion that needs to happen in advance, and there may be different options depending on the particular song. Some may actually have to stop as elegantly as possible, and maybe make a joke about it. Other songs may successfully continue well enough with just the band, and they should be allowed to. Again, work it out in advance so that everyone is clear about what needs to happen.

Sometimes there's user error on the sound person's part, and then it's time to bring in someone who doesn't make mistakes.

Bermuda
 
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DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
It's been a while for me, but I've been in many bands where I played to a click. And I agree with Bermuda, you just don't. If you practice enough, it's just not a problem.
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
Don't use them. Drummers are your click track. I abhor everything about them. Robots that's all they are.If it's ok for technology to be fallible why is it not ok for drummers.
 
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johnwesley

Silver Member
Don't use them. Drummers are your click track. I abhor everything about them. Robots that's all they are.If it's ok for technology to be fallible why is it not ok for drummers.
Clicks are for those who don't know or feel the music. Oh....and to make it easy for the recording tech's editing. I AGREE wholeheartedly with P'diddle Pete. Why have a drummer when you can click your way through a song and add drum samples later. You're either a musician or you're not. Wonder how Mozart, Beethoven, Glen Miller, John Phillip Sousa, The Beatles and the Who made it without computers and "clicks"?
 

ineedaclutch

Platinum Member
Bermuda nailed everything. Practice until it's not ever going to be your fault. If anything else happens have a plan b,c, c.1, etc.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
There seems to be a little misunderstanding about why a 'click' is necessary at times. It's not because the drummer can't keep time. If that's ever the case, the group needs to find a new drummer. A click is necessary when there's a track and/or video used in performance, so the drummer and band can stay in sync with it. The 'click' can be an actual click, but most drummers prefer a drum or percussion loop so it feels like they're playing with another drummer. It's more natural and therefore easier to stick with it.

Generally speaking, it's a really good idea to get comfy working with a click.

Bermuda
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
Tell that to the Cubans. or Africans for that matter. This is all the Sync I ever needed. I suggest everyone take a listen to this then tell me why a "Clique " is nesesscary. The Polyrythms in this are utterly fantastic. This is the Album Buena Vista was meant to be. I don't even understand most commercial music anymore , pretty much tuned out from it. Clicks are probably why.
 

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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
OK don't do it.

But what if he does, what then?

That's what the OP is looking for.

He needs to think through this disaster and explore his options now, not when it's happening.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
So, is there any special things done if this happens for the big bands?
Yes, and it costs a great deal of time, money, and effort to set up.

Obviously, great care is taken so that the show never has to stop. I met the MD for Pink a few years ago, and he ran two Mac Pros simultaneously, just so that if one failed, the other could carry on. He also set up talk-back mics so he could talk to the band (through in-ears, and not over any speakers that the audience might hear. Obviously local bands don't have the time or budget for stuff like this.

If the band "wrecked" - which rarely happens - the band will play a loud crescendo, and devise and ending of some sort, that seems intentional. Then it's time to simply move to the next song, or part of the show. The singer is instructed, over the talk-back mic, to banter with the audience, while the change is worked out.

For local bands, the approach I've worked with, is that if a band can no longer stay in sync with the track, the band plays an "ending" of some kind (a long fermata), and then moves to the next song, ASAP. Never return to the song that was botched. Have the vocalist say something like: "I'm not into that song, let's play something else."

Sometimes the show absolutely must stop, for non-musical reasons. Last year, Taylor Swift got stuck way up in the air on a swing, which suddenly couldn't lower her back to the stage for a few moments. Obviously, the show has to be paused for something like that, and she needs to hear about what is going on, and when the show can resume.

It's important that you, as the drummer, retain control over how you hear the click. Do not rely on a sound-person to control that part of your mix; have the click signal available to your hands during the show, so you can quickly and easily adjust the click volume, and, if necessary, turn down everything else.
 

mpungercar

Junior Member
Clicks are for those who don't know or feel the music. Oh....and to make it easy for the recording tech's editing. I AGREE wholeheartedly with P'diddle Pete. Why have a drummer when you can click your way through a song and add drum samples later. You're either a musician or you're not. Wonder how Mozart, Beethoven, Glen Miller, John Phillip Sousa, The Beatles and the Who made it without computers and "clicks"?
How did The Who Make with out a click?

The Who- Baba O'Riley 1971
 

V-Four

Senior Member
Tell that to the Cubans. or Africans for that matter. This is all the Sync I ever needed. I suggest everyone take a listen to this then tell me why a "Clique " is nesesscary. The Polyrythms in this are utterly fantastic. This is the Album Buena Vista was meant to be. I don't even understand most commercial music anymore , pretty much tuned out from it. Clicks are probably why.
Yes, Live groups can play and be great together, if every instrument is being played live by a human that is actually there at the performance- that is NOT what the discussion is.
I think you might be missing the point (IN THIS particular instance).

The OP said they use BACKING tracks to ALL of their songs. (Music /sounds that are previously recorded, going on while they are playing live instruments along with it.) In this situation, Everyone NEEDS to stay in PERFECT time, so when the recorded parts come around, EVERYONE is in perfect sync.
Same with Bermuda's response about playing to synced video- it must be perfect.
I don't think ANYONE could play and maintain PERFECT timing , for a song, let alone a whole show- without a click.

Unless maybe I missed something.

T.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I've never (knock on wood) gotten off of a click track/performance track while playing live, and I've been doing it almost week-in/week-out for almost 10 years now. The only time our church band has gotten off the click while I've been playing is when a singer (it's ALWAYS a singer) comes in too early, too late, or drags. Gahhh! You have one job!

Anyways, what do we do? We cut that track, get with the singer as best we can musically, and finish the song. Why do we not stick with the track? Because if the singer's job is to lead our people, so we are doing the congregation a disservice by "being right" and sticking to the track and just letting the singer be "off."

When one of our other drummers as gotten off of the track, they just stop the track and finish the song too.
 

trickg

Silver Member
From my perspective, even if you get off of the click with backing tracks, the worst thing that will happen, unless the tune is unbelievably complicated, is a pause to reset before you are back in it again.

It's happened with the wedding band I play with - after 18 years of playing trumpet with them, it was bound to happen at some point in time or another. In any case, that's the worst thing that happened - the drummer realized they were off, paused for a second, and came back in with the click.
 

Florian

Gold Member
Ive played with both, click/no-click. Its imperative to concentrate on the click and only the click when playing. If you start trying to listen to everyone else, you'll get caught up.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Drummers want to hear a nice mix of the band, and normally that would seem to be a good idea. EXCEPT when you have a click. Then, different elements of the band can be a liability to hearing and staying with the click. That is, the band can actually interfere with your ability to hear the lick - and yourself - clearly.
^ This. It doesn't answer the OP's question, but this is the proper way to use a click when playing live.

To the OP's question, if the backing track stays solid and the drummer loses time, then simply pause a beat and get back on the train.

If the backing track fails, it's time for a drum solo that no one will ever forget. 😂
 

trickg

Silver Member
Ive played with both, click/no-click. Its imperative to concentrate on the click and only the click when playing. If you start trying to listen to everyone else, you'll get caught up.
When I was doing praise band stuff where I was the only one with the click, there were a couple of times where I drifted off of the click because of other players getting too wound up and pushing the time - then it's just a matter of settling back to it.

Playing with backing tracks, the backing tracks are in time to the click. I think one of the advantages I've had coming to drums later in life, and coming from another instrument, is that it was never really up to me to set the time, so I was always listening to someone else as the source of tempo and time and playing WITH them. When I'm drumming and using backing tracks, I tend to hear those as simply another instrument that I need to play with, so while for the rest of the band it may seem like I'm the one setting the tempo and time, I'm just doing what I always did - playing WITH someone/something else.

To date, *knock on wood* I have yet to come off of the click when using backing tracks.
 
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