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

trickg

Silver Member
I think you might be under the mistaken impression that modern bands with backing tracks play to a "literal" click.
Do you know of any specific instances of bands using backing tracks where there isn't also a click? I know that in some of the situations I've played in, both as a trumpet player and a drummer, I had a choice of how much click I could dial in or dial out, but it was there. Particuarly with some of the praise teams I played with. With some, we were using Ableton sessions where we could select which backing tracks we wanted mixed in based on the personnel we had on stage, and we ran everything off of a Roland midi trigger pad - we had sections that would loop and vamp, (used for things like baptisms where we wanted the music to continue, but the amount of time needed to be variable) and then I could trigger the next transition from the tigger pad based on the map for that particular tune.

In any case, we always had a click.
 

ERock82

Junior Member
Hey everyone, thanks for all of the replies!

After reading through the comments I have learned a couple of things:

1. ) To pause if I go off the click and come back in.

This makes sense but I can’t see how it would work in many situations. There are many places where there is no backing track (verse has none but chorus has it). If I went off in the verse I wouldn’t be able to find my spot, or would I?

That led me to think that If I played to the actual recorded track with click minus the drums then I could always find my way back in after pausing. The problem with that is, I don’t want to do that because I want to hear the live mix. Why bother playing with a setup like that unless you’re getting paid well. This is my hobby. I suppose, if there was a very heavy backing track where you couldn’t just stop the track and play regular, then maybe those particular ones could use that method.


2.) Stopping the song and making a joke about it.

That seems to make a lot of sense. Skipping it would only work if it is not an essential fan favorite song with original band. I suppose everyone in the band would need to sort of rehearse that situation and maybe even make up some bs about equipment failure that was out of their control rather than a musician error.

The only disaster I can think of in this case would be a famous band with heavy backing track during a live televised performance.



Fortunately, I really enjoy the music I play so I’m okay with it but if I was ever to do a cover band for fun, I don’t think I would be okay with backing tracks. It makes it more of a job. I am all about playing my best but there’s times you want to enjoy a couple beers on stage and have that casual feeling with the crowd and no stress. In my old band with no tracks or click, it felt so effortless and was nice at times to feel so relaxed going on stage. Now I have to be super clear headed and focused which is okay for original shows where the audience really pays attention and appreciates what you do.
 

trickg

Silver Member
Fortunately, I really enjoy the music I play so I’m okay with it but if I was ever to do a cover band for fun, I don’t think I would be okay with backing tracks. It makes it more of a job. I am all about playing my best but there’s times you want to enjoy a couple beers on stage and have that casual feeling with the crowd and no stress. In my old band with no tracks or click, it felt so effortless and was nice at times to feel so relaxed going on stage. Now I have to be super clear headed and focused which is okay for original shows where the audience really pays attention and appreciates what you do.
I think it would depend on the backing tracks, how well you play to a click, and how familiar you got with the material.

In the wedding band I'm in, the backing tracks are put together by the bandleader, who is also a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and recording engineer. He actually puts verbal cues to the drummer on his backing tracks:

"going into the chorus you're going to switch to snare on all beats....one, two, three, and chorus."

"At the chorus you're going to switch from hats to ride...."

"(name of song), light time at the beginning.....at the verse you're going to play a cross-stick beat...."

"coming up you'll play the hits for the horns..."

Etc.

We have a book over roughly 1000 tunes, and we can do any of them at any point because:

1.) we have backing tracks for almost everything
2.) everyone reads music, and it's all charted and on iPads that can be synced with the push of a button with charts on an FTP server
3.) our drummer is really good, and really versatile - he can passably play just about anything at any time at the drop of a hat

Keep in mind, this was something that was done out of necessity - as a wedding/party band competing for a share of the market in the central Maryland area, having a band with horns, a huge song list, and a group where everyone has the ability to sing both lead and backups, it made us a live band that was a virtual chameleon - almost any great dance tune you wanted to hear, sung by someone whose voice was best suited for that particular tune. 15 years ago, most other bands had limited song lists - usually less than 100 tunes - didn't sound as close to the original as we did, and usually only had 1 or 2 singers, so they didn't have the diversity of sound.

Some people will argue that a band should have its own sound, and I won't disagree, but I know that we achieved a great deal of success for a long time sounding as close to the original recording as possible, and frankly, it was the support of the backing tracks that allowed for that.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Do you know of any specific instances of bands using backing tracks where there isn't also a click? I know that in some of the situations I've played in, both as a trumpet player and a drummer, I had a choice of how much click I could dial in or dial out, but it was there.

In any case, we always had a click.
In all of the bands that I have produced, and of the hundreds of bands I've done stage sound for, it's always a midi track. There are times where the "click" is as simple as a tambourine, there are times where it was full midi keys that conveyed both the tempo and song/scene position. Usually, it is somewhere in between.

The question I have is, "How the heck do you hear an actual/literal click on stage?". It must be absolutely maddening. How do you sync to the lighting scenes and video?
 

mpungercar

Junior Member
The question I have is, "How the heck do you hear an actual/literal click on stage?". It must be absolutely maddening. How do you sync to the lighting scenes and video?
I always play with IEM's and the click is part of the my mix that I have control over, and I mix it as such. It needs to be in my mix but not an overbearing part of the mix. That would be maddening. For me it becomes just another one of the persons on stage I'm performing with, so I'm playing with the click not to the click.

I only play in one situation where lights are synced to the music, and in that case it's all controlled using the same program. When I start the track the lights start as well.
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
The common mistake that in my opinion a lot of average coverbands make, is that they think that they have to try to reproduce the song as close to the original as possible including ALL key parts, ALL vocal parts, ALL guitar parts, and even ALL percussion parts, etc..

And then to achieve that, they start creating backing tracks with a million parts..

What they always forget is, that this is a guarantee to become a completely boring band..

To me, having a repertoire of even 2000 songs means nothing if all those songs are basically 50-60% depending on backing tracks and i would not even look a minute to such a band or want to play with them..

A nice coverband is able to catch the vibe of a song..THATS the most important, the vibe and the 'attitude' of a song and being able to reproduce THAT..

Thats way more important than having 10 keyboard parts and 20 harmony vocals on a backing track..

But the irony is, that all those "backing track bands" basically never are able to catch the vibe of a song..

These examples are not 100% relevant for this thread, but they show in my opinion the difference between a kinda "professional" boring coverband and a technically maybe more crappy coverband, but they actually catch the vibe of the song..

I deliberately have not chosen Jump from the women, because thats about the only song that sounds crap and hey, also about the only song they play with a backing track..lol..

Example of a boring coverband..:


And an example of a technically maybe worse coverband, but they understood the vibe of the music and how the music should sound way better than the "professional" ones..:

 
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KamaK

Platinum Member
I always play with IEM's and the click is part of the my mix that I have control over, and I mix it as such. It needs to be in my mix but not an overbearing part of the mix. That would be maddening. For me it becomes just another one of the persons on stage I'm performing with, so I'm playing with the click not to the click.

I only play in one situation where lights are synced to the music, and in that case it's all controlled using the same program. When I start the track the lights start as well.
Would you be interested in entertaining the notion of changing out the click sound for a midi instrument (usually tambourine) or possibly a full keyboard track?

The benefit of the latter is that....
1: Recovery from mistakes is automatic, for each and every band member.
2: The midi keys help the singer find/maintain pitch (even when the guitars are out of tune).
3: Playing to the key-click track seems to result in a more cohesive performance amongst all band members.
4: Given the right gear, your lighting/Video can integrate directly into your sound desk... Scenes (both audio and video) can be automated. This reduces the number of people that need to work the house (to one), and all that they do is monitor/fix/tweak rather than frantically moving faders in time to music.

Give it a try and tell me what you think. You might hate it.
 

mpungercar

Junior Member
Honestly I’ve been playing to a click long enough that I hardly notice it. I know some people prefer a tambourine sound, but I actually prefer a more staccato sound for a click. I find it’s easier to hear and I don’t need to crank it in the mix.

I can see where a keyboard track could be helpful for vocalists, but for keeping the band in time I don’t think there’s anything better than some type of percussive sound.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum 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"?
Actually, The Who were the first band to use click tracks on stage in 1971. Keith Moon happily played to a click track on Baba O'riley and Won't Get Fooled Again to lock into the keyboard parts that were NOT being played by a person. Pete made extensive use of programming keyboards on numerous albums by The Who.

The Beatles did extensive work with tape loops, cutting tape, and effects to make music that they could not physically play. For example, "Tomorrow Never Knows" is one bar of drumming looped over and over again. And that was in 1966! On Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles pushed technology to the limits of the time, knowing they wouldn't have to reproduce the songs live.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Honestly I’ve been playing to a click long enough that I hardly notice it. I know some people prefer a tambourine sound, but I actually prefer a more staccato sound for a click. I find it’s easier to hear and I don’t need to crank it in the mix.
I usually try to have a straight drum loop as my click. It's very comfortable/natural to play with "another drummer." And if I have any kind of syncopation in what I'm playing, the drum loop will have a beat in the 'hole' so I always know exactly where I'm at with it.

Bermuda
 

Foggie Blur

Active member
The OP has a challenging gig. Stressful yes, but what a great opportunity to enhance his ability to play with a click, increase his internal timing, listening, and precisely tracking song changes.

One aspect to this I think is relevant is the stress management aspect. He s not just playing a click, all the songs are synced around predetermined lengths (I’m assuming).

Mindfullness is a much hyped concept these days, but many people have found it very effective.

Mindful drumming would just be an extension of that. Focusing and refocusing on the click and his drumming with a calm open mind/calming breaths may reduce the OPs stress about the gig, click and hopefully make it more fun overall

Foggie
 

picodon

Silver Member
The OP has a challenging gig. Stressful yes, but what a great opportunity to enhance his ability to play with a click, increase his internal timing, listening, and precisely tracking song changes.

One aspect to this I think is relevant is the stress management aspect. He s not just playing a click, all the songs are synced around predetermined lengths (I’m assuming).

Mindfullness is a much hyped concept these days, but many people have found it very effective.

Mindful drumming would just be an extension of that. Focusing and refocusing on the click and his drumming with a calm open mind/calming breaths may reduce the OPs stress about the gig, click and hopefully make it more fun overall

Foggie
I think it doesn't require a whole different level of concentration than drumming without a click and a backing track, as long as you can hear the click very very clearly.

The only change is that the click won't listen to anyone, it just goes. You can argue that it doesn't have to listen because it never drifts, but singers and guitarists who are used to having the rest of the band make micro adjustments to accomodate their poor timing, will have a hard time. The click is unforgiving, and so is the drummer now, drumming to the click. The others will have to concentrate as much as the drummer. Maybe more.
 
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bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I think it doesn't require a whole different level of concentration than drumming without a click and a backing track, as long as you can hear the click very very clearly.
Precisely. Attempts at having a 'normal' mix while playing with a click only complicates things. It's crucial to understand that playing with a click means playing with a click, not the band. I'm not saying a mix should be just drums and click, although a drummer that knows the arrangements could certainly perform that way... it's just not quite as fun as having some music & vox in there as well.

One way to hear a click better is to pan it to one side in your ears, with the kick, snare and hat in the center. That way, you can instantly monitor/compare where you and the click are, without having everything compete volume-wise in the center of your mix. It may mean you can turn the click down a bit as well, since it will be more audible when panned to one side.

The biggest bands/artists in the world are using tracks and video, and (at least) the drummer is synching-up by playing with a click. If anyone here is aiming for a gig like that, you've got to embrace the click. And whatever level you think I'm at, I wouldn't be there without working seamlessly with a click. Then again, I've been doing that on stage for almost 35 years, it's second nature to me.

Bermuda
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Multiple things being discussed here. first off. A click isn't bad, especially if your song has no tempo or subdivision changes. you go off, just slowly increase or decrease until you are back on. (assuming all clicks are the same sound)

If you have tempo changes this could be a disaster. be ready to rip those IEM's out of your ears and wing it.

If you have backing tracks with music playing you better damn well stay on the click. Bermuda nailed it with his comment. When I jam with my band, or our cds, or in the studio I don't all of a sudden miss a beat. I don't go "off time" very often, I'm not perfect, but missing a 16th note or 1/4 note just doesn't happen very often. If I can hear the click I am locked in, If there are guitars on the backing track too I am even more locked in.

One thing you could do is have a full prerecorded mix with the click and not even ask for a mix of the band. They HAVE to follow you. The only issue is if THEY start having issues you are going to keep playing like nothing is wrong. Even if all the amps /pa cut out.

My advice is PRACTICE with a click and backing tracks. If you can do it at jam 100% over and over, there is no reason you can't do it on stage. The only difference is like any gig with a quick setup and new sound guy. Sometimes it is out of your hand. Have a midi pad to use as a kill switch if you need to to completely disable the backing track. If you go off, hit that then try again on the next tune.

I had this fear for a while of how bad it COULD go, but then I realized even if i just jam to some track with headphones on, I don't all of a sudden miss a beat. The click just locks me in.

In my metal band things are a bit different however. When the click is set to 210-240 BPM and I am playing 16th notes on my feet or blasting it is EASY to go off a 16th note. that click does lock me in much better, but I REALLY have to listen to it. When you are at your max, and you sneak up 5bpm over a song it's tough to play at the end. We also have many subdivision / tempo changes so If I was to go off the IEM's get ripped out.
 
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