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

Durbs

Senior Member
I'm assuming we're all just ignoring P'diddle. Top stuff.

In my previous drum n' bass band. I had a click track and audio guide as a fair chunk of the music was coming from the laptop. One thing I hadn't considered, was this skipping/stuttering - quite possibly due to a fragmented hard-drive (this was a while ago in the age of spinning hard drives).

I used to have to just bring in a cymbal rush at vaguely appropriate time, let the singer and other instruments go with the track and convincingly bring things back in again.

Also, i'd never considered having anything other than a 'click' as a click track. Mind blown.
 

donzo74

Junior Member
I don't play with a click in any of my regular groups when we play live but I do use it sometimes while rehearsing to make sure everyone is playing and practicing song at the correct tempos. It's just a spot check to make sure we're on the same page and everything feels good. I do play live with a click every Sunday at church. It's a big, boomy room and it helps to keep everyone together, especially when you're playing with a mix of seasoned players, semi-pro and total amateurs that have zero experience singing with a live band. Plus, the singers don't have the click, just the band and worship leader. I have never lost the click because I have my mix set in the way that Bermuda suggests, although I'm in a plexiglass cage so I have mostly click, some piano and guitar for reference, some of the lead singer's vocals, very little of the other singers who always drag, and very little drums because I'm isolated in the booth and feeling every hit.

We play with backing tracks on some occasions where key elements aren't there. I control the starting and stopping of the click and/or tracks from an iPad in the drum booth and the sound booth controls the track's volume in the mix. The only time I ever had to dump a track was toward the end of the song where it broke down and got soft and, even though I was keeping time on the ride and hi-hat, a few of the singers came in several beats early and then everyone just went with them. Come to think of it, I can recall one more time that that happened and, once again, it was a singer who got excited and jumped the gun. So, for those of you wondering why an actual functional drummer would ever use a click, it's the singers. It takes every form of technology that has been invented to keep singers from dragging and even then, it doesn't stop the dragging, it just helps pull them along just a little bit behind the rest of the band for the whole song.
 

trickg

Silver Member
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?
Interesting - literally NONE of the backing tracks we use are midi. They are all recorded in the bandleader's home studio with real instruments. To be fair, some of the horns parts are keyboard horns, but there were many times I went in and recorded extra trumpet parts. Ultimately, it's an MP3 that gets played on a computer, and it's hard panned to different sides - the click and verbal cues are all the way to one side, the tracks are on the other. The only thing going out of the PA is are the backing tracks - mono, but coming out of both sides. The click is private and is only heard through the in-ears.

Also, we don't have elaborate lights - we have a guy running things at a light board, so none of that is synced.

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 don't think our drummer practices to the backing tracks - I don't think he needs to. If I was the drummer, I'd have to stay up on the tunes, because frankly, I'm not nearly as good as he is.

We've had a couple of times over the years where something went screwy with the backing tracks/click, and the band leader killed them, and we finished the song without them. This work because everything you see on stage is going out of the PA too - we just get supplemented by the backing tracks. We've had situations where all of a sudden the drummer lost the tracks in his in-ears, and we've had a couple of really odd-ball things happen where something just got way out of sync for some reason or other. Ultimately we just finish the tune - most of the time the crowd doesn't know anything was amiss, and even when they do hear something a bit out, most people don't understand what happened. In the context of this band, it's entertainment - it's not a performance, (and there is a difference) so we just move on to the next thing and keep the party going.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Interesting - literally NONE of the backing tracks we use are midi.
Rightly so. They're "Backing Tracks".
What do you use for your click/anchor track? I know it's not a PCM recording of a metronome. How do you trigger your lighting?
 

trickg

Silver Member
Rightly so. They're "Backing Tracks".
What do you use for your click/anchor track? I know it's not a PCM recording of a metronome. How do you trigger your lighting?
The track is based around a "cowbell" click - probably the only midi track in the mix. As I mentioned above, we don't trigger lighting - one of the kids we hire as a roadie manually works a light board. We're just not that kind of a band.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
This thread is an example of what a
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
Curious your thoughts about something, Jon. Do you think for someone just starting to work with a click, the loop is still the way to go? I feel like in my early years, playing along with a loop might be too much like playing along with a record, where I thought I was lining up with the quarter note, but would realize on playback that I was way too loose with it.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
So, what is y'all's opinion of using a Roland SPD-SX to provide a click and backing tracks?

I use one for playing along to my own compositions, using different pads to trigger different sections of a tune. If it goes with me on a gig, it to simply trigger hand claps and snaps using their rim mount triggers.
 

trickg

Silver Member
This thread is an example of what a
Curious your thoughts about something, Jon. Do you think for someone just starting to work with a click, the loop is still the way to go? I feel like in my early years, playing along with a loop might be too much like playing along with a record, where I thought I was lining up with the quarter note, but would realize on playback that I was way too loose with it.
I'm down for hearing what Joh has to say about that too, because like you, I experienced the same thing when I first got involved drumming, and so much of my practice was done playing along to the original recording. I was much looser than I realized, and I think that playing along with backing tracks where there isn't a drum part or loop on the track can help that.

This kind of stuff can be fun to work with.

 

brentcn

Platinum Member
This thread is an example of what a
Curious your thoughts about something, Jon. Do you think for someone just starting to work with a click, the loop is still the way to go? I feel like in my early years, playing along with a loop might be too much like playing along with a record, where I thought I was lining up with the quarter note, but would realize on playback that I was way too loose with it.
Having played for five years with various backing track bands across a range of styles, my answer here would be: it ultimately takes a lot of training and experience, to know when you're nailing the click, or the track. When you first start, you'll swear that you're grooving just fine, but recordings prove otherwise. As you gain experience, and practice with the click in other ways, your perception of time improves, along with your rhythmic accuracy. There's no guarantee that anybody will improve, but a combination of targeted practice involving time perception, and a long term of experience, are the primary factors.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I think that playing along with backing tracks where there isn't a drum part or loop on the track can help that.

This kind of stuff can be fun to work with.

Yes, it's going to be fun, and of course it's not going to hurt anyone, to play with this kind of drum-less track. But it differs from live playing in one very important way: if your timing happens to slow or rush, to squeeze certain notes too close together or far apart, then the other musicians could slow, rush, squeeze, or expand right along with you. And you may not be able to perceive, through the chaos of those moments, what is happening. Just as important, it's not going to be super obvious when your playing drifts from the drum-less track, and it's to your benefit to be aware of these drifts, the moment they occur. Finally, tracks like these are very, very busy, and rhythmically rich -- it's not very realistic, in terms of working bands. It's much more likely your band's tracks will be sparse, contain a wide variety of sounds (backup vocals, effects, delays, etc.), and some of the pre-recorded material may not be very tight.

Your time would be better spent learning to perceive small fluctuations, and controlling your time enough to recover from them. Over time, these fluctuations decrease in severity and frequency. The goal is to improve not only your time playing, but your time perception.
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
I'm assuming we're all just ignoring P'diddle. Top stuff.

In my previous drum n' bass band. I had a click track and audio guide as a fair chunk of the music was coming from the laptop. One thing I hadn't considered, was this skipping/stuttering - quite possibly due to a fragmented hard-drive (this was a while ago in the age of spinning hard drives).

I used to have to just bring in a cymbal rush at vaguely appropriate time, let the singer and other instruments go with the track and convincingly bring things back in again.

Also, i'd never considered having anything other than a 'click' as a click track. Mind blown.
Ignorance is Bliss!.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Curious your thoughts about something, Jon. Do you think for someone just starting to work with a click, the loop is still the way to go? I feel like in my early years, playing along with a loop might be too much like playing along with a record, where I thought I was lining up with the quarter note, but would realize on playback that I was way too loose with it.
Playing to a recording that didn't use a click, or to one that does, is essentially the same: you're either on it, or you're not. It's just as important to learn to breathe, as it is to work with a click - they're not mutually exclusive to being a drummer.

Using a 1-bar loop as a click is all you really need, and the loop should be a pattern/beat that you can follow. For example, at 150bpm, you could program a simple kick-snare-kick-snare on the quarter notes, with a hat on each for a little high-end clarity, and follow it just fine. But for a loop at 100bpm, quarter note spacing is just enough to keep you fighting to land on the beat. In that case, you'd add a subdivision by putting hats on the 8th notes too, to give you more to grab onto. That said, I have one track that's 185, and my click is 8th note hats on a straight beat (it's from the original recording.) It's busy and relentless, but I NEVER stray from the beat. When using a click, that's the goal: to stay on it.

Bermuda
 

beatdat

Senior 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.
Your point is taken, but the OP doesn't have the option of not playing to a click/backing track. Like it or not, it's part of his gig.

and we all go out with a whimper , Ask Pete Townsend what he thinks of Spotify? it's Mime.
taking your ego with it.
Ignorance is Bliss!.
What an inspiration
Why all the animus?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Your point is taken, but the OP doesn't have the option of not playing to a click/backing track. Like it or not, it's part of his gig.
Exactly. Nobody has to take every gig that comes their way. For example, if the musical style isn't your expertise, it's a good idea to turn down that kind of gig. But turning down work just because it involves a click isn't smart. There are precious few drummers who can afford to pick and choose their gigs. I'm talking about Vinnie, Kenny, JR, Gadd, etc. and I'm pretty sure none of them ever turned down a gig just because it had a click.

You get offered a gig, in a style you can play, and you accept it, period. Click or not. That's how being a pro works. That's how musicians get to be pros with a career in music.

Bermuda
 
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