Metronome and live playing

Caz

Senior Member
The click sound is worth setting up nicely, if it's too low tonality it can be harder to hear. So if using for example Logic Pro there are tonality settings for the metronome sound, if you make it nice and high pitched, and an even higher pitch on the first beat of the bar, it helps it to cut through so you can hear it really clearly live, especially in a boomy room. I tend to set the click higher than the default pitches, with everyone else pretty low in the mix and a little mixer next to me. Good luck with it, definitely a good skill to work on.

Caroline
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
It's not difficult, and the methods I described - drum part vs a sterile click, and high in the mix - will help anyone stay on it.

John, curious to know how you organize and then play programmed drum/percussion parts live (in lieu of a sterile click you would get from, say a metronome app)?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
By my third attempt I had only the lead singer/guitarist and bassist in my ‘phones, and the click was louder than the music. I had to ignore the performances of others and just play my notes according to the click.
Yep.
So if I began playing to/with the guitarist’s playing, it was off the click within 2 measures. I had to marry my beat to the click and let the others latch on. So when I’d hear someone lose the beat, well, too bad. Smile and make it look good.
Yep Yep!
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Would visual rather than audible help/work?
I was trying to find a "visual" metronome. Use it with a small tablet.
It's certainly do-able, just ask anyone who's worked with a conductor.

The problem is having to use two senses - sound and sight - while still having to focus on the sound. It's much simpler to deal with it all in one realm, the audio.

However, with enough practice and a lot of dedication, it's possible to use a visual metronome. I recommend one with a visual 'wand' going back & forth so you can see when the beat is coming (a la watching a conductor*) and get a better sense of the flow. Trying to watch a flashing light is trickier.

Also keep in mind that if you're playing with a track, you probably won't have a visual click at your disposal. It's unlikely the person in charge of the tracks will make the effort to set-up an accompanying visual of some sort to accommodate a drummer who has a problem with an audio click. Time to get a more flexible drummer.

--------------------------------------------

* Re conductors, there are good ones and poor ones. A poor conductor has too much flow and not enough deliberate beats to keep the orchestra truly together. The players start to rely on playing with each other... until one of them starts trying to follow the conductor and messes it all up. But a good conductor is easy follow, and makes each beat crystal clear. There's no denying where the count is, and everyone can stay together more effectively (read: sounds better!)

We did an orchestral tour in 2019, and one of our (two regular) conductors was also a drummer, and conducted as if he was playing a kit. His arm and hand movements were rhythmic and easy to follow. When there was a click, only he and I had it, and we worked perfectly together. When we didn't have a click, he typically conducted to my playing, and we kept each other in sight to help ensure our arms were landing at the same time.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
John, curious to know how you organize and then play programmed drum/percussion parts live (in lieu of a sterile click you would get from, say a metronome app)?
My clicks are loaded into a server and synched with video content. The click may or may not be part of a multitrack with other parts and vocals on it.

Because it's crucial to the show that I'm comfortable with the click, I get to provide (or at least specify) the audio I want to hear. And that click varies from song to song, depending what my parts are, and sometimes how long I've been using a certain click and how I preferred it back in the day. For example, when playing Amish Paradise or Jurassic Park, my click is the actual album track - drums, vocals, everything - with a countoff attached to the top. Those have been that way since the '90s, and there's no reason to change. Do I need to hear the band onstage? For those, not really, I'm synching to video, and that's where my responsibility lies. Well, I do hear Al's vocal in case something goes terribly wrong and he starts yelling "STOP STOP STOP!" I have to keep part of my brain in reality!

For some songs I'll specify certain elements of that song as my click. For example, Word Crimes has a compelling percussion loop throughout, so I use that as my click. There may also be kick & snare in there, but there's lots of resolution, and super-easy to stick with. It's like playing with 3 other percussionists with perfect time. :)

But where I make a click for myself, I'll usually program a straight drum beat with 8th note hats. If the tempo is slowish, like under 95bpm, I may program 16th hats, but with accents on the 8ths (so it's not a machine gun of hats in my ears.) Depending on the song, I may program a little syncopation. Some drummers actually program a backwards beat, so their live kick lands on the click's snare, the live snare on the click's kick, etc. Or they may program a very syncopated or even off-beat rhythm so their live drums can land in the holes.

It's strictly a personal choice, whatever makes it easy to follow the click. And that's the key: being able to follow the click. If you don't like a sterile 'TOCK tick tick tick', then set-up something more drummer friendly.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
The click sound is worth setting up nicely, if it's too low tonality it can be harder to hear. So if using for example Logic Pro there are tonality settings for the metronome sound, if you make it nice and high pitched, and an even higher pitch on the first beat of the bar, it helps it to cut through so you can hear it really clearly live, especially in a boomy room.
Good point! The frequency range of the click can help make it more audible, rather than bombarding your ears with sheer volume.
 

Caz

Senior Member
Good point! The frequency range of the click can help make it more audible, rather than bombarding your ears with sheer volume.
Yes exactly, I went through stages of trying to crank everything up to hear it better before settling on turning everything down again and setting the click sound and pitch so that it cuts through very clearly. If you can hear it comfortably when playing that's half the battle. It's surprising how many clicks have quite a low pitch by default. I'm also quite specific about click pitches when doing studio work, which gets mixed responses from the engineers... I wish more drummers asked to personalise click sounds as then it wouldn't seem like such a weird request!
 

BGDurham

Well-known Member
Kevin Murphy (among many others I'm sure) has a few "drummer cam w/in-ear mix" videos on YouTube that are interesting and provide examples of click sounds, pitches, and frequencies that could be useful.

 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
It is amazing how the sound of the click changes they way players play.
I was in the recording studio with a band where one guitar player had a poor sense of time.
The engineer tried to get us to play to a click. The bass player and the Guitar player could not stay with the click.
I suggested that the click track be changed to a tambourine sound. After that the whole band stayed with the click just fine.

.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I can't imagine playing a live gig with a click. I have never done that. It would spoil all of the fun for me. My job is to keep the tempo.
And I take that job very seriously.
Many lead guitar players speed up when they take their solos. And I need to speed up a tiny bit to help them sound good. Then slowing the band back down to the correct tempo. I'm only talking about a couple of beats per minute. Something the audience never notices. If I were playing to a click, me and the band would be off tempo with the click. I rarely play with other musicians that have a perfect sense of timing.

.
 

TomR

Junior Member
Kevin Murphy (among many others I'm sure) has a few "drummer cam w/in-ear mix" videos on YouTube that are interesting and provide examples of click sounds, pitches, and frequencies that could be useful.

I discovered for myself that the more the metronome sounds like an instrument the easier it is to follow, and that playing with a click is a skill that gets easier the more I do it.

On a side note, I appreciate seeing the video of Kevin Murphy. I hung out with him some years ago at a bar gig in No. VA where he was filling in for a friend. Great guy, great drummer. And then I see Ward Williams in the same video. I met him in S. Utah at a dinner show this summer. He came out to our gig the next day. Another really great musician and person.
 

Chris Whitten

Silver Member
You don't have to be a purist with the click, choose sounds or percussion/drum groves that work for you.
I generate a click from my SPD-SX.
I can stop and start the click at will. Some songs need to have tempo changes and fluctuate, so when I get to those parts of the song I stop the click.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I can't imagine playing a live gig with a click. I have never done that. It would spoil all of the fun for me. My job is to keep the tempo.
And I take that job very seriously.
I find that playing with a click relieves me of having to wonder about my time. I just play along, and have fun at the same time. But my time is quite good without a click as well (perhaps from working with clicks for a long time?) Keeping time isn't somewthing that should require a lot of special attention... that's when the fun goes away.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I can't imagine playing a live gig with a click. I have never done that. It would spoil all of the fun for me. My job is to keep the tempo.
And I take that job very seriously.
Many lead guitar players speed up when they take their solos. And I need to speed up a tiny bit to help them sound good. Then slowing the band back down to the correct tempo. I'm only talking about a couple of beats per minute. Something the audience never notices. If I were playing to a click, me and the band would be off tempo with the click. I rarely play with other musicians that have a perfect sense of timing.

.
I don't recall the last time I saw a band where a click wasn't being used.

Even my buddy who plays a local bar gig every week is synced to a click because the band is synced to a karaoke machine for guest vocalists.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
This is where a lot of bands go wrong: giving everyone the click.
I wonder about this.

I've noticed of the last 4-5 years more and more bands don't count in songs anymore. They just miraculously all start together in perfect tempo. This means the entire band is getting a click in their in-ears. Now if it's only the count in or the whole song, I don't know.

But it has become more and common.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I wonder about this.

I've noticed of the last 4-5 years more and more bands don't count in songs anymore. They just miraculously all start together in perfect tempo. This means the entire band is getting a click in their in-ears. Now if it's only the count in or the whole song, I don't know.

But it has become more and common.
Mostly, the MD will start a click track, which could be synced to other media (lights, screens, etc.). It's common for the click to last for an entire song, or medley, although it depends on the show/artist. There are no rules. But a younger pop act will keep it simple most of the time.

In arena-size productions, it's common for the MD to have a talkback mic so that they can chat with the musicians during the performance (this is not audible to the audience, of course). This can be used for simple things, like count-ins, or an emergency where something isn't working, and the singer needs to stall by talking to the crowd.
 

cbphoto

Diamond Member
it's common for the MD to have a talkback mic so that they can chat with the musicians during the performance (this is not audible to the audience, of course). This can be used for simple things, like count-ins, or an emergency where something isn't working, and the singer needs to stall by talking to the crowd.
This is genius. And it shows another benefit to in-ears. It seems it'd help eliminate distraction/annoyance from noodlers during rehearsals, too. It's very common for our band boss to be talking to a vocalist while the guitarist/keys/sax is working out tones/chords/whatever (It's insane to me, but it ain't my band).
 

JimmyM

Platinum Member
I can't imagine playing a live gig with a click. I have never done that. It would spoil all of the fun for me. My job is to keep the tempo.
And I take that job very seriously.
Many lead guitar players speed up when they take their solos. And I need to speed up a tiny bit to help them sound good. Then slowing the band back down to the correct tempo. I'm only talking about a couple of beats per minute. Something the audience never notices. If I were playing to a click, me and the band would be off tempo with the click. I rarely play with other musicians that have a perfect sense of timing.

.
I've done it on bass and I hate it, especially when some drummers are better than others at keeping on it, but like Bermuda says, it's a requirement these days for anyone except those with the luxury of picking and choosing their gigs.
 
Top