playing on the grid

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Playing to a click is the most important thing for studio work. That is why you should practice to it EVERY DAY. Gridding to a click is not necessary, although alot of engineers do it.. If the playing is tight it sounds tighter, if you are sloppy it sounds weird.

When I hit the studio I have every song down to muscle memory and locked into time. I'm not there to waste my or the stuidos time, or money. If radio music wasn't done to a click my god things would sound bad speeding up and slowing down. Use it as a reference, but gridding or quantizing is a totally different subject.
 

TMe

Senior Member
Playing to a click is the most important thing for studio work.
I keep trying to tell people "The more you practice with a click, the less you'll need a click."

But nobody listens.

Which is ironic, because half the benefit of playing with a click (or metronome) is that it forces a person to listen. People who practice with a metronome are usually better at following the band - even if the band has an elastic sense of time.

My band really wants to do a "live from the floor" type recording. I'm trying to convince them that if we do a draft recording first, with everybody punching in their parts over a click track, that practice will make the "live" recording possible. If we're incapable of playing the songs with a click for a practice recording, there's no way we'll be able to play them well, in a studio, without one.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I keep trying to tell people "The more you practice with a click, the less you'll need a click."

But nobody listens.

Which is ironic, because half the benefit of playing with a click (or metronome) is that it forces a person to listen. People who practice with a metronome are usually better at following the band - even if the band has an elastic sense of time.

My band really wants to do a "live from the floor" type recording. I'm trying to convince them that if we do a draft recording first, with everybody punching in their parts over a click track, that practice will make the "live" recording possible. If we're incapable of playing the songs with a click for a practice recording, there's no way we'll be able to play them well, in a studio, without one.
I actually find the opposite. When I've been drilling at home a bunch with a click, playing with other people always takes a little adjustment and feels like I'm pulling them into time a little more, which can sound not so good.

Still not a reason to shun metronomes or anything but that's something I've noticed is how much more your developed sense of time screams "no, I'm right, ignore them".
 
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KamaK

Platinum Member
My band really wants to do a "live from the floor" type recording. I'm trying to convince them that if we do a draft recording first, with everybody punching in their parts over a click track, that practice will make the "live" recording possible. If we're incapable of playing the songs with a click for a practice recording, there's no way we'll be able to play them well, in a studio, without one.
While you're correct, a fair compromise is for you (the drummer) to record to a click and for the subsequent instruments to record to you.

Guitarists in their early stages are being challenged by both physical and mental contortions. Adding additional challenges for the sake of being pedantic can increase the barrier-of-entry when it comes to recording, even if it makes someone a better guitarist/bassist in the long run. For the sake of getting things recorded, I'd advise that you burn the candle at both ends. Record the drums first to placate your inexperienced guitarist while your guitarist does their homework and learns to play to a click.

Also note that everyone is different. My timing as a guitarist is "fair" at best. Parts that are relatively simple can become daunting when played to a click. Even experienced guitarists (30 years) will begin losing notes and munging chords when forced to play only to a click. Listen to how I repeatedly eat-crap on the Bm7b5....


And you thought practicing drums was embarrassing ;-)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
All my opinion, I think it's hard to sound like a drum machine. Every note is the same volume on a drum machine, same attack, same decay, same sonority...Playing to a metronome, if my playing lines up to the click, it's going to sound better than if I was drifting. In a studio setting. There's no way that all the other limbs would sound robotic because they aren't. There will be inherent human inconsistencies, which makes it beautiful. Playing to a click is all about landing the hits...all of them...in the right spots. It's not about robotic. The human-ness is preserved if a real drummer plays to a click. If a person had perfect time like a click, would we consider ourselves sounding robotic playing with them? No, not at all.

The click is the only tool I know that will show drummers...what even meter is supposed to sound and feel like. So I consider it my best friend.

I don't like a click live though. I feel it lessens excitement at a live show. I do like good timing but I don't go for perfection. In my mind studio recordings and live shows are 2 different approaches and skill-sets. I saw Chicago last year. I absolutely love Chicago's songs, I was imprinted with them. Well the show to me was so unexciting...I mean the timing, the notes, everything was there and yet I was left flat. That's what running music through a click does for me live. It leaves me flat. but I love it in the studio, go figure.
 
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TMe

Senior Member
...I think it's hard to sound like a drum machine. Every note is the same volume on a drum machine, same attack, same decay, same sonority...
This reminds me of someone asking "How can you ruin a steak?" Well... start with frozen steaks, throw them in a tub of water to defrost them, use a microwave to cook them, sear them on a flame grill for 30 seconds, then let them sit under a heat lamp for a few minutes. And don't forget to over charge.

When recording drums, just follow these easy steps to get today's hot sound.

Step one: Get the drummer to line up everything with an eighth note grid.
Step two: Compress the hell out of the drums so every note is at the same volume. No grace notes, no accents allowed.
Step three: Quantize to correct any variance from the grid.
Step four: Replace or augment the drum sounds with samples.
Step five: Pump up the volume so the track is over saturated.

Voila!
 

TMe

Senior Member
While you're correct, a fair compromise is for you (the drummer) to record to a click and for the subsequent instruments to record to you.
I've started writing the drum parts into software, complete with pauses and fills. That should be a lot easier than asking them to play along to "tick, tick, tick..."

What do you think? Would I be better off just recording the acoustic drums first and asking them to punch in over top of them? The timing wouldn't be nearly as perfect as with the programmed tracks, but the sound would be more familiar.

I was thinking that if we used programmed drums for the practice recordings, that might be the only time the guitarists ever practice the songs with a metronome.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I've started writing the drum parts into software, complete with pauses and fills. That should be a lot easier than asking them to play along to "tick, tick, tick..."

What do you think? Would I be better off just recording the acoustic drums first and asking them to punch in over top of them? The timing wouldn't be nearly as perfect as with the programmed tracks, but the sound would be more familiar.

I was thinking that if we used programmed drums for the practice recordings, that might be the only time the guitarists ever practice the songs with a metronome.

Do whatever works and helps you enjoy yourself. Understand that you can't force people to practice, and that many people play in "rock" bands because they're contrary/opposed to the academic approach. For example, BB King couldn't even play chords.... If you were in BB's band, would you send him home with programmed tracks to practice to?

What you do have control over is who you choose to play with and how you try to steer the band. If a guitarist's disposition and goals don't align with yours, you have the choice of compromising or replacing them. That's what bands truly are, a collection of compromises.

Personally, I'm all for musicians doing asynchronous collaboration and learning to play their instruments (to a metronome). Whether or not a song/album/etc requires metronomic time on the part of the players is entirely dependent on what the band is seeking to achieve musically. It's the nature of "art".

Sometimes loose lo-fi is divine....
 

TMe

Senior Member
If you were in BB's band, would you send him home with programmed tracks to practice to?
Indirectly, that answers my question. Record the drum tracks first, using a click and let the guys play over top. It will be difficult enough for them to play with drums that don't follow them when they move the tempo.

Here's the thing; as much as I hate the quantized, "grid" sound, we need to be able to edit the recordings. We're just not good enough to do a live recording in one take. If we don't use a click, editing becomes too labour intensive and heavy edits can create some ugly effects. So I'm all for using a click as a cost saving measure, not because I prefer a rigidly quantized sound.

The compromise is between studio guys who want everything quantized to the nth degree because that makes their job easier, and musicians who don't want to use a click at all, because that makes their job easier (or at least they think it does).
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Record the drum tracks first, using a click and let the guys play over top. It will be difficult enough for them to play with drums that don't follow them when they move the tempo.
Good deal. Let them understand, in no uncertain terms, that they can either learn to play time, or play to a drummer who is playing time. There's really no other way unless they're wanting to do a Mojo Nixon or White Stripes kinda thing... Which is cool and all, as long as there's a consensus among members that the objective is that endearingly loose/drunken/disjointed feel.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
When recording drums, just follow these easy steps to get today's hot sound.

Step one: Get the drummer to line up everything with an eighth note grid.
Step two: Compress the hell out of the drums so every note is at the same volume. No grace notes, no accents allowed.
Step three: Quantize to correct any variance from the grid.
Step four: Replace or augment the drum sounds with samples.
Step five: Pump up the volume so the track is over saturated.

Voila!
I guess what I meant was a real drummer playing to a grid, without over processing...sounds great. Not like a perfect drum machine to a grid. Much more real. Perfect time alone doesn't kill things at all in the studio IMO. Since you are in control, I assume you aren't going to kill the drum sound with too much of anything post production. Your mates should like your tracks just fine. If they can't stick to them, that's not your cross to bear. Even though it affects you in a big way. For them, it could be a sink or swim thing as far as this recording goes.
 

TMe

Senior Member
I guess what I meant was a real drummer playing to a grid, without over processing...
To be fair, the closer a drummer is to playing on the grid and keeping an even dynamic level, the less a studio guy will want to mess around with the track. Don't like compression? Get your dynamics under control so your track doesn't need to be compressed. Don't like quantize? Learn to play with a click so quantizing isn't required. Don't like sampling? Learn how to tune your drums.

As for me... I like the studio effects - in moderation. When I listen to most commercial recordings, though, the drum kit doesn't sound like any drum kit I've ever heard, and sometimes I have a hard time telling whether I'm listening to a real drummer or a programmed track.
 

beatdat

Senior Member
Don't like compression? Get your dynamics under control so your track doesn't need to be compressed. Don't like quantize? Learn to play with a click so quantizing isn't required. Don't like sampling? Learn how to tune your drums.
Well said.
 

Erberderber

Senior Member
Interesting thread. One of the bands I play in is recording in a studio in a few weeks. We met the engineer last night and he would prefer us to record without a click and record the songs live without vocals and lead guitar. He says he feels that alt rock bands like us lose so much when they become slaves to the grid and the songs become sterile. The important thing it seems is that the band lock together and play tightly even if it means straying away from the original bpm. We'll see anyway.
 

hawksmoor

Senior Member
Interesting thread. One of the bands I play in is recording in a studio in a few weeks. We met the engineer last night and he would prefer us to record without a click and record the songs live without vocals and lead guitar. He says he feels that alt rock bands like us lose so much when they become slaves to the grid and the songs become sterile. The important thing it seems is that the band lock together and play tightly even if it means straying away from the original bpm. We'll see anyway.
You could always use the Live BPM app to ensure you're not straying too far from the original BPM.
 

Erberderber

Senior Member
You could always use the Live BPM app to ensure you're not straying too far from the original BPM.
Yes we could, but the problem is that a lot of our songs change time sig during them. We switch from 4/4 to 6/8 and back again. I think it could be possible to use a click for some songs and I would be interested to try but the lead singer/rhythm guitarist is really against it and believes it would kill the feel. You may feel he's making excuses not to learn how to keep to a metronome and you can make of that what you will. I've always believed however that the drummer's job is not to keep the time, but to make the beat. Keeping time is the responsibility of the whole band.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
We met the engineer last night and he would prefer us to record without a click and record the songs live without vocals and lead guitar. He says he feels that alt rock bands like us lose so much when they become slaves to the grid and the songs become sterile.
That's great, but where is the producer and why is the engineer speaking to the band about this?
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
I agree with a lot of this stuff. but thought of a few more things.

If your band wants to do a live from the floor recording, you can practice with a click leading up to it. Just because it's live doesn't mean it doesn't have to be in time. What my band does is record scratch recordings as soon as we write material to a click. We have copies of the song without drums for me guitar for them etc. So I plug in my headphones and jam to a click. When we get together because we ALL practice with the click, it is pretty close without using the click. We play between 190-240 BPM. It's DAMN fast and I am working my a$$ off so it's nice to not have to worry about time as much. With h all 4 of us practicing to the click on our own, I don't feel like I am having to pull them in time, I feel like they are KEEPING me in time if anything if I get tired.

There is ZERO reason to not practice to a click. No drummer has ever been complemented for not having good time. "dude, that guys time is awful. soooo good". The thing is play with musicians with the same time skill as yourself or you will be fighting with them. ALL musicians are time keepers.

Now, as far as trying to play as gridded as you can. NO drummer will ever be perfect. You can set the click in 32nd notes and work at burying that click for years and not sound robotic.

"Don't like compression? Get your dynamics under control so your track doesn't need to be compressed. Don't like quantize? Learn to play with a click so quantizing isn't required. Don't like sampling? Learn how to tune your drums. "

This is the best statement I have heard on DrummerWorld in a while. SOOO true, although some producers will take the tightest, most controlled, perfectly tuned drums and sample them. The reason comes down to skill and money. It's so easy to drop in perfect samples. That is why EVERY song on the radio sounds like Slate drums. getting rid of bleed, phasing, overtones and all the extra stuff is more work. Plus the slate samples were recording with very expensive gear that not every studio can afford. As far as quantizing, editing sucks. To edit by hand takes forever. Hit the Q button and boom, you just recorded the tightest drummer ever. The compression is another one over used, I get removing the super loud hits and keeping it consistent, but 1 dynamic sucks. oh, then brick wall the song to join the loudness wars.

I have delt with all of these as I have recorded 10? cds roughly. I have some that are as a band live off the floor, some very dynamic and natural, some sampled and quantized, and everything in between. My biggest gripe is sampled AND quantized. If you sample it, I want my timing, If you quantize it, I want my dynamics. If someone does both I would just program drums at that point. At this point in the game I am against the quantizing but try and place as close to the grid as I can. I'm pretty over modern production, but if someone just can't get a good mix a sample replacement still represents my playing. The dynamics are still there. Sure many people remove that, but I like to keep it. That is why I play so many ghost notes now to FORCE sound engineers to keep them. haha
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Interesting thread. One of the bands I play in is recording in a studio in a few weeks. We met the engineer last night and he would prefer us to record without a click and record the songs live without vocals and lead guitar. He says he feels that alt rock bands like us lose so much when they become slaves to the grid and the songs become sterile. The important thing it seems is that the band lock together and play tightly even if it means straying away from the original bpm. We'll see anyway.
Hopefully you guys are pretty good time wise. A few BPM is fine, but on a CD I'd prefer my music doesn't speed up or slow down. Many bands tend to speed up just a few parts of songs, rush transitions etc. What I hear is he things alt rock bands lose alot when they are REALLY tight? Lock together with a click. Many drummers STILL rush fills and land on the one.
 

TMe

Senior Member
If your band wants to do a live from the floor recording, you can practice with a click leading up to it.
My thoughts exactly. I'd like to practice and record everything using click tracks first. Then we can try "live from the floor".
We met the engineer last night and he would prefer us to record without a click and record the songs live without vocals and lead guitar.
There's a couple of things to watch for if you're taking that approach.

Typically, the singer and lead guitarist are playing with the band when the bed tracks are recorded, but they're isolated and not being recorded. Since they know they're not being recorded, they give sloppy, half-hearted performances, and that effects everyone else's playing. Ya gotta get your singer and lead to play like they mean it while they're helping you record the rhthm section.

The band also needs to be tight, and capable of playing the songs beginning to end without any flubs. It's entirely possible to do all the same editing of a track recorded without a click but, as mentioned by beyondbetral, it's much more labour intensive (expensive) to do so.

One option is to find a good practice recording, put that through the cans, and have the drummer play along with that "scratch track", and start from there.

It's also a good idea to chart your songs in advance. If the studio guys has a chart showing the structure of a song (verse 1, chorus 1, bridge 1, etc.) with approximate times where each part starts, that can save a lot of time scrolling around to find a spot that needs attention.

That's great, but where is the producer and why is the engineer speaking to the band about this?
In a demo studio, one guy typically does everything. That's why I'm trying to convince my guys that pre-production is everything. Ideally, we should get to a point where all anyone needs to do is stick a microphone in front of us. In my fantasy life, we end up pulling everything together so well that we can do an actual live recording, with video. Live for ye olde authenticye, and video because it's 2019.
 
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