Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

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Zacharia Matilda
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Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by Zacharia Matilda » Thu Dec 27, 2018 9:36 am

As someone who records on their own most of the time I have to rely on clicks, or at least I think I do.

They are far from perfect. In fact, they drive me crazy. They don't allow a song to breathe. They make it hard to get behind the beat, which is where the groove lives a lot of the time.

I tend to want to track drums early on in the recording of a song, but I'm thinking this may be contributing to my click track woes. For the time being I'm considering them a necessary evil but maybe tracking other instruments first to the click and then ditching the click all together might help to loosen things up a bit.

Anyone else have any tricks to help make a song recorded with a click a little more alive and not quite so clinical?
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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by kslight » Thu Dec 27, 2018 9:59 am

In my experience the players i record rarely get totally on top of the click anyway, so long as you resist the urge to edit everything to the grid there still remains a reasonable level of imperfection.

You can always build in some tempo adjustments ie: speed up the chorus a hair to make things a little less rigid.

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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by markjazzbassist » Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:29 am

just abandon the click altogether. it's a modern thing that for some reason people think is necessary. all music was recorded without one up until maybe 20-30 years ago. and that's a lot of really great music during that time. when recording with bands in the studio i never use one, i hate them. if we have to have it i turn it off and turn up the drums to lock in. i suspect i will be an outlier on here but so be it. music is supposed to have gradual tempo changes and the imperfect and human elements are what make it art, sterility is not something i enjoy in music.

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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Thu Dec 27, 2018 11:24 am

markjazzbassist wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 10:29 am
just abandon the click altogether. it's a modern thing that for some reason people think is necessary. all music was recorded without one up until maybe 20-30 years ago. and that's a lot of really great music during that time. when recording with bands in the studio i never use one, i hate them. if we have to have it i turn it off and turn up the drums to lock in. i suspect i will be an outlier on here but so be it. music is supposed to have gradual tempo changes and the imperfect and human elements are what make it art, sterility is not something i enjoy in music.
I’m with you. I avoid them at all costs with most bands unless there’s an electronic element that needs to be locked to. For records that get built up in layers it’s a bit unavoidable. In those situations I like getting some rhythm element done early on so we can play to that and turn the click off.

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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by joninc » Thu Dec 27, 2018 12:18 pm

I try to build little simple loops with some sort of groove in them (sometimes by adding a delay to emphasize the swing/shuffle or whatever the song calls for) rather than a straight metronome which is so brutally uninspiring to play with.

Also paying attention to the songs natural push and pull and playing with tempo map adjustments where needed is key, and that doesn't mean
the chorus always needs to be faster than the verse :)
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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by losthighway » Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:08 pm

There are plenty of producers/engineers who record with a click religiously without question. This is obviously madness.

I do use them maybe 10-15% of the time when I record for one of two reasons:

1) The band plays incredibly precise music. The drummer rehearses to a metronome all of the time and can lock in perfectly. Some of these weirdos can swing, or lay back against a click and not even struggle with the audible differences. Most of these folks can track their rhythm stuff in 1 or 2 takes and can bang out their part of an album in a day. I could not deny them their tool in doing so.

2) The recording is some kind of half-baked collaboration which does not feature musicians who have played together a bunch playing live. In some of these cases I've even been the drummer for songs I don't know well that might get emailed to Seattle for fiddle and bongos. At some point in all of this you need a referee. The song is king, and the chord changes are in the hands of the writer, but if you're recording where the arrangement is solving for x somewhere between guest overdubs and mix decisions a click track can glue it all together and make it easier to pass around and work with. Sometimes really cool stuff happens in these types of projects.

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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by Nick Sevilla » Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:55 pm

My rule for clicks is as follows:

If the recording is to be done all at once, everyone together, nearly zero overdubs. Then click is optional. This of course, with COMPETENT musicians.

If you are to record parts over several days / studios / one musician at a time, then the click becomes mandatory.

I and many other musicians practice to a click, or even to programmed drums. Once you get the hand of it, it can be no different than a really really good drummer.

Pretend the click is another player. Use sounds not traditionally associated with a click.
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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by mike_ender » Fri Dec 28, 2018 8:47 am

Almost everything I record is my own band's music, which is 99% overdubs, so almost all of it ends up recorded to a click for syncing purposes. What I usually do is track drums first, to a click (but I'm a pretty floppy drummer so it ends up sounding kind of live); then I remove the click and track everything else to the drums. It ends up fairly well glued together, with the ability to use tempo-synced effects or loops, but it doesn't (I don't think) sound overly mechanical. That said, I've been doing most of my recording to a click for like 20 years now so I'm pretty used to it, so YMMV!

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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Fri Dec 28, 2018 10:04 am

I record all my solo stuff to a click, but I never use the actual metronome click because....eeeesh no. Just the thought gives me a headache. A few thoughts:

1. playing to a beat is a million times better than just the donk donk donk of a metronome
2. make the beat something drastically different to your live drum sound. i.e. use 808 sounds rather than your own samples. Trust me on this one.
3. 16th note tambo or shaker can be very helpful
4. putting delay on the beat can also be very helpful and might make you think of approaches you might not otherwise
5. the more instruments to play to, the better. i.e. if it sounds like a song and not one scratch guitar part, i will play the drums better.
6. if it's a song with vocals it's pretty imperative to have at least a scratch vocal in there to play to.

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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by losthighway » Fri Dec 28, 2018 12:15 pm

^ This is another good point about usefulness of a click; often when working on solo stuff it makes sense to add drums later.

The ability to layer guitar, keys, vocals, bass and then make decisions about drum parts is pretty great.

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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by vvv » Fri Dec 28, 2018 1:03 pm

I like the idear, hate the execution - I just find it totally annoying to hafta lock. And I like rubato, and whatever it is called when you speed up the chorus ... {EDIT: "a piacere" ?}

I'm in the middle of a collaborative track with a guy in Yurrup. I wrote and recorded the demo of the song (me on two tracks of bass and lead and backing vocals) over live drums in about an hour - and it rocks.

The collab'or wants to change the chromatic walkdown of the chorus end to a different chord pattern, but because the live drummer was jamming at the time (this is new music over existing drums), he is less than precise on some of his fills, and the walkdowns vary in their feel.

Because I played the bass through an octave pedal into a mic's amp, cut and paste is difficult, and recreating the sound would be a PITA.

I've now spent over two hours on trying to cut and paste to his request, where, if we had played to a click, I'd have been done in 10 minutes. But it was a live jam ...

Even so, even on a planned demo, I hate the click and never use it.

When do I? when I'm playing something without percussion, or I'm gonna add percussion later. And then, I run through with the click a cuppla times, and at least try to record without it.

Final ranting noet: NOTHING is worse about click use than than audible click bleed.

EDIT: Now, I see he just sent another example of his proposed re-arrangement - the lesson learned is not to use live - or at least un-clicked - drums with this particular project.
Last edited by vvv on Fri Dec 28, 2018 1:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by Recycled_Brains » Fri Dec 28, 2018 1:19 pm

Used to swear by them, but now I'd prefer not to use them. I'm fortunate to have a drummer that can play to a click without sounding like he's playing to a click, which is great, but even with our stuff, we rarely use them now unless the style of the part dictates a machine-like precision (rare). We do, however, practice to a click in the weeks prior to entering the studio. I think that is a beneficial thing for any musician.

Often times it's been my experience that when bands show up at the studio and ask to record to a click, they are rarely prepared to do so, and that can really derail the process, so I tend to ask way in advance of the session to ensure that they know what it actually means, far as preparation and execution.

I think if the end result is triggering or the like, it's smart, but beyond that, meh.
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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by markjazzbassist » Fri Dec 28, 2018 1:37 pm

Recycled_Brains wrote:
Fri Dec 28, 2018 1:19 pm
Often times it's been my experience that when bands show up at the studio and ask to record to a click, they are rarely prepared to do so, and that can really derail the process
yeah i've dealt with that a lot. usually ones that are inexperienced in a studio environment. they think it's just the studio way to always play to a click and now that they are in the studio (no matter how big/small) they wanna be like the pros, "hey throw on the click". this is always a disaster. especially when as a band you've rehearsed for weeks for the studio WITHOUT A CLICK, so now because the pros do it you are gonna throw that all away? yeah not good.

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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by Recycled_Brains » Fri Dec 28, 2018 2:09 pm

markjazzbassist wrote:
Fri Dec 28, 2018 1:37 pm
Recycled_Brains wrote:
Fri Dec 28, 2018 1:19 pm
Often times it's been my experience that when bands show up at the studio and ask to record to a click, they are rarely prepared to do so, and that can really derail the process
yeah i've dealt with that a lot. usually ones that are inexperienced in a studio environment. they think it's just the studio way to always play to a click and now that they are in the studio (no matter how big/small) they wanna be like the pros, "hey throw on the click". this is always a disaster. especially when as a band you've rehearsed for weeks for the studio WITHOUT A CLICK, so now because the pros do it you are gonna throw that all away? yeah not good.
yea, exactly. Throwing in a big variable at the last minute rarely works in anyone's favor. I've worked with certain bands that get really hung up on it, but don't understand what it really is to be able to pull it off, or that it's not the only way to do things. The funny thing is, it's almost never the drummer.
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Re: Click tracks. Love them/Hate them.

Post by drumsound » Fri Dec 28, 2018 2:37 pm

I don't automatically default to a click, unless the band requests it (and hopefully practiced with it). I had one band bring in their all in on recorder, because they'd done extensive rehearsal, and even tempo mapped the songs. That worked great, because they were already comfortable with it. We did have one song with a click bleed issue,but the lyrics had a time element, so I took the bleed and automate click panning to sound like a clock in the break.

On most projects, I just get the band set up and record basics as they normally play. Sometimes one song isn't jelling, so we'll use a click. Then for the next, I won't use it just because we used it on the last.

Whomever said to think of the click like another player is right. That's how I teach young drum students to deal, and that's how I coach bands as well.

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