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Leonard Smalls

Click tracks and drummers

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Has anybody got any experience of their drummer playing live with a click track? Our drummer always speeds up... 

Only problem is we don't use IEMs - could he use just one with his ACS plug in the other ear? Or would tha distract him even more?

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I've played drums as a primery instrument for 20 years, only recently switching to bass, and I've played with click tracks in all my bands since around 2009.

I use in-ears (Shure SE215) for my click tracks and traditional wedge monitors for everything else. The in-ears also work as hearing protection, so I never need to have the click blisteringly loud. This is a very common way to do it, and works really well.

I would *not* recommend having the click track in just one ear. The way we process sounds needs you will have to turn it up much louder to hear it properly, which could hurt your hearing.

I've had various setups for my clicks, depending on the complexity of the project, but in its simplest for you just need some sort of metronome (could be an app on your phone or a hardware metronome) and a headphone jack.

Oh, and fair warning: You might find that it's not just the drummer speeding up. I remember when we first started playing to a click, and everyone else was rushing like hell and thought I was dragging. I basically had to remind them that I was on a click, so it was not possible for me to be dragging. It was they who were rushing, trying to pull the tempo up.

Edited by Naigewron
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12 minutes ago, Leonard Smalls said:

Has anybody got any experience of their drummer playing live with a click track? Our drummer always speeds up... 

Only problem is we don't use IEMs - could he use just one with his ACS plug in the other ear? Or would tha distract him even more?

I’ve played with drummers using click track. My experiences have been mixed, in that those who have practiced/gigged extensively with them have no problem keeping time and retain feel/dynamic (unsurprisingly). However a couple of (good) drummers decided they were going to use them without extensive practice were awful. 

So I guess be prepared for some “lead up time” and of course a willingness on their part to use a click.

It can, for some drummers, be counter intuitive to have a click in their ears, acting like a critical parent 😂😱. I had one say that it took their freedom to be “expressive” away, a bit like peeps saying that theory “kills creativity” 🙄 what he meant to say was “it shows up my tendency to slow down when I get bored/get distracted/tired/remember I forgot to put the bins out/etc.

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21 minutes ago, oldslapper said:

So I guess be prepared for some “lead up time” and of course a willingness on their part to use a click.

This is a great point. It takes a bit of time for the drummer to adjust to a click (depending on how used he is to click tracks from before, for example from studio sessions). It also takes time for the band to adjust to a drummer who's playing to a click. No longer can the bass and guitar pull the tempo up and down (consciously or unconsciously) and have the drummer follow them; they have to be dead locked in with the drummer at all times.

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We've been using click for the last year I've been in a band - it's actually a click alongside some sequencing so it's a bit more structurally rigid than just a click you can improvise around, but there's some clever tricks that the drummer does with re-triggering to let us spin out certain sections. He's the only one with it in IEMs so honestly I haven't really noticed any difference between playing with click vs just playing with a drummer with a strong tempo. We're all transitioning to IEM soon and I'm thinking of asking for a bit of the click in mine just to test it out, but don't think it'll be as useful if two of us are following the click instead of each other.

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I hope you don't mind, but I've just copy-pasted this from a post I wrote in a similar thread recently:

As a former drummer, I tried it for the first time in a studio setting back in my uni days.  I thought I would need to hear the click really well and got them to turn it up and up - til it was almost bashing my ear drums across my head into each other!

Suffice to say, it wasn't great playing or a great track.  A few years later, when working as a live sound engineer, I spoke to one of the pro drummers about it and listened to his click during a rehearsal, it was much quieter.  He had it at a level where you barely heard it, then if you started falling behind/speeding up, your brain would suddenly notice it and concentrate on it.  When I then tried it a year later at these sort of levels with my own band, it worked really well for me.  When on time, the click almost disappears and you are able to enjoy the music.  As others have said, depending on what is on the track, you may not need to hear it [the recorded backing track parts] at all, especially if it is washy strings or effects.

I'm saying this because in my opinion, some drummers will never get their heads round playing with a click.  Some may just need some adjustment on their levels and then get it fine.

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11 minutes ago, Huge Hands said:

.

I'm saying this because in my opinion, some drummers will never get their heads round playing with a click.  Some may just need some adjustment on their levels and then get it fine.

Good point. One experienced player I recently recorded with has her click emphasised on a part of the bar that wasn’t obvious to me. But she said that after some trial, and lots of error, she found her own way of using a click if it’s only going to her monitoring. She’s perfectly able to use straight 4 crotchets if whole band need it, and is also able to keep time without a click. Point is if they’re new to it, give them lead in time before gigging and allowing them find what works might be helpful.

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58 minutes ago, chris_b said:

Drummer can't keep time? Time for another drummer.

That goes for everyone in the band though.

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16 minutes ago, Naigewron said:

That goes for everyone in the band though.

Any musician who can't keep time should be practicing like mad until they can. Either that or hang up their instruments.

Click tracks are a way of ensuring that songs are always played at the same tempo. As I say, using a click to keep wayward playing in check is only a sticking plaster.

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1 hour ago, Naigewron said:

No longer can the bass and guitar pull the tempo up and down (consciously or unconsciously) and have the drummer follow them; they have to be dead locked in with the drummer at all times.

With a click there is no need to "pull" tempos anywhere.

Surely, being locked in with the drummer "at all times" is the objective of any band?

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4 minutes ago, chris_b said:

 With a click there is no need to "pull" tempos anywhere.

 Surely, being locked in with the drummer "at all times" is the objective of any band?

Sure, but there's a difference between objective and reality. When a previous band first started playing with click tracks, the bass player was pulling ahead like crazy. Took a couple of months before we all got comfortable with the new reality. So like I said, there could be an adjustment period.

That's also what I meant when saying everyone is responsible for keeping time. Sure, the drummer is the backbone of timekeeping, but it's hard as hell to sit behind the drum kit and hold everyone back if someone else is pulling on the tempo. All the groove disappears, and I have nothing else to focus on than holding the others back.

Edited by Naigewron

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In my little band the drummer has a click mixed in with the IEM feed via his own little wired set up next to the kit.  Plus a strobe flashing.  Seems to work just fine.  It is mainly to standardise the speed and stop bickering over how fast/slow/spot on various songs are played.

In the Bon Jovi tribute it is all a bit more important to the show - we use a click coordinated with backing tracks and, if the venue accommodates it, a back projection so the timing is essential.

But in both scenarios it was a move for the better.

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If you don't want to go down the IEM route, you could look into something like a Pulse ... not tried one myself but seems a way less intrusive way to feel a tempo than blasting beeps into your ears 😆

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Our drummer comes from a reading/pro background, and has his dots on his iPad at all times. He doesn't need them, but it's just the way he works. Anyway, part of his software (I dunno what it is off-hand) has a visual flash metronome for tempo, which means he doesn't need to use an audible click...

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3 hours ago, chris_b said:

Drummer can't keep time? Time for another drummer.

Not many drummers round here... In fact there's not many people, so that's not surprising.

Problem is, because the rest of the band don't mind speeding up it looks like it'll only be me who gets wound up by it. In fact the singer comes from a Hardcore background so she wants it to speed up a lot more!

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We dont use any clicks at all. We have the luxury of having a drummer with great timing and tempo, so its like the other musicians have our own click track just using the drummer.

But whatever works for everyone. It doesnt matter whether you use one or not.

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Annoying thing is that I'm starting songs deliberately slowly, as I know it'll be 15-20bpm faster by the end, and what was a funky groove has become a punky thrash! Mebbe if I start them fast we'll be slow'n'soulfull by the end.

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3 minutes ago, fleabag said:

We dont use any clicks at all. We have the luxury of having a drummer with great timing and tempo, so its like the other musicians have our own click track just using the drummer.

But whatever works for everyone. It doesnt matter whether you use one or not.

Some bands don't use it solely for timekeeping - they have extra instrumentation or vocals tracked to give a bigger or different sound.

I used to do sound for cabaret shows where the normal drums, bass, keys, gtr house band would gain a trumpet/sax and trombone for solos/the look, but there would be much more brass tracked to give that Glenn Miller/Frank SInatra big band feel. 

There might also be sound effects such as police sirens or stings for the show's story too, which would then lead into a song.....

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All's fair in love and  click tracks

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1 minute ago, fleabag said:

All's fair in love and  click tracks

"....they did it their waaaaaayyyyyyy...."

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"  ..And now, the time is near... "

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I remember reading (can't remember who was being interviewed) in a bass magazine back in the '90's:

"playing to a click is like walking a tightrope whilst whipping yourself" (I paraphrase, but...)

A click track worked for us recording in the studio, but not at rehearsals.

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59 minutes ago, Leonard Smalls said:

Annoying thing is that I'm starting songs deliberately slowly, as I know it'll be 15-20bpm faster by the end, and what was a funky groove has become a punky thrash! Mebbe if I start them fast we'll be slow'n'soulfull by the end.

I sympathise with you on this as I have to do the same in the reggae band I play with on the odd tune I start ,and on a lot of the others I end up trying to pull back the runaway train !..I find it's nearly always due to the drummer overplaing and trying to fit in fills that dont need to be there ,what's even more frustrating is he's a great drummer generally and has worked professionally but can't play well with a click at all ..I have played with other pro drummers who are rubbish with a click as they lose there feel especially when playing funk ,reggae or jazz and to be fair if you tempo map a lot of classic tunes the tempo does fluctuate so it's clearly not unusual... I love the idea of the drummer playing with a click but I don't think it works for everything. 

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