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Methods for tracking bands; Do you guys use click tracks?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Johnjm22, Dec 26, 2004.

  1. Johnjm22

    Johnjm22 Guest

    I've been recording bands for awhile now and my method has always been to record a scratch rythym track to a drum machine, (just a simple 1,2,3,4 beat). After getting the rythm track down I give it to the drummer in his headphones and record him playing to it.

    But I've noticed that drummers always have a hard time playing to this rythm track. I usally end up doing a ton of takes and then comp and edit the $*^t out of them, till I get one complete drum track.

    Is there a better way of doing this?

    Whenever I see footage of professional bands in the studio I notice they are usually playing together. But how do they keep the tempo so steady and consistant?

    Example: One time I recorded a band playing together and the song I was recording had a long guitar intro. The guitar was by itself, there was nothing else there to keep time. When we were done tracking, the overall song sounded pretty good, but the intro part lagged a little bit. If you record a band playing together how do you prevent stuff like that from happening?

    Also, I like to edit stuff and move it around, so I can try different arragements. If the band isn't playing to a metronome of some sorts, this will make it a lot harder.

    What methods are you guys using for tracking bands?
  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Click tracks whenever you can. That's pretty much all there is to it. If it's going to ruin a performance, turn it off.

    Intros are easy - Just play it separately and line it up later. If they're all playing live, just have the soloist give a nod near the end to start the metronome.
  3. Johnjm22

    Johnjm22 Guest

    So you have a click track going in everyone's headphones while they are playing?

    It doesn't bother them?

    I would think the click would be kinda of annoying, especially for the drummer.
  4. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    I try getting the drummer to play to a click and I route the guitar into the headphones and record the drums and guitar track as a scratch for the guitarist for when we track the guitars.....run on sentence KING!!!! If the drummer has a hard time with the click (some do) I turn the click off and just record the drums and a scratch guitar track. I let the drummer know off the bat that I'm not one to edit drums together or "fix it in the mix." I like getting it right the first time and avoid a BS hassle later.
  5. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    The only reason I find to use a click track is if you are going digital on the mix and want a very easy way to repair some beat problems.A click will make it very very easy to edit in this way.Other than that, tempos decrease and increase in all forms of music ...a really good drummer makes this sound 'right'
  6. splurge

    splurge Guest


    If a band are going to record to a click they first of all have to rehearse to a click. I'm not talking about on the morning of the recording, but in the rehearsal room for at least 2 weeks before.

    When you are using a click LPF it around 6 or 7k to take out those really annoying frequencies.

    Yeh, I love it when a band play to a click, editing heaven.


  7. johnwy

    johnwy Well-Known Member

    It doesn't bother the drummer if he is used to playing to a click. Everyone else it might.

    It is a necessary tool as far as I am concerned. The producers and drummers that I have worked with will always ask to have one at the ready so I consider it a necessary item. Usually its set up as an 1/8th note click with 2 different pitched cowbells.

    You have to also consider that in most (if not all) commercial studios, you have the facilites for having more than one cue mix, and if you are really lucky, a Private Q system ( http://www.mytekdigital.com/pq.htm ) or something similar so that the musicians can build their own cue mix.

    As of late, the tracking sessions that I have engineered I needed to have 2 cue mixes running, sometimes 3. The drummer (and sometimes bass player) will have a cue mix that will have more click than normal. The rest of the players will get the other cue mix, and there maybe some click mixed in, but usually not at the level that the drummer requires.

    In fact, whenever I ask the musicians how the cue mix is for them the first thing out of the drummers mouth is usually "I need more click!!" or a really bad impersonation of Christopher Walken saying "I've got a fever. And the only thing to cure that fever is more cowbell!" :lol:
  8. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    you guys... do you really think it's better to use a click with a rythm track???
    because i can't record all the band at once i have to record each one but i always record the whole band like a click and then start buiding up from the drums!
    this way the musician who's playing will be more into the vibe and record those with more feeling and dynamics...
    one band i really dig is dave matthews band and they record in a circle! if you hear for example "grace is gone" from busted stuff you'll hear at the end the drummer carter beauford saying "that's bad sh*t, bad sh*it" because they got into a vibe... something you can't get with a scratch track...
    just my opinion...
  9. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    I think alot of this depends on the drummer and the style of music. When I've recorded with my bands or as a session player the style of music dictated it's use more often than not. For blues and jazz a soft click to set the tempo was used but turned off once the song got rolling. Nothing will ruin a good blues or jazz tune faster than playing to a click. It's all about the interaction of bass and drums, if the meter varies slightly it's okay, it's part of the dynamic of the song.

    For rock I never minded a very soft click to play to but only a single tone, not those annoying chirpy cowbell things Johnwy is speaking of. This may have something to do with my age but I hate complex MIDI clicks. I did a session for an old friend years ago and the producer put one of those clicks in our cans. It was really ruining the takes for the whole band so we shut it off. The "Producer" :lol: insisted we use one (we were all experienced session players) to the protests of us and the engineer. The engineer found an old mechanical metronome (the that sits on top of piano) and put it on a music stand as a visual cue to the band. The session went great thanks to a resourceful engineer.

    I think younger players may have an easier time with MIDI clicks but with older players simple or none is best.

    I tend to agree with Dave, good players (especially drummers and bass players) can make clicks unnecessary. If the feel of the song and tempo are right don't ruin it with a click.

    Good Luck! :cool:
  10. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    I use clicks.
    ... but we should use the word click track because that's not what works.

    Very rarely does a simple 1234 click work except for the old time midi guys that have been doing this so long that they don't need it anyway.
    ... could write a book on this stuff ...

    I generally use a couple of basic sounds and make a simple rhythm for each overdub. I watch and listen to the muso and try to see where they are having trouble.

    A different click for each O/D.

    I guess it helps that I drum ... badly ... but I do sit in there with the cans on and give it a go.

    It is typical that a 2 and 4 beat are hard to hear in the cans so some drummers like to have the and beat instead. Think of it as the stick lift beat.

    One day I used a portion of a guitar chord in eights with a very hard cut-off at the end note.
    Needed 5 notes so as not to clash with the main song. There was some can bleed but no-one noticed in the final mix.
    ... it worked.

    Do what you've got to do.
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The drummers that need a click the most are usually the ones who can't play to it ... just like whenever there's a radio station bleeding into the audio it's invariably a Mexican radio station ...

    IMO, all drummers should practice (by themselves) with a metronome ... playing in time and with groove is difficult .. it takes a lot of work. This is what separates the good drummers from the rest of the pack ..

    If they can't groove to a click .. forget it .. don't even try. Record them as they are and let them live with it ... in many cases, they won't even notice the problem.
  12. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Very true...there is one band I record every few months when they have a new 3 or 4 songs they want to lay down. Their drummer doesn't understand how a click track works and can't even play a simple beat to one. This is the same guy that said when bands like Slipknot start pounding on the double bass pedal that "they aren't playing on time with their hands..they are just playing as fast as they can!" I nearly crapped my pants when he said that....I turned on the Slipknot CD, turned off my montiors, turned on my sub and I tapped out what the kick was doing then turned on the monitors and tapped out what both the kick and snare where doing in relation to each other. I won that arguement....oh victorious me!
  13. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    I've found that few drummers of the garage band variety can drum to a click. Whenever I used to record them I would tell them that the drums were the most important part, we can overdub everything else lately! Consequently I would put the drummer in the main room with cans and have the guitar and bass isolated in the control room (plus scratch vocal) so that I could get the kit without bleed from the other instruments.
    that usually gave me an useable drum sound plus the rythm guitar usually was ok too and sometimes the bass- after that was overdub time, lead guitar, vocals, rhythm guitar, keys and bass as needed-

    the other way i've done garage bands with any luck (Ie, got a decent sound) is to put the drummer, bass and rhythm together in the main room and just go for the live sound. Lead and vocals I would try to keep for later as those are more critical and besides If i can overdub vox and lead I can do comps and get a decent performance. Nothing like a few flat notes from the singer (or the lead) to ruin an otherwise good take- so I always tried to do
    those later.

    I've been working with good players lately though, people who can not only drum to a click but also add drums to a performance that was done to a click or to a grid without drums first (say piano, bass, some percussion and vox) what a difference a good player makes!
    what delight!
  14. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    Right on, that's how every drummer learned to keep time when I started playing.

    True, but it depends what kind of click your feeding the drummer. Some guys just flat out suck and couldn't play to any click if their life depended on it which is what I believe you're talking about. But a good drummer doesn't need more than a simple click if any at all. Those MIDI clicks (dink dink donk dink) are useless and can be counterproductive. Good drummers play in time, off the back beat and sometimes counter to the beat. Picture playing Bill Bruford's parts with a click track running and you'll know what I mean. Those stupid MIDI clicks are like playing to another drummer and if that is what they need to stay in time, they should take up clarinet since drumming ain't their thing. I agree if they can't play to it forget it, but if they need a little cue to stay on track simple is best (1 & 3 only or less) and keep the volume low. This let's the drummer and bassist concentrate on keeping it tight rather than having the drummer obsesed with keeping perfect time with a machine.
  15. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    When I get to be 'talent', I am the best click track my drummer knows.We can go about it in several ways and THIS is where the good players are such a welcome relief to tracking. If I am the primary song arranger, I will lay down the most basic trap set on the drum machine and will play the bass with it.This will include the grooves,counters, and the stops even though the drum machine parts dont stop for me...Then my drummer, who is a master at replacement drumming as well as a very dangerous groove-meister will lay down a part over the bass with only a small piece of the original drum machine left for him to hear..mostly the snare ...Even though the drum tracks with the machine are rudimentary, I still multi-track them just for this reason.Sometimes it will fit so well, the groove track will be a nice filler during some parts of the song.
    Another way is for us both to go in and play to a click track at once. I like a side-stick sound for the click as its a more natural rhythm instrument sound.When you're really trying to get deep in the groove under the cans, it helps that the constant meter sound is one that should, or could be a part of the mix.Its more identifiable to the backbeat.I've always used this with every session I've ran and have not had nearly the problems with drummers relating to this kind of sound as opposed to the midi-meter or something foreign sounding.

    Like Big D said, those hokie sounding beats are very counterproductive...The notion of letting them 'live with it' is also counterproductive to a session and making progress with a record.As a producer I would be inclined to search around a bit...albeit on studio time...to find something that works if its necessary to have a click in the first place.

    The other method we use is to simply mic everything up, rehearse the number under the phones to get the ears broken in,count to the top of the beat and let-er-rip...sometimes the meter goes up and down, which can present a problem with editting, but mostly it lets the songs' breathing through and makes for a much better track in most cases. Sometimes we'll play it with two or three even four different meters,feels,types of grooves and print em all... then choose which one does the song structure the most justice.

    Really this all only takes time and care. As long as somebody has the time and somebody else cares, then songs can be properly born and raised to be adults.And isnt THAT what we're really all about .?!
  16. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    I really like this subject because it's something that hits really close to home. My biggest success has been tracking the drums with a guitar player running into the board/headphones through my Line 6 POD. We've ended up with the a more performance driven feel as opposed to a mechanical and 100% correct sound. After the drums are pretty solid and the drummer is happy with the performance.....we start recording guitars, bass, etc.

    Doing it this way you still have your little issues, but the overall feel is a lot nicer. I like a recording that sounds/feels like you're sitting in the room and just watching the band jam. If it means keeping the little imperfections...so be it as long as the performance and sound quality has power.
  17. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    Exactly, now that's something I can work with.

    Well said Dave! For blues numbers it's the only way I've found. Sometimes ya just gotta play.
  18. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Several drummers I have met have their own metronomes. I wouldn't have an idea of the brand but they are specifically for drummers, with gig presets etc.

    If guys coming to me have them and use them in rehearsal I will get them to use those instead of anything I provide. It keeps them comfortable and although I don't have a marker for when they start, a bpm reading and a little shuffle gets it good enough to edit.

    Perhaps you should invest in one of these?

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