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record band with metronome?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by jwrightnl, Dec 6, 2010.

  1. jwrightnl

    jwrightnl Active Member

    im wondering what most groovin rock bands do when recording. do they use a metronome or not?
  2. natural

    natural Active Member

    Funny thing about metronomes.
    Those that can make good use of it, don't need it, while the ones that need it the most, can't make use of it.

    It does help if there's going to be a good amount of overdubbing. Also helps in punching in basic tracks.
    But ultimately, it's what the band feels comfortable with.
  3. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Perfect. Truer words have never been spoken (written). Nobody can improve on natural's answer.

    All I can do is agree. A rock band that is really groovin, already has a good timekeeper on the drums.
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    except if you are wanting to sync to goodies that are some of the best kept secrets in commercial music. But it only make it easier, not impossible. I 3rd this for Rock bands for sure. Well said. so well said.
  5. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Excellent! Truer words were never spoken.

    My regular drummer, The Hurk, loves the clik. It helps him relax into the groove and frees him to push or pull or sit right in the pocket according to what is needed.

    The added benefit is when we record a lot, he plays better live.

    Working with young players its imperitive that they learn the value of the clik. I find that its not so much just the meter being present but the TONE of the clik track having a benefit to them. The wrong type of sound as the clik can distract whereas the right sound for that particular person allows them to have it in their periferal hearing and makes it a part of their natural rhythm.

    Always experiment with the tones available for a clik. Both Hurk and I like the side-stick on the shell of a drum sound. Its not as metalic as the rim-shot and is less ontrusive in a mix but it definate enough that you can concentrate on it, easily picking up the meter.

    And has been mentioned, it makes for easy editing when theres a number to send to.
  6. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I'll chime in with another emphatic agreement. But just to expand - A click track (that's the usual recording jargon for a metronome) makes life much easier for the recording engineer. It's much easier to mix a song that has been played to a click. The problem is that most bands are not good at playing to a click. (The studio musicians who get paid the biggest bucks can do this in their sleep - play to a click without much more that a lead sheet and sound like they are feeding off a live band.) It takes a lot of practice just to do it. It takes even more practice to do it well. The good thing is that learning to do it well will pay off big time in your live playing and your general ability to interact with a band.

    As a practical matter, if a band comes in and can't play with a click you are better off doing some sort of "live in the studio" recording. If they can't play with a click, recording one track at a time is usually a mess. You have to experiment to find which member of the band has the most solid time, record that track, fix it, and have others use it as a reference (if they can).
  7. vttom

    vttom Active Member

    Thought I'd share this recent experience...

    A couple of weeks ago the violin teach that my wife accompanies came in to record some tracks that she wanted to burn to CD and hand out to her students as a practice aid. One of the pieces was a canon. We recorded it with a metronome thinking that we could get by recording just 1 track, and making it into a canon by copy/pasting the 1 recorded track and sliding it to the right accordingly.

    This was disastrous. Even though she seemed to have played with the metronome quite well, when we played the (shifted) tracks against each other, there were spots where stuff just totally did not line up.

    We wound up having to make separate recordings of each part in the canon (while monitoring part 1), even though it was the exact same music!
  8. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    The biggest benefit of recording to a click comes in the editing stage. If you need to do any lateral copy & pasting (as opposed to vertical comping of takes) you will need the sections to sync up and this will only happen if they were recorded to a click.
    Yes, it takes a great deal of practice to do this well, but as others have mentioned, the practice will improve your performance even outside of the studio.
    The reason it is difficult is because following the click I think involves a whole other part of the brain than is required by playing your instrument. You need your brain to function in "split screen" mode to make it work.
    I always discuss the pros & cons of recording to a click at the first meeting... to learn the level of their experience as well as to assess the requirements of the music. If we're doing a "live" recording where everybody plays at once and there is bleed between the tracks then there is little likelihood that lateral editing will be feasible = less need for a click.
    For music where there are overdubs, and where most or all tracks were recorded discreetly (no bleed) then I will encourage the use of the click if the musicians are comfortable with it.
    I usually use a hi-hat closing sound as it has a softer attack and is thus less likely to bleed out of the headphones and into the mic during quiet passages. Also, riding the click fader during tracking can prevent this type of problem, as well as pulling the click out entirely during say, a ritard at the end of the song.

  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    With the exception of the talented type that is just going with the flow.... If they can't play to a click, I don't take it serious. It is my absolute experience, a click track takes you to a higher level. From a musicians POV, if you can't keep time, I don't even pull my axe out of the case.
  10. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    To me, it seems possible that some humans can have an innate sense of meter that is congruent with itself, but not with true mathematical time. Who could argue that many of the early bluesmen had rhythm, at a point in history when clicks were simply not used in recordings. Yet I would wager that if one were to analyze their rhythm, drifting and offtime could be rendered obvious. And yet some artists are able to push and pull far outside of convention, and not only make it work, but work well.

    Admittedly, I gave up the idea of trying to record with a click a long time ago, after realizing that I did not get along well with it. I perform best -with maximum intensity- when I have the liberty of complete control over time, for good or bad. It could be evidence that I am just a middling guitar player, but I can live with that criticism. It could also be a sign of my inexperience in recording, and this of course is unarguable. :smile:
  11. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I was lucky enough to sit in on a session a few years ago with a professional drummer who came up from MusicCity USA to record a rock album for a friend of mine. The singer/songwriter already had all the guitar tracks and vocals done to a drum machine and the live drums were nearly last. The drummer had the rough demo tracks a week or two ahead of time and showed up with the all the songs charted out, perfectly tuned drums, and his own high end Akia drum machine to drive his favorite percussion sounds - solely for his headphones. For a couple of the songs that just had click, he synced up a latin backbeat that never got printed. It gave him something to groove to that didn't compete with the feel of his kick and snare. Whatever he did, it worked for him, the results were great. His intensity was unbelievably high every time the red light came on for a day and half - and it elevated the whole album to a different level. Maybe it was the peppy latin beat that kept him from dragging by the end.

    The best part of working with a monster drummer like that is the ability to punch in and seamlessly fix a measure. That level of effortless consistency in every splash and crash is so nice.

    The older you get, the more you appreciate a truly great drummer.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Here is my take on it.

    25 years ago I learned how important click tracks were if I was ever going to sync people together around modern technology.

    Through thousand of hours in performing I experienced 2 types of musicians. Ones that don't accept click tracks and others that do. It is my solid belief that those who do not use a click track are unstable and seriously hindered because they are not able to allow others to lead. They are missing a huge bond and learn the wrong meaning of flexibility. A click track is often preceived as being to conforming so they rebel and miss mass growth as artists. Man, its such a big topic that I could write for hours on.
    My greatest gift is having the ability to improvise. But, I cannot even get close to inspired if I hear messy and unreliable musicians that drift away from tempo (the "flow"). My tempo is so precise, I can leave a room and come back in 5 min and still be on track, yet I am on a magical journey that never leaves. When a song is flowing I am able to think way ahead, create leads, songs whatever thus, ability to see it coming before it happens. Timing is what makes great bands greater.
    When I am performing, I expect this and need solid musicians around me that can hold it together without being effected by pushing and pulling and dynamics. I am able to trip and stumble effortlessly from 64'th to whole notes and fall right back in the pocket. Its what makes music sound more musical.

    I'm not bragging here, just telling you what I expect and feed off of. Once you are where I am at, a click track isn't just a click track, it is a river flowing. It is very much organic and as critical as the seasons, day and night and so on.

    I have a 12 year old daughter studying Royal Conservatory Piano. She is entering grade 9 this year and will have her ARCT before 16. She uses a click track all the time and she is far from able to groove. She is blowing people away because she has learned the secret to improvisation and feel. I am passing this onto her that was passed onto me by my mother who was a Metropolitan Opera singer.
    Bottom line... Timing is everything. Timing is the bond.

    I'm with davedog on the sound. I use a sidestick as a click track and often a bass drum. The sound of the click track all depends on what style of music you are doing.

    A big topic that reaches way out there but always comes back home. Thats the magic of a click track.
  13. JohnTodd

    JohnTodd Well-Known Member

    As a one-man-band, I have to use a click track. Even my MIDI drum tracks go down to a click. Not needed, but still there because I use so many syncopated rhythms that I get confused while tracking new material.

    And my ADL-600 contest entry "Choir of Angels" was recorded to a click, even though it is "rubato" free-time. Listen carefully and you can hear the click bleed through the cans a little (gasp!!!).

    So a click track can be used for many different things.
  14. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Great posts to an ongoing topic guys. The Rolling Stones recorded in one members' mansions' basement, w/ dirt floors. (2010 issue of guitar world). If they used a click, they ignored it. They are the #1 band that gets brought up to me in 'click disscussions'. The fact that they 'drifted' tempo didn't hurt their sales.
    I recently assisted on a 'live studio' session w/ a band who's drummer was lacking a steady tempo. Next, we tried a click for four takes, he ignored it, and it made the song worse. Then we did takes w/ out it (again). It seemed that the band had the ability to keep up w/ the drummer's tempo variances, delivering a natural ('out of time') perfomance. We editited the best intro, into the best take, and called it a night. The energy was there. Overdubbing the rythym section would have been a nightmare. (thank you live recording)
    I personally have gotten better at rythym guitar because of a click, even if my final takes aren't "right on". It gives me a good guideline. I use the beep, w/ an accentuated '1' beat.
    I think that certain types of music merit a click more than others. Pop u gotta be on, as there are soo many sync'd sounds. Jazz, blues, if you get the feel, little variences can add flavor. Classical, well what would Beethoven say about tempo drift? <- (insert insults here)
    Sometimes the band hearing themselves out of tempo on the cd, is enough to get them to work harder.
  15. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    During the last years I had more and more bands in for recording who thought Ti Ming is a Chinese canton in the south.
    They could not play the songs live together and a quick try showed that none of them found a way to cope with the drummers up and down... So I did coaching sessions with the drummers and the bass players to get them used to play to the click.
    Without click the whole project would have ended in desaster... As usual, the musicians were all much tighter when playing together and were buffled about great impact those little teamplay lessons had when performing live on stage, afterwards.

    My bottom line: give them a chance to see that it is not working w/o click or be pleasently surprised by their performance as a band. Help them to accept the click track as a friend and guide rather then their enemy. There is still plenty to correct when mixing. They will never become machine-like tight player, not even with a click, anyhow. Usually, there is enough human feel left.

    Btw, have you ever experienced that when getting close to the end of recording the click was the only "musician" that sounded untight??

    Good drummers... omg, ... please send them to me... lol ...
    There aren't many. What you get is loud 'n fast with a lousy tuned set, but the good ones are so rare...
  16. jwrightnl

    jwrightnl Active Member

    i agree being able to play with a metronome is key to a good recording musician.

    we have no problem recording to or playing with a metronome. i just feel that sometimes when we record to it it kind of takes away from the human characteristics of it and almost makes it sound a little like a machine. maybe its just me.

    do most professional bands record with a click or not?
  17. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Most professionals have found the way that transcends playing to a metronome or similar time keeper. In a symphony orchestra there is a metronome standing at the front. Is it rock steady like a little box or click track? No, but the importance of being with the Schwachkopf mit baton is required and STILL making music at the same time. Trust me when I say the conductor is often much more distracting to making music than a metronome. This is just as true for jazz or rock or <insert style> musicians.

    Rhythm and Pitch are the two most important things within music. Everything else hangs upon this structure. Through dynamics and articulation it is very possible to give the ILLUSION of bending time. The best musicians accomplish this through intuition or training or both.
  18. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I haven't taken a survey, but from what I've read most mainstream commercial pop music is recorded to a click.

    Stage 1 of learning to play with the click sounds terrible, stage two sound good but stiff, stage three sounds great - it swings, grooves, rocks, etc. Keep at it, and proceed to stage three.
  19. natural

    natural Active Member

    Well, now we get to the hair splitting part of our conversation.
    Is there a difference between a metronome and a click track?

    Metronomes are rigid- Although, professionals know how to play behind, on top of, and ahead of it to obtain the required feeling. But I would venture to say that Metronomes are only really useful as an educational tool. To help you perform a part faster and more accurately, not so much as a means of performance.
    You don't paint with a ruler, you shouldn't perform music with one either. It's not natural, but it can be boring (just my opinion)

    Click tracks OTOH don't need to be as rigid. -Most times, my clik tracks are planned out ahead of time. Complete with changes for time signatures, and especially tempo changes.
    It can be as obvious as the choruses are at 110bpm while the rest of the song is at 105 bpm.
    Or it can be a gradual change throughout the song, where it starts at 105bpm and gradually increases over time to the ending at 110bpm.

    As mentioned earlier, Click tracks don't need to be just the tick tock of a metronome. They can be entire little percussion parts (again with tempo changes programed in ahead of time.) to which the performers can groove to.

    Yeah, current pop music is performed to metronomes- Look how well that's working out.
  20. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Metronomes can be programmed to be variable as well. Not the $5.95 music123 special of course. How is that any different than your description of a click track? If you are playing to artificial timing it is the same point in my opinion. I don't think there is any semantic difference.

    There is often a heated debate in the so called "classical" world about rubato. Those that vaguely understand it think rubato means drastic tempo changes to generate "feeling" or "nuance." Those that understand rubato in its entirety know that it is often more felt than done and if tempo is adjusted, it is done in an organic fashion that returns to the original. Much like you're programmed "click track."

    It really isn't any different to playing with dynamics. One could argue just as easily that since "everyone" compresses the crap out of every tune they "produce" or "master" then we shouldn't even bother putting dynamics in. Turn it to 11 and let 'er rip. Bad rhythm is even more jarring though, IMO of course.

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