Recording: With or Without a click track/metronome?

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by Sleightofhand, Dec 7, 2007.

  1. Sleightofhand

    Sleightofhand Active Member

    Apr 20, 2007
    My bandmates and I have been recently encountering hardship when it comes to deciding how to begin the recording of an original song.

    We all know the songs very well and have established what we think is a decent quality recording (through practice and learning from our god-awful ones) and are finally ready to start recording our songs in our basement/studio (in other words, ourselves).

    The problem is that in the past, the demos we've made of the songs we wish to record were done as live takes with everyone playing at the same time, so not to a metronome.

    Also, we've done covers in the past of songs via multi-tracking and didn't have much of a problem after we discovered we could import the "real" song (say, a metallica tune) onto our digital recorder. Call this cheating, but this way, our drummer could play along to the song, pause where there may have been pauses, and set the foundation in a very synchronized fashion.

    We cannot do this however with our originals and are debating whether to use a click track/metronome in keeping time, or having our drummer do without it. Either way, he'll be recording part by part (not entire takes of a song) i.e. intro and verse on say track 1, choruses on track 2, as to make the flow of the song connected that way.

    We're currently using a metronome and are curious as to what is the normal procedure for starting an original song's recording process. I've read loads of articles pertaining to recording but am always dissappointed never to read about this procedure.

    What I do know are the shortcomings of both processes:
    -Without a click=track may flucuate tempo and be hard to layer guitar and bass tightly above it.
    -With a click= recording sounds too mechanical and loses its "humanistic" qualities.

    I heard somewhere that Rick Rubin records w/o a click to establish a more live and natural recording, so I'm not totally against either way.

    One more question before I shut up:
    When using a click, how much "lee-way" can you give a drummer? Does he have to be spot-on in order to ensure a less-stressful recording situation for all the other instruments? We just don't want to overlook a slip up thinking that it won't be a problem when guitars and bass get recorded.

    We'd just like to be informed of a good procedure anyone is aware of (or even use themselves) to follow in recording our songs all by ourselves without the aid of a pro tools editor or advanced technology.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. And sorry about the long post.
  2. Gertok

    Gertok Guest

    We usually record scratch rhythm guitar track with click, that feed both click and scratch to the drummer and record drums, then record guitars bass solos than vocals. I had a hard time to record drums to a track that have been recorded with out click.... it was a disaster and stress! Drummer was good though guitarist was bad.
  3. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    Oct 26, 2007
    Cocoa, FL
    Home Page:
    Playing to click can be a pain to some people who aren't used to it.

    You can have it both ways: Settle on a tempo with a click, allow it to run for the first 30 seconds or so of the song, then turn it off - this allows the drummer to get into the groove and he can then loosen up once it's off.

    It's a bit complicated when there are timing changes throughout.

    Try practicing the song a few times with the click in your drummer's ears, and a few without.
  4. shed_sounds

    shed_sounds Guest

    doing the same thing myself

    hi there,

    im tracking drums in my shed by myself and have been having the same questions & thoughts.. recording drums first with a click track is really hard for a few reasons such as my skills as a drummer (I'm ok, just not pro), and difficulty staying in time with a metronome (I can hardly hear the metronome in samplitude, and I don't want to turn it up super loud.. note I've even turned off microphone monitoring and am just hearing click track in my headphones). What I think I'll do is play rhythm guitar to the metronome first and maybe bass, then play drums along to it since I'm better at those instruments and simply am more likely to get the song on the right track (no pun intended).

    ill try and let you know how it goes..

  5. natural

    natural Active Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    If you can record to a clik, it's usually going to give you the most options.
    - You can punch in drums
    - You can fly parts from one part of the song to another.
    - Tracks will go down faster.
    - You won't have to argue about who's ahead or behind the beat.

    You don't have to be spot on as long as eveyone agrees that the result is good. If the whole chorus is rushing the clik but comes back together for the verse, that's fine. Just make sure everyone follows the drums.
    Also- there's no rule that says you have to have the same tempo for the whole song. You can program clik tracks to change tempo where needed.
    You can also have the clik do half notes. That can give the drummer a little more freedom. (Sometimes the drummer needs a tight leash, so you can also do it the other way and give him eight notes.)
    Bottom line, find a method and a happy medium that can keep eveyone together and yet not sound mechanical.
    As with most things, it takes a little work.
  6. TheFraz

    TheFraz Active Member

    Feb 5, 2007
    I am a fan of not using a click when i do not have to. that is in cases where I can lay down the bed tracks all together as a band, and do not need to add any MIDI to it later.
    I prefer a song to breath a little bit. But I dont want the tempo to be all over the place at the same time. What I do, is have the band play with a click for a few bars till every one locks into the feel of the song, then I take it away from them.

    But with some bands, a click is must. other wise keeping tempo is impossible. It can be really helpful from a producers stand point. if you feel the band is getting to loose you can pump up the click in their cans so they have t focus more on it (same thing works when you are doing over dubs, but you can use your drums instead of a click).

    also with a click you can do things like record the chorus at a slightly faster tempo to give the track more energy with the hook. Well there are plenty of click centered production techniques. However when given the chance to work with one or not, I typically choose not to, if the band is tight enough
  7. HansAm

    HansAm Active Member

    Jun 4, 2005
    When i record drums i first make a "follow mix". wich usually is made with 1 mic, a guitar, a vocal line and a click.


    Cause I, as a drummer, want:
    1. The guitar to give me the nonchalant rythem.
    2. The vocals to give me enthusiasm and dynamics.
    3. The click to give me accuracy.

    This has worked very well for me, and guests in my home studio aswell.
  8. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    If you have an easy time laying down tracks to a click it's probably better not to use it. If you have a hard time using a click, you probably should use it. In other words, practicing with a metronome is one of the best ways there is to improve your playing, but the real goal is to have great time internally. In the long run, learning to play with a click will make you a better band. It may or may not make this particular recording better.
    ChrisH likes this.
  9. Lerxst

    Lerxst Guest

    Im replying from my phone so please excuse the typos. One way I have done this in the past is to write it the drum part using samples and sequencer for the drummer as well as the other musicians to follow.

    Sometimes I will write a basic track and sometimes the drum parts verbatim. This seems to make things easier for everyone instead of trying to follow a lifeless click.

    Hope this helps

  10. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    Jun 26, 2007
    If the drummer is having a difficult time with it give this duty to another band member. Maybe the bass guy can follow the click and get the feel and keep the time. When I was in band in HS the conductor used to keep time for us. Maybe someone could do this for you, keep a visual time signature going with snapping fingers or waving hands.

    I haven't done it here yet but I am going to rig up a flashing tempo light, I think this might aid in keeping the organic feel while having the accuracy always available.

    Good luck,
  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Having a clik makes better use of digital replacement.

    Having a clik makes for boring static sounding music.

    Having a clik teaches meter as well as a Nun with a ruler.

    Having a clik eliminates the need for disagreements about the time signature.

    Having a clik makes it necessary to have a good headphone system.

    Having a drummer with a great clock inside is better than any mechanical device.

    I like HansAm's idea the best.

    When I'm working a song out , alone, I will always put down the basic beat on the drum machine and play several instruments to it to learn the feel. With the basic feel, you can be behind, on top of, or pushing the beat without errors and still be able to move parts around in an edit.

    The thing to remember through all of this, is its all about what you feel in the music you create, and being able to translate that feeling into life through a recording takes whatever brush strokes necessary to get'er'done.
    ChrisH likes this.
  12. drstudio

    drstudio Active Member

    Nov 16, 2007
    Home Page:
    I usually program a beat for the drummer to play to, instead of a cowbell, or woodblock click track. I keep it simple so it doesn't distract or take away from the drummers performance.
    I find, in general, a drummer can find a better groove with a programmed beat rather then a sterile click.

    Just my opinion,
  13. AllInRuins

    AllInRuins Guest

    IMO that would throw me off horribly, rather than playing to a click.

    But thats just me.
  14. Not always.

    Depends on the band/song/performance, etc.
  15. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Jul 28, 2004
    IMO being able to play to a click track isn't necessarily knowing how to play like a robot. A drummer that can play to a click knows how to rush a little a head or behind the click when going through fills and such. Also, you can create a click track that has tempo changes. You have to go through the song a few times with the drummer to map it out, but it is done quite often.

    In my limited experience....

    The bands that need a click track can't play to them and the bands that can play to them don't need them.
  16. UncleBob58

    UncleBob58 Active Member

    Apr 9, 2003
    Fairfield County, CT
    Home Page:
    Amen to that!

    One solution is to rehearse to death WITH the click, and then do the sessions without.

    I've done live performances where we had to work with a click to run MIDI tracks. Our drummer was very solid and had no problem, the performances were still exciting and in no way stiff or robotic. He was always complaining that he couldn't hear the click, which was because he was so in the pocket he never drifted from the it.
    ChrisH likes this.
  17. Sleightofhand

    Sleightofhand Active Member

    Apr 20, 2007
    Thanks for the tips everyone! It will help us a great deal to keep these pointers in mind.


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