Click tracks are something that is referenced a lot when you are doing anything related to music. Be it a novice drummer or a Hollywood music producer; everyone uses them. You might be wondering if you should use a click track or not.
So what is a click track, how is it used, and what are the benefits of using a click track? Well, let’s look into that, shall we?!
What is a Click Track and its History?
A click track is a device that is basically an audio track that plays sounds at a predetermined tempo. It is, in essence, a digital form of a metronome. Musicians, especially drummers, listen to it through in-ear monitors to maintain perfect tempo and time signatures.
In simple terms, it is an audible metronome for drummers, set up on a computer or mobile app, by using a predetermined tempo. So when a click track is generated, drummers or other musicians hear it via headphones or in-ear monitors.
Click tracks were first used in early sound movies which had no voice. In these movies, optical marks were put onto the film to show the exact time the musical component must play.
These tracks have been used for a long time as a synchronization tool for movies, series, radio, and other audio recordings. They were critical in creating accurately timed music for commercials in radios and TV spots and even various other production music. An entire ensemble will play to a single click track to keep perfect rhythm. However, over time these industries have moved on to more sophisticated time synchronization tools as the complexity of synchronization kept increasing.
What is the Purpose of a Click Track?
A click track aims to ensure that all the musicians are in perfect sync through the song and keep perfect time. Click tracks are used across the music industry in both live performances and recordings for improved efficiency and precision.
If there is no click track, the individual musician tracks won’t be in sync. This can imbalance the whole harmony of the song. With a click track, everyone, from the drummers to vocalists, listens to the same track. This means they are all in sync, no matter how big the group. Playing to a click track seriously optimizes the time spent by the group.
What Do Click Tracks Sound Like?
Typically your standard click track sounds like a typical digital click sound. Snare drum beats, beeps, cowbells, and closed hi-hat sounds are other familiar click track sounds.
However, in reality, click tracks can sound like anything you want. Using digital audio workstations or a click track software, you can have any sound sample you want playing in your desired tempo. Be it a music click or a donkey braying, you can keep anything.
How is it used in the recording studio?
Click tracks have gotten omnipresent in studio work. Everyone in the band and the production team hears it. Click track for drummers and other musicians ensures that they remain in perfect sync, thus ensuring that there is a consistent tempo between them.
Nowadays, nearly all music recording is done digitally, and production teams do many editing and corrections post the recording. When recorded with click tracks, the team can easily edit and polish various sections since they are all in the same tempo. This means that the band no longer has to record themselves hundreds of times before they reach musical perfection, saving a whole lot of time and money.
If you wonder why you have never heard a click track in a song, it is because they are muted from the final song. You only hear the song with great time, not the tool that led to it.
What about live performance?
Click tracks are used frequently in live performances, too; however, they are not as common in live performances as they are in studio settings.
Sometimes, a few bands use backing tracks for live performances; these consist of some extra-musical elements on their pre-recorded tracks. These backing tracks will have a click track, and the drummer will play along with it to ensure that a perfect time is kept.
The musicians hear it through in-ear monitors; however, this does not mean that all bands that have in-ear monitors are using backing tracks. Sometimes they are just used to listening to other members of the band. Similar to the recording work, only the musicians and production team hear the click; the audience does not.
Click tracks are not common in just musical concerts; the orchestra in theatres also use click tracks to keep time.
However, not everyone is on board with using click tracks on live performances. Many bands and artists feel like it takes away the human element that makes live performances enjoyable. It makes live performances feel no different than recorded work.
Why is this important to beginner drummers?
Click tracks are essential to beginner drummers as playing with a click track, or metronome helps develop good timekeeping. Timekeeping is one of the crucial traits of a drummer; he needs to be a clock for the whole band. You can learn to keep time in various tempos using a click track. Therefore, click tracks for drums are essential, especially for beginners!