Whether you are learning drums, studying music production, a hobbyist songwriter, or a beatmaker, you'll often hear references to a click track. What exactly is a click track, how is it produced, where is it used, and what are the benefits?
When taking beginner drum lessons, you will hear many weird and wonderful terms used to describe techniques, musicality, tools, and equipment. A click track is one such example. We have produced an accessible and comprehensive glossary of terms to help you navigate the nuances of drum jargon, and it's constantly being updated. We help you understand the terminology, from Accents to X-Hats, without getting too technical. Before we dive deeper into this topic, we'd also like to let you know that a video blog is available in which we discuss the main points of this article.
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What is a click track?
A click track is typically used in the recording studio or live performance environment, referring to a tool that keeps the drummer and band in time. It's basically a metronome and is run through a computer or app and set at a predetermined tempo (or speed). It is heard by the drummer and other musicians through headphones, or more commonly nowadays, in-ear monitors. Through the various blogs and the messages in our videos, you will hopefully start to appreciate the value of learning to play with a metronome. It's all about developing good timekeeping and musicianship, and there are also some practical uses in the studio and live music environment.
How is it used in the recording studio?
Most songs you hear are recorded in a studio, where playing with a click track is part of everyday life. The musicians and the production team hear it, but it is hidden from the end product so that the listening audience does not - they hear a polished song that has good timekeeping.
The click track is used in the studio to keep the drummer and other musicians in sync. It ensures the recording maintains the same tempo, with little or no speeding up or dragging (slowing down). As most music is recorded nowadays using computers, recording to a click track allows the production team to make edits and corrections to recorded parts without playing the parts again. This can only be done if the music is recorded with a consistent tempo, hence the need for a click track. Studio time is expensive, and time is money. Rather than spending time and eating up budgets constantly striving for a better-recorded performance, the production team may opt to digitally correct small mistakes or nuances. While it is always desirable for a musician to deliver the best possible performance, modern technology can help us out from time to time.
What about live performance?
The click track is also frequently used in the professional live music environment. Sometimes, bands have extra music parts on pre-recorded tracks for their live shows, and these are known as backing tracks. The drummer will play along to the backing track, which will have a click track to ensure that everything syncs. Only the drummer and other musicians will hear the click track through their earpieces - the audience will not. Just because musicians are wearing ear monitors doesn't always suggest that backing tracks and click tracks are being used. Mostly, they are used so everyone can hear each other on the stage. Drummers, for example, may wish to hear the vocalist or any other desired instrument in their ear monitors, and this is possible using today's technology.
Other production features such as the lighting show and background videos require being synchronized with the band, and this is normally coordinated on a computer using custom applications and relying on the click track as a reference. Theater shows frequently have backing tracks to recreate the big orchestral sound while using only a small number of musicians. Again, the orchestra will hear the click track, but the audience won't.
Why is this important to beginner drummers?
Just as aspiring studio and production drummers need to be comfortable with a click track, beginner and hobbyist drummers need to understand how playing with a metronome leads to good timekeeping and good musicianship. This stems from learning to read and count music and playing drum beats and fills with a metronome at various tempos. We focus on these things in our curriculum, and they are good solid fundamentals of playing the drums.
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