When taking beginner drum lessons, you will hear many weird and wonderful terms used to describe techniques, musicality, and equipment. Drumstars will help you navigate the finer nuances of drum lingo, and it’s constantly being updated. We help you understand the terminology, from Accents to X-Hats, without getting too technical.
A “click track” is a term normally used in the recording studio or live performance environment, referring to the metronome that keeps the drummer and band in time. It’s normally run through a computer or app and is 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. (These are the small earpieces that you often see musicians wearing).
Hopefully, you will be starting 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 that is worth being aware of.
“Just as it is important for a hobbyist drummer to work with a metronome, it is imperative that aspiring studio and production drummers are comfortable with a click track. This all stems from learning to read and count music, and by learning drum beats and fills with a metronome at various tempos.”
THE RECORDING STUDIO.
Most songs that you hear are recorded in a studio, where playing with a click track is part of everyday life. The musicians and the production team (the Producer and Recording Engineers) hear it, but it is hidden from the end product so that the listening audience does not – they just hear a 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 gives the production team the opportunity to make edits and corrections to recorded parts, without the musician having to play 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 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.
THE LIVE ENVIRONMENT.
The click track is also frequently used in the professional live music environment. Sometimes, bands have extra-musical parts on pre-recorded tracks for their live shows, which are again played using computers or mobile devices. 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 simply 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, often using 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.
Just as it is important for a hobbyist drummer to work with a metronome, it is imperative that aspiring studio and production drummers are comfortable with a click track. This all stems from learning to read and count music, and by learning drum beats and fills with a metronome at various tempos. These are all things we continually teach and stress in our curriculum, and are good solid fundamentals of playing the drums.
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