Metronome, click track, or neither?

Metronomes are tools to keep tempo, giving and audible click or beep at the set rate. They are available in wind-up mechanical varieties that click, or newer electronic models that beep. Each is frequently used by students and teachers alike to keep in time with music.

An alternative to a metronome is the click track, which is essentially a recorded track of a metronome. Some critics of the click track claim that it takes the human sound of the music away, leaving it feeling lifeless and mechanical. Keep in mind that a professional drummer is often likely to be just as accurate as a click track, and that without a steady beat it would be more difficult to be expressive through slight variations in tempo.

Also, if you don’t like the feel or sound of a click track, most DAWs (including Reaper) will let you replace the audio with something much more musical than the tick-tock or cleep-clop of a click track, like actual drum hits.

One of the two main reason I ALWAYS record music to a click track is that it:

  1. Allows you to add percussion after the fact using MIDI. I don’t have a real drum kit and have to rely on virtual drums using MIDI. If your music is already recorded to a metronome, adding drums and percussion via MIDI is easy. And it is virtually (no pun intended :-P) impossible to use MIDI drums if the music was NOT first recorded to a metronome.
  2. Copy & Paste! I’m not perfect (shocked?), so I make mistake sometimes when recording, say, guitar. If I happen to briefly hit the wrong chord, of get a buzzing string, etc. I can just snip the same phrase from a different part of the song and patch the mistake. I how how to do this in my article: Quickly Fix Audio Recording Mistakes by Overdubbing, Part 2. If you have not recorded your guitar track (of course this works for any instrument as well) to a metronome, the part you clip to repair the mistake will probably not be at the same tempo. So it is MUCH harder to fix mistakes. Bottom line? Use a metronome if you can!

See our article on how to use both a click track and/or a metronome in Reaper here: Using a Click Track For Recording Music

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