Should You Use A Click Track?

Updated On
09-Mar-2020
By
Ken
metronome click track

I always use some form of tempo guide, like a click track, when recording music.  For one thing, it leaves open the option to add MIDI drums or percussion later in the project. 

But it also allows you to copy and paste parts of, say, a guitar part that may have had a buzz, or a screw-up.  If the whole song is locked to the same beats per minute (BPM), it's a lot easier to copy a section of it (say the same guitar chord without the buzz or screw-up) and paste it into another part of the song. 

And if you plan to send your part of a recording to a drummer who lives in another state, it sure helps him/her to lay down the drums after the fact if the song has a steady and consistent tempo.

So for me the only question is whether I want to use my recording software's built-in click track ( I use Reaper for my main DAW), which is the tiny beep-bop sound made by the metronome, or put a MIDI drum part onto a separate track.  It's easier and faster to just turn on the metronome. 

But it's hard for some people to "groove" to that mechanical clip-clop sound of a click track.  So I prefer to just load up a MIDI drum kit, enter a kick, snare and hi-hat pattern, and just paint that across the track for the duration of the song (or more accurately, my estimate of the duration, since I use the click track or drum track to record the very first thing in the song.

But some folks don't like to use any kind of rhythm or tempo guide when recording.  Some even detest the sound of the built-in click track and simply cannot follow it.  Others may say that a song recorded to a click track is too mechanical sounding, lacking the human variations in tempo. 

For some drummers it may seem to be an outright insult to suggest they can't maintain a perfect beat for the duration of a song.  That's OK too.  There is no rule that says you have to use a click track. 

In fact, if you have an entire band recording all at once (as opposed to recording piecemeal and having each band member add their part at different times), it's often preferable.  It makes things easier and eliminates two of the advantages I mentioned in the first paragraph (adding drums or percussion later and/or sending a track to a drummer after the fact).

I suspect anyone you ask about whether they prefer to record to a click track (or even a MIDI drum guide track) will have their own opinion, and it's probably split 50/50.  But I'd really like to know how you feel about it!  Let me (and the world) know your preference by leaving a comment below.  "Click Track: Yes or No?"

2 comments on “Should You Use A Click Track?”

  1. I do NOT like using a click track. Whenever I use it, my music sounds mechanical, unemotional and it makes me tense. I am concentrating on staying on beat with the click track and not putting emotion into the songs I've written. So, I do not like them at all. Thank you for writing the article.

  2. Thanks for the comment Tammy. Yes, locking everything to a clock-steady rhythm can make some music sound less emotional, or at least make the person playing it feel less free to let the emotions guide the timing. sometimes it helps if you change the click track sounds from tick-tocks to a kick and snare drum, for example. But if you don't like recording to a metronome, it might be hard to make the best use of things like cut/copy and paste for different bars and beats. It might also be a problem if you're expecting to layer tracks one-at-a-time. It might be hard to match the rhythm of the initial track. HOWEVER, if you are recording everything in one pass, or if you are recording a group performing all together at the same time, it will definitely feel more natural to play as if your are performing live - to a drummer or other type of percussion, and you wouldn't need a click track.

    Just my rambling thoughts about the topic:). Thanks so much for your comment!

    Ken

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