Over the years of recording I have been in the middle of the debate between using a click track and not using one. Many musicians say it makes the track sound stiff and less expressive. Some just have a hard time playing to a click because they don’t practice to a click, others do many solo gigs where they are not responsible for strict time therefore getting used to pushing and pulling when they feel like doing it. From my perspective, most people feel the time or groove is the drummers main responsibility. The addition of cool fills and textures is the icing on the cake of a good time feel. In this age of computer based recording where we can place parts onto tracks at different times I feel the click track is an important part of getting a good solid track, especially for music that will hopefully be radio ready and on a level to compete with bands that are already established. Because of my desire to work with people and gain experience recording I have reluctantly given in to musicians not wanting to record or play to a click. What happens most often after the project is done is that if the time moves slightly on a track the listener perceives this as being the drummers fault, and I have some recordings that I am not happy with because I can hear the time moving. I cannot think of a time when I have not regretted standing my ground and insist the band use a click.
Here are some other points:
1. Using a click does not mean that you have to play ridged or stiff. Play a little on top or a little behind to get the desired effect.
2. Adding other tracks later is much easier if there is a click.
3. Editing and combining takes is much easier if the track has been recorded using a click.
4. Having a click allows the use of MIDI tracks to enhance a track. Without a click additional MIDI tracks are very difficult to render.
5. Transferring tracks from one computer to another is much easier with a click.
6. The click doesn’t have to be a click at all! You can use a shaker or other percussive loop so it feels like you are playing with a percussionist.
7. You can stop or mute the click for ritardandos and accelerandos.
8. Professional DAW’s will allow you to build a tempo map for tempo changes within a tune.
9. If necessary, the click can be fed only to the drummer.
The bottom line here is that people generally don’t like doing things that they are not good at doing. This often shows up during our practice time, but more on that in another post. If you or your band members don’t like recording to a click, it’s probably because you are not very good at it and you need to spend more time working with the metronome. The great players have no problem with the click, they can make the music feel good by playing right with the click or slightly weaving the groove around the steady pulse.