If a musical recording doesn’t have its track in sync, it’ll sound messy and disjointed. Since musicians often record their parts at different times and in different locations, you need a tool that makes synchronization a walk in the park.
This is where a click track comes in. But what is a click track, exactly, and why should you start using one? Let’s find out.
What Is a Click Track?
A click track is a device that keeps musicians in sync during a multi-track recording. In other words, it’s a device that helps you play in time. Most click tracks generate a simple “tick-tock” sound, but it isn’t rare to find some with complex rhythmic beats with grooves and subdivisions. Others sound like beeps, cowbells, snare drums, and even closed hi-hats.
This device is usually run through a computer or app. Although it’s set at a predetermined speed, users can easily adjust the tempo (bpm) to their liking if desired. It’s often used for both studio and home recording sessions, as well as live performance shows.
During live shows, band members hear the ticking sound of the click track through their in-ear monitors. The repetitive rhythm of the click track helps performers latch onto the tempo and count the music without being distracted by the loud cheering of the crowd.
Sometimes the click track is given only to the drummer while the rest of the band follows along with the beat of the drums.
Popular bands like Pink Floyd, Blink-182, Neck Deep, Bring Me the Horizon, and U2 use click tracks when performing on-stage. It’s no wonder their performances are always perfectly lined up!
What Is the Importance of a Click Track?
Click tracks are used for the sole purpose of keeping recorded and live performances in perfect sync throughout the song.
Without a click track (or a human conductor), remaining in sync can be quite challenging even with experienced musicians. Click tracks maximize studio or stage time as it enables both efficiency and precision.
3 Reasons Why You Should Start Using a Click Track
Click tracks are a musician’s best friend. Although they’re mostly used by drummers, they’re also used by guitarists, bassists, and even vocalists every once in a while.
So, should you record with a click track? Absolutely. Click tracks aren’t only for beginners; they’re for musicians of every level. Here are some of the biggest reasons why you should record with a click track:
- Timing and Tempo
As discussed, click tracks help musicians keep a consistent tempo all throughout their performance. Click tracks also stop a musician from playing too fast when recording and performing live.
If you’re an artist, you surely understand how exhilarating playing with your bandmates feels. When you’re in the “groove,” you’d sometimes catch yourself playing too fast or too slow.
It might sound right in the moment, but when you look back at the recording, you’ll notice how off the performance actually was. You and your bandmates will then need to re-record your session, which is not only inconvenient but also time-consuming.
This can all be avoided with a click track.
- Editing and Arranging
If you use a click track while recording your song, editing goes by much more smoothly. This is because you’ll be able to visually see where the waveforms halt and peak.
Since the beats and bars are marked by the click track, it’ll be easier to cut a track in half or copy and paste a certain section of the song into another section. This is only possible with the click track. Without it, the sections you’ve cut or copy and pasted will seem out of place and obviously taken from a different section.
Also, since everything is locked to a grid, changing the whole arrangement won’t be an issue at all. Especially since every musical section is perfectly in sync with the click track.
Click tracks also help with working with effects, particularly reverb and delay. You can add a 1/8 note delay for your guitar or bass, or have a perfectly timed echo or reverb effect in the bridge. Since everything is timed with the click track, you won’t have to worry about bpm or milliseconds.
- Improves Performance
When playing an instrument, timing is everything. This is why we have sheet music, human conductors, and click tracks.
Having a strong, reliable sense of timing and rhythm is one of the easiest and fastest ways of becoming a good musician. In fact, you can tell an amateur from a professional just from their tempo.
Click tracks help musicians develop good musical timing. Unconsciously, they help them become better musicians.
Alongside musical development, click tracks improve live performances. Regardless of how talented musicians are, the performance won’t sound good if the band isn’t on time with each other.
Audiences notice rhythmic deviations—even subtle ones—right away. When the band isn’t in sync, the audience will feel uneasy and think that the performers aren’t that good even if they actually are.
Can Vocalists Use Click Tracks?
It depends on the song and the vocalist. Some find them extremely useful while others find them inconvenient.
Generally, though, click tracks are mostly used for instruments rather than singers. This is because vocalists are almost always rhythmically inconsistent. In some cases, this is done on purpose to give the song a bit of extra flare.
Therefore, unlike drummers, you can’t rely on con vocalists to create a consistent beat for a song.
For many musicians, click tracks are a saving grace. They not only keep the band in sync but also improve their overall sound performance. Plus, click tracks reveal timing problems during recording, so the performers won’t have to start from scratch after they’ve already played the entire song.
Unless you’re born with a perfect sense of time, it’s often difficult to perfect tempo without countless hours of training. Click tracks make the entire process much easier to perfect while developing your musical timing at the same time.