recording drums to a click but other musicians are out of time

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
That's one way to look at it. The other way is that having those musicians correct these tracks will enable them to grow as players, and develop a better sense of rhythm. These players can then take this skill to other projects, songs, and gigs.
I hear what you're saying, but not being prepared is literally wasting money in a studio setting. Those lessons should have been learned ahead of wasting studio time when the players aren't ready to perform at a high level.

Let's hope it's a learning opportunity and not a blame the drummer opportunity for them.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I hadn't seen the reply from OP until just now but it seems they aren't running a paid studio cost. In that case, the first step is having the guitar/main learn to record to a click. Your best bet is for both of you to record to a click in time.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
And it made for some awesome music in the 70's. :)
Perhaps you two should record playing together live and make it raw and organic and forget about the need for perfect time?
Otherwise, lay down drums perfectly with the click and then rerecord the accompanying parts.

Regarding drum parts being lifeless when played in a silo... I keep the song playing in my brain when recording the drums and play to that. I don't think it's necessary to have other players playing (badly) in order to record an inspired drum part and in many ways the bass and guitar I have in my head is the ideal to me so it's even more inspiring than what the other players might actually be playing.

I have done many recordings alone - but with the song going in my head - and it works fine.

It is only lifeless if you let it be...

hell, 80% of the time at live shows, my stage sound sucks, and I have to play from memory anyways, so I am used to it...
 

Otto

Platinum Member
I would approach this by doing just what is asked...nail the drum part to the click...which will sound awful unless subsequent post production tweaking occurs.

If the product turns out to be acceptable to everyone, find a new project.
 

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
Having said that, you could get the band to play with a click, record that as a scratch track, then play it back in your headphones at a very low volume, just loud enough to keep you oriented while playing with the click.
Or record the whole band without a click and use the drums track as a reference. Then delete your scratch tracks and re-record.

This assumes you have a mixer or interface with enough tracks to isolate your drums. All you really need is one or two additional tracks on top of the drum track(s) to do that.

This is likely the route my band will go down. Bass and guitar on 2 channels, their vocals on 2 channels, and drums on 4 channels (two overheads, snare, and kick), all going to the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 then to my DAW, with headphone output 1 going to me and the bass, and output 2 going to vocals. Then after the drum track is down, they can re-record using amps and room acoustics if they want (use headphones to play the drum track as a reference).

EDIT: Or, since the scratch tracks are just for me, use a cheap analog mixer to put the rest of the band on one Focusrite track, giving me 7 channels to record drums with. That gives me three additional channels for hihat, and two toms.

EDIT2: Or, listen to the cheap analog mixer headphone output and record drums on all 8 Focusrite channels. I gain a mic for my other tom.
 
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cburgess

Member
And it made for some awesome music in the 70's. :)
Perhaps you two should record playing together live and make it raw and organic and forget about the need for perfect time?
Otherwise, lay down drums perfectly with the click and then rerecord the accompanying parts.
In regard to the awsome music in the 70's - Absolutely! Led Zeppelin used time modulation in amazing ways. (The days before the electronic click. Prior to the current era, metronomes were mechanical clockworks and were, and still are, too expensive for most folks.)

"Raw and organic" - that is real! Before things got digital, there were recorded live concerts available on vinyl LP's. If you took a modern digital metronome and used the tap function, you'll find the real tempo is all over the place. Back in the day, tempo was the "feel". Some sections you rush a little, other sections you dragged a little, all to modulate the feel of the song - this is where the magic happens.

Tempo should be something people can dance to. A dynamic tempo is more enjoyable to dance to...especially in 3/4 time. Beat 1 is on the click, the 2nd can be either just before the click or just after, with the 3rd being the opposite to 2. This is a simple syncopation. As an example when I playing a slow song written in 4/'4 before an audience (military O'Club), the first few nights only a handful of couples would get up and dance...the groove was a standard quarter kick note on 1 and an eighth note double on 3, snare quarter note "crack" on 2 and 4... 1boom, 2crack, 3boom-boom, 4crack - repeat through the song. One night I changed it a little: replaced the felt bass beater with a hard plastic one to make the kick sound more punch; kick right on 1, dragging on 3, play the snare on 2, but moving the 4 to just after the beat. The effect on the audience got most couples up slow-dancing a natural 3-step (waltz-like) to what was a 4/4 song. The old tired song was refreshed by just a little jazz on the tempo that was one time, rushed and dragged a beat - all in the same measure. Time modulation changed the feel and mood of the song as experienced by the audience (and was more fun for us to play too). While this can be hard to tap your foot to, it makes slow-dancing with your sweetheart more fun. It was and is the key principle in classical jazz - the swing: hard to tap you foot to, but makes you want to get up and dance.

The "click" is only a very useful reference tool to mark precise moments in time, in recording (for syncing) and practice (developing your precision and gives you more control over placing your stroke exactly where you want it). Do not become a slave to the click.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Hi I've been recording some drums to a track but I'm racing in bits. I looked into this a deeper and found that the parts I'm racing on also coincide with the guitar and bass that are also out with the click. It mainly happens when there's some stabs or leading into the chorus. The producer wants me to be on the click but its hard if the other instruments are out. He said for me to play without the music but then I don't know cue points. Any advice please guys.

Record scratch a scratch guitar and scratch vocal along with drums to a click track (it's even better if the bass player can join in and lock in with you). This way, you can get your cue points and accents in the right places. Then, everyone else record on top of your drums and bass guitar.

Heck, if you can do this with all of the songs y'all are recording, see if you can go in with just the engineer, the bass player, and singer/guitar player and get them all hammered out in an afternoon. This way, you can go home and you aren't waiting on everyone else to do their thing.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
This is the right answer. No point in a click if the whole band can't lock to it. This nonsense of it being the "drummer's job" is so out-dated and stupid; everyone needs to be in time or it's not helpful at all.
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been put in this situation many times and to the point where I’m constantly being yelled out for being out of time. In one church band scenario, the guitarist wouldn’t have any part of me telling him it’s not me. I have spent hours upon hours working on my time, click, gap clicks, changing time amidst a gap, then falling right in on the one. Not perfect by any means, but I’ve spent way more time on “time” then most other band mates.

In this band the guitarist asked that I step down after carrying on and on about my time. I said “only on one condition. You play your guitar perfectly to the click and you’ll never see me again”. He couldn’t. He kept making excuses that it was disrupting his creativity and flow, blah, blah, blah. I then set up a gap click with a two bar gap, stopped completely, got up for a quick stretch, then landed perfectly on the 1 after the gap. Never heard one thing about my time again. They decided to scrub the click idea and I stepped down. Pretty obvious egos ran deep and playing well wasn’t on the agenda. Sad that this had to be in church, but I wasn’t playing to stroke my ego. I’m okay with not playing to a click live, but we WILL ALWAYS practice to a click. You have to be able to figure out where you’re pushing and pulling or the band will never lock. Time is everyone’s responsibility. I’m okay with the flexibility of no click live, but by then decent time should be built into everyone in practice, so there’s less conflict on stage.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been put in this situation many times and to the point where I’m constantly being yelled out for being out of time. In one church band scenario, the guitarist wouldn’t have any part of me telling him it’s not me. I have spent hours upon hours working on my time, click, gap clicks, changing time amidst a gap, then falling right in on the one. Not perfect by any means, but I’ve spent way more time on “time” then most other band mates.

In this band the guitarist asked that I step down after carrying on and on about my time. I said “only on one condition. You play your guitar perfectly to the click and you’ll never see me again”. He couldn’t. He kept making excuses that it was disrupting his creativity and flow, blah, blah, blah. I then set up a gap click with a two bar gap, stopped completely, got up for a quick stretch, then landed perfectly on the 1 after the gap. Never heard one thing about my time again. They decided to scrub the click idea and I stepped down. Pretty obvious egos ran deep and playing well wasn’t on the agenda. Sad that this had to be in church, but I wasn’t playing to stroke my ego. I’m okay with not playing to a click live, but we WILL ALWAYS practice to a click. You have to be able to figure out where you’re pushing and pulling or the band will never lock. Time is everyone’s responsibility. I’m okay with the flexibility of no click live, but by then decent time should be built into everyone in practice, so there’s less conflict on stage.

this kind of attitude happens in the wind band I play in as well...

the tubas rush...NO, the drummers are speeding up
the trumpets can't play syncopations...NO, the drummers "don't know their music"
the clarinets fall apart...NO, the "drum part is distracting us..."

🤔 😒😑:mad:🔥 <--that is the progression of our mental state sometimes at practice

it used to really bother me, but now that I am older, I keep doing what I KNOW is right, and I let the conductor figure it out with them

and I have had to do the click track thing like you mentioned MANY times with guitar players, and it is funny that " He kept making excuses that it was disrupting his creativity and flow, blah, blah, blah" is the universal answer from any musician who has no sense of time.

I don't even get into the argument that you can't have "creativity and flow" without time...not worth it
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
There's never an excuse for poor time. Many songs feel perfectly natural with a little flow, but that doesn't cross the line into rushing or dragging. The moment the flow becomes apparent, it's gone too far. And even when the feel flows a little, it lands back in tempo. It doesn't just take off and keep going. Time is important, even where the genre doesn't lend itself to using a click.

Doesn't anyone remember back in the day, before clicks were prevalent, we all marveled at how great a band was that kept solid time and was tight? But 'click' has become a dirty word, and tempo control and precision have somehow become a bad thing. The fact is, most players whose mantra is 'music has to breathe' are simply rationalizing the fact that their time isn't very good to begin with.

Recording or performing with a click is really simple - even the Who got Keith Moon to do it successfully! Here are a few 'secrets'.

You have to hear the click in order to play with it. Seems obvious, but players try to hear a nice mix - normally a wise goal - and trying to achieve that while also needing to stick to a click or track is a recipe for disaster. Once a click or track is introduced, that's what the drummer needs to hear. Of course they need to hear their drums and maybe a little instrumentation for reference, but the click has to be the most audible element of the mix, so that nothing can cover it up. Attempts to hear a nice song mix only result in sonic clutter that makes it difficult to stay on the click.

Subdivisions are helpful. Imagine trying to stick with a click that gives you only the "1" of each bar. It's doable, but requires a near-perfect sense of time to begin with, and you'd be constantly wondering if you're going to hit the mark instead of concentrating on the parts. Sub-divide that click to the "1" and "3" and it becomes easier. Sub-divide it once again so that there's a click on every count and it becomes even easier. One more time so it becomes an 8th note click, and it's undeniable. You would have to be a pretty poor drummer to lose a click like that... and that's the click you want. When you work with a click, don't mess around. Job #1 is to stay on that click, and the more clicks you hear, the more you can stay on it.

Clicks are pretty sterile, and it's helpful and less 'clinical' to play to a drum loop. It feels like you're playing with another drummer, which is more natural and kinda fun. It can be a beat, percussion pattern, anything that doesn't sound like TOK tik tik tik.

Only the drummer should have the click, and everyone else should play to the drummer. When everyone has the click, the differences in how each works with it - a little on top or a little behind - become more apparent. They're hearing two sources of tempo, and if the drummer slides just a little, the other players don't know which way to go and the looseness is magnified. If they just follow the drummer, slight shifts are more natural for everyone and probably not apparent to the listener.

I've been working with clicks in the studio since my very first session in 1970, and performing with clicks & tracks live since 1985. I make sure I hear the click very clearly and with an absolute minimum of musical clutter from anyone else. I have a "need to know" mix, which is partly about what I need to hear, and mostly about what I don't need to hear. Using this approach, I have never EVER lost the click or even strayed so much that it was evident to anyone else. It's not that I'm an amazing drummer, It's about knowing how to work with a click.

For the OP, if you're with the click, you're doing the right thing. If other players can't hang with that and are throwing you off, turn them down. When listening back to the recording, it will be very simple to hear who's right and who's wrong.
 

someguy01

Well-known member
Discussion of tempo.
*Billy Martin has entered the chat
 

ottog1979

Senior Member
There's never an excuse for poor time. Many songs feel perfectly natural with a little flow, but that doesn't cross the line into rushing or dragging. The moment the flow becomes apparent, it's gone too far. And even when the feel flows a little, it lands back in tempo. It doesn't just take off and keep going. Time is important, even where the genre doesn't lend itself to using a click.

Doesn't anyone remember back in the day, before clicks were prevalent, we all marveled at how great a band was that kept solid time and was tight? But 'click' has become a dirty word, and tempo control and precision have somehow become a bad thing. The fact is, most players whose mantra is 'music has to breathe' are simply rationalizing the fact that their time isn't very good to begin with.

Recording or performing with a click is really simple - even the Who got Keith Moon to do it successfully! Here are a few 'secrets'.

You have to hear the click in order to play with it. Seems obvious, but players try to hear a nice mix - normally a wise goal - and trying to achieve that while also needing to stick to a click or track is a recipe for disaster. Once a click or track is introduced, that's what the drummer needs to hear. Of course they need to hear their drums and maybe a little instrumentation for reference, but the click has to be the most audible element of the mix, so that nothing can cover it up. Attempts to hear a nice song mix only result in sonic clutter that makes it difficult to stay on the click.

Subdivisions are helpful. Imagine trying to stick with a click that gives you only the "1" of each bar. It's doable, but requires a near-perfect sense of time to begin with, and you'd be constantly wondering if you're going to hit the mark instead of concentrating on the parts. Sub-divide that click to the "1" and "3" and it becomes easier. Sub-divide it once again so that there's a click on every count and it becomes even easier. One more time so it becomes an 8th note click, and it's undeniable. You would have to be a pretty poor drummer to lose a click like that... and that's the click you want. When you work with a click, don't mess around. Job #1 is to stay on that click, and the more clicks you hear, the more you can stay on it.

Clicks are pretty sterile, and it's helpful and less 'clinical' to play to a drum loop. It feels like you're playing with another drummer, which is more natural and kinda fun. It can be a beat, percussion pattern, anything that doesn't sound like TOK tik tik tik.

Only the drummer should have the click, and everyone else should play to the drummer. When everyone has the click, the differences in how each works with it - a little on top or a little behind - become more apparent. They're hearing two sources of tempo, and if the drummer slides just a little, the other players don't know which way to go and the looseness is magnified. If they just follow the drummer, slight shifts are more natural for everyone and probably not apparent to the listener.

I've been working with clicks in the studio since my very first session in 1970, and performing with clicks & tracks live since 1985. I make sure I hear the click very clearly and with an absolute minimum of musical clutter from anyone else. I have a "need to know" mix, which is partly about what I need to hear, and mostly about what I don't need to hear. Using this approach, I have never EVER lost the click or even strayed so much that it was evident to anyone else. It's not that I'm an amazing drummer, It's about knowing how to work with a click.

For the OP, if you're with the click, you're doing the right thing. If other players can't hang with that and are throwing you off, turn them down. When listening back to the recording, it will be very simple to hear who's right and who's wrong.

Excellent! Thank you. Question: How do you handle songs where guitar, keys or someone other than you starts the song with an intro of any length without drums?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Excellent! Thank you. Question: How do you handle songs where guitar, keys or someone other than you starts the song with an intro of any length without drums?

Thank you, just talking from many years of experience, and what works for me does work for others. :)

In the occasional situation where there's a click running and I'm not in at the top, the player(s) involved also get the click. When the drums come in, their click is either muted from monitor world, or in some cases stops automatically thanks to multiple click sends from the server. That is, their particular click goes silent at the predetermined spot.

I have the luxury of building my own clicks & tracks, and they vary for different reasons. Some are drum loops, some are percussion loops from the song that are already in the house mix (Word Crimes is a perfect example of a fun 4-bar loop to play with,) and in one notable case I am hearing the actual song, from the album, vocals and all! So my own drumming becomes my click, and I find myself making the same slight pushes and pulls in the same places. That's "Jurassic Park" (Richard Harris' MacArthur Park) and I'm sure there are some live versions on YT if you'd like to hear how that works out. Actually, it sounds perfectly normal. I'm literally playing along to the record!

I should also add that the whole show is not on a click. It's used only when we need to be in synch with the video, and/or there are musical elements (female vocals, percussion, SFX) that are in the house mix. I would say that's about 60% of the show though, and as a band, we keep excellent time on the other 40% of 'wild' songs.
 

ottog1979

Senior Member
This might be a naive question but who starts the initial click sequence? Does this differ depending on who starts the song?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
This might be a naive question but who starts the initial click sequence? Does this differ depending on who starts the song?
Over the past 20 years or so, part of the time the video operator starts the server, and sometimes a song with a click continues from a clip shown during wardrobe changes between some songs. The show is well-choreographed and everything is timed nicely so there's no dead air, and we never get back onstage late for the start of a song that's part of an already-running video. Every night is the same, or we might have two very similar versions of the show, and it's easy to get used to after just a few run-throughs.

But way back, some of the sequences/tracks came from me, so my timing was crucial. A second dead air was too long.

Musicians who see the show - whether Al fans or not - are impressed with how we all pull it off. I dare say I have the most responsibility for keeping it looking and sounding seamless, second only to Al who has to remember all the lyrics. Bun E. said after seeing our show, "I couldn't do what you do up there." :)
 

beatdat

Senior Member
Another one, how are the video and audio started together? Is it done manually, or is it done with some type of syncing software?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Another one, how are the video and audio started together? Is it done manually, or is it done with some type of syncing software?
Our media comes from one program run on a Mac Pro (with a backup running in synch.) So everything is always together when the button in pushed.
 
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