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An Introduction to Equalization - A free download from Audio Masterclass

An Introduction to Compression: Basic Compression - A free download from Audio Masterclass

Equipping Your Home Recording Studio - A free download from Audio Masterclass

How to record or amplify the melodica or any unfamiliar instrument

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A microphone with FOUR diaphragms! Really?

What is production? Part 3: Recording

Q: "Why is the signal from my microphone low in level and noisy?"

The professional way to make sure your mics are connected correctly

Why mono is better than stereo for recording vocals and dialogue

Three types of musician you'll prefer to work with in the studio, and one type that you won't

How to find the best tempo (BPM) for your recording

What exactly does the phrase 'leave headroom for mastering' mean?

How to get a drummer to play in time to a click track

You're recording to a click track, but the drummer just can't hit the beat. What can you do?

Question from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

"How do you get a drummer or guitarist to play to a click track? It seems that I often run into 'musicians' that have never played to a click track before and they find it difficult to play to. Any suggestions??" - Stewart

It's an interesting question why anyone should want to record to a click track. After all, music has been made for thousands of years without a click track, so why start now?

One reason for a click track is so that a song is precisely at the same tempo all the way through. Without a click track it will almost certainly vary slightly.

But if a song maintains the same tempo, it can be edited in any way you like. This method developed in the 1980s when remix versions first became common.

The second reason for playing to a click is so that the contribution of the live musicians can be supplemented with sequenced tracks.

(There are other reasons too, but these are enough for now.)

Yes it is possible to synchronize a sequencer to a varying tempo, but it's a lot easier if the tempo doesn't vary in the first place.

So, how to get the drummer to play to the click? Or the guitarist, except it won't matter so much if he's out of time a little.

There are two keys to this...

Firstly, use a click that is easy to play to.

Secondly, encourage the drummer to practice playing to a click - this doesn't necessarily come naturally to even the best drummers.

Your sequencer will probably generate a metronome pulse, or you could easily sequence a repetitive click.

But this isn't very good for playing to. If the drummer is playing mostly on the beat, then he will be obscuring the clicks. The only occasions when he can hear the click is when he is out of time!

So if you make the click so it includes at least some of the in-between eighth notes, then the drummer will have something to lock on to.

Another strategy is to use a different sound for the click.

A shaker can work well, because there is a little bit of 'shh' before the main pulse of the sound. The drummer can hear this and know when the precise beat is coming.

Of course, you will have to adjust the timing of the sequence to compensate for this.

These methods both work. But the drummer has to help too, by practising. A drummer who can't play to a click isn't necessarily a bad drummer. But if he learns to play to a click, then he will have mastered a very useful technique.

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By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006
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