Why use a click?
I don’t want to assume we all know and appreciate the benefits of a click so I figured I’d start here. A click insures your band plays a song in the correct time and keeps your band in the correct time through the duration of the song.
Without using a click it’s very easy to mess up both, either you start the song too slow or fast or you speed up and slow down in the middle of the song. Additionally, now that your band is all synced to perfect time you can use loops or visual effects like a timed lyric presentation.
How do you start using a click?
1. Your Drummer must get comfortable
If your drummer has never played with a click or a metronome before this can be a difficult transition. You’ll quickly discover how good or bad your time is. Some drummers have a great internal clock and are just naturally able to keep great time. Others it takes a lot of practice with a click to stay in time. So the first step would be some individual work with the drummer to make sure he’s comfortable and able to play with a click.
2. Monitoring setup
Monitoring requirements will vary greatly depending on factors like if you’re going to use loops, use timed visual effects, use click cued intros, etc… Some bands use in ears for all musicians so they can hear clicks and cues, others only have some players/singers with in ears. Quite simply the goal is to send the click to isolated(in ears or headphone) monitors for whichever players/singers need it and keeping it out of the main house mix so the congregation doesn’t hear it.
At the very minimum the drummer obviously needs the click in their in ears/headphones. The rest of the band would just have to follow the drummer closely and stay on his time because he can’t come off the click. This may be a major adjustment for bands that are used to speeding up(unknowingly) and the drummer typically sped up with them, but that wouldn’t be the case anymore.
For that reason I would strongly suggest the drummer and band leader have the click in their monitor. That will really help stabilize the band time wise. Even in this case you still would have musicians and singers with no click which can get tricky if that musician or singer is performing without any drum/band leader accompaniment. They could easily get off time, so what ends up happening is your drummer has to keep time on stage with the sticks and that just stinks and could ruin the vibe.
So we’re left with the optimal solution which is everyone in the band use in-ears, everyone who needs the click has the option to have it sent to their monitor mix. This is the setup my band uses and it’s fantastic. We have quite a few songs where we all come in on 1, vocals and band. We’re able to hit these intros with no problem and without stick hits or other distracting cues. All our cues are isolated from the congregation and we know just where we are in a song.
3. Phase in
Start simply and slowly. Getting comfortable playing to a click takes some time and depending on the skill level of the drummer can take a looong time. Use a click in practice for a while before you start using it live.
Does your band play to a click? If not, is that intentional or are there some barriers preventing you?
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