Transitioning your Band to Using Loops: “Using a Click”

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One of the biggest benefits of using loops is that your band will develop the skill of playing to a click.  Convincing your band to play with a click may be one of the biggest struggles involved with using loops.  If you are about to start using loops and click then check out the previous article on getting your band on board with loops, it will provide you with some ideas to help smooth out that transition.

In this article we will be focusing on what it takes to get your band effectively playing with a click.

1) Give the band time to practice with a click by themselves

Possibly the biggest hurdle to overcome when playing with a click is the self esteem issue.  When you play with a click there is an absolute.  There is a Rhythmic standard by which all band members can be judged by.  No longer is it an issue of..who’s playing the correct tempo.  It is now..this is the tempo we are playing the song, can you cut it?  The fact of the matter is that if your band members have never played with a click before they will struggle with playing in time.  If their first time playing with a click is in private and they have some time to rehearse with it, they will appear much more confident in front of the rest of the band members, and will do a better job playing with a click with the band.  It would be a worthy investment to purchase personal metronomes for each band member so they can have something to practice with.  You can pick up cheap metronomes online for less than $20 a piece.  Here are a few options, #1#2…  Another option is to simply provide each Band member with an Mp3 of a click sound that they can practice with from their computer.  You could have a mp3 of each song for Sunday and shoot them to them in an email for them to work with.  This may be the easiest way to get clicks to the band.

2) Introduce Clicks on Songs your band is familiar with

Start out using clicks with songs your band already knows.  If your band doesn’t know the song they have more to think of mentally.  Not only do they have to think of the chords, they now have to also make sure they are playing in time with the click.  If they are singing, or leading a song, they have to think of even more, so introduce it in a song that they don’t have to think a lot on.  The more familiar they are with the tune the better the introduction to click will be.

3) Teach your band where “1″ is always

Knowing where “1″ is at all times helps make sure that your band comprehends where they are in the measure at all times.  Once you start using loops it is crucial that you all are on the same page.  If your loop is set to come in at measure 32 and you are treating beat 3 as beat 1 then when measure 32 hits, the loop will come in 2 beats early. disaster!!…  To help your band know where “1” is at all times use a click sound that accents beat “1″.  It may also be useful to record a vocal count-in so that everyone starts together i.e. “1..2..3..4..”

4) Learn the secret of subdivisions

Most people don’t realize why, but it is harder to keep a song that is at 65bpm in time then it is to keep a song at 120 bpm together.  The slower the song, the further apart each quarter note click is.  The faster it is the closer together they are, so at lower tempos you may want to implement some sort of subdivision.  You may find that you always want to use a click with a subdivision.  This may help to lock it all in.  This will take a little bit of experimenting to find what suits your band and drummer best.

This is where having an accented click will help.  Some band members may have trouble finding the beat if each click has lots of subdivisions in it.  Take 6/8 for example.  If you are doing a slower song, you may want to bring in the 16th’s.  Some people count 6/8 with the 8′ths. (1,2,3,4,5,6), some people count it with dotted quarter notes (1..4..).  The people that count dotted quarters may have trouble deciphering the 8ths and 16ths to find “1″.  This may be a good point to have a quick discussion on the basics of time also!

Using a click can seem like a impossible task to achieve sometimes but the end result is a much tighter and more confident band.  View the improvement of your band as horizontal and not vertical.  Don’t think “we can’t ever achieve this goal so I need to lower my expectations”, but chart out your expectations, and dream big and “elongate” the time period in which you expect to see those expectations met.  The difference between professionals and volunteers isn’t what they can/can’t do or the results you can see from them, but rather the amount of time it takes to see results met.  So be patient and constantly encourage your group to progress in skill and talent.. You will love the results you see!