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A Critique of Click-tracks

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  • A Critique of Click-tracks

    I've used click-tracks in worship perhaps more than most, but I have some concerns about them as well.

    I hope you can check out my article, "A Critique of Click-tracks in Modern Worship".

    Interested in your thoughts...
    www.lowellhohstadt.com

  • #2
    There was one line of thought throughout this post that I didn't quite follow -- you seemed to be suggesting that using click-tracks eliminates the need for orchestral instruments such as woodwinds.
    But click-tracks, as I've always understood them (and, at times, used them in the recording process) are nothing but a relatively toneless pulse or a simulated drum sound (for those of us who find beeping click-tracks excessively annoying).
    So why would using click-tracks eliminate either the need or the desire to use orchestral instruments in worship? If anything a click-track would help orchestral players be more precise, especially if you're operating in a situation where rehearsal time is at a premium.
    Incidentally, I'm not defending the idea of using click-tracks in live worship. I only have used them in the recording process because of the relative amateurishness of the studio musicians (myself included) who have played on the various recordings I have produced.

    Also, the attempt to create a "slippery slope" from a decreased number of on-platform musicians to the fall of Satan seems a bit overstated. No matter how many singers or musicians are on the platform at any given time, what is more important is whether the congregation as a whole is able to engage with God. Fewer (or no) musicians on platform does not necessarily indicate a lack of inclusiveness. Inclusiveness concerns the whole congregation, not just the people on the platform. One church I attended, which to this day is a strong gospel-preaching church, has exactly zero musicians and singers on the platform during Sunday worship. The choir and organist are stationed up in the balcony at the back of the sanctuary and the congregation sings from the hymn book. Although this would not be my preferred method of structuring a corporate worship service, I don't believe it is possible to say that the musical worship of this church is either un-inclusive or un-glorifying to God.
    Just a few thoughts. Keep the posts coming. I thoroughly enjoy the discussions they generate.

    Alex
    ...a man of few words, all carefully chosen (hopefully)

    Comment


    • #3
      Click tracks are like any other tool- they can be a great servant but a horrible master.

      They can be helpful for certain things, but they can become a crutch. If you are using them to sync lights and other things, I agree that it becomes more about the production. It's not just click tracks, but MIDI, Pro Tools, backing tracks, "worship in a box" technology that makes a great production but doesn't necessarily bring glory to God.

      Not that technology is bad- but it's a tool to enhance what is coming out of your heart. It shouldn't be burying it.

      My take is that it becomes real tempting for 'church worship' to become about the means instead of the end. Matt Redman learned that lesson- look up the history of how "Heart of Worship" was written.

      Alex- my interpretation was a little different than yours- I read it as it leads to the mentality that corporate worship is becoming more about production than worship and click tracks is one way to do it- by synchronizing lights, etc. It's not the organic outpouring of our heart, but our mastering of technology., so we begin to worship the technology. Te end result is similar to Lucifer, where one person begins to exalt them-self because they can use technology.

      It's like the other discussion on right and wrong ways to worship- we might wow people with our cool stage productions and pop concert feel, but God is not impressed in the slightest- in fact, He will reject it.

      It's symbolic of our churches getting ore concerned with the quality of the Lattes and Expressos in the coffee bar than changing people's lives. We used to go to the movies to be entertained and church to be preached to. Now, it's the other way around. Hollywood and Pixar kids' movies are laden with political and social engineering innuendos, and church is where you go for a short concert, a motivational speech and to feel warm and fuzzy when you leave. The best description I have heard is someone comparing it to a merry go round- You come in, you are swayed to good music, you wave to everyone as you go around, but when the music stops and you get off, you are in the exact same place you were when you came in.

      Not to bash 'contemporary' churches, because many are effective at preaching the gospel and reaching people, but many more are missing the point.
      If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

      Comment


      • #4
        I understand (and agree with) what you're saying, but that potential pitfall (worship being more about the "production" than genuine heartfelt response to God) is certainly not limited to churches that use contemporary music and audio/visual production techniques.
        If a church uses an orchestra during Sunday worship and those musicians are of comparable quality to a professional orchestra, then worship can become all about the dazzling professional quality of the orchestral musicians and arrangers rather than the response of the entire congregation to God.
        Classical worship music can just as easily become more about "production" than worship as can audio/visually enhanced pop/rock worship music.

        Alex
        ...a man of few words, all carefully chosen (hopefully)

        Comment


        • #5
          With a twist of irony, here's a track I made for our Christmas production this year.

          Hope you enjoy! God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
          www.lowellhohstadt.com

          Comment


          • #6
            Good Comments from everyone, just wanted to respond to a few…

            Originally posted by TheOldATrain View Post
            There was one line of thought throughout this post that I didn't quite follow -- you seemed to be suggesting that using click-tracks eliminates the need for orchestral instruments such as woodwinds.
            But click-tracks, as I've always understood them (and, at times, used them in the recording process) are nothing but a relatively toneless pulse or a simulated drum sound (for those of us who find beeping click-tracks excessively annoying).
            I made the assumption that those who use click-tracks in current worship settings rarely use only the ‘click’, but also augment the click (which goes to the drummer or other musicians via headphones) with pre-recorded tracks, using instruments or effects they either don’t have, or find difficult to logistically use in a live setting.

            Originally posted by TheOldATrain View Post
            So why would using click-tracks eliminate either the need or the desire to use orchestral instruments in worship? If anything a click-track would help orchestral players be more precise, especially if you're operating in a situation where rehearsal time is at a premium.
            It is helpful for some larger ensembles to use only click-track to stay together in their timing, especially when they are in a difficult acoustical space.

            Originally posted by TheOldATrain View Post
            Also, the attempt to create a "slippery slope" from a decreased number of on-platform musicians to the fall of Satan seems a bit overstated. No matter how many singers or musicians are on the platform at any given time, what is more important is whether the congregation as a whole is able to engage with God. Fewer (or no) musicians on platform does not necessarily indicate a lack of inclusiveness. Inclusiveness concerns the whole congregation, not just the people on the platform.
            In my thoughts, I was primarily dealing with the leading of worship rather than the participation in worship. The Biblical precedent I see for worship leading is one of a community, rather than an individual (per the examples I gave in the article).

            It seems that, not only church worship, but also music history in general is at a precarious moment in which community is either being redefined or is being replaced by individualism. Instead of leading a choral ensemble, it’s easier to sit at home in front your computer and overdub your own voice. People, like water, like to take the path of least resistance. Leadership, organization, training, all of these things are more easily accomplished by a virtual synthetic world of technology.

            My critique is not so much about using click-tracks, either with or without the added pre-recorded instruments. In some settings it can work quite well, and as an art-form can be successful as its own unique genre. (Albeit, I find the static nature of the tempo a little annoying, since I find it to be inorganic to the human experience of time and rhythm.)

            I have experimented with pre-producing a varying tempo click-track for songs I want to ‘ebb and flow’, deciding ahead of time, in my recording room, where I want the tempo to bend and move. Not only does this drive the drummer crazy, but it never is quite authentic to numerous factors in the moment that normally influence rhythm (such as room acoustics, size of audience/congregation, and various emotional/spiritual human factors).

            In my critique, I am not against click-tracks, but rather click-tracks as a standardized paradigm for modern church worship. It seems that many contemporary churches have embraced a mentality of exclusivity: 1) Drums 2) Bass 3) Lead Guit. 4) Rhythm Guit. 5) Maybe keys 6) No more than 5-6 back vocs. 7) Worship Leader, 8) Click-tracks for most, if not every song…Period, Over-and-Out, Forevermore, Amen, So be it.

            I dream of a church environment that is inclusive enough to be able, during the course of a service, to have a click-track piece, an orchestral composition, a Gospel choir, an acapella moment of free spontaneous worship, Rock, Rap, Electronica…

            I’m into drawing circles of inclusion, not lines in the sand.
            www.lowellhohstadt.com

            Comment


            • #7
              On the point of being exclusive, another aspect is the tendency for all these American-Idol-esque "auditions" where people are treated with Simon eyes more than Jesus eyes. Not that auditions are a bad thing, you need talented people, but some people take themselves too seriously when giving auditions and use them more as sticks than carrots.

              Why do people have to be on stage to be 'in' the choir? The congregation is supposed to be participating, not merely listening. The whole congregation is the worship team. I like it when they sing with us instead of stare at the screen. it's more interactive and fun.

              I'd like to see more inclusion for other instruments, too. We actually have 5-6 youth who play flute, violin, and clarintet and they play along with us. I like it a lot.
              If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

              Comment


              • #8
                We play to a click, but only rarely a backing track. When we do, it's because a song has a hook which we can't play. I.E. a complex synth part.

                The main reason we use click is two reasons:

                a) most amateur drummers don't naturally have a good enough sense of tempo. They speed up and slow down WAY to much. It doesn't sound right, and it's extremely distracting out in the congregation

                b) sometimes a lone piano or guitar starts the song. Once again most of our amateur musicians, just can't reliably hit the correct tempo instantly. So they get some click in their IEM's, the song starts at the right tempo and all is well. If they start too slow, well, it can be very messy getting the song back to the right speed.



                As a drummer, I sometimes feel the human need to flow, tempo wise, and so I switch off the click and go for it. We almost always kill the click in free worship moment, so we can really feel the tempo.
                Please check out my Christmas Blog at www.12daysofjesus.blogspot.co.nz

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Lowell Hohstadt View Post
                  With a twist of irony, here's a track I made for our Christmas production this year.

                  Hope you enjoy! God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
                  So....I loved this, Lowell. I was a bit sad to not hear the A theme of the melody until the last quarter of the piece, but still, this was very fun. Thanks a bunch for sharing it.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks!

                    Thanks for taking the time to listen...we're all so busy this time of year, aren't we?!
                    www.lowellhohstadt.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I know this is an old thread, but for the record...click tracks completely turned things around for our team.

                      As a small messianic congregation, we cover everything from modern praise and worship to traditional Jewish tunes, and must do so with a very shallow bench. Basically we have 4 singers (I'm one), two acoustic guitars (I'm one), bass player (the rabbi), one hand percussionist, one djembe player, and one conga player - and all three percussionists are young guys (16-24) with extremely limited experience. And to further complicate matters, the church we meet in uses Aviom, in-ear monitors. Oh brother...we had mess, after mess, after mess going on and just could NOT lock in tempo together as a team. Until...

                      One week I decided to try click tracks and built some very basic percussion wav's in Acoustica Beatcraft. I dropped the files on my JamMan looper, plugged it into an empty jack on stage, and insisted everyone include the click track in their Aviom mix, regardless of whatever else they had dialed in. Instant success...not perfection, but success! Finally, we could actually stay together and on tempo as a team. At one point the hand percussionist started getting WAY off tempo and I immediately thought, rats this isn't working after all. Then between songs I looked over and saw his ear-buds were laying on the floor. I asked and he said they fell out so he was just playing along with house mix and watching my changes on guitar. Oh no, no, no, my friend, back in the ear-buds go - and back in they went - and back in business we were.

                      We've been using click tracks for several weeks now. They can be a hassle to build each week (though I'm slowly building a repository of loops) and of course starting/stopping/changing tracks with the pedal is more for me to deal with during praise and worship. But for our team, the results are more than worth the additional effort on my part.

                      Your mileage may vary...just another perspective...

                      Comment

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