Thought of the Day – Click Tracks
To click or not to click, often the first question when it comes to recording.
Personally, I would always play in free time unless you simply MUST play to click (if, for example, you are using time-based modulating synths/effects and have zero time to work on them).
The main argument for using a metronome is that you want the record to feel solid and in time throughout – but this is perfectly doable without the use of a metronome. In fact, click tracks can often cause a clunky feel to the song. If, for example, the drummer falls slightly behind the click for one bar, they will then speed up during the next to try and catch it, then once they’re back in sync with the click they slow down again to stay in time which can give your record a real, and probably undesired, push and pull effect.
Click tracks can also limit your control over your song, often we like to speed up during the chorus and slow down in the verse – you can of course create a complex tempo map for the click to follow but more often than not this leads to sudden, drastic changes in tempo that feel unnatural.
People worry that having the tempo of a song vary is a bad thing and something that the listener will easily notice but this is unlikely if the changes are natural and gradual. I’m sure you’ve heard David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ before, take another listen now. Listen up to the chorus around 2 minutes 40 seconds and tap along to the beat, then, skip back to the first chorus (around 55 seconds) and see how much you have to slow your tapping down to get in time again.