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Topic: Clicktracks: do you use them?

  1. #1

    Clicktracks: do you use them?


    I read about clicktracks in another post but decided to isolate the question in a new post: do you guys use clicktracks while writing orchestral pieces?

    I\'m having trouble getting things to sound real if I use a clicktrack, but without it my sessions get messed up and are difficult to edit.

    So how do you deal with tempo-changes etc.? Do you program a beat map before/after? How do you deal with tempi in general?

    Thanks for sharing!


  2. #2

    Re: Clicktracks: do you use them?

    One problem you might come across is that your metronome sound is horrible. The one on my sequencer is a horrid beep so I don\'t use it. What I do instead is step-write a little of the backing and play the melody or whatever along to that. Then I\'ll go back and play in the bit I step-wrote.

    One thing you will probably have to do from the very beginning is to just play your instrument line completely free and then use your sequencer\'s temp calculator to tap along with the melody to find the tempo its in. That might be your problem.

  3. #3

    Re: Clicktracks: do you use them?

    Click tracks (tick-tock) is an irritating souind-I have created a bunch of default rhythm parts to assist this-short loops of a predictable style and nature. In orchestral tracks this is not always appropriate, then a sidestick or clave may be more musical to your ear.

    For rubato phrases, it\'s almost impossible to predict in advance. The problem with tapping tempo in later is that the change always lags behind. While you want the part to slow down, the sequencer is chugging along at the original tempo. When you play it back, it may have worked, but getting it there can be a chore. My best result was achieved by turning the volume WAY down so I could barely hear the part, and working by feel.

    My tendency now is to play the in-tempo parts to the click, then when beginning-ending a rubato section, to ignore the click (I used to use a keyswitch in DP to turn the track off and on till I learned to tune it out)

    When it\'s time to return to tempo, wait for the right beat and continue in time. Then edit the part begin-end to move it so it starts and ends where it should. This could mean creating a bar of 7/16 at the beginning and one of 9/8 at the end of the section, but it can let the rest of the track work at its own pace.


  4. #4

    Re: Clicktracks: do you use them?

    I step write alot and then play melodies over the top where I can, then I draw in tempo curves. As well as sometimes playing in the step written parts.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Dorset, UK

    Re: Clicktracks: do you use them?

    That\'s pretty much what I do. I play easy parts in real time with a click track. My sequencer allows me to use an external instrument so I use soft percussion or a triangle. More difficult sections I step write and then draw tempo curves. I like to keep clean notation when composing and I can quantitize notation without affecting the sequenced timing, but if I step write on top of a real time section I can only use the roll bar for entry, to get the timing right.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Clicktracks: do you use them?

    I use them almost always.

    Learning to play with a click is an acquired talent. Very few people are comfortable with it naturally. It helps if you\'ve done your \"metronome time\" somewhere in your life.

    The important thing to remember about a click track is that it exists to HELP you. You don\'t have to be a slave to it, and you don\'t want to be overly analytical about it. Give yourself enough lead in where you truly feel the groove, and just practice.

    There\'s no inherent reason anything should feel less real if you play to a click. One of two things could be happening. Either you\'re not comfortable playing in strict time, or you\'re not setting up your tempos at a speed where the material can \"settle in.\" This, like anything else is an acquired talent, it just takes practice. I have the good fortune to work with some awesome players. Without fail, the best players tend to have remarkably stable time, and when you analyze their tracks against the grid, they are rhythmically very accurate.

    In terms of mapping tempo, there are two schools of thought. One is to sequence entire pieces, mapping each tempo change, etc. So you use tempo mapping within the sequencer to lay out the whole piece. Better to do this earlier than later, so that you\'re playing things in at the correct tempo. Playing the parts in too far from the desired tempo really changes their character, even when the tempo is moved to the correct one.

    The second school of thought, of which I\'m more inclined, is to sequence large pieces in separate sections, and break them down. I almost never have a \"sequence\" that can be played as such. I use the sequencer to get the parts played and cleaned for a given section, then I get those parts out of the MIDI domain and into audio tracks where I\'m doing my actual mixing and construction. I find this avoids laborious and huge sampler loads, and helps me keep plugging away at big projects one bite at a time.

    That\'s one take on the situation at any rate.

  7. #7

    Re: Clicktracks: do you use them?

    I\'m glad someone brought this up because this is my biggest issue with sequencing. I\'m out of my league here with the people on this forum but I\'d love some professional advice. My writing style tends to rock production numbers and pop ballads. For the latter I tend to use tempo changes frequently as an element of expression, holding out a note a little extra, speeding up a little here, slowing down a little there. This works great when I\'m just playing the piano and singing, but it obviously creates all kind of grief when moving to midi land. I\'ve tried playing straight to a click track, but it feels like it\'s sucking the life out of the song. Am I just kidding myself by my lack of talent at playing to a click track or can playing it rubato really give it a more intimate feel (we\'re not talking disco here). Right now I record it rubato, adjust the bars to match and then even it out a bit. What do the pro\'s do, especialy for a song build around piano/vocal or guitar/vocal? I\'d be very grateful for any advice.

  8. #8

    Re: Clicktracks: do you use them?

    I use a click track set to roughly the \'average\' tempo I think the piece/section should be in. (a wooden/rim percussion knock of some sort on the last port, last channel.) After it\'s all sequenced I make the rubato adjustments with small graphic tempo map tweaks.

    For pieces with very few parts, I think it would be reasonable to play without a click track, but for something with many parts, getting off on the right foot from the first part becomes too important for me to \'wing it\' without a metronome; I tried this once and it also became harder to track things down by bar number in the sequencer arrange window quickly as things started to look really amorphous. Printing out a score also gets tougher.

  9. #9

    Re: Clicktracks: do you use them?

    Thanks guys for your replies!


  10. #10

    Re: Clicktracks: do you use them?

    Excellent thread!! I\'m certainly not a professional musician or composer like many of the other forum members, yet I\'d like to ask for some advice on a related problem that\'s been haunting me for years. Sometimes I record lengthy improvized (ballad-style) piano parts, and due to their length I have trouble keeping the tempo accurate. I have given up on the metronome because the second I activate it, my ability to produce acceptable improvization is gone. Most of the time I leave the whole part as as-is tempowise because it ends up being a solo. But when I decide to use it in a context later, I\'m in trouble. Is it actually possible to overcome a fear of metronomes by practicing? (I mean this in the context of recorded improvization - and I understand that many people strictly separate this from the process of composing.)

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