Recording to a click... How long the norm?
Old 8th September 2010
  #1
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Recording to a click... How long the norm?

If it is in fact the norm .... How long have click tracks been used in recording... I have little knowledge of older recordings such as Ray Charles, Sinatra, the Beatles, and stuff from even earlier... I know much music today is recorded with a click track.. Was wondering how long this has been the norm....
Old 8th September 2010
  #2
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Way too long.

Someone could probably put together a chart or something, but it must have co-incided with the shift from "a band that plays music" to "a production system that results in music."
Old 8th September 2010
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Recording to a click... How long the norm?

I second that....

nothing like suffocating dynamics and emotion with a click track...

And then there's the song that just locks in with a click

I think certain songs were made to be in perfect tempo and others were made to breathe a good producer will
discern the difference

My ratio has usually 90% human time
And 10% click
My favorite songs are the human ones
Old 8th September 2010
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Dark Side Of the Moon was recorded to a click... i know they used a click often at Abby Road... Alan Parsons talks about it in Behind The Glass a little bit

I do about 70% click... It all depends on the artist and the song...

I will go so far as to create click tracks with snares/hats/kick/cymbals etc sometimes. I will also do complicated tempo maps that speed up/slowdown either suddenly or gradually.

Click tracks make editing so much easier and generally end up saving time in the long run because you can fly harmonies and other parts all over the place with ease using relative grid.

Other songs, however, a click track just makes no sense.
Old 8th September 2010
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John bohnam and mitch mitchell didnt need click tracks. Johnny the 16 year old in high school who has been playing drums for 3 years will sound 99% better gridded to a click. There is "grooving" and there is "playing out of time"

I am curious as to what the OP asked though, when did people start recording with clicks?
Old 8th September 2010
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One word: MIDI.
Old 8th September 2010
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I started noticing it early seventies and worse as time went on.
Old 8th September 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danner View Post
One word: MIDI.
Another word: Metronome

I would suggest that playing to a steady tempo reference has been in existence since musical instruments were invented.

50 years ago I was practicing piano to a wind-up metronome, as were most musicians who were involved in any kind of formal training. String quartets practice to a metronome. The tempo is notated on the sheet music. Orchestras are lead by a conductor, who acts as a human click track.

The click track is not new technology. What's new is the idea that it's acceptable to play a musical instrument in a professional setting without the ability to maintain a steady tempo, but that's no surprise. Our culture today is all about instant gratification. Why waste time practicing to a metronome when you could be jamming with your friends?

What many people don't understand about a click track is that it makes it easier for the rhythm section to push or pull the feel. They can play behind the beat knowing that the song won't slow down. Of course, this concept of pushing or laying back is completely foreign to the nonprofessional, but that's okay. Music is a journey. Some of us take a few steps and then stop. Others keep on progressing, raising our level of competence to a point we never would have thought possible back when we were rank beginners.

(Where's the high horse smilie? It would be so appropriate here.)
Old 8th September 2010
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You know it's funny, I spend so much time working on modern music where everything is mapped to a grid. A few weeks ago I went the 450km trip up to visit my parents and took some portable recording gear with me and set it up to record my dad playing some old jazz standards on his grand piano. He played well and I captured a good sound, but in one song he left a "pause" that didn't match up exactly to my "internal metronomic timing " that I felt everything is meant to fit in with. I felt horrified like something was wrong. But to the people from that generation ( around 70 yrs) it was just normal and they didn't hear anything abnormal in it. I went away thinking " man have I just become so ingrained with todays perfect metronomic timing that I have lost sight of something of old school feel?".
Old 8th September 2010
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MIDI was only defined in 1982, so we certainly can't blame MIDI for this.

We can probably blame The Beatles for early popular examples, although most recording tricks were invented at least 10 years before by Les Paul - I wouldn't be surprised if his fast tempo, multiple tape-generation overdubbed tracks may have required a metronome track to start them off ...

Drum machines were invented in the 1960's. By the 1970's, many electronic organs had rhythm machines cranking out sambas and foxtrots with little analog blips and bleeps. The 1970's disco era was based on these beat boxes - long before the classic 1980's Roland boxes hit the scene. Of course the digital revolution introduced the Linn drum and samplers, MPC's, etc.

But my point is that click tracks are at least as old as the 1960's. If you include looping of beats as equivalent to a click track (mechanic repetition) then there are are some classic Beatles songs that demonstrate this. Tomorrow Never Knows was based on tape loops - and i'm fairly certain the main drum track is a loop. The Mellotrons that the Beatles used came with stock rhythm loops that could be used similar to the drum machines on electronic organs (probably samples of the same). I'm fairly sure that You Know My Name (Look Up My Number) was a Mellotron sample loop providing that cheesy rhythm.

I understand that a lot of the classic 1970's glam drum tracks were achieved with tape loops to get a really tight groove.

But prior to all this, i'm fairly sure the practice of literally recording a metronome track was a fairly common practice.

So certainly well before MIDI.
Old 8th September 2010
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cool post above, rocksure~

this would be cool if any old schoolers have some info. i don't think the Beatles used a click.. did they??

i use tempo-maps relentlessly. and i feel like i can play behind the beat or on top of it and alter the feel easier with the click going. some records, it just doesn't work. but in the modern scene,, seems like everyone uses it as a crutch tutt
Old 8th September 2010
  #12
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+1

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle duncan View Post
Another word: Metronome

I would suggest that playing to a steady tempo reference has been in existence since musical instruments were invented.

50 years ago I was practicing piano to a wind-up metronome, as were most musicians who were involved in any kind of formal training. String quartets practice to a metronome. The tempo is notated on the sheet music. Orchestras are lead by a conductor, who acts as a human click track.

The click track is not new technology. What's new is the idea that it's acceptable to play a musical instrument in a professional setting without the ability to maintain a steady tempo, but that's no surprise. Our culture today is all about instant gratification. Why waste time practicing to a metronome when you could be jamming with your friends?

What many people don't understand about a click track is that it makes it easier for the rhythm section to push or pull the feel. They can play behind the beat knowing that the song won't slow down. Of course, this concept of pushing or laying back is completely foreign to the nonprofessional, but that's okay. Music is a journey. Some of us take a few steps and then stop. Others keep on progressing, raising our level of competence to a point we never would have thought possible back when we were rank beginners.

(Where's the high horse smilie? It would be so appropriate here.)
This ^^^^
Old 8th September 2010
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Re: Recording to a click... How long the norm?

Who's next is an early rock example. The sequencer parts and the lowery organ gating effect. Those are defacto click tracks. Baba oriely and wgfa. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!


Posted via the Gearslutz iPhone app
Old 8th September 2010
  #14
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The first click track was invented by none other than the great Carl Stalling in the 1930's in order to sync music to picture. It also allowed for unprecedented co-development of music along with picture that has arguably not been improved on, since.

It's amazing that the music sounds so hi-energy, authentic and full of character... hardly "metronomic" stuff. When I first learned this my respect for the WB orchestra (and Stalling) just flew off the charts. It was as I was preparing my music for Pixar's Presto, which attempts to revive (and yet in a way rethink and re-approach) the period. I think it worked :-)
Old 8th September 2010
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On the Right Track | Film Score Click Track

Quote:
Depending on who you ask, the CLICK TRACK was invented in the 1930′s by the “Father of Film Music” Max Steiner, or Carl Stalling or Scott Bradley to accompany their memorable animation scores. However, it is usually credited to Steiner.
As George Burt explains in his book, The Art of Film Music, in the early days of film, “a click track was prepared by punching holes along the edge of a film. These holes produced a clicking sound that the conductor could hear through his headphone. The clicks represented beats timed at a specific tempo. Clicks are now produced by a digital metronome that can be switched to any tempo, down to a hundredth of a second. This device replaced the laborious task of punching literally thousands of holes in the film.”
Old 8th September 2010
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle duncan View Post
Another word: Metronome

I would suggest that playing to a steady tempo reference has been in existence since musical instruments were invented.

50 years ago I was practicing piano to a wind-up metronome, as were most musicians who were involved in any kind of formal training. String quartets practice to a metronome. The tempo is notated on the sheet music. Orchestras are lead by a conductor, who acts as a human click track.

The click track is not new technology. What's new is the idea that it's acceptable to play a musical instrument in a professional setting without the ability to maintain a steady tempo, but that's no surprise. Our culture today is all about instant gratification. Why waste time practicing to a metronome when you could be jamming with your friends?

What many people don't understand about a click track is that it makes it easier for the rhythm section to push or pull the feel. They can play behind the beat knowing that the song won't slow down. Of course, this concept of pushing or laying back is completely foreign to the nonprofessional, but that's okay. Music is a journey. Some of us take a few steps and then stop. Others keep on progressing, raising our level of competence to a point we never would have thought possible back when we were rank beginners.

(Where's the high horse smilie? It would be so appropriate here.)
yep...it's true, and playing in and around a rigid beat can be very loose and totally grooving. It's a discipline.
Old 8th September 2010
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rocksure View Post
You know it's funny, I spend so much time working on modern music where everything is mapped to a grid. A few weeks ago I went the 450km trip up to visit my parents and took some portable recording gear with me and set it up to record my dad playing some old jazz standards on his grand piano. He played well and I captured a good sound, but in one song he left a "pause" that didn't match up exactly to my "internal metronomic timing " that I felt everything is meant to fit in with. I felt horrified like something was wrong. But to the people from that generation ( around 70 yrs) it was just normal and they didn't hear anything abnormal in it. I went away thinking " man have I just become so ingrained with todays perfect metronomic timing that I have lost sight of something of old school feel?".
There are many classical recordings where there is a pause then the orchestra or whatever comes back unpredictably. In a sense it has nothing to do with standard time. Nice effect. Sometimes it is so out of time you can't get used to it no matter how many times you listen.

Classical music uses lots of flowing rubato. Click track unthinkable. Playing with a metronome is practice only,that is, you only do it if you can't do it. I can't imagine jazz with a click track either.

I don't know when it came in, but I recall reading complaints about it beginning the early seventies. The Who used to play live with a (inaudible to the audience) click track. As an old fart I will spare you expression of my displeasure with the groovelessness of today's music.
Old 8th September 2010
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle duncan View Post
Another word: Metronome

I would suggest that playing to a steady tempo reference has been in existence since musical instruments were invented.

50 years ago I was practicing piano to a wind-up metronome, as were most musicians who were involved in any kind of formal training. String quartets practice to a metronome. The tempo is notated on the sheet music. Orchestras are lead by a conductor, who acts as a human click track.

The click track is not new technology. What's new is the idea that it's acceptable to play a musical instrument in a professional setting without the ability to maintain a steady tempo, but that's no surprise. Our culture today is all about instant gratification. Why waste time practicing to a metronome when you could be jamming with your friends?

What many people don't understand about a click track is that it makes it easier for the rhythm section to push or pull the feel. They can play behind the beat knowing that the song won't slow down. Of course, this concept of pushing or laying back is completely foreign to the nonprofessional, but that's okay. Music is a journey. Some of us take a few steps and then stop. Others keep on progressing, raising our level of competence to a point we never would have thought possible back when we were rank beginners.

(Where's the high horse smilie? It would be so appropriate here.)

+1000

Most people who think "click takes the life out of music" simply can't play through a click. Being able to play to a steady metronome is something EVERY person who wants to call them self a musician should know how to do.
Old 8th September 2010
  #19
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I agree with the picture of the click described above.

And as to how long it has been "norm", I suggest first half of the 80s. I think it started as a necessity of keeping the tempo within the very same BPM through the song (or throughout a given section), because you wanted loops or other timed effects, certainly MIDI made an impact here, to be able to run in parallel to the performance. When this was becoming popular, people in production slowly changed the notion of "keeping the time" from 'steady pulse in relation to a song' to 'staying on the same BPM throughout'. It's a "production" decease, if you will.

Far too many see it as "keeping the tempo" or "straightening up a roving rhythm section". However, usually a roving musician will deliver a more spineless performance when presented with the need to chase a click, so as a remedy for wavering performance click usually doesn't work very well. A favorite moment for me was a Dave Weckl clinic about 20 years ago, where he demonstrated playing to a click in such a way that he made the click sound like it was chronically rushing, and then switched to where he made the click sound like chronically dragging - even though his groove and the click's tempo was constant (not talking about his trademark 'groove displacement'). So it's definitely possible to screw things up using a click.

And as far as keeping the tempo, we should remember that the human perception of steady pulse is not absolutely straight. If a good rhythm section is able to play with just the right tempo modulations over the relevant emotional landscape of a song, you will perceive it as much more steady and 'spine-ful' than had they kept the tempo dead straight. Keeping it dead straight through a song section change may very well sound like dragging, or rushing. This is a deliberate musical ability that many good musicians knows, but unfortunately very few producers know of, or dare to trust musician to utilize.

There's this story about a well known studio drummer in sweden, who was recording, playing to the perc loop of a Linn drum machine. Early 80s. At the main chorus the drummer's groove dropped behind the loop. Happened every time. But the drummer came in saying the drum machine rushes away at the main chorus, and got both frowns and smirks and chuckles in return. But he insisted, so much that in the end they put up 2 Linn drum machines in parallel and played the song to prove him wrong, and when the main chorus came one of the Linns pulled away from the other. After that he was accredited with the ears of a rhythm god, but himself he says that's not it. He didn't use his 'tempo ear' to pick it up; it was emotional, musical, not technical.
Old 8th September 2010
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle duncan View Post
What many people don't understand about a click track is that it makes it easier for the rhythm section to push or pull the feel.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pchicago View Post
yep...it's true, and playing in and around a rigid beat can be very loose and totally grooving. It's a discipline.


Did my last two without a click.....first time in a long while.....and wouldn't you know that they would both end up in the hands of someone who wanted to track drums in after the fact.

"Yo, Lenny! No click?"
Old 8th September 2010
  #21
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In spite of all the elaborate amicus briefs in its defense, I must point out the obvious: a "click track" (which for purposes of this discussion will refer to an unwavering, constant tempo-- as opposed to a tempo map, which ebbs and flows) is introduced into the scheme as a convenience-- a convenient way to keep the original rhythm parts "in time," as a guide to a drummer adding parts, all the editing that's been described--

Rarely or never is it "a musical imperative," meaning that it's absolutely necessary for the full flowering of the musical idea at the heart of the song.

THAT'S why it's such an "unfortunate trend." And, yes... "evil," "ill-advised," and "not healthy!"
Old 8th September 2010
  #22
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Good musicians are not thrown by a click.
Old 8th September 2010
  #23
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I have a LIVE version of U2's Where the streets have no name that lines up perfectly to a click. Food for thought.
Old 8th September 2010
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tonerowlabs View Post
The first click track was invented by none other than the great Carl Stalling in the 1930's in order to sync music to picture. It also allowed for unprecedented co-development of music along with picture that has arguably not been improved on, since.

It's amazing that the music sounds so hi-energy, authentic and full of character... hardly "metronomic" stuff. When I first learned this my respect for the WB orchestra (and Stalling) just flew off the charts. It was as I was preparing my music for Pixar's Presto, which attempts to revive (and yet in a way rethink and re-approach) the period. I think it worked :-)
I loved that animation--it really nailed the spirit of the old WB stuff. Good job!
Old 8th September 2010
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stondehedge View Post
I have a LIVE version of U2's Where the streets have no name that lines up perfectly to a click. Food for thought.
Edge's guitar tone is so delay heavy and dominates the rhythm so that the band is following it. In essence the guitar+delay is a click.

Cheers

Kris
Old 8th September 2010
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stondehedge View Post
I have a LIVE version of U2's Where the streets have no name that lines up perfectly to a click. Food for thought.

Its pretty common for bands of this size to play yo a click live. When you're syncing lights and other effects it makes life a whole lot easier.
Old 8th September 2010
  #27
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The organ pad before Edge plays is locked to 6/8 tempo and drums come in right on time farther in about 20 some bars later with that. Guitar comes in later.
Old 8th September 2010
  #28
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I think the thing that really kicked the click track into everyday was the UREI digital Metronome.

Not that they weren't used before, they were. But the UREI piece, whch I think appeared in the 79's, was a rack mountable piece with standard studio connectivity. The rate was set in frames, as it was really created for film use.

I cant tell you how many times I saw a tradtional metronome in an isolated office with a I*& or something on it back in the day. the UREI changed all that.
Old 8th September 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dfahb44 View Post
Most people who think "click takes the life out of music" simply can't play through a click. Being able to play to a steady metronome is something EVERY person who wants to call them self a musician should know how to do.
To some degree I agree with this, but on the other hand, I think the more accurate statement is that every person who wants to call himself a musician should know how to keep time. Sure, nobody's going to be PERFECT, but I really believe click tracks - except in the situation of people who just can't keep time on their own - are more for the benefit of DAW engineering than for music/musicians.

I have 2 albums that I played drums on in the late 90's that didn't use a click. You'd never know it. Of course, I suspect if I threw the tunes into Pro Tools I'd have a nightmare of a time matching it up to a grid or cutting and pasting parts. The songs feel great (to me at least). But they're probably not very DAW-friendly.
Old 8th September 2010
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Recording to a click... How long the norm?

Didn't beethoven use a metronome? You know, the kind that rocked back and forth. I honestly can't play worth a crap without one.
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