SOMETIMES IT JUST CLICKS, or HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE DOWNBEAT
Sometimes, a band surprises you. Such was the case last night with Geek Farm, our friend Kenny's 4 piece rock and roll outfit, who returned for a second session at Smoke and Mirrors.
The first session had gone fairly well, although we basically all agreed that only one of the five tunes recorded would be saved. It was really more of a rehearsal, a chance for them to get to know us, the studio, our working habits, and for us to get to know their sound. But the tracks lacked cohesiveness, there were tempo shifts and moments where the band just didn't pivot together.
I'd made the suggestion of trying out a click track, and for last night's session we did just that. I must admit I didn't have high hopes, as the drummer (Kevin) informed me that he'd never played to click. Well, it would be a learning experience for all of us, then.
But once we started the first song, figured out the tempo, and sent them the click, it started to work. Despite the push and pull of the band around him, Kevin stayed true to the click, and the music fell into a groove. It was like a completely different band-everything opened up, nobody pushed each other around, transitions were tighter. We muted the click in the control room and just enjoyed the music.
After a playback of a couple of the tunes, the band was far more confident. We continued tracking, using click for all but one song, and laid the foundation for an actual record. Turns out Kevin had played his saxophone to a metronome for years, and the other guys in the band had all used drum machines, so it all made sense.
And now a message from Neil Peart, drummer for Rush, on the very same thing.....
"I'd like to say a few words about the dreaded click track. With a purist's pride, I resisted using this electronic metronome for many years, although the pursuit of really good time has been a constant trial for me. It wasn't until the sessions for Permanent Waves that I finally relented and agreed to give it a reluctant try.
Imagine my surprise--I like it! It was much less difficult to work with than I had anticipated, because I could ignore it, except at crucial "pivot points" when one "click" would insure accuracy. As another musician pointed out to me, "If you can't hear the click track, you know your timing is right." If you're locked into the tempo, your good timekeeping covers up the sound of the click.
The results are very satisfying. With all there is to keep in mind while recording a basic track, doubts about meter can be set aside in favor of concentrating on execution, dynamics, and feel. I am certain that my confidence and smooth rhythmic flow are only enhanced by it, and recording with the click has definitely improved my overall sense of time, which pays off in live performance as well."
Couldn't have said it better myself.