Can I Survive the Click Track

A while back I made a conscience effort to start practicing more with a click track.  Click tracks are the norm when recording and from what I’m reading they are being incorporated into live shows.  Remember I was out of the loop for quite some time.

I remember listening to Ringo Starr during a TV interview.  He was talking about being in a studio and the host mentioned to him about using a click track.

His response was “Click track? I’m the click track!”

I guess I’m old school like that.  A drummer is the click track.  He or she needs to be steady throughout the song.  But I guess nowadays they want to make sure the songs are not only a consistent beat but at the same precise tempo every night.

Later I read some blogs where they talked about click tracks being used in live shows and implying that their use is essential for the live performance.

It made me think how did all the great acts and drummers from my era and before manage to get by without a click track?

I can tell you when I’m rushing through my licks, when I come out of a fill too fast.  A click track helps point that out as well but as a drummer it’s my job, my craft to recognize the issue and correct it.  Not to rely on a click track.

I can understand its use in the studio but relying on it for a live performance has me a bit perplexed.  There are timing issues with light shows so I can understand why you would want a song at the exact same speed every night.  And it can be the defining statement when the guitar player or lead singer looks back at you and says that was too fast or too slow (which is inevitable).

I’ve heard players who worked with James Brown say that he always performed his songs live at a much faster tempo than the tempo when the songs were recorded.  They didn’t speed up during the performance, the songs were just played at a rock solid but quicker tempo.

I would bet that was to work up the crowd and maybe even for James Brown to work up himself.

Live performance requires a different kind of energy and maybe that’s how James Brown and his band achieved that level they were looking for.  I’m sure Clyde Stubblefield and Jabo Starks didn’t have any tempo issues.  How on earth did they survive without a click track?

Anyway the click track is a fact of life and I need to embrace it.

I’ve started spending 20 minutes a night just playing with a click track at various tempos.

Let’s see how I feel about it after working with it for a couple of months.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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