A few months back I posted a piece following up on how I was doing working with the click track.
I felt I had made some progress with it but was not devoting as much time as I should to working with the click track.
Over time I got myself back in to practicing with it but felt that I had to find more information from other drummers on how they handle working with the click track. Everything that I read from professional drummers was definitely learn to play and be comfortable with the click track.
Most of them talked about using the click track as a guide post and not to strive for the mechanical like sound of the machine.
But the big revelation came to me after watching some videos by some very competent drummers who talked about using sixteenth notes and eighth notes not just quarter notes.
One of them took his electronic metronome and played the songs tempo with quarter notes and then repeated the words his mentor said to him.
“Listen to that, you can drive a truck between those beats.”
As simple as that was it hit me like a ton of bricks.
My god he’s right. No wonder I was struggling with this, especially on the slower tempos.
Now you might say hey idiot why didn’t you think of that on your own. There’s no law that says click tracks have to be quarter notes.
When I was younger your “click track” was a simple wood and metal device called a metronome. It was shaped like a pyramid and was basically the same technology as a spring wound clock. The one that I still have was made by Seth Thomas the old clock makers.
So my click track was a clock that went tick tock.
All you could program was quarter notes and you programmed the speed by sliding the weight up and down on the inverted pendulum. You could have doubled the speed for eighth notes and quadrupled the speed for sixteenth notes but no teacher ever told me to do that.
The metronome was there to help you develop your internal metronome, especially for a drummer. The drummer replaced the metronome. You never saw the drummer break out his metronome before the gig.
Now here I am with a sophisticated computerized drum kit but my only point of reference is to set the metronome to click 1,2,3,4.
After having this eighth note and sixteenth note revelation I couldn’t wait to get downstairs to my kit and give it a try.
I got out the manual, something I need to do more often, and quickly learned how to program my click track into a sixteenth note rhythm with accents. The heaviest on 1 and then the back beats on two and four.
I played the programmed track back and suddenly I wasn’t playing along to the old wooden metronome, It was like I was working with some percussion. And between every down beat I had something to grab onto. I actually enjoyed it.
This has proven most helpful with my home recording. I can now program my click tracks according to the feel I am after in a song and use eighth notes (straight or triplets) or sixteenth notes. Whatever I feel best fits what I am going after.
It’s great how something so simple has changed my whole attitude towards click tracks.
Perhaps they shouldn’t say can you play with a click track. Maybe they should say can you play with a rhythm track or percussion track.
I guess only us old guys remember that old clock, tick tock, click track.
© 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.