To Click or not to Click
In the wonderful world of drums, drummers, drumming and music, nothing can fire up a debate like the merits, or maybe lack thereof, of using a click track (metronome). Legend has it, it was the excellent, Ringo Starr, when asked if he had ever played to a click loudly exclaimed ‘I am the click”. Well that’s true in a sense.
We drummers, as well as the other members of our band, need to keep time as well as we can. Steady as she goes. Sit on the groove and don’t move and so on. That’s our role. But moving and grooving, the pushing and pulling of the tempo and the overall feel of it, is what makes great drummers and great music. It’s the natural, human element which we all love. So where does a click fit in to that?
Contrary to popular belief, using a click
- Does not suddenly mean you have no sense of timing, or no integrity or credibility as a drummer.
- It does not suddenly kill your vibe, turn you into a robot or a software programme.
- A click simply references your tempo and nothing more. That’s it.
If you’re (hopefully) using a metronome in your practise, you are already playing to a click. So if you’re used to that Click 234 - Click 234 pulse in practise, then there’s no reason why you can’t get used to using it in live gigs or in a recording session. Let’s face it, in today’s world, us drummers can find ourselves in so many different situations. Writing and jamming in a mates bedroom along to computerised tracks. Playing to a backing track, playing live in a band with programmed electronic keyboards, DJ loops, midi-files and beat machines or in recording studios, or backing other artists. There’s a myriad of situations where you may be called upon to play with a click.
So how do you put your stamp and style on a track when you have to play along with ‘that bloody thing going off in your ears’ as some people put it. The key is this:
You'll still need to bring,
- Your drive, energy and punch
- Your groove and feel
- Your skill
- Your chops
- Your style and sound
- Your personality and vibe that makes you the drummer you are.
For me personally, I’m happy when I'm called upon to play with a click, Why? Because the tempo is one less thing I need to worry about, which let’s me concentrate on my performance and what I need to bring to the track (see above)
Using a click is not the be all and end all of drumming, obviously, and there are millions of drummers happily using a click and millions not. But if a click is alien to you, or you feel it carries with it some sort of negative baggage, well, maybe you should try the opposite. Give it a go. Become friends even. When you least expect it, it’s there to help and guide you to a better performance, if that’s what’s required.
Learning to play with a click exposes you to skills you didn't know you had. You’ll feel much more confident knowing you can handle any situation and you’re likely to get more work as a result. Now in today's world, that's got to be a good thing.