Monday, May 2, 2011


Hi.  My name is Adam, and I'm a clickoholic.  I know, many folks go their entire lives (musically) without ever using the stuff, but I'm addicted to click.

Okay, so now that you, dear reader, are partially confused, let me go at this another way - I don't believe that you can have a fully successful band (of more than 3) without using a click track.  The click brings stability.  The click brings unity.  The click...oh, alright.  I'll stop with the

Seriously, a click to keep your tempo true is a great thing.  I didn't think it was necessary for a long time, though.  I should have noticed the clues all around, but I guess I'm a little thick.  Let me show you:

1) When you take piano, the teacher makes you play (once you have moved to 2-hand playing) with a METRONOME.  And what is a metronome, but an acoustic click track?  You learn to keep a steady tempo, so that later, you can learn to play with more feeling (known musically as rubato or obligato)  This applies also to drums, guitar, or any other instrument.

2) The conductor of an orchestra or choir keeps the tempo.  It's a silent click, but it's still there.  Oh, and if you take conducting (which I did, in college), you will learn to conduct to a metronome.

3) Now to the geek side - when you record your first MIDI instrument, you find this neat little tool called Quantization (or Quantize, depending on the software).  What quantize does is this: it moves the notes played to the nearest beat division you select.  For instance, if you played a rhythm that contains 8th's and 16th's, you would select '16th notes' as your beat division, so it moves to the 8ths and 16ths.  I know I'm going a little fast for the MIDI novices, but I promise I'll address MIDI in a later post.  (I can give you much more information about MIDI than you could possibly use)

But guess what?  Quantization requires one simple thing to work properly - a click track! Or, more accurately, you to play with a click track when laying that rhythm down.  If you don't use a click to play in your part (be it drums, keyboards, etc), then it's kind-of like throwing Scrabble(TM) tiles at the game board and hoping to get a triple word score with a 'Z' in it.  It just won't work.

Now all of these things I have done, and more, but just those three should have clued me in.  But the thing that convinced me was this: I saw professionals use them.

"B-b-b-but, Pastor Adam, aren't YOU a professional?!?"  (yes, I can read your mind!)
"But, Pastor Adam, you shouldn't copy those guys." (yes, I can read yours too!)
(nope. not going there.)

Okay, here's the short story - I went to a songwriter's conference in Santa Cruz, CA.  BTW, it is a beautiful place... but I'll get to that another time.  I noticed that everyone, not just the 'pop-rock' worship leaders were using a click.  Even Don Moen used a click track!  Now, not everyone used loops, or backing stuff, but they all used a click to keep the band 'tight'.  Then, later on, I got to see another version of this - using clicks and LOOPS.

Israel Houghton is a phenomenal song writer, in my opinion.  The things he is able to put together, not just lyrically, but musically, are just fantastic.  I had the opportunity to see him live in Tallahassee, Florida, some years ago, and I learned another thing about the click - it relieves your players of some repetitive playing.  You see, in the song "Not Forgotten", there is a really intricate drum/percussion beat.  I was really impressed with the drummer's ability to play, before I saw them live.  While I am STILL impressed the the drummer's ability, I was equally impressed by how relaxed he was in that song - they used a drum/percussion loop to play the more intricate parts.  That was when I lost my previous inhibitions about using live and pre-recorded players on stage in a worship setting.

I won't go in to detail on this post about using loops and tracks in a live worship setting, but I will tell you this: much of the improvement in the band at my church I owe to making us use a click.  Not every player has that in their monitor/headphones.  But the foundational players - Bass, Drums, and Worship Leader (Acoustic Rhythm Guitar) have that click in their headphones.  And it keeps us together even when the click fails or drops out!

I've had younger players/leaders ask me things like "don't you feel that it constricts your freedom to worship?"  On the contrary - I believe that this enhances my ability to worship.  You see, the Worship Leader cannot, by virtue of their position, get 'lost in worship'.  (If the leader gets lost, where do the sheep end up?)  So we have to be concerned with things like parts sung correctly, players on the right chord, and, of course, tempo.  With a click, that is one less thing to concentrate on, and just allow it to work.  You can set all these before your service, and have a few in reserve in case you need to change songs mid-stream.  It just works.

I've even had some players who have gone on to bigger and better things come back later to say 'you know that click thing - everybody here (where they are now) is using it.  I'm so glad you convinced me to use a click'.  I'm glad, too.

So, now you know.  I am a click addict...nah.  I'm a click advocate.  As the Word says, use it in moderation - there are times to NOT use a click.  But don't be afraid of it.  It will make you a better musician, and a more relaxed leader.

Until next time...