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Microphone Month 4

Playing Live with a Click Track, Part One

More and more live musicians are finding themselves playing along to MIDI sequences or prerecorded audio tracks. This almost always means you must adjust to playing with a click track, which can be a very frustrating experience. However, if you prepare for click track playing, it can help ensure that the groove you’ve carefully created will always be there.

First of all, select a click sound that you can hear. A click that gets buried in the mix is useless. Be sure to set up a sound that’s percussive and loaded with midrange and high frequencies to project above the music in your headphones. Many keyboards assign a clave sound to the click for just these reasons. Shakers and maracas are less than ideal, as they provide a somewhat indistinct downbeat. Some DAW programs, notably Digital Performer 4.6 and above, offer a selection of click sounds to choose from.

However, sometimes you need a click that won’t bleed into the music mix. Hollywood sound engineers developed a number of clicks that attenuate problem frequencies in order for entire symphony orchestras to hear the click in headphones without ruining the take. A downloadable example can be found here (courtesy of Jeff Rona’s The Reel World: Scoring for Pictures)

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