Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

5 Reasons You Should Record To A Click Track

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, or even write a post about it. But, yes, you should record to a click track.

I know the greats like The Beatles and The Beach Boys sometimes didn’t use a metronome, instead opting for the live-band-in-the-studio setup. But nowadays, pro-level music is set to a specific tempo that carries the whole way through the song.

So here are five reasons I think you need to record with a metronome.

1. You’ll Stay On Time

The most obvious reason to use a click track is to help you keep better time.

This is especially true if you’re in a band — if everyone is just going along with the drummer, that’s putting a lot of pressure on the drummer to be perfect. No human can keep perfect time. We tend to speed up — even by minuscule amounts — when we play the exciting part of a song.

If the timing is perfect, the rest of the song will come together much more easily (saving you time and money).

2. Effects Will Be More Compatible

A lot of people don’t realize that effects are often based on a time signature. And if you didn’t use a metronome, the effects will be trying to go with whatever tempo your DAW is set to (usually defaults to 120), not the tempo your drummer played.

For example, delay will repeat based on the quarter note, eighth note, or whatever note you choose. But if your song doesn’t line up with the tempo of your project, that could really make the delay sound off. You can set a custom repeat frequency, but that’s tedious and time-consuming.

Just make it easy on yourself and your effects — record with a click track.

3. Looping Will Be Possible

And if you don’t record with a click, forget about including loops in your song. If you didn’t use a click track, any samples or loops from your DAW won’t work. Loops and samples are recorded to a click, so they just won’t fit your track if you didn’t use one.

You could spend time cutting and slicing until a sample or loop fits the song, but that would take forever. And nobody has forever to make a song.

4. Editing Will Flow Better

No metronome means you’ll have a big headache during editing. When you edit, you’ll be double-checking to make sure things are on time and snap items to the grid. But if you don’t have a clear way to do that, you’ll just be trusting your ears.

And forget about cutting and pasting. The band (or you if you’re a solo artist) probably didn’t play the first chorus at the exact same BPM as the second chorus. So if you need to copy and paste a certain part or section from the first chorus into the second chorus, you’re out of luck.

Comping tracks (putting multiple different takes together as one take) won’t work either. Punching in at certain points to re-record something will be more difficult.

5. You’ll Get Better

If all these reasons aren’t enough to sway you, maybe this last reason will. If you use a click track, you’ll get better at your instrument. And doesn’t every musician want that?

Learning to play in time is a crucial part of being a great musician, and using a metronome is one of the best ways to do that.

If you’re not used to playing with a metronome, you may find it hard to do at first. That’s good — that means you have room to grow. You might insist that the metronome speeds up or slows down at points, but it’s a robot. It’s all 1s and 0s.

However, you’re a human, so it’s probably you speeding up or slowing down. Like I said earlier, it’s natural to play a tad faster during an exciting or upbeat parts of a song.

The One Reason It’s Okay To Not Use A Click Track

Wait, didn’t I just go on and on about how you have to use a click track? How you’re failing if you don’t record with one?

Yes, I did.

But there’s one situation in which I think it’s actually okay to not use a metronome: if it’s just you and an instrument. In this instance, not using a click can give the song a very human feel. It’s essentially a live performance, and people will connect with the realness of it.

I didn’t use a click track on one of my recent songs and I’m happy with how it turned out. It was just my voice, an acoustic guitar, and the song. I did add some ambient sounds, but it worked out fine because they weren’t rhythm-dependant.

So if you’re recording just a voice and instrument and it’s an artistic choice, it’ll probably fine to not use a metronome.

But in most cases, you really should use a click track, or else your entire song could get screwed up.

Caleb J. Murphy is a singer-songwriter and music producer based in Austin, Tx., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed.


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