I’ve never been good with a metronome. The tedious and tiresome repetition brought forth by playing scales over and over again to a metronome has never appealed much to me. Maybe it has something to do with me being the I-want-it-now generation that I just didn’t have the patience to practice to the steady beat of a metronome all day. I had a much better time learning Metallica riffs and with playing them over and over again, I had an easier time gaining finger dexterity and some speed in my playing that way.
But because I’ve never liked playing to a metronome I’ve never actually been able to play well to a click track. I absolutely despise the tick-tock monotonic feel of the typical DAW click track and I’m never able to play correctly to it. I know I’m not alone because I’ve encountered many instrumentalists that can’t record properly to a click track. They see they can’t feel musical and have a hard time getting their groove into playing alongside a droning click track. But there are a few ways you can get your players to record with more confidence and feel.
Discard your click track
There are plenty of rhythmic options inside your DAW that you can use to evoke a better performance out of an artist.
Change the click. In Logic Pro, you can actually change the sound of the click-track by going into the environment. In Window>Environment you can open up the environment window and change the synth that’s used to play a click track.
Use a drum machine. Create a simple beat with kick, snare and hats for a more human feel. You could even program an alternating drum beat that has a few different parts to make it even more real. Better yet, try to program a beat that accents the type of playing that’s about to be recorded.
Use percussion loops. Use shakers or other percussion type loops. Guitarists often respond much better to the live feel of a typical shaker than a harsh click track.
Use real drum loops. If you’re recording a hard rock song, maybe you need something a bit more substantial than a shaker. Try using some rock drum loops that have crashes and big sounds so you can get the performer to lock in with the song.
Don’t use a click track. Maybe this particular song doesn’t need a click track? Be careful when opting not to use a click track because if the players that build the foundation or rhythm structure are all over the BPM map, it’s going to be harder for the following players to record on top. That said, you can get a really nice feel out of certain genres when you allow the players to weave in and out of rhythm as they want.
If you are anything like me, or know that your fellow recording musicians are going to be, be ready to give them a few more options when they record next. Instead of trying to squeeze a forced performance out of a player that’s struggling to keep up with a click track, see if you can’t make him feel better with an alternative option. Throw in a shaker instead and see if he responds better to it. Use some drum loops or program your own beats that follow the performance of the track recorded. It’s all about getting that great performance out of the musicians, and by keeping these things in mind you can both accommodate your musicians and accomplish you goals at the same time.