Intro, 2, 3, 4!
Ah, the beautiful sound of a click track. For those of us who hear it every weekend, we know the comfort it can bring to our rehearsals. We also know the disasters that can happen if it’s missing. When you first start playing with a click, you’ll quickly realize that you never want to go back. My worship teams prefer and even expect them now. They would probably think something was wrong if I didn’t have a click track for a song. It wasn’t always this way though, it was a fight at first.
Questions from my team came, such as “how can we be spontaneous and flow in worship if we’re stuck to a click?!” or “I just can’t feel the music anymore with a click track!”. Be prepared to hear these types of questions when you first add the “click” as a new member in your band. Trust me though – implementing a click track is the single most impactful thing you can do to raise the bar in the performance quality of your band. Without a click, everyone in your band begins to play at their own tempo – which can begin to sound muddy and out of time. It’s also much easier for a slow song to get a little out of control when everyone starts to gradually speed up, or a fast song to become a total drag because your drummer is naturally slowing down. A click track helps keep your band in time with each other, at the right time, all the time. It doesn’t take long to get used to it either.
You’ve probably heard this happen at church before, or experienced it first hand in your worship team. The band is rocking through the chorus and the worship leader gives the “signal” (a.k.a. two guitar-neck nods, hand wave, foot stomp, smoke signal) to bring it down and end the song. However, the drummer isn’t paying attention and keeps on going right past the final note. Awkward. Or how about the song that started off with a slow ballad feel, but somehow ended as fast, pop-rock? While impressive, also not ideal.
Worship leaders have used many different methods to solve this problem. Maybe you pass out pens at your rehearsal and tell your band to write down the song arrangement on their chord chart (I, V, PC, C). Some have a band director microphone set up, which only the band can hear, and someone shouts out the band cues throughout the song. Whatever your method may be, you never really know if the band is paying attention or if they saw the discrete hand motion you signaled behind your back. Regardless, you probably know how exhausting a rehearsal can be. When you’re finished, it can sometimes feel like you just ran a marathon and all you want to do is lay on the floor and sob. I’ve found that putting in the effort to prepare for the rehearsal ahead of time really pays off and makes everything go so much smoother.
To prepare, I make sure that every song we are playing has a Click Track and Band Cues. The Click Track keeps us in time and the Band Cues keep us together. Everyone in the band can hear the Click and Cues, which help guide us through the song. This allows me, as the leader, to focus more on the music performance side of the band. I don’t have to worry whether the band is going to follow me to the bridge or not because I know that as we approach the bridge, everyone in the band will hear “Bridge, 2, 3, 4!” in their in-ear monitors. This lets me focus on what really matters – leading worship.
I was recently guest-worship leading at a church in Ohio. I didn’t bring my usual band with me, which means I jumped in last minute and played with the volunteer musicians at the church. Since you’ve never played together before, you never really know how it’s going to go. We only had one hour to practice before the service started. I sent them the setlist before I arrived, and hoped they might listen to the songs beforehand. I showed up on Sunday morning and loaded up my worship set in PRIME, where I had pre-loaded all of my Tracks, Click and Cues. Every song we played had a Click Track, Band Cues, and Loop Tracks. We went through the entire rehearsal with ease – never stopping except for a sip of coffee. We still had a few missed chords and drum fills to tweak, but we made it through the songs much easier than if we didn’t have a Click, Cues, and Tracks. Everyone knew where we were going in the songs. No stopping and starting the songs over and over, no pausing to explain for the 5th time that we are actually doing a double chorus instead of the bridge, and no crazy YMCA hand signals. The band members felt prepared and the set went great! After service, the drummer came up to me and asked, “how can we always have that computer voice telling us where to go? That was awesome!”. I felt like my duty was done. I had successfully won over another click track playing, world changing musician.
If you’re looking for an easy way to get started with Click Tracks and Band Cues, you should check out Loop Community PRIME. It’s a free app for Mac, iPad, and iPhone that lets you easily build set-lists and change the tempo and click sound to match your band. Any song that you purchase from LoopCommunity.com will automatically show up in PRIME. You can customize the arrangement of your tracks, change the key, and even use a foot controller to jump around different sections of the song. The Click and Cues will automatically follow you!
If you’re afraid of what your band will say, I would suggest trying this at a rehearsal first to take the pressure off. You don’t need to use them on Sunday morning right away. It’s going to take some practice to get used to it. If you get off the click, just stop it and try again on the next song. You’ll find that the more you play with a click, the easier it becomes. Like riding a bike. Trust me, once you get started using Click, Cues and Tracks with your band, you’ll never want to go back to the days of top-secret hand signals or writing arrangements down on paper. You can focus on leading worship, and stop worrying where the band is going next. It might take a few times to get used to the voice in your head, but you’ll soon find that it’s a helpful tool for leading your band well. End, 2, 3, 4!