Sometimes the simplest thing can make all the difference. Like when your band members actually listen to the new song before rehearsal, or when the charts are printed off in the eact key and arrangement of the song. These small things can make huge differences. I’m convinced that the number one thing you can do to enhance the sound and professionalism of your band is to play with a metronome (also known as a “click track”). Some of you probably haven’t heard a metronome since your last piano lesson when you were nine-years old. Maybe you remember feeling that you weren’t able to fully enjoy the music because you were so focused on the metronome. Playing with a click doesn’t need to be that way. Once you are comfortable playing along, the click sound will fade into the background and you’ll wonder why you didn’t use it before.
The click track is the glue that keeps your band together. Without a click, everyone in the band begins to play at their own tempo – which will make your band sound muddy and disconnected. We’ve all experienced the dragging feeling when a fast song unexpectedly transforms into a slow ballad by the end. It’s time to give your foot-stomping timekeeper a break and let a click track do the work.
Convincing your band to start using a click may be a challenge. Some musicians may push back because they don’t want to be “trapped” and want the music to “flow” more. However, flowing dynamically is much better than flowing in tempo. I’d rather have my band playing in consistent time together, and give them more freedom to focus on the dynamics (volume, feel, sensitivity) of their individual parts. If everyone is worried about staying in time together, the last thing they will be thinking about is dynamics.
Another reason band members may resist the click is because they are afraid of what will happen if they get off it. It’s very normal to get off the click when you first try it. Don’t be discouraged. It’s important that you give you and your band grace as you begin to learn to play to a click. Don’t feel pressure to use it this Sunday morning. Instead, just try using it during a rehearsal. If you get off the click, stop it and try again next time. It’s like learning to ride a bike – the more you practice, the more natural it will feel.
It’s important that your drummer can hear the click, but it’s even better if everyone in your band can hear it. Otherwise, the drummer will have to work harder at keeping everyone else in time. If everyone can hear the click, each member is held accountable on their own, which makes it easier to stay in time together.
The click is the foundation of Ableton Live. Almost everything you do in Ableton Live requires a consistent tempo – whether you are recording, using multitracks, or syncing up lyrics. The click is the railroad track that gets your band across the finish line together. Even if you don’t use tracks, you can still use Ableton Live as a metronome. The latest version of Ableton Live 10 offers improvements to the built-in metronome. You now have a few more options in click sounds, as well as the ability to choose the sub-division rhythm of the click. You may also want to generate your own click using MIDI clips. The easiest way to do this is by using Impulse or Drum Rack to trigger click samples. Loop Community offers a pack of various click sounds like Marimba, Beep, Rimshot, and others. You can download the click pack from loopcommunity.com/shop.
If you can’t afford Ableton Live right now, there are many metronome apps that are perfect for building a setlist. I recommend Prime MultiTrack App for iOS & MacOS. It’s completely free and was designed specifically for worship leaders. It’s an easy way to get started if you’re brand new to this.
Using a click track in Ableton Live is the best thing you can do to enhance the sound of your band. Once you do it, you’ll never turn back. You’ll be amazed at how much tighter your band sounds. If you’re wanting to learn how to use Ableton Live to build a click track, I teach a free 1-hour beginners course for worship leaders. To sign up, visit AbletoninWorship.com.
Matt McCoy – Loop Community Founder, Ableton Live Certified Trainer