A click track is a series of audio clicks that are used to keep the tempo precise in a song. The audio clicks are usually made into the sound of an instrument like a cowbell, hi-hat, or beeping. Click tracks count each beat in a measure. For example, if you have a song in 4/4 time signature, each of your measures has 4 beats. These are also the quarter notes. The click track clicks on each beat or quarter note.
Click tracks come in handy for anyone with an instrument. Drummers benefit most from a click track since it's their job to keep a steady and consistent flow in the song's tempo. But all musicians can rely on a click track to keep up with the song's BPM (beats per minute). This includes singers since they are also musicians that use their voice as an instrument!
Click tracks are usually used in 3 settings:
Practicing - The early stages of learning a song often include a click-track. Many musicians use this tool to practice alone before they rehearse with other musicians involved with the song. Rehearsals with a full band can benefit even more from click tracks to keep everyone on the same page.
Recording - Most DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) like Protools and Logic have built-in click tracks. This is almost a must for recording any song that has a precise tempo, especially if it's a fast song that's a challenge to keep up with.
Live Performances - Many popular bands and artists including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and U2 use click tracks to keep their songs tight. This works wonders for songs that often have a change in tempo for certain sections of the track.
Speaking of a change in tempo, the main difference between a click track and a metronome is the tempo change capabilities in a click track. Click tracks are literally just digital, newer versions of metronomes.
A metronome is great to have for rehearsals, but they wouldn't work as well in a live performance or recording session since everyone else would be able to hear your clicks as well. Click tracks can be digitally played through headphones for discretion.
If you have a song that includes tempo changes, you will be able to change the tempo and the clicks for the click track with what is called a Tempo Track.
In Logic Pro, do the following:
Choose Track > Global Tracks > Show Global Tracks. Then click the global tracks button to see the tempo track.
In Garageband, it's simpler to do the following:
Choose Track > Show Tempo Track.
Click tracks do wonders for bands and artists who are performing and recording. You'd be surprised how hard it is to sing in a strict tempo in comparison to singing at a more freestyled speed. I would imagine it's even more complicated for drummers, so click tracks are extremely popular in the drumming world. Practicing with a click track also gives you a better handle on the song and helps with your natural rhythmic sense.
On the downside, a click track can get annoying. It can mess up your focus and emotional connection when it comes to playing or singing if you're too concerned about being perfectly in tempo. It can also hurt your stage presence or confidence and cause people to notice that you're distracted while singing or playing. Don't let click tracks take you away from the magic of the music!
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