Click Tracks are similar to Split Tracks, except that they are designed to compliment a full band, rather than replace the band. The track itself is a high quality, stereo MP3 file with two unique sides:
- The Drum Click - Panned to the left, a simple click beat is sent to the drummers headphones, ensuring that the tempo is solid and consistent through the entire song.
- The Sound Track - Panned to the right, a series of dynamic synthesized sounds and loops that flow with the PraiseCharts arrangement, measure for measure, enhancing the overall sound of the band in a way that would be very difficult to achieve with a live instrument.
Easy To Implement
You don't need to be a church that is heavily invested into media and sound technology to use Click Tracks. Nevertheless, there are a few basics that you cannot do without.
- Stereo Playback Device - The first thing you need to incorporate Click Tracks into your worship setting is some sort of playback device. Whether that be a laptop computer, an iPod or some other MP3 player – it doesn’t matter. As long as the device has a stereo output you’re halfway there! Probably the easiest approach is to use a laptop and have a designated person start the track. You can use the drummer, or the keyboardist is also a great option. We recommend just using an audio program like QuickTime – the most important thing is that whatever software you use, it must playback in stereo!
- Stereo Cable - Next, you’ll need a cable that will split the stereo signal into a left and right line. This is a simple, inexpensive cable that you can buy at any music store. Usually it will have a stereo 'mini' jack (1/8 inch) to come out of the device (if your using an ipod this would be the headphone jack) and will then split off into 2 separate cables, ideally with male π inch jacks (see picture). Then it’s a matter of sending those two cables to the appropriate places. The ‘right’ cable will be playing the sequence, so you want to treat that as though it were any other instrument on the stage – ie, plugging it into a DI box and assigning it to a channel on the sound board. The destination of the other (left) cable (the click track cable!) will depend on your sound system:
- In-ear Sound System - If you have an in-ear system you can assign the cable to a regular channel, giving it a DI box like any other instrument. The key is to let the sound person know that you need to hear this click track in the monitors, but the congregation or audience cannot hear this! In other words, keep the main faders on the board for this channel at 0.
- On-stage monitor speakers - If you have a typical system with on-stage monitor speakers, then you’ll want to send the click track cable to your drummer. The drummer will need to be wearing headphones and will be in charge of keeping things together and counting everyone in! The drummer will also need to have some sort of headphone amp, or mixer so that he/she can plug in the line from the click track and incorporate it into his/her monitor mix. It's important that he/she has volume control for the click track so that it can be adjusted louder or softer as need be.
- Start the Track and Play - Now, all you need to do is start the track and play along! What the drummer (and, if you’re an in-ear system, the whole band) will hear is a simple 2 measure count in – no matter what the time signature (ie – even if it’s a 12/8 time signature, there will be 2 measures of count in). The drummer listens to the first measure and then in the 2nd measure he/she counts the band in. And then, it’s simply a matter of playing the song, following the click track and/or the drummer – and keeping things tight to it. Click Tracks have been made to follow the Praise Charts arrangement exactly (unless noted otherwise), so all you have to do is play along and enjoy!
- Tips for using iTunes - If you are using iTunes, or any software program that adds an audio "enhancer" option, make sure to deselect this option in your preferences. Otherwise, the separate audio channels may bleed into each side causing the click to be heard in the track channel. Also, it is recommended that the tracks be played back flat with no EQ enhancement from the playback device. It is best to make EQ adjustments at the main audio console in your worship venue.
Click Tracks can take a bit of getting used to. Don't just show up on Sunday, throw the Click Track on, and expect to be able to play along. Click Tracks take practice, but the more you use them, the more comfortable your musicians will become, playing with an external rhythm source - and the better your band will sound overall! Here's a few tips for your rehearsals:
- Patience - When beginning to use a click track, keep in mind that it may take a little bit to get used to. After all – this is exactly like practicing with a metronome – while it might be a bit of an effort to begin with, the benefits quickly become obvious!
- Drummers lead the tempo - This can be a bit of a shift for some less experienced bands. Its up to the drummer to hold things down tight to the track. The bonus is, they will become much better because of it! In a sense it forces them to lock things down. Remember, there’s no better compliment then being called a ‘tight drummer’!
- Enjoy the music - You'll notice that there is lots in Click Tracks to compliment what you are already doing, musically. Play along, and enjoy the ride! The music you hear acts almost a bit like "glue" filling in any gaps that might be there. Plus, it's always fun to see people looking up on the stage, trying to figure out where that particular sound is coming from!
Sound Technical Tips
When you use Click Tracks, your sound person definitely becomes an important part of the team. Here are a few tips:
- Treat the sequence like any other instrument. The tracks have been mixed to be treated this way – they should be subtle, but definitely clearly in the mix. Obviously, you may want more volume or less, depending on the song and track.
- Talk to the lead musician/band leader/worship leader! They will have spent time with the track and may have specific instructions about it. (eg – “in the 2 nd chorus, there’s this cool little loop thing that comes out – just make sure that’s up a bit in the mix”, etc)
- Click Tracks have been created using Reason (by Propellerhead) as the primary synth engine. Out of the box, Reason offers thousands of samples and loops, plus an arsenal of virtual devices, used to create simple or complex sequences. Reason is user-friendly and it is always expanding with new sound banks (refills). You can now purchase the Reason Files from PraiseCharts. More information here.
- You may want the ability to edit these tracks using digital recording software. If you have digital audio recording software, you can do this quite easily. For more advanced editing, we recommend Digital Performer (MOTU), Pro-Tools (Digidesign), Logic (Apple), Steinberg Cubase (along with the SX-3), and Sonar 7. While these are all fairly high-end software options, there are also very affordable programs such as Audacity, Mac's Garage Band, and Acoustica Mixcraft.
- In order to use your computer as a digital audio workstation, you will need a USB or FireWire audio/MIDI interface. Check out M-Audio, MOTU, and Edirol for starters. There are many otions available that will work with PC and Mac-based systems.
- For in-ear monitors, many churches have started to use the Aviom system, though there are many different options available.
- If you are looking for an inexpensive way to change the key and/or the tempo of the ClickTracks, you might try the Transposer 2.0, downloadable from WorshipMusic.com.
To introduce Click Tracks in an informative and fun format, we have recorded a PraiseCharts Podcast featuring Ryan Dahl, President and Founder of PraiseCharts, Cory Alstad, the Click Tracks arranger, and Josh Loeve, Worship Pastor. Our other producer, David Bauer, has written an article on ClickTracks here.