What Are Click Tracks?
Featuring David Bauer Posted on April 12, 2010
If you've been around the music and worship culture lately, you may have heard about click tracks. Maybe you know everything there is to know about them, or maybe you have no clue what I'm talking about. Chances are you fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Let's spend a few minutes pulling back the curtain on what I believe is becoming a new standard for the contemporary church.
Over the past 16 years in full-time music ministry I've noticed how music and technology have been used in the professional music world outside the church. I have attended my fair share of concerts in my lifetime and keep noticing something about the professional band performing on stage. Not only have they played those songs hundreds of times together, but there's something more. Something that seems to keep them tracking in the same direction, never losing course. While I agree that most professional bands are just that good, there seems to be a very basic mechanical part of the mix that most of us don't see. Something that is holding them together in the same time zone and tempo.
The Early Days
Integrity Music released a project in the mid-90's titled "Sing Out With One Voice" featuring Ron Kenoly. Back then, the music was very compelling so I picked up the video and closely analyzed the band, especially the keyboardist, Tom Brooks, as they played. I mean, who wouldn't want to watch guys like Brooks, Paul Jackson Jr., Justo Almario, Chester Thompson, Carl Albrecht, Abraham Laboriel, and Alex Acuna perform together? Being a very analytical person when I watch other musicians perform, I swear I heard keyboard sounds in the mix that I didn't see Brooks (or anyone else) playing on that stage. How did they do that? How did he manage to tie other pre-recorded keyboard instruments together with the live performance I was watching?
In one of the many sweeping jib camera shots that flew over Brooks and his keyboard rig, I noticed a piece of gear in his rack that showed a pulsating green level meter. Most of us would assume this was just a part of his mixer or some other piece of gear responding to dozens of audio signals passing through it. The pulse I saw was a level meter for a click track. I knew it! This was my first glimpse in to the world of click tracks. This is how the additional instruments came to life with the live band.
ClickTracks around the Church
Click tracks are nothing new. In fact they have been around since the early years of motion pictures when sound was added to cue musicians and other sound effects. The simple definition of a click track is a series of audio cues used to synchronize sound recordings. Today click tracks are used for just about everything that involves recorded music and audio. The song playing by your favorite artist right now on your iPod was most likely recorded to a click track. You can't get away from it. Simple technology is driving the music we listen to every day. It's making what you and I listen to sound even better.
ClickTracks in the Church
Click tracks have now made their way in to the church. More and more churches are discovering ways to use click tracks to enhance the musical and worship experience. Plus, click tracks now provide a simple way to synchronize video content with the live band on stage.
At our church, Christ's Church of the Valley in Peoria, Arizona, we use clicks for 99% of the songs we perform. We have grown accustomed to the use of in-ear monitoring, so it's second nature to us. At the very least, we use a simple click device, controlled by the drummer, to establish the tempo for every song. Much of the time our click tracks are pre-produced tracks generated by a laptop on stage or a CD at FOH. Many times songs are performed in sync to a video on the main screens. Other songs just need additional instrumentation in the mix that can't be reproduced by the live band. This often includes strings, loops, motion synths, sequences and whatever we can dream up to fit the song without getting in the way of the mix.
Part of a Media World
The technology is right in front of us. It's easier today to integrate technology into your music and worship experience than ever before. Just like technology continues to drive the music and media world, it can also enhance our music and worship experiences in the church.
Are You Ready?
Are you or your congregation ready for click tracks? Think about a few things before you answer that question. Click tracks work really well with a basic worship band (i.e.: drums, bass, guitar, keys, etc.). Everyone has a unique situation and a unique group of skills represented in your players. Consider how your players might respond to playing with an established tempo or mechanical click. It can be done. Also, be mindful of where your congregation is and what they have come to expect in your worship experience at your church. In situations that might be less technically advanced, click tracks may be received with some degree of hostility. You know your situation better than anyone, so you be the judge of what will work best.
The goal is to enhance the existing band and music performance. We never want click tracks to be a distraction in worship. Perhaps this is something you have been waiting for, but lack the resources to pull it off. We're here to help you!
New From PraiseCharts
PraiseCharts has just launched a new click track product. These click tracks are simple to use and can bring a whole new dimension to your band and worship experience. We understand not everyone has the ability to produce their own click tracks. PraiseCharts has put together a collection of click tracks based on our most popular titles. More will become available as we continue to develop this product and track with customer feedback.
Take a look at a few of these click tracks today! There are 30-second previews of each click. Perhaps this can become a huge resource for you and your worship band. We will also be addressing more issues related to technologies for worship in the near future. Feel free to send us your feedback regarding click tracks. Above all, we hope this begins to challenge your thinking and inspire you to use technology more effectively in your worship experiences.