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Tech Tip Of The Day: Playing Live To Click

What can be done about click track bleed in a live situation?

Provided by Sweetwater.

Q: Our band has been doing some work in the studio lately and we’re about to go on the road.

So, obviously we’ve been rehearsing like crazy!

Anyways, in the rehears we realized that the keys and drums need to stay with a click.

Problem is, every click we use bleeds because the drummer uses headphones instead of in-ears. Is there anything we can do?

A: Admitedly, this is a challenging problem. As you mentioned, the most simple solution would be to have your drummer switch to an IEM.

However, the most important factor is making sure he’s comfortable in the situation. We can fix the bleed another way.

This is an extremly common problem, in both the studio and live environment, as more and more live musicians are finding themselves playing along to click tracks, MIDI sequences or prerecorded audio tracks.

Adjusting to playing alonside any or all of the three can be a very frustrating experience. However, if you prepare for click track playing, it can help ensure that the groove you’ve carefully created will always be there.

First of all, select a click sound that you can hear. A click that gets buried in the mix or just can’t be heard is useless. Obviouasly, if it’s bleeding, it can be heard, but we don’t want to go too far towards the other extreme either.

Be sure to set up a sound that’s percussive and loaded with midrange and high frequencies to project above the music in your headphones. Many keyboards assign a clave sound to the click for just these reasons. Shakers and maracas are less than ideal, as they provide a somewhat indistinct downbeat. Also, most DAW’s offer a selection of click sounds to choose from.

However, we still need that click which won’t bleed into the music mix. Hollywood sound engineers have developed a number of clicks that attenuate problem frequencies in order for entire symphony orchestras to hear the click in headphones without ruining the take. A downloadable example can be found here, which was created by Jeff Rona, author of The Reel World: Scoring for Pictures.

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