I hear it all the time: “I don’t use the click track because I want my productions to sound raw.” “…musical.” “…rubato.”
These are just excuses, however. It is entirely possible to create raw, musical, and even rubato-feel music while still using the click track.
But why would you want to do such a thing? For lots of reasons, actually. It can actually make your production sound more musical. Before we look at how to manipulate your click track, let’s dive into the reasons you might want to do so.
1. When you play along with a click track, your entire production becomes instantly “tighter.” You no longer have to guess when the downbeat will come in after a beat of rests. You can focus on your performance while letting the metronome keep time (assuming you’re able to play along with a metronome well – if not, practice makes perfect!)
2. You can take advantage of all of the quantization features inside your DAW. Whether it’s audio or MIDI data you’re quantizing (or humanizing, which is the opposite of quantizing), you’ll be glad you cut to the click. Having your performance on the grid is essential to performing any of these functions, which can actually be used quite tastefully and can add a great layer for your production.
3. You’ll be able to pocket things much easier and faster when you can see the grid. Cutting to the click track means you’ll be right on time with your DAW’s grid. And that means you’ll be able to use it to musically pocket your performance and make it even tighter.
If you don’t use the click track in your DAW, you’ll be left guessing at where your parts come in, scrambling to make your MIDI notes line up with the music, and unable to pocket your tracks when you want to. Of course, overdoing any of these will result in a flat, non-human performance. But doing just the right amount of each will create an air-tight, human performance.
Let’s say you want to make the click track follow a nice slow down, change in tempo, or even rubato feel. Have no fear – your DAW can do it!
Look through your specific DAW’s manual or help menu to find the “tempo track,” “beat mapping,” or “tempo mapping” feature and learn how to do it. It’s usually a pretty simple procedure, and it will allow you to control your click track with much more detail, ultimately leading to tighter productions.