Eight Steps to Start Using a Click
I had a drummer quit the team shortly after we began using a metronome in rehearsal. I think in his mind we were mechanically clicking out the Spirit.
I feel for him. I really do.
As I’ve begun to explore and try loops with my team, I find myself thinking along the same lines, “Is this too rigid? Is it boxing in the Spirit (not to mention the musicians)?”
I haven’t answered that yet. But the one thing I keep landing on, be it a guide track or a simple click, is that it clearly tells me one thing: we don’t play in time as well as we think.
If you’re going to turn your music team into a band, begin by developing their sense of tempo and timing.
I’m not sure which worship leader/teacher it was, likely Bob Kauflin, but awhile back I was listening to a WorshipGod Conference audio on playing as a band. He was talking about the tendency for players to think they need to play together all the time and for years to get tight. He was pretty adamant when he said (and I paraphrase),
“Playing together a long time doesn’t make you tight as a band. Playing in time makes you tight as a band.”
Sure, a band that plays together each week for years will get tighter, anticipate each other, and know instinctively when things slow down and speed up. But most of our churches don’t have that luxury. And as we began discussing (see the comments), that luxury can lead to entitled, ingrown teams.
I think the butchered quote above about playing in time (sorry, Bob) was set in the context of “playing in the pocket.” That’s timing and tempo’s less-tangible, but cooler cousin. And we’ll get to her. But before you can play in the pocket, you need to be able to play (and sing) in time.
The only way to be able to play in time is to play in time. A lot. That means getting in front of an objective, non-partial, undistorted musical mirror known as a metronome–both as a team, and as individuals.
If your team hasn’t done this before, it will be painful. So painful, you might find yourself on the receiving end of coup d’etat or the southern side of a Baptist dog-pile. So let me give you some steps to ease your team into the icy waters of a click.
Some of these steps can be taken simultaneous, some need to be progressive. You know your team, so use good judgment when implementing them.
1. Buy a metronome (or metronome app).
Here are some options for around $30 or less (link to 29 tools). The met needs to have a headphone jack or a line out. A “tap” feature is nice, too. You can tap the tempo of a song and find out what the BPM is. (see #4)
2. Connect with your leaders and other influential team members.
Get buy-in from them first. Show them a video or take them to a conference where the bands are using click/guide tracks. Find articles that tout the importance of good timing and playing with a click. If they’re good musicians, they’ll probably be sold on it already.
3. Convince your drummer(s).
If #2 doesn’t include your drummers, begin to sell them on the idea of using a click.
Of anyone, they should understand good timing. But they may not, as in the case of my team’s former drummer. If you’ve got a resistant drummer, move on and hopefully #8 will happen.
4. Mark each of your charts with the song’s tempo.
This will begin to give you an objective marker to measure against.
You can say things like, “We felt a little fast on that song. The BPM is marked at 120. Let’s see where what that sounds like.” Or simply tap the tempo the band is playing at and the little digital numbers will show how far off you are.
And by the way, there’s nothing wrong with deciding to take a song faster (or slower) than the recording or arrangement marking. I think everything we do by Paul Baloche is notched up at least 5 BPMs. Just find what’s comfortable for singing and playing with your team, and make that your standard tempo.
5. Introduce the metronome into rehearsal.
The example in #4 is a great way to do that. And once the metronome has emerged, make a suggestion, “Hey, let’s, just for fun, try to play along with this.” Of course you’ll need to amplify the metronome. (Run a line out of the headphone jack to your board via 10 bucks of RadioShack junk.)
6. If #5 goes swimmingly, move to #7 and beyond.
But…if it looks the Baptist Dog Pile Committee is convening a special meeting, you might want to hang out at 5.5.
5.5 – Let it rest. I mentioned early that a click track is an unforgiving musical mirror. We often don’t like what they see in it. We don’t want to know they have lousy timing. It’s frustrating.
After the dust settles and BDP Committee adjourns, try it again. Make it a game to see how far into a song the team can get without getting off the click. If your team is resistant, take it slow and keep trying to convert the influencers on the team.
Rinse and repeat 5 & 5.5 as needed.
7. Begin practicing one song with a click during each rehearsal.
If things are going well, fight the urge use it on every song – at least at first. Ideally, you want the suggestion to use it on every song to come from your team, not you.
8. Encourage your team to practice with a metronome at home.
If they struggle during rehearsal while the others are getting it, this little bit of healthy peer pressure might be enough to begin using one during own prep time. If money is an issue, turn them on to free phone apps or online metronomes.
Once you’ve eased into the frigid waters of a metronome, it’s time to dive in the rest of the way. That’s what we’ll focus on in part 2 of Develop a Solid Sense of Time.
What steps have you taken to use a metronome/click/guide tracks with your team? Love to hear some more ideas…