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12 Tips for Using Click Tracks in Worship

Or, how my team survived aural water-boarding…

A few weeks back I wrote about The Most Loved (And Hated) Member of My Team: the click track.

I won’t go into all the background of how we got to the point of using it all the time, but here’s a quick review of why:

Since “the band” every Sunday is actually a different combination of rotating instruments, we don’t have the luxury of putting in the hours and days and months it takes to get tight.

I went on to say that,

If you have rotating musicians, you know that creating a tight sound is tough. The first step in playing tight is playing in time. We leverage the click to keep us all together.

The carpenter uses a level.metronome

The baker uses a measuring cup.

The accountant uses a calculator.

Even the freehand of an artist paints within the confines of a canvas.

Our tool for tightness is the click track.

So I wanted to follow up that post with 12 practical tips for using a click:

1. Start simple. 
Just use a metronome that has a headphone jack out and the the ability to subdivide (we’ll get to that in a minute). Don’t try to learn Ableton or other loops based stuff. Just learn to play with a click first.

2. Sell the right people.
There will be a backlash (See #10). So as you’re starting down this path, get key members of your team to buy in and help support the decision to use a click.

3. Learn this mantra: “Better to be together than right.” 
I’m not sure it’s the exact words of the venerable Carl Albrecht, drummer extraordinaire with Paul Baloche and others. But I heard him say it at a worship conference as he was exhorting drummers to turn off the click if the band gets too far off. His point: You can stay with the click and be “right,” but it won’t sound good. Just get back with the team and hold to the tempo as best as you can.

4. Learn how to bail. 
Because of #3, the person operating the metronome (most likely the drummer) needs to know how to shut if off quick in those moments of irreversible dragging and rushing.

5. Subdivide. 
It is SOO much easier to stay on tempo if there is a subdivision of the beat. For most songs, having the eighths in is enough. For really slow songs, sixteenths will give you that extra connection between downbeats that you need. Most modern digital metronomes do this.

6. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Warning: the beeping of most metronomes can cause the loss of one’s sanctification. And if the volume is too loud in your in-ears, that aural water-boarding turns into a sonic icepick traveling horizontally through your head.

If you can find something that makes a more natural woodblock sound, great. However, the click does need to be a high enough pitch so it won’t get lost in the mix.

Just a side note: I actually prefer my iPhone’s $4 Tempo Advance metronome app’s click sound to one on our far more expensive Boss DB60.

7. Make individual practice a priority.
If the team practices with a click on their own, the learning curve will go so much faster. And don’t forget to “strongly encourage” your singers to practice with a click. They don’t like to admit it, but vocalists are some of the biggest culprits of tempo issues. Many are used to the fluid flow of a choir, or the accommodating accompaniment of the lone piano player.

8. Use only in rehearsal (at first).
Don’t push your team too far, too fast. Start in rehearsals where train wrecks are far less fatal. But don’t stay in practice-mode forever. Have a ‘go live’ date and stick to it.

9. Require everyone on in-ears to turn up the click.
Occasionally, I plug into another team member’s Aviom (personal monitor mixer) and wonder what in the world they’re singing/playing too (other than themselves). If a player is on in-ears (and that’s my whole team now), they’re strongly urged to turn up the click in their ears.

10. Be prepared for emotional outbursts.
Yes, really. For the uninitiated, playing to a click is akin to hearing your voice recorded for the first time. Most of us don’t realize how poor our timing truly is. The click track is this full-length, unforgiving, magnifying mirror that shows every last tempo blemish and blackhead.

Its ugly.

But that’s why people need to practice on their own.

11. Put tempo markings on your charts.
If you want people to practice on their own with a click, you’d better add tempo markings to the charts. And don’t be afraid to stray from the original recording tempos. Find what feels right for your team.

12. Keep after it.
When you go live for the first time, don’t get discouraged that you had to turn it off in the middle of EVERY song. That’s OK. Keep working on it at the next rehearsal, and try again the next Sunday.

I don’t remember when the first Sunday was that we finally didn’t have to turn the click off. But now, we’ve been doing it long enough that I don’t remember the last time we had to stop it in a service.

I’m telling you, the click track has really made us better, and better than we actually are. The experience of playing with a click has given us all a better sense of time. And the unifying factor of the click really does make us tighter as a band.

For discussion – how have you migrated to using a click? Any other points and tips for using a metronome or click with your team?

If you’re just starting down this path, any questions this post didn’t answer?

(This article was originally posted on WorshipTeamCoach.com. Used by permission.)

A capella Life in a High Arrangement World

A dynamic drumbeat.  Fat, full bass.  Screaming electric guitars.  Soaring vocals.  Expansive effects boards.  MIDI players.  Three or more part harmonies.  Synthesizers.  Keytars (if you’re super cool).  Tambourines.  Trash cans.  All of these are typical must-haves for all churches today (right???).  singing

Ok, maybe not all of these things, and of course, not all churches . . . . But, for the most part, depending on the specific church tradition and setup, we (worship leaders) work hard with their teams to have what we perceive as “high quality” and “dynamic” times of musical worship.  We look for full arrangements and a lot of dynamics.  We want there to be a consistent movement and build from intro, to first verse, to first chorus, to second verse, to second chorus, to bridge, and so on.  And, none of that is wrong.

In fact, I think it’s great.  Music is proven to have an impact on human beings.  It stirs.  It moves.  It draws us in.  And, hopefully, when it comes to worship, it helps us amplify the praise we are lifting.  “Dynamic worship” is definitely a buzzword, and is often both scoffed at and criticized in many circles.  But, regardless of personal taste, it makes perfect sense to do our best to have creative arrangements and utilize this tool of music to the best of our ability when leading God’s people in praise.  You know what else makes perfect sense?  Throwing it all out the window.

Say what?  Didn’t see that coming, did you?  Now, this post is not necessarily about full a capella worship services, although those certainly are valid and are wonderful.  I wanted to take this time to merely point out where some a capella moments could be useful in a worship service.  Primarily, I’ll look at two good uses/reasons to incorporate some a capella into your worship services.

First, have you ever struggled with a transition between two songs in different keys? Sometimes you can work out a nice walk or transitional chord sequence. Sometimes you may just force a hard ending on the first song because you’re not quite sure what to do. Other times, you may have actually thrown a song out because the transition wasn’t working right (even though you may have been led by the Spirit to do that song?).

Transitions can be difficult and sometimes even more so for others. I propose that a great solution is to incorporate some a capella singing as your transition. At the end of the first song, bring it down (or keep it up, whatever works) and let the voices ring out – alone. Drop all the instrumentation and take the congregation through the chorus again (or whatever part is fitting). Dropping the instrumentation, followed by perhaps a nice open moment or two at the very end, allows you to go into the next song pretty easily, even if it is in a different key. It also provides another cool benefit . . .

Have you ever really heard a group of voices singing praise to God? I mean really heard it? Not just a crowd singing with a band. Not even a congregation singing along with your band. But I mean, really, really heard a group of people, with no instrumentation, lifting up worship to the Lord? It’s amazing! It’s pure. It’s passionate. There is just something about hearing that sound that is so fulfilling and wonderful.

As a worship leader, there is absolutely nothing better than hearing the people of God worshipping their Creator. And, it’s cool for those in the congregation too! There is something to be said of the benefit of corporate edification. It’s uplifting to know you are in the midst of a group of people, joining in with them in singing praise to the Lord.  It’s a powerful, wonderful thing.

Now, I am not suggesting that we give up working on transitions. A great transition is super cool and can certainly add some great energy to a song change. It’s very easy to overuse the a capella approach.  But, it’s also possible to underuse it.

It’s a great tool that provides both a practical function and a great opportunity for the people to lift up their voices in unison, unhindered by rhythms, guitar solos, or high Dbs. In a world of big time arrangements (which are super cool), it’s good to strip it down every now and then and let the people worship loudly and clearly. After all, our voices are the instruments that God built into us – let’s let them shine through every now and then!  (Yeah, I know that’s a bit cheesy, but you get the idea.)

-Mark Logan

Paul Baloche on Integrating New Players

Are you intentional about finding and integrating new and/or young players on your worship team?

Paul Baloche encourages worship leaders to actively identify and recruit new musicians and leaders on the worship team: