The click track. It’s something that most musicians have a love/hate relationship with. It can be a hard sell for many who have used it and an even harder sell for those who haven’t.
Or maybe you aren’t familiar with a click track. That’s OK, too. Allow me to explain what it is.
A click track is essentially a metronome that is sent through the musicians’ in-ear monitors (IEMs). It helps to keep the band together, if used properly and can be a game-changer with some caveats.
When you begin utilizing a click in your sets, it needs to be understood that it is now everyone’s job to keep time. The click can be set to match a recorded song version’s beats per measure (BPM), or you can simply set it at whatever speed you like. Once it’s set, however, there is no fluctuation in tempo. Great, right? Not everyone thinks so.
Often, when I explain to other musicians that our church uses a click track, I receive some common responses, such as: “What about musical freedom and creativity?”, “How do you focus on worshipping with a constant ‘clicking’ in your ear?, “What do you do if your band can’t stay with it?”.
These are all valid questions and concerns, but I have found that most of them are just excuses for those who don’t want to use a click.
Let me make this clear early on; I think that a click track can be one of the most valuable tools for your worship ministry. It opens the door to so many possibilities. And if we are looking for more cohesiveness within our teams’ structures, why should we expect anything less than full cohesion musically?
When we began the process of using a click track at our church, we really had no idea what we were doing with it, but we knew that we wanted to grow and that this was one of the ways to do that.
I remember the first Sunday we used a click it was ran by me (drummer) on an iPad app (I don’t recall the name). Essentially, this app allowed me to create a set with all of our songs and their respective BPMs. We used an auxiliary cable to run it into our our board and then mixed it into our in-ears. It wasn’t great, but it did the job.
The first few months were largely trial and error. There were multiple songs each Sunday where we had to “kill the click” because the band was off, and some of the volunteers weren’t really thrilled about 1) having to use in-ear monitors (we had also just switched to those recently), and 2) the sound of the click.
But looking back, it was so incredibly worth it to push through.
Fast forward to today where we use a click for every song on every Sunday set through a program called Ableton. We run a backing track on at least 80-percent of the songs we do, and as a band we are much more unified and prepared on Sundays. In fact, it now feels weird on those rare occasions where we don’t have a click.
I have never bought into the excuse that a click track limits your freedom, either. In fact, I believe the exact opposite is true.
Playing to a click has allowed me, as a drummer, to be more creative with my fills because I have confidence in knowing that as long as I execute them within the tempo that I am hearing, I will be with the rest of the band.
When I am leading while playing the acoustic guitar, it is refreshing to be able to just step back and not unnecessarily play just to keep time for the rest of the band. I can now free up my hands and mind in worship.
Without a click track, these things are much harder to do. Without a click track, my fills can’t be overly elaborate, at least not with me feeling the same level of confidence about performing them in time with the rest of my bandmates. It takes discipline, patience, and practice. But I don’t think those elements have ever been perceived as bad.
So, you’re now sold on using a click, but where do you start? My advice to you is to be all-in from the get-go.
Look to a software like Ableton, that can be stripped down and used with just a click, or handle your ministry’s future growth into the world of backing tracks, etc. At first, Ableton seems daunting, but you will be so glad you stuck with it later on.
Another option is to start the way we did. If the budget is tight, but you still want to push toward excellence in worship leading, an iPad or a phone metronome app will help raise the bar without breaking the bank. It also won’t take up too much of your time to prepare it on a weekly basis.
Do NOT jump into Ableton if you aren’t willing to put the time in to learning and executing the program every week.
That’s the technical side. How do you communicate this new idea to team members who may not be thrilled at the proposition?
I have always found it best to be honest. Tell them why you are doing this. Don’t assume that they don’t understand, and definitely don’t just implement it without feedback.
Unveil the idea at a full-volunteer meeting. Open it up for discussion. Chances are, most will be on board when you explain that want to raise the level of excellence and that you think this will help to better lead the congregation in worship.
Not everyone will be on board from the get-go, and that’s OK. As a worship leader it is your job to lead the team and if this is the path you think you’re being called to, don’t ignore it!
Most importantly, when the time comes to implement a click track, don’t give up! The struggles will be there. Grumbling and complaining amongst team members who want to ditch the idea is a possibility.
Know that these struggles are common, even in larger churches. If you stick with it, you will find it to be rewarding for everyone involved and your Sunday worship experience will be more fluid. And as worship leaders, we should always be moving toward things that we can implement to better lead people in worship.
Send us a message on our Connect Page if you have any questions regarding this topic and we would be more than happy to help you through it.
Also, if you use a click track in your worship setting, comment below with your thoughts!