Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

CTA Classroom: Using a Click

Today’s topic comes from Javi J. Diaz, as suggested on Twitter. A lot of worship bands want to play to a click track, a metronome that keeps everyone on time. There are quite a few companies (Boss, Korg, Yamaha) who make small, portable metronomes, and most have an 1/8” headphone or even a 1/4” headphone jack on them. 

Boss DB-90

I’m not going to debate the use of a click and what it does or doesn’t do for the music; that’s another debate for another article. At this point, all I’m assuming is that the band wants to use a click and you as the audio engineer has to figure out how to make it work. There are several scenarios to consider, and I’ll try to come up with as many as I can.

Basic Configuration

First, you need to find a metronome (hereafter called a click because it’s faster to type…) with a headphone or line out. Take that output and route it into a DI. We have a cheap DI that’s designed to take a 1/4” stereo (TRS) source and turn it into two XLRs. Someone replaced the 1/4” with a 1/8” plug and we use that to get the click into the system. While you could buy a really expensive Radial DI for this purpose, it’s a click, so a cheap one will do fine. Set up gain for a solid, but not slamming level and you’re good to go. I use mono for the click; I’m not convinced stereo is worth the channel count.

Once in the system, you have to be very intentional about how you route it. Most mixers allow you to assign a channel to either a group or the L&R bus. With the click, you want to leave it unassigned. This is really important as you don’t want the click coming through the mains. If every channel automatically routes to the L&R bus, then you’ll have to leave the fader down all the time. You might even consider taping it down with some board tape. Chose a channel at one end or the other of your board so you’re less likely to hit it by accident.

Now that you’re sure the click won’t find its way into the mains, you can move on to adding it to the monitors.

All Ears

If the band is all on ears, it’s pretty easy to put the click in their mixes; just bring it up. Make sure you start slow and low as it’s a very loud an annoying sound if it comes blasting in at too high a level. You will find that some musicians want to hear the click, others don’t. Work with them and get them what they need, just like any source.

Personal Mixes

If you’re running personal mixes, you have some decisions to make. In our system, with the SD8 at FOH and the Roland M-48s making up our mixers, we just send the click down a digital channel and set it up on each M-48 as each musician requests. If I were using an Aviom system, I would probably set aside one channel for foldback (click, talkback, speaking mics, etc.) and put the click in there. In this case, it’s kind of an all-or-nothing approach, but that’s really a limitation of the Aviom system. You could also dedicate a channel to it if you have enough open channels. 

All Wedges

If the entire band is on wedges, using a click can be tricky. In this case, I would not want to put the click in the wedges because it will be clearly audible to those in the front rows (and perhaps the back rows, depending on how loud your band likes their wedges…). In this case, one option is for the drummer pick up a set of non-sealing earbuds—iPod buds would work great—and plug those into the click. He could then set the level of the click to where he can hear it, and because the buds won’t seal, he should still be able to hear is wedge and the drums. 

That situation might work, but it’s not ideal for hearing preservation, however. Before we switched over to the M-48s, we took a different approach. We put a cheap Mackie 1202 at the drum platform and mixed a stereo monitor for him. We then put the click in on another input of the Mackie and he could mix it in as needed. This allows for much lower volume levels in his ears. It does give you one more monitor mix to contend with, but if you were mixing wedges anyway, it’s not a big deal. While the rest of the band can’t hear the click, the drummer can keep everyone in time.

Those are all the possible configurations I can think of. Did I miss anything? Does your worship team play to a click?

25 Comments

  1. chris@behindthemixer.com

    When you are asked which digital metronome would be good (and musicians may ask you that question), start by researching metronomes with a large round knob like in mike's photo. Some have up/down buttons instead of the knob. Considering the "speed of use" when going from one song to the next, a drummer will want a big knob they can easily spin versus trying to push small buttons.

  2. chris@behindthemixer.com

    When you are asked which digital metronome would be good (and musicians may ask you that question), start by researching metronomes with a large round knob like in mike's photo. Some have up/down buttons instead of the knob. Considering the "speed of use" when going from one song to the next, a drummer will want a big knob they can easily spin versus trying to push small buttons.

  3. jonlillie@compasschurch.org

    We at compass started using a click for almost every weekend. We are using an Aviom system and have the click (happens to be the DB-90 pictured) routed down one channel all by it's lonesome.

    As for routing in the console, I have it come down into a channel that is not routed to the L/R buss, or any mixes, I just take the direct out and feed it back to the Aviom at a healthy level.

    To get into the console we use an 1/8" to mono XLR cable that we bought for our kids min worship leader, but didn't want after it was purchased. No DI, just run it out and down to the console.

    The cool thing about the DB-90 is that you can program different BPM. We run it off AC power due to that if the batteries run out middle of a service it dumps the saved BPM.

    We are also 100% ears, no wedges, no exceptions, so I don't have to worry about volume there.

    Over all I have noticed a better locking of the band with the click, but they struggle with dynamics now that they have this tick tock going on in their heads.

  4. jonlillie@compasschurch.org

    We at compass started using a click for almost every weekend. We are using an Aviom system and have the click (happens to be the DB-90 pictured) routed down one channel all by it's lonesome.

    As for routing in the console, I have it come down into a channel that is not routed to the L/R buss, or any mixes, I just take the direct out and feed it back to the Aviom at a healthy level.

    To get into the console we use an 1/8" to mono XLR cable that we bought for our kids min worship leader, but didn't want after it was purchased. No DI, just run it out and down to the console.

    The cool thing about the DB-90 is that you can program different BPM. We run it off AC power due to that if the batteries run out middle of a service it dumps the saved BPM.

    We are also 100% ears, no wedges, no exceptions, so I don't have to worry about volume there.

    Over all I have noticed a better locking of the band with the click, but they struggle with dynamics now that they have this tick tock going on in their heads.

  5. hook@ps139.com

    What do you use when running a click from a laptop – regular patch cable to the DI, or a USB/Firewire interface, or something else? At our church, I'm the only drummer who uses a click, and I run it from my trusty (but big-and-bulky) Roland R8 (1/4" mono out to a DI). I also have Live running on an old laptop, and I've thought about replacing the R8 with the laptop, which would also provide the ability to run loops along with the click. I could throw a patch cable between the laptop and DI, but I didn't know what other advice anyone might offer.

  6. hook@ps139.com

    What do you use when running a click from a laptop – regular patch cable to the DI, or a USB/Firewire interface, or something else? At our church, I'm the only drummer who uses a click, and I run it from my trusty (but big-and-bulky) Roland R8 (1/4" mono out to a DI). I also have Live running on an old laptop, and I've thought about replacing the R8 with the laptop, which would also provide the ability to run loops along with the click. I could throw a patch cable between the laptop and DI, but I didn't know what other advice anyone might offer.

  7. yeshua11@me.com

    Although I've never had to deal with a click track (other then community band rehearsals that I play sax in), I'm not sure if hooking up a light that flashes in the back of the hall…maybe flashes the batman symbol…..but if you can set it up so the light blinks when its fed the audio click….that could work….totally quiet and if you can figure out whats the best place to put the light and the best light to use (maybe the house lights lol) it could work out…

    Our piano player is really good with her tempos, and our drummer is just getting into the "worship drumming" feel so hes following more then hes leading πŸ™ but our musicians are pretty good…our singers/leaders on the other hand….a few are alright…but a few are just bad….the closest thing to a click that we do is what I do for our drummer when he starts to get lost a bit….I start doing the conductor thing and show him where the beats are waving my arms around….it helps him find the beat, especially on a song where the leader and the piano isn't on ball together…(remember the piano player is right in our case)

    Personally, I hate playing with clicks….first of all I always get off (and I'm aways excellent with keeping time) and it doesn't allow any musical freedom. I would suggest if someone wants to play with a click, only do it during rehearsals, not performances…

  8. yeshua11@me.com

    Although I've never had to deal with a click track (other then community band rehearsals that I play sax in), I'm not sure if hooking up a light that flashes in the back of the hall…maybe flashes the batman symbol…..but if you can set it up so the light blinks when its fed the audio click….that could work….totally quiet and if you can figure out whats the best place to put the light and the best light to use (maybe the house lights lol) it could work out…

    Our piano player is really good with her tempos, and our drummer is just getting into the "worship drumming" feel so hes following more then hes leading πŸ™ but our musicians are pretty good…our singers/leaders on the other hand….a few are alright…but a few are just bad….the closest thing to a click that we do is what I do for our drummer when he starts to get lost a bit….I start doing the conductor thing and show him where the beats are waving my arms around….it helps him find the beat, especially on a song where the leader and the piano isn't on ball together…(remember the piano player is right in our case)

    Personally, I hate playing with clicks….first of all I always get off (and I'm aways excellent with keeping time) and it doesn't allow any musical freedom. I would suggest if someone wants to play with a click, only do it during rehearsals, not performances…

  9. fohdave@goingto11.com

    Chris, we use Live on stage for click, loops, sequencing, etc. We were using a Digi 003 for a while, but recently our music department switched to the Motu Ultralite which gives us 8 outs. On a typical week we're probably just using 3 outs for mono click and stereo loops, but occasionally we'll use a couple other pairs for additional tracks like strings and sometimes even vocals. We could just submix them in Live, but it is just easier if FOH has things broken out so we'll use the extra outputs when we can.

  10. fohdave@goingto11.com

    Chris, we use Live on stage for click, loops, sequencing, etc. We were using a Digi 003 for a while, but recently our music department switched to the Motu Ultralite which gives us 8 outs. On a typical week we're probably just using 3 outs for mono click and stereo loops, but occasionally we'll use a couple other pairs for additional tracks like strings and sometimes even vocals. We could just submix them in Live, but it is just easier if FOH has things broken out so we'll use the extra outputs when we can.

  11. jweather@xidus.net

    The only time we have a click track is when there are backing tracks (synth pad, strings, etc.) being played from Logic, and click is broken out into a third channel that only hits the monitor desk for IEM mixes. I have seen the band playing synced to a video as well, but I wasn't on monitors that week, so I'm not sure if they had a click track sourced from the video, or just started their local click at the same time as the video began.

  12. jweather@xidus.net

    The only time we have a click track is when there are backing tracks (synth pad, strings, etc.) being played from Logic, and click is broken out into a third channel that only hits the monitor desk for IEM mixes. I have seen the band playing synced to a video as well, but I wasn't on monitors that week, so I'm not sure if they had a click track sourced from the video, or just started their local click at the same time as the video began.

  13. roberth@bvg.org

    We use Digital Performer running our click and backing track and sometimes bass when we don't have a bass player. We go out of the Mac with FireWire to a Motu Ultralight. The backing track goes out the Motu's L/R out. The click goes out one channel and bass out another. From there we go direct out for click and bass to the Avioms and the track goes to an aux buss then to the Aviom. One of the bands that I was mixing for was using a Tama RW105 metronome (which allows you to save tempos) coming out of the headphone jack to a DI and coming direct out to the Aviom. They all hated it because the freq. On the metronome was ear pearcing.

  14. roberth@bvg.org

    We use Digital Performer running our click and backing track and sometimes bass when we don't have a bass player. We go out of the Mac with FireWire to a Motu Ultralight. The backing track goes out the Motu's L/R out. The click goes out one channel and bass out another. From there we go direct out for click and bass to the Avioms and the track goes to an aux buss then to the Aviom. One of the bands that I was mixing for was using a Tama RW105 metronome (which allows you to save tempos) coming out of the headphone jack to a DI and coming direct out to the Aviom. They all hated it because the freq. On the metronome was ear pearcing.

  15. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Chris,
    We use a similar set up to Dave's; I should have put that in the post. When playing with backing tracks, we run 3 channels; stereo tracks plus a click. We used to have a two channel interface and then would try to route the click out the headphone jack, but that was a nightmare.

    At Christmas, I bought an M-Audio Fast Track Ultra 6-channel interface. 1&2 are the tracks, 3 is click. Routed the same as the regular click.
    mike

  16. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Chris,
    We use a similar set up to Dave's; I should have put that in the post. When playing with backing tracks, we run 3 channels; stereo tracks plus a click. We used to have a two channel interface and then would try to route the click out the headphone jack, but that was a nightmare.

    At Christmas, I bought an M-Audio Fast Track Ultra 6-channel interface. 1&2 are the tracks, 3 is click. Routed the same as the regular click.
    mike

  17. hook@ps139.com

    Thanks guys. We're not that sophisticated (yet), but it does make sense to look at something that could provide more than 2 outputs if we wanted it down the road. When you run 1/4" out of those units, do you still go through a DI or do you run line level to the board?

  18. hook@ps139.com

    Thanks guys. We're not that sophisticated (yet), but it does make sense to look at something that could provide more than 2 outputs if we wanted it down the road. When you run 1/4" out of those units, do you still go through a DI or do you run line level to the board?

  19. erik@jerde.org

    Chris – I run click, stereo loops, and stereo keys out of a computer interface. That interface happens to have balanced outputs so I built a 5 channel loom that goes from 1/4" trs at the interface to XLR at the subsnake located at the keys station. As long as your interface has balanced outputs you should be able to do the same, just check and make sure the outputs are balanced. If they aren't balanced then you'll need to spring for DIs.

  20. erik@jerde.org

    Chris – I run click, stereo loops, and stereo keys out of a computer interface. That interface happens to have balanced outputs so I built a 5 channel loom that goes from 1/4" trs at the interface to XLR at the subsnake located at the keys station. As long as your interface has balanced outputs you should be able to do the same, just check and make sure the outputs are balanced. If they aren't balanced then you'll need to spring for DIs.

  21. Samuel

    I've had to supply click / split-tracks to a 8 piece band plus orchestra. All the musicians needed (or thought they needed) to hear it. We bought a cheapo FM transmitter and told anybody who wanted to hear to bring their portable radios. We sent the split-track and a simple mix to the transmitter and There Ya Go! IEM's on a budget!

  22. coryvinz@gmail.com

    Great post Mike!
    We've been using a click for years. Mostly because I am a sound guy that plays drums now and then for our services. Our first 'in ear' monitor system was a Rolls box system. These were very cost effective and still are if you are a church that can't afford anything digital or have huge ideas and no idea on execution.

    We just ran the click into one of the Rolls PM350 personal monitor boxes (it has a stereo DI, mic input, and a line input to come from your FOH console) and the drummer could crank that thing as loud as he wants. For about $100, you can have in ears and a perfect tempo on a song without any annoying patching, etc.

    If you want to know more about this setup, I would be glad to send pictures, etc.
    coryvinz@gmail.com

  23. coryvinz@gmail.com

    Great post Mike!
    We've been using a click for years. Mostly because I am a sound guy that plays drums now and then for our services. Our first 'in ear' monitor system was a Rolls box system. These were very cost effective and still are if you are a church that can't afford anything digital or have huge ideas and no idea on execution.

    We just ran the click into one of the Rolls PM350 personal monitor boxes (it has a stereo DI, mic input, and a line input to come from your FOH console) and the drummer could crank that thing as loud as he wants. For about $100, you can have in ears and a perfect tempo on a song without any annoying patching, etc.

    If you want to know more about this setup, I would be glad to send pictures, etc.
    coryvinz@gmail.com

  24. zacharyjansma@gmail.com

    We have a DB90 running into a DI. It get's it's own channel on the Aviom system. It's also controlled by a foot pedal which seems to be easier for the drummer (I'm not a drummer).

    When we have a loop, we set it up on an iPod with the track in one side and click in the other. Then run it into a pcDI.

  25. zacharyjansma@gmail.com

    We have a DB90 running into a DI. It get's it's own channel on the Aviom system. It's also controlled by a foot pedal which seems to be easier for the drummer (I'm not a drummer).

    When we have a loop, we set it up on an iPod with the track in one side and click in the other. Then run it into a pcDI.

© 2021 ChurchTechArts

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑