Band finding it hard to stay in time with keyboard backing track, how to solve?

Droopy_TX

Member
Messages
464
What's the point of these tempo syncing technologies existing then, if they don't work?
They can work under ideal conditions; but, how often is a live performance an ideal environment? And, do you want to risk a live performance on a solution with a high degree of uncertainty?

Many tempo mapping technologies included in DAWs are intended to take a live recording and create click track that “breathes” along with the original performance; allowing additional tracks to be added.

This is great in-studio. If it messes up, you just do it again. No harm; no foul. But, as some have commented, when the technology goes awry in a live situation, often the best reaction is to shut it down.

That’s why, for live performance, I emphasize the need to have a click track that is fed to everyone to allow each to self-correct to the tempo; and, to provide a cue track to keep performers from getting lost in the structure of the song. (“Do we play the intro to the 2nd verse once or twice?”)

Tracks are unforgiving; but, given the proper planning and accommodation, they can work perfectly.
 
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Bill Dennis

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,001
Either click track for the drummer (no one else needs it.. just play to the drummer).. or, scrap the idea and just figure out how to make the songs work as a 3 piece.
They do if their are sections that have no drums
 
Messages
80
I think I remember The Who having the same trouble when touring Quadrophenia. It was a disaster, even for them. A few years later they started touring with keys (Rabbit) and have continued doing so to this day. Good luck!
 

RhinoRanch

Member
Messages
25
What's the good of playing with a backing track if you can't keep time. There are no tricks. Either your band cannot keep time or they can. Guys come over to my place who think they are musicians. I am talking 'bout guys who have bands and get paid to play in bars, and regularly perform at house of worship. I run very basic drum track with Alesis SA-16. They do not know when to come in, and even after I get them queued in ... after 1 - 3 mins of revealing that they do not know how to keep time, they ask me to turn off the drum machine so they can go back to playing slop and singing over their rhythm guitar that has no sense of measure.
 

bizcad

Member
Messages
10
Since he is using a midi kit, what about running the kick drum into the TAP tempo on Ableton. The key track will then be synced to the kick drum and the drummer can control the tempo. Just a thought.

Tap.png
 

markbuffyfan

Member
Messages
15
Did this for about 6 years . Simple answer is this you don’t play with thd click the drummer has to he just needs the click and the intro if you get backing tracks from say “karaoke custom” you can edit thd tracks down or switch them off and choose if you have a count in or if you have click . Here’s thd thing you have to be a good drummer to play with a click !
The other tech option is you track down a kahler human clock and get that to follow you but if your timing and drummer is all over thd place it’s not perfect . Practise makes perfect !
 
Messages
489
You won't like this suggestion - I'm not criticizing your drummer at all.....but if you had drums in the backing track, then you would have less trouble maintaining sync. Does your drummer play any other instruments? Does the drummer enjoy playing percussion and adding that to the mix? Also, if the drummer was the one creating his own backing track, then you could maybe avoid an ugly scene!
 

MrTAteMyBalls

Member
Messages
4,651
I don't understand the debate.

Make a stereo render with the track on one side and the click on the other. Click goes to the drummers headphones and the other side to FOH and stage monitors. Done.
 

Nathan Shane

Member
Messages
12
I played 15 years in one cover band and another 3 years in a different cover band and neither drummer had any difficulty playing to a click track. In fact, both drummers gradually developed incredible skills playing to a click track, so much so that they were able to play a little ahead of or behind the beat. Both drummers explained that after continued use, the click track just kinda faded into the background of the music.

The most relevant advice I can share is, always use two full measures count-in click for every song requiring a click track, you want that two-bar consistency. In addition, if the drummer is not pressing play to start the backing tracks, the first count-in measure will catch their attention and the second count-in measure provides the tempo.

Also, one drummer found some online schematic for building a simple flashing LED that was triggered by the click track. That way he had a visual to use alongside the audio click track.

Since I was both guitarist and keyboardist, I was using a Roland Fantom G6 for playing backing tracks which I created in Cakewalk SONAR as SMF (Standard MIDI Files). Since I was the one starting the playback, I could stop playback during the two measures intro click if I noticed the drummer or other band members were busy tuning or distracted by something else.

Also, someone in this thread mentioned about giving “cues” along with the click track. U2 does exactly that. Do an online search for U2 In-Ear-Monitors and there are several examples of this. You’ll hear audio cues of like:

1-2-3-4-Edge-2-3-4 (or)
Larry-2-3-4-Start-2-3-4
Bono…you get the point.

But as some who’ve posted in this thread, some drummers may resist at first playing to a click track but eventually learn to enjoy it because a click track can quickly teach a drummer just how bad their timing and tempo are. But in the long run, that click track helps the band sound a lot tighter overall.
 

MogwaiBoy

Member
Messages
3,853
We don't use click tracks as I can imagine that'd be a bit annoying and not very satisfying for a drummer.

Is this you imagining or is the drummer really against it? It's taken me years but our drummer has fully come around on clicktracks now, and honestly if you use "backing tracks" it's the only way to do it cleanly. If the keyboard backing track follows the click, and the drummer follows the click, the rest of you can just follow the drummer.
 

Sumatra_Gold

Member
Messages
11
Alright, so the band I'm in is a 3 piece (myself on lead vocals and guitar, plus a drummer who plays an electronic kit and a bass player) and we don't currently have a keyboard player. We play a mix of covers and original material. The bass player suggested we put the keyboard parts on tracks and just play along to them (though we might get a real keyboard player in the future).

We don't use click tracks as I can imagine that'd be a bit annoying and not very satisfying for a drummer. We thought that if the keyboard part plays the whole way though a song and it's quite prominent, then we'd be able to play along to it in time no problem, without a click track, for example songs like 'Separate Ways' by Journey or 'Straight From The Heart' by Bryan Adams. However we gave it a few tries and the band kept going out of sync with the keyboard track.

Is there a better way to do this? The ideas I had were:

1) Using keyboard triggers via a MIDI footswitch. This could trigger individual notes, chords or loops. Is there a way we I can simply hit a footswitch in order to reset/restart a loop etc if the band goes out of sync with the keyboard backing, in order to get it back in sync?

2) Is there some sort of software or hardware which syncs to the timing of the band/drummer, rather than the band having to follow the timing of the backing track? Surely this must be possible with the massively advanced technology we have today? It'd need to have some sort of tempo detection/syncing in it. It'd be great to be able to have a keyboard backing track running, which syncs to the band automatically then we can just enjoy playing without worrying about keyboards being out of time with us.

Any help appreciated! Thanks.
As many on this thread have written, use a click. However, if your drummer is having a hard time syncing to keyboard parts piped into his headset, I suspect the prospect of him being able to play to a click with any real consistency is dubious. Keep after it. He will probably hate it...in the beginning. But if he can get used to playing with a click and if his meter sufficiently improves, you'll be amazed how much more solid the rhythm section is. Good luck.
 

jackson5

Member
Messages
114
Contrary to what many people are saying here, I'd say that click isn't the only way.

I play in a band that uses occasional backing tracks and we don't use a click. We have our drummer trigger samples. He follows their inherent tempo, but he also retriggers them every couple bars so they're mostly in time even if the tempo fluctuates a bit. It's much more fun for us this way. It also introduces some much needed chaos. Does it occasionally get messy? Yes - but music that doesn't occasionally get messy feels a bit sterile to us.

I kind of made it a rule that we don't use a click live because it's just less fun. It doesn't have the same ebb and flow when you follow a click. Also, it's much more satisfying and exciting (for me) to be in a band where things can actually teeter on the edge of being in control.

As an audience member, I also hate watching bands where they're all following some offstage recording every song.

But y'know - to each their own.
 

KFC

Member
Messages
15
Hey,

Some really great ideas in this thread. Lots of different ways to do this, but reading to all your replies to many of the suggestions, I would only recommend one thing - learn to listen to each other while you’re playing.

If you can’t follow a keyboard, a click track, or a pad of any kind the issue really is training your ears, and I would guess an challenge for lots of bands.

Ear training isn’t just about notes or chords, it also includes being able to kee time, know how a time signature feels as you play it, and being able to listen to any rhythm source and play along to it.

Practice practice practice. The only way to make it work. You all have to commit to picking something - keyboard, backing track, click track, whatever you choose - and practice it until you are in time and know how to slow down or speed up while keeping time. It can take quite a few rehearsals to get this down, but it’ll be worth the hours once you figure it out. It’ll also develop other skills also.

Good luck. Would be interesting to see what you guys finally decide on. Let us know.
 

rs-guitar

Member
Messages
25
I’ve been on both sides: 1) Playing drums for large (20+ piece) church orchestra using click track; 2) Playing guitar with same group. As a drummer, the click track was ANNOYING, but it worked, so the other players didn’t have to hear the drums as loud. As a guitarist listening to the click track AND the drums, if the drummer couldn’t stay on beat, it was a mess and sometimes we had to just turn off the click mid-song.

Putting that in perspective for a smaller group…my guess is that most drummers are not going to enjoy playing with a click. If you “need” to play with keyboard tracks for higher paid gigs, then you have decide if it’s worth the hassle and “work” versus enjoyment. There are plenty of songs that will fit a three piece group, and you can avoid the grief.
 
Messages
6
Alright, so the band I'm in is a 3 piece (myself on lead vocals and guitar, plus a drummer who plays an electronic kit and a bass player) and we don't currently have a keyboard player. We play a mix of covers and original material. The bass player suggested we put the keyboard parts on tracks and just play along to them (though we might get a real keyboard player in the future).

We don't use click tracks as I can imagine that'd be a bit annoying and not very satisfying for a drummer. We thought that if the keyboard part plays the whole way though a song and it's quite prominent, then we'd be able to play along to it in time no problem, without a click track, for example songs like 'Separate Ways' by Journey or 'Straight From The Heart' by Bryan Adams. However we gave it a few tries and the band kept going out of sync with the keyboard track.

Is there a better way to do this? The ideas I had were:

1) Using keyboard triggers via a MIDI footswitch. This could trigger individual notes, chords or loops. Is there a way we I can simply hit a footswitch in order to reset/restart a loop etc if the band goes out of sync with the keyboard backing, in order to get it back in sync?

2) Is there some sort of software or hardware which syncs to the timing of the band/drummer, rather than the band having to follow the timing of the backing track? Surely this must be possible with the massively advanced technology we have today? It'd need to have some sort of tempo detection/syncing in it. It'd be great to be able to have a keyboard backing track running, which syncs to the band automatically then we can just enjoy playing without worrying about keyboards being out of time with us.

Any help appreciated! Thanks.
Maybe an Electro Harmonix B9 to play the keys parts?
 
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Elwin Ransom

Member
Messages
299
I use backing tracks at our church and there are a few good options for running click/cues to IEMs and the rest of the tracks to FOH. If you've got some budget, Abelton is really your best bet. There are tons of YouTube tutorials on how to set up tracks, change tempos, trigger via MIDI, etc. The possibilities are endless.
On the "small budget" end, I use free software called Prime, put out by a company called Loop Community. Granted, they are geared primarily towards the P&W world, but that Prime app is actually really flexible and works on a laptop, iPad or even an iPhone. As others have said, just use a stereo splitter and run click/cues to the left, and the rest of the tracks to the right. Works like a charm and our worship services have never sounded better. You can set up transitions between songs and automate any number of changes.

The way I typically approach it is to have tracks recorded for the entire band, then just mute the ones I don't need (ie: I have a real person for those parts). If a band member flakes, no problem. I unmute their track and we carry on. True confession time, I've actually started to enjoy playing with the prerecorded drummer more than a live drummer *gasp!*, though this might be due to the fact that most of our drummers are still pretty weak at keeping a steady tempo. Sad but true. You work with what you have.

And to add to the debate about click vs no click; I've never felt freer than when we started using click and cues. Now I'm 100% confident that each song will start with the correct tempo and I can concentrate on my own musicianship rather than trying to reign in a runaway drummer by stomping out the correct tempo, hoping he notices and adjusts. Also, as a vocalist and guitar player, there's no worse feeling than starting a song with a tempo that feels great on guitar, only to realize it's ridiculously fast/slow when you go to start singing. Embarrassing too. YMMV.
 

Craig S

Member
Messages
168
Without a click it can't be done, trust me. Check out any of the touring groups, the drummers got headphones and a click if they're playing to tracks.
 

gmccoy

Member
Messages
129
I did not read all the responses, so forgive me if this is redundant. Play to a click track, BUT, don't use an actual obnoxious "click" sound. Instead program a very simple drum track, like maybe bass drum on 1, snare on 2 and 4, and quarter notes on a high hat. This way the drummer is playing along as if there was another drummer in the band. If necessary, you can even play the track through the FOH. Nobody in the audience will be the wiser, except maybe other musicians, and who the hell cares what they think? BTW, it is probably best to run the track to the drummer through headphones or IEMs.

Also, you can customize your track to suit the song, eg side stick instead of snare, or shakers instead of hihat. You know....
 

nikkinoo11

Member
Messages
120
Trying to get all the info from what you write....................you don't want to use click? Why not? It's the most common solution and the obvious one. Are you saying the Keys tracks have been recorded with no click and you're trying to busk along to that?

If that's the case, you're screwed, that'll never work. Use them to get a new keys player bedded in as quickly as possible. If the backing track has a click, use it. That's what it's for.
 




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