To Click or Not to Click…


When you’re ready to do any serious recording, the question inevitably arises: should I, or should I NOT use a click track? If you’re new to the term, a “click track” is a track that is played in a musician’s headphones while they are recording to help them keep in time. Because the drums help to form the foundation or backbone of a rhythm track, the click track is most commonly used when recording the drums.

There are several pros and cons to using click tracks:


  1. Helps the musician to maintain a consistent tempo throughout the performance.
  2. This, in turn, allows for much easier editing of a track after the initial performance. For example, using a click can allow to you punch in and out on a drum track, which would normally be very difficult, if not impossible.
  3. Having a consistent tempo throughout the song also makes it easier to copy and paste certain parts of other tracks, which should lock in well with the drums. An example would be a repeated chorus on the Vocals. If the singer really nails it on the first chorus, you can simply copy and paste that chorus throughout the rest of the song. You could do the same for repeated passages of any instrument–guitar, bass, keyboards, etc.


  1. Playing with a click track requires practice & skill, and can be difficult for musicians who aren’t accustomed to doing it.
  2. Some people think that playing with a click track makes the recording sound too “mechanical”, “lifeless”, or “sterile”. The argument is this: why have a living breathing drummer play on the track if it’s going to sound like a drum machine? Just use a drum machine! In addtion, some people actually like the tempo of a song to “breathe” just a bit, which (in their opinion) can add a nice vibe to a song.
  3. Playing with a click track requires some additional resources in the studio, including a hardware or software metronome of some sort, a headphone amp, and some headphones with decent isolation so the drummer can hear the click plainly over the sound of their drums.

Flavors of the Click Track
There are two major variations of the click track. First is a literal “click” sound or tone that’s generated by a metronome (hardware or software). Second is a a programmed MIDI drum or percussion beat (such as a cowbell) that the drummer just plays along with. Some drummers find that playing along with a programmed drum beat feels more natural than playing with a literal click. This would seem to hold especially true for drummers who are accustomed to playing along with their favorite CD’s in their headphones. Other drummers seem to have no trouble playing with a click, and actually prefer it so they can more easily distinguish the sound of their own drums from the click track.

A click track can also be enhanced by adding a scratch rhythm guitar track, bass track, and/or vocals–whatever helps the drummer play in a natural, fluid manner, and helps the drum tracks sound great. This will require more time and effort to lay down these tracks (which may ultimately be scrapped), but if it helps you to create better drum tracks, it may be well worth the trouble.

So Should I Use it or Not?
Now we come to the what I will call “The Great Click Track Paradox”:

If it’s difficult for you to play along with a click track, you probably need one. If it’s easy for you to play along with a click track, you probably don’t need one.

This may sound confusing at first, but it makes perfect sense. If it’s easy for you to play with a click, you probably have a good “inner clock” that causes you to naturally stay in consistent time as you play. If, on the other hand, you find it difficult to play with a click, it probably means you don’t have a great internal clock, and could benefit from the click track to help keep you in time. However, for some drummers, it may be so difficult to play along with the click track that the song suffers, and you would be better served not to use one at all.

Ultimately, whether or not to use a click track is a subjective, artistic decision. In my experience, I’ve made some great recordings that both did and did not use a click track. For those who choose to use a click, here’s some final words of advice for the drummer–if you do decide to use a click track in the studio, practice with one in advance. You don’t want to waste lots of time and energy in the studio finding out whether or not you’re comfortable playing with a click. The answer to the question–“to click or not to click?” should already be answered well in advance of your tracking session.

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