The Click Feel Matters

It has always bugged me as a musician when a click track has little to no flexibility in how it sounds or feels.  Getting the click wrong can absolutely destroy a drummer's groove.  Small tweaks to the click's subdivisions and relative volumes can make a very big difference.

Lots of devices just bang out Quarter Notes, with possibly a stronger accent on the Bar's downbeat.  This seems like a universal way to fit a click to most material, but is it really the right click to use?  Sometimes perhaps, but depending on what needs to be played, the spread of the beats can be a problem.

Quarter Notes - 90 BPM


The obvious next step would be to add Eighth Notes to give the musician a little more to latch onto.  But should they be Eighth Notes that are the same volume as the Quarter Notes?  It adds information, but can be detrimental to the feel:

Eighth Notes without Dynamics - 90 BPM


But listen to how it changes with a simple volume adjustment that places the Eighth Notes below the Quarter Notes:

Eighth Notes with Dynamics - 90 BPM


Dial in the volume until it feels right for the song in question.  When it's right, there won't be a conflict of feel between what you are playing and what you are hearing.  And you can go further by adding 16ths; the idea is the same to use dynamics between all the subdivisions to make a better experience:

Sixteenth Notes without Dynamics - 90 BPM


Sixteenth Notes with Dynamics - 90 BPM


Time Signature is another factor.  It's not very helpful when the song has an odd Time Signature and that information isn't part of click in a meaningful and usable way.  Here's an Odd Time Signature click that has both feel and an unmistakable Time Signature cue:

5/8 Time Signature with Sixteenth Notes - 90 BPM


And how about Triplet feel?  If you have a metronome that is not capable of Triplet feel, then you are forced to go back to square one and use only Quarter Notes, putting everything at a disadvantage.  What you really want to hear is:

Triplet Feel - 90 BPM


Tempo Map

The final creative element is whether to use a metronome that is static, which is to say that it never "waivers" from the BPM.  Or to look for areas within a song where a slight increase in BPM might add excitement, or pulling the BPM back slightly adds a sense of weight.  Its worth exploring the Tempo Map capabilities of your DAW and to not fall into the trap of feeling like you are "wrong" if playing over a static click doesn't feel right.

Check out the section of this video where a Tempo Map is used.  This is a VERY extreme example.  Tempo Maps that adjust only a couple BPM between song sections can make a difference for the musicians performing to them.


All of the click tracks used in this article were created with CLOCKstep:MULTI.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.