I’ve discovered one of the secrets to why the big megachurches have (usually) great music. And it isn’t necessarily because they have money to hire pros (although that is sometimes the case.)
It’s the click track.
I’ve seen firsthand how click tracks can turn ordinary, amateur players into something quite special. Why? Because one of the biggest problems with the typical praise band is they’re rhythmically sloppy. The songs will sound clunky. If your drummer has lousy timing your musical ship will sink before it will have even left the dock (your band will sound bad if even the most professional of players are in a band with a drummer that’s not steady.) Once the drummer is tight other players naturally lock in.
If you present the idea of a click track to your praise band and they squeal with joy count yourself blessed. Cocky amateurs will often throw a fit when presented with the idea of a click. If a drummer refuses to play with a click track then I know he’s not someone I’d want on my team. You’ll hear excuses like – a click kills the feel, it’s too stifling, blah blah blah, but what they’re really saying is their timing is so bad they can’t keep up with the click.
If you’re in a band that plays the same music night after night you may not need a click. I’m talking here about the quickest and easiest way to get a revolving door of amateur players to play new music week after week with the finest musicianship possible. And that’s accomplished with a click.
Once you get your band used to the click all kinds of fun can start happening – you can add sonic icing like drum loops, multitracks, background vocals and sync video.
A church I played at started using a click with great resistance. The guitarist was so outraged he started stomping his foot during rehearsal to try and get the drummer off the beat! The worship leader wouldn’t budge on the click so the guitarist ending up leaving the band. You do what you can to help people through change but sometimes it’s impossible for the band to move forward until opposition leaves. And that’s fine – that guitarist can find a ministry he’s happy with who won’t use a click! You have to crawl before you can walk and it took weeks before the band became comfortable enough with the click to even add a drum loop.
There’s no right or wrong way to start. To get your feet wet, try just using a click on the first one or two upbeat songs in your set and go clickless for the ballads. I enjoy having a click for the full set, then going free-tempo with just piano/vocal on a repeat of a chorus after a prayer or Scripture reading.