Do you click track?

Do you use a click track when recording music? In this day & age, where most music is recorded to computer its probably purely an academic question (although it still strikes me as weird that ableton LIVE automatically quantizes your MIDI unless you disable it!) But I am sure many people, if they don’t use an actual click track, use something sequenced to a set tempo as their guide track for recording.

To answer the question historically, Paul Lamere author of the Music Machinery blog wrote some software to analyse the tempo variation of a piece of music & started analysing songs. Have a read of his results here (thanks for tip James!)

It was interesting in the ensuing discussion on Metafilter that some people explained the motivation for a click track as being directly related to making the song easy to edit. While Beat Detective & tempo maps mean that isn’t still necessarily the case the idea kind of bugs me. I have no issue with using click tracks, most of the music I mess with is jamming against sequenced material to a locked tempo. But here is my only bugbear about using a click track when working with a real drummer: if you use a click track then it basically means natural tempo variation is not allowed. Accordingly it needs to be an informed decision based on the specific piece of music & musicians involved, so that any possible detrimental effect on the music isn’t simply due to making the recording engineers job a bit easier…

Also related to the use of click tracks; As I am starting to want to record material from my modular synth I’ve been thinking about & researching how best to go about it. While I am generally just monitoring it via a mono or stereo/2 track feed, when it comes to recording it into ProTools it soon became apparent I need to be recording multitrack, heres a few scenarios I am setting up for.

1. Sequencing beats/bass
I’m using a momome 64 as sequencer to send MIDI to my modular synth and step sequencers: SQ8 and Frostwave Fat Controller, so I am then routing audio:
Low Freq drum modules (BD88+MFB BD) -> A105 LPF -> PT in 1
Hi Freq drum modules (SD88+MFB SD+HH88) -> PT in 2
AFG -> PT in 3 and Z3000 -> PT in 4
But I can easily see using the other 4 PT inputs to print alt/processed versions of the above eg send the Hi freq drums-> A137 Wave shaper -> RS500 Synthi Filter -> PT in 5 etc… And with the oscillators, depending on their actual use (bassline/sub/perc) print direct as well as processed versions…

2. Making complex drones
This involves all sorts of patching, processing & especially using the Evin matrix mixer & Stilton Adapter with multiple feedback paths.. While I am usually only listening to the composite output, I realise there are many different stages of the same sound available to be tapped off to record, for example before/after filters, ‘clean’ oscillator outputs, pre-feedback paths etc… So once I have a patch I want to record, I’ll tap in & split off alternate feeds from the main output.

I dont imagine sequencing my modular synth, as in drawing notes in a sequencing application, because that is one of the joys of using a modular synth: there is no looking at computer screens. You can just create & manipulate sound without the attention shifting computer crowding your music psyche. Thats also why I am using the monome to sequence; I can use whatever sequencer software I like without having to use a mouse or screen to make the music. You know, just like back in the old days when everything was steam powered!
But someone on Muff Wigglers modular synth forum suggested the genius idea of generating & recording a split click track to make sync & tempo analysis easier later on.

Someone in that same discussion linked to an interesting article that mentions what the author describes as Polish MIDI:

“Polish MIDI is a simple little thing I do for some pieces that involves recording about 15 minutes of pulses at around 20 hz onto one track. I take those pulses later and use them as a sync track. They keep several sequencer, sample/hold tracks tied together. They can be divided down to different rates appropriate to the piece. They can be used to trigger all kinds of events, long notes or slowly recurring sounds also.”

Which is barking up the same tree, and its a tree that I strongly suspect Volta is going to turn into a giant Kauri! The only problem being: I’ve just worked out how to tie up all my analogue i/o recording audio from my modular synth… and Volta is going to have to run on my laptop or something… hmmmmm….

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