How to Run a Click Track Live – 5 Most Common Methods

We are here to talk about click tracks. I will teach you all how to run a click track live.

In the past, click tracks were rarely used, then used in the studio only. On the other hand, they are widely used today, especially in big productions where each moment is programmed.

Sometimes only the drummer can hear a click track, while the band hears only the backing track, if there is one.

Anyhow, if the band uses click tracks, each member can decide whether to include them in his/her in-ear monitoring.

Let’s start by answering a few basic questions.

What is a live click track?

A live click track is a metronome sound played through a computer, phone, or other devices. In live circumstances, musicians (mostly drummers) use click tracks to keep the tempo steady and be in the groove with a backing track (if there is one).

The whole purpose of using a click track live is to have a more steady groove and be able to play backing tracks. While anybody in the band can choose to hear a click track (if the band uses a digital mixer) or only a drummer, the audience will not listen to it.

Is it hard to play with a click track?

Short answer: For inexperienced musicians, YES.

Long answer: Although it’s hard to get used to using click track at the beginning. Especially getting yourself in sync with click tracks and live bands simultaneously. After some time after, getting used to clicking way will come naturally. In the long run, using click tracks has several benefits:

  • It will enhance your groove and precision
  • It will allow a band to incorporate backing tracks
  • It will improve your timing in general, so it will be better even if you stop using a click track
How to Run a Click Track Live

How do I Run Backing Tracks live? 5 Popular Methods

Ok, it’s finally time to jump into the step-by-step process of how to run a click track live. These steps will depend on your setup.

Click tracks live can be played via:

  • Computer/Laptop
  • Electronic drum pad
  • Phone
  • Keyboard
  • Metronome
click track for drummers live

How to run a click track live via computer/laptop?

Step 1. Install click track software for live performance like Ableton, Studio One, Nuendo, Cubase, Proo Tools, etc

Step 2. Connect your laptop to your mixer. This will vary depending on a laptop and mixer model, and sometimes you’ll need to use some additional device like an external sound card.

Step 3. Connect in-ears/headphones to a mixer directly or by using an ear preamp in the output channel.

Step 4. On your mixer (it must be digital), play metronome through the same output channel you plugged into your ears.

Step 5. When everything is connected, play metronome in DAW

Alternative way:

Step 1. Connect your ear/headphones to your laptop directly or through an external device like a headphone preamp or the sound card.

Step 2. Now play metronome from your DAW or any other click app

Downsize of this kind of approach is that only you’ll be able to hear the click, not the entire band.

How do you program a click track?

Each DAW can program a click track in the metronome settings. Programming a click track usually provides endless possibilities like having the track speed up or slow down, change the time signature, click sound, etc.

Here is a quick guide on how to program a click track.

click track for drums

How to run a click track live via an electronic drum pad?

Electronic pads such as Roland SPD-SX can play click only to yourself.

Step 1. Connect your headphones/ in-ears to an electronic drum pad

Step 2. Separate click so only you can hear it, not people in front

Step 3. Play the click (this varies depending on a drum pad)

Usually, with modern sample pads, you have endless possibilities and setting with click and backing tracks.

click track software

How to run a click track live via phone/tablet?

Step 1. Install the metronome app on your phone/tablet; I highly recommend the Soundbrenner app for this purpose. This app allows you to make a setlist and skip easily between songs.

Step 2. Connect your headphones/IEMS directly to your phone or through a preamp or mixer. If you go directly, the signal might be too weak for live performance.

If u use a mixer, you need to plug in your phone/tablet the same as any other instrument (for this, you will need various adapters), then send a signal to any of the outputs and connect headphones to the same output directly or through a preamp.

If u use the preamp, connect the phone to the preamp’s input. This approach is more straightforward but lacks possibilities, like any of the band members being able to use the click.

Step 3. Play the click

Drum click track app I would highly recommend:

  • Gap Click
  • Soundbrenner
  • PolyNome Pro
click track pro tools

How to run a click track live via keyboard?

Almost all modern keyboards can play the click sound; it’s important that they can send it to a separate channel. If not, it will play in front as well.

Step 1. Connect the keyboard to a mixer using a separate output.

Step 2. Connect in-ears/headphones to the mixer directly or by using an ear preamp in the output channel.

Step 3. When everything is connected, play metronome on the keyboards

drum click

How to run a click track live via metronome?

By “metronome,” I mean any of the physical metronome gadgets.

Step 1. You can connect headphones/in-ears to the metronome directly. If the signal you are getting is weak, connect the metronome to the mixer or headphone preamp input.

Step 2. If you are using a mixer or a preamp now, you need to connect headphones to the output channel.

Step 4. Send the signal of the metronome to the very same channel you plugged your metronome into.

Step 5. Run the click

Use a click track to enhance live performance

  1. Create subdivisions so you will hear the click regularly and ensure you are even more precise.
  2. If you plan to use backing tracks, export them as mono to separate the click and backing tracks more easily later.
  3. Use a laptop to add more possibilities to click track features.
  4. Use a headphone preamp or a mixer so you can enhance the signal.

Wrap up

Running a click track live has all sorts of benefits, from being able to run backing tracks along with it to straightening up the groove of the entire band.

Practicing with a click track is also great for developing a sense of time and where one is. It may be heard initially, so I suggest you practice playing before or after the click to develop timing to further develop timing.

I hope this guide on how to run a click track live is helpful.

Please write me your thoughts in the comments!

Denis Loncaric

Denis Loncaric

My name is Denis. I am a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and blogger. Drums have been my passion for 15 years now. My idea is to write about the things I like and I am interested in. I want to share my drum passion with fellow musicians who walk, talk, and breathe drums.

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