I got a call one day to come in and help with a recording. A friend of mine was recording an album and he was happy with the drum part he was getting. He started off with a drum machine for the basic feel and recorded some guide guitar and vocal parts. The drum machine just wasn’t cutting it and sounded too artificial. The trouble was that he wanted the recording to be locked to a solid time for editing purposes. He got a real drummer in to try to fix the tracks but the guy had trouble playing to the click track. His time wandered a bit, sometimes ahead of the beat and sometimes lagging. It was close but noticeably out. What should he do? This is when I got the call. Could I come and play to somehow “fix his problem?”As it turned I helped, but not in the way he was originally thinking. You see, playing to a click track is really hard unless you do lots and lots of it. It’s as simple as that. It’s been a few years since I’ve played in a band that used backing tracks but I remember how hard it was to learn those songs while concentrating so hard on being locked to the click track.
I sat down to play and my time wasn’t much better than the last guy. Sometimes I was a fraction in front & sometimes a touch behind, but you could hear it. I’d forgotten how hard it was to do, especially without rehearsal! It’s not just drummers who suffer this problem either. You can stump most musicians by simply making them play to a metronome. What you need to understand is that it is a learned skill. You will only get good at it by doing lots of it.
In the end, I offered my friend a different approach which may work better in the long term. I suggested that he stopped trying for “perfect takes” of the whole song and just work at getting “perfect sections”. Just get the intro right, then just get the first verse right then the first chorus etc. You then have the option of copying your perfect verse and using it again and again. It is a time-consuming system but so is weeks of rehearsal trying to get the whole song perfect in one take. There is no escaping the time factor either way. It’s just up to you which system works best for you.
Anyone know of a better method?