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If you’ve ever said that then you need to listen to this track, and then note that the light drum machine in the background means that the song was recorded to a click. Mayer and company are dripping with groove, and it’s all within the “confines” of the “perfect” time feel that comes along with playing to a metronome or loop.
I was curious about this when I first heard it, because the performance feels so “loose” and “greasy”… things usually obtained by playing without a grid. I was so curious, in fact, that I messaged Aaron Sterling earlier tonight about it. He vouched as to how the song was recorded…
Listen, here’s the deal (according to me): Playing to a click makes the music feel cold and rigid… IF… the musicians don’t know how to play to a click. That’s the end of it. Guys like Sterling can make a pocket like the one on Call Me the Breeze feel as loose and greasy as they want to, and it’s got nothing to do with using a click vs not using one. Rather, it’s an issue of musicianship, understanding of groove, and competency on the instrument.
A few months ago my friend Travis Faust started some great dialogue on Facebook regarding using a click track. He wrote a blog post about it and emailed the link to a bunch of drummers, and we all replied with comments. A really great discussion followed, and I meant to post it here when it happened and I forgot until now. Oh well.
You’ll want to read Travis’ blog post first, then check out the exchange…
Anthony Bloch was first to respond with this:
I think you got the right idea here. A metronome is a really useful tool, but you need to be able to play well without it. I think every drummer has struggled with this issue at one point or another. I still wonder about playing live with a click. I feel like a click can be a baby sitter sometimes in live situations, and takes away from the fun. It’s always more fun to play when the baby sitter is gone, right !? Besides, if your band is really well rehearsed and you have practiced a lot with and without click, you should sound pretty solid live. I’m not saying there aren’t situations where you would want to use a click live – it’s just my general opinion on the matter. I love using a click in the studio. I almost always use a click when I am working on new material. The fact that you are considering your own time issues means that you are well on your way to improving your time. Listen to Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” and tell me that time needs to stay exactly the same in a song. It’s a groovin’ recording and speeds up like 20 bpm from beginning to end.