When I first heard about people using click tracks I was very annoyed, offended actually. Why would a good musician, a drummer, use some electric rhythm generator? It seemed so insulting, implying that the drummer couldn’t do this simple thing from their talent.
First I heard about them then I actually experienced it working with producer Terry Brown. The nerve of him! I was all set to talk critically and angrily to Cleave Anderson the drummer, about this dastardly low blow by Terry. I rolled my eyes and said to Cleave
“I can’t believe he wants to use a click track!”
“I like it. It’s like I have a friend in my headphones and he has perfect time.”
I was a wee bit stunned. I had no clue someone might think like that – and why shouldn’t they?
When I was in high school I had the same response to the invention of electronic guitar tuners. What? Can’t you guys tune your guitars? I can tune my guitar fine thank you. But it’s not about whether or not you can tune or whether you can keep time. It’s just a perfect reference so you can compare yourself to it. It’s just accuracy.
Recently I wrote about Melodyne and how it blows my mind to use this to correct pitch problems while producing music. Among the people who sent me personal messages were a couple hostile weird guys who wanted me to know I was a sell out blah blah blah. It was a bit hilarious to read and a bit ludicrous. Where have I heard such holier than thou opinions before? Realizing how unlikely it was that I could explain to them it’s just a great useful tool, I did the mature compassionate thing – blocked them for eternity.
There are two pitch correction softwares that seem to lead the market when recording people need them – Melodyne and Antarres. They are both from Star Trek.
I tried Antarres first (absolutely amazing) but soon an opportunity to buy Melodyne came along so I tried the demo and then I had to buy it. It was also cheaper than Antarres but really what price tag for access to super powers? I spent about $100 – total steal.
There are pitch correction plug ins already in Logic etc. but they aren’t seamless when the pitch problems are more serious. They simply force the correction and that unfortunately sounds very electronic. Kind of surprising it would become a fad, as it did in the 2000s with Kanye West and a zillion others. Lots of fads take me by surprise.
The bullnose style nose-ring is probably the most surprising fad of all time (to me). A close second would be pants that hang below one’s asshole. Who’d a thought?
The Star Trek aspect of both Antarres and Melodyne is that if you’re skillful then the listener doesn’t hear anything more than beauty. Think about it, you can capture someone singing or playing a monophonic instrument and then alter the waveforms within certain parameters to rejig the performance in terms of pitch or in terms of what kind of wave generated the original sound. Make them sound completely in tune even if they weren’t in the first place. Like they were correct all along.
Even when it requires a zillion hours of close-up attention and auditioning various stabs to fix it, it is more than worth it. Like patiently using the cloning and stamp tools to repair a torn and crumpled photo after scanning it. Presto your labour might result in realizing a new perfect version.