from my notebook

My head is full of thoughts, and I have to write them down.

Click Tracks for the Small Church Band

Several months ago, it started becoming more and more evident that our band was struggling with tempo issues.  Over the course of that time we talked about how it would be nice if we, or at least the drummer, could utilize a click track.  We discussed various options but found nothing we could easily and economically implement.

We had three main criteria that had to be met:  1) It had to be free or extremely cheap, 2) Everyone that needed to hear the click had to be on an in-ear monitor of some type, 3) It shouldn’t add any steps to our work flow during the service.

Finally this summer we were able to put a process into play that meets the above criteria and seems to be working quite well for us.  Criteria #1 was met by using software we already had to generate and play back the click tracks.  More on that below in our actual procedure.

Criteria #2 was met through the process described here.  Since we had other reasons for putting all the band on in-ears, I didn’t consider this an added expense.  We were even able to utilize an extra Sound Mate hearing assist system for the Music Minister to hear the click.  Granted its quality isn’t great, but he hasn’t complained, and this also allowed me to lower the volume in the stage wedges a little more.

Criteria #3 took a little more experimenting.  I didn’t want the Audio or Computer person to have any additional steps added to their duties during the service.  I knew our worship software allowed audio playback and attachment of audio files to a song, so this was where I focused.

We quickly found out a short click track of say 10 measures would not work because the audio did not loop seamlessly in the software playback.  This was true of EasyWorship and ProPresenter.  (We made the switch from the former to the latter this summer as well.)  So for this procedure to work we would have to generate click tracks to cover the full length of the song.  We normally use 200 measures as a standard length.  This will vary, of course, depending on the tempo, but we want to make sure we have plenty of front end and back end on the track to ensure it doesn’t run out before the band is finished playing.

Here is our procedure:

All tempos are documented in Planning Center Online.  With new songs, we start with the tempo noted on the song’s lead sheet.  Click tracks are generated using the free Audacity software.

Go to Generate → Click Track and plug in the tempo and number of measures.  (The faster and longer the song, the more measures you will need.)  

Once the band decides on a tempo, it is time to export the track to an MP3 file.  Go to File → Export.  I recommend you put the click track files in their own folder named “click tracks” or something equally identifiable.  Rather than naming the files with the song title, we name them according to the tempo, ex. 80 bpm.  This allows us to use the tracks for any song with that tempo and eliminates duplication.  Now that we are building up a library of click tracks in various tempos, more often than not we are able to just jump right to this final step in ProPresenter.

We have an audio playlist in ProPresenter called “click tracks” where all the MP3 files reside.  We simply drag the MP3 of the click tempo for the song to the first slide of the song lyrics (we always make sure this is a blank slide).  The click will start when that slide is activated and continue throughout the song.

using click tracks in ProPresenter

While this procedure does require more work on the front end of service preparation, the only thing required during the service is to be extra deliberate with the timing of activating the first slide of a song.

We took several weeks of rehearsing with clicks before ever using them during the service.  It has definitely taken some adjustment on everyone’s part, but so far so good, and all at no additional cost.


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One thought on “Click Tracks for the Small Church Band

  1. The other easy option? get an ipod, iphone or ipad, preferably ipad. Download the tempo app by frozen ape! You can create a list of all the songs you sing, save them, make new lists for sunday and drag and copy them.

    This app is absolutely golden and also you can increase or reduce the tempo during worship for those who like to be flexible and also if you fall out of tempo, you can always stop and start again for those who are still struggling with tempo!

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