Have you ever wondered which bands use click tracks when performing live?
Well, most of them!
Using a click when performing live has become a staple of the live music industry in recent years. This is mainly down to the following three benefits that playing with a click offers:
- Being able to offer as rhythmically ‘tight’ a sound as possible
- Being able to incorporate pre-recorded backing tracks into the live set
- Being able to sync the show up with an impressive set of visuals (such as a pre-programmed light show or a video)
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that many of the bands that you’d never even think would use a click track live…well…use a click track live.
In this article, we’re breaking down our top 7 bands that use click tracks live, each with some insight into how and why they incorporate click tracks into their live show.
Let’s dive in! (or count in rather…)
1. Pink Floyd
Despite being known for their spaced-out sound and heavy use of improvisation, Pink Floyd were actually one of the earliest bands to start using a click track live.
The release of their ground-breaking rock opera The Wall in 1980 saw the band adopting a much ‘tighter’ and classic rock-influenced sound than much of their earlier psychedelic material.
To promote the album, the band stepped up their tour game with an extremely elaborate multi-media stage show, complete with stunning visuals and detailed choreography.
In order to ensure such an elaborate stage show was perfectly lined up (and to make the new material sound as tight as possible), drummer Nick Mason played to a click through his headphones to hold things together.
It’s even alleged that on one particular bootleg from The Wall tour, there’s a moment where the click track was accidently played over the PA for the audience to hear.
As arguably one of the most successful and influential rock bands of all time, U2 are famed for their excellent live capabilities, bringing their anthemic brand of rock music to stadiums all over the globe.
As a result, the pressure’s on for the band to deliver a top-tier live performance, which they successfully do so with the use of a stunning light show and an unbelievably tight sound.
In order to pull this off, the band makes use of a pretty detailed and elaborate click track system, leveraging several different cues (including a tambourine, click track and count-ins from the monitor engineer).
Here’s a great recording of The Edge’s in-ear monitor track ripped straight from the desk during a performance in Argentina, which details exactly what he hears while performing:
Although notorious for their (ahem…clumsy) punk rock performances in the early 2000s, Blink-182 have embraced the use of click tracks in their more-recent live performances.
Their use of click tracks during their live show not only keeps the band in time, but allows them to include a pre-recorded second guitar part in many songs, contributing to a much fuller sound.
Although not confirmed, some fans suspect that guitarist Matt Skiba and bassist Mark Hoppus have the studio version of the vocal track for each song running just to their in-ear monitors, which they can sing along to and ensure their pitch is matched up.
This suspicion aroused when the studio vocal track to their 2003 hit Feeling This could be heard in the Front of House mix upon opening their set at the iHeartRadio ALTer EGO Festival:
Drummer Travis Barker has gone into detail about the band’s use of click tracks in several interviews, explaining how the click is actually the only thing he hears in his monitor mix.
4. Bring Me The Horizon
Bring Me The Horizon aren’t exactly a band that does things by halves:
As one of the most influential rock bands of the 21st century, they’ve remained at the forefront of the industry since their inception in 2004, constantly setting the trend for the heavy rock and metal scene.
Much of this comes down to their extremely comprehensive live show, including orchestral and electronic-like backing tracks set to a stunning visual backdrop.
As a result, the band has used a click track when playing live throughout the majority of their career. In fact, drummer Matt Nicholls is very open about his use of a click track when playing live, once giving the following quote to an interviewer:
“I hate playing drums without a click now….Our [stage visuals] are all mapped to the click, so it just pulls everything together and makes it tighter.”
5. Dream Theater
Like most of the other bands on this list, Dream Theater make use of a visually-elaborate stage show as well as pre-recorded backing tracks, making the use of a click track essential.
However, it’s also worth noting that Dream Theater’s music is extremely technical, featuring both tempo and time signature changes at every twist and turn.
As a result, they have to make use of pre-programmed click tracks that account for the various tempo and time signature changes.
Whenever drummer Mike Mangini hits a new section of the track, he’s got to ensure he’s bang on time with a wildly fluctuating click track (Which by the way, is really hard to do!)
Here’s a great example in the form of their track Enigma, which also features a killer drum solo by Mark Mangini himself:
Although only a three piece band, muse are known for replicating the sound of a hundred performers during their live shows.
They achieve this grandiose sound through two means:
- Using an array of different effects effects (such as chorus, delay and distortion)
- Incorporating backing tracks into their live set (hello, click track!)
Much like we saw with Pink Floyd earlier on in this article, Muse are also known for their visually-elaborate stage shows (seriously, I went to one of their shows in Minneapolis once and could see nothing but lazers the entire time).
In order to keep both the visuals and the backing tracks in time, the band make use of click tracks when performing live:
7. Neck Deep
Welsh pop punk heroes Neck Deep have embraced the use of click tracks since their early days of touring, with all members listening to the click via their in-ear monitors.
This allows their live show to not only be incredibly tight, but also for the band to make use of pre-recorded backing tracks.
A notable example is the spoken radio-like part that’s played over the intro of their 2017 smash hit In Bloom:
However, when playing to a click live, it’s vital that the band stays perfectly on cue in order to make sure any backing tracks and tempo changes come in at the right time:
In the following performance of their track Happy Judgement Day, vocalist Ben Barlow starts the bridge a couple of bars late, causing a momentary lapse of timekeeping during the performance.
Fortunately, drummer Dani Washington hones in on the click track and brings the band back into time with the aid of bassist Fil Thorpe Evans, owing to their musicianship:
Although we’ve offered an insight into our top 7 examples of bands that use click tracks live, it’s worth reinforcing that this is an incredibly common practice in the modern-day music industry.
If you’d like to learn more about how both click tracks and in-ear monitor systems work, why not check out our article on why singers wear earpieces next?
Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about how you can incorporate a click track into your own band’s set, check out our killer list of 20 band practice tips.