Join Skye Lewin for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a click track, part of Pro Tools 12 Essential Training.
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- A click track is simply a steady beat that plays perfectly in sync with the tempo of your project. Recording to a click track is a very common practice especially in pop music, and makes it much easier to align tracks that were recorded at different times. Being a drummer, I usually record to a click track in most recording sessions. Unless the music you are recording needs to naturally vary in tempo, it is usually a good idea to record to a click track or at least a drum loop, even when you are just recording a scratch of your idea. Let us go to the Track menu and select Create Click Track.
Pro Tools will automatically create a new aux input with the Click II plug-in inserted. I'm going to press Play so we can hear what it sounds like. (ticking sound) Let us open the Click II plug-in. If you want to change the sound of the click, we can do so from within the plug-in. So all kinds of different preset that we can use, I'm just going to choose one at random here. And there's CLICK 1 and CLICK 2, CLICK 1 being the main downbeat, and CLICK 2 being the subdivision, in this case, quarter notes.
Let's hear what this sounds like. (ticking sound) So these are just random sounds, but you get the idea. You can customize the way the click sounds by changing these. I'm going to go ahead and close the Click plug-in and I want to show you a few other options. So let us open the Transport window, and if you do not see the MIDI controls, go ahead and enable it in your session. There's two ways that we can change the tempo. With a conductor track on, which we can enable by clicking here. We can go up to our tempo ruler and double-click this little marker and manually enter a tempo.
So if we wanted to change the tempo to, say, 140, we can just type it in and click OK. The other way that we can change the tempo is without using the conductor. Just disable it and double-click and type in your new tempo here. One thing that I should point out though is that if you have tempo changes or you want to have a rubato section with a click, you'll want to make sure that you use the conductor rather than turning it off. For example, with the conductor on, we can insert additional tempo changes by clicking the plus button. And wherever your cursor is located, a new tempo change will be added.
So if we wanted to slowly increase the tempo, the way to do it would be to use the conductor. If you want to temporarily disable the click, there are a few ways that we can do that. First we can go to the Options menu and choose Click. With the click disabled, when we press play, Pro Tools will not actually play back the click. So that is one way that we can mute the click or disable the click. Let's go back to the Options menu and reenable it. (clicking sound) Another way that we can mute the click is just by muting the click track itself; or with the click track unmuted, we can open the Click plug-in and click the Bypass button.
I'm going to close this Click II plug-in window. Now let's go to the Setup menu and choose Click/Countoff. From here, we can edit our click and count off options. You can have the click played during play and record or only during record, or even only during count off. Here, you can also specify which MIDI note will play for accented and unaccented click notes. You can also set the velocity for these and the duration. From the output, we can also choose an external sound source. This allows you to use a specific piece of external hardware as a click, if you desire.
Here you can set the count off. I usually leave it at 2 bars, and you can also set it to only play during record, or if you uncheck this, the count off will play even when you are playing back. I'm going to go ahead and click Cancel to leave this window, since I am not making any changes. If you did make changes that you want to keep, just click OK instead. Now let's go back to the Transport Window and just double-click the meter, and this will open the Meter Change window. We have a few more options about the click here. You can also change the meter here, or the subdivision. So if you want your click to count off in 1/8 notes instead of 1/4 notes, you can do that from here.
If you made changes, click OK. If not, just click Cancel. And now let us create a new audio track. Go to the Track menu and select New, and you can just leave it as a mono, audio track in samples. You can also use ticks if you want for this. And I'm going to call this Click Record. You can name it whatever you want. And what we're going to do is bus the output of our click track to the input of this click record track and that allows us to actually record the click track to an audio file, and this can be really useful if you are sending the session to someone else and they do not have Pro Tools.
That way, they have the same click that you used for when they record their part. If you do not have the I/O section visible in the Edit Window, you can enable it from the View menu or just switch to the Mix window. I am going to set the output of my click track to any unused bus. I'm going to set the input to the same bus. You may have noticed that the output of the click track is going to bus 1 and 2, but since I only created a mono audio track to record the click, I am only able to input to bus 1, rather than bus 1 and 2. Since I'm just recording the click in mono, that will just pull in the left side of the click.
If you want to get both and if you do not mind the double file size of a stereo track, you can instead create a stereo audio track and then you can import both channels of the click. In either case, once you are ready to record, just record enable the track. I'm going to click Return to jump back to the beginning of the session, and we can use one of our key commands or click Record and Play to start recording. And we have the 2 bar count off enabled. (ticking sound) And you can let it record for as long as you want the click to go.
Now let's go to Setup menu and open the Preferences. From here, let us go to the MIDI tab, and here we have a bunch of MIDI options, one of which relates to our click. Here we have Automatically Create Click Track in New Sessions. So if you want all of your new sessions to have a click track by default, just click this button and when you create a new session, there will already be a click track ready for you. Recording to a click track can help you play at a steady tempo, and this is usually a good idea especially when you are trying to work out a new idea or when you intend to collaborate with others. If you are working in music, I suggest that you get comfortable with recording to a click track.
- Exploring the Pro Tools interface
- Connecting hardware
- Adjusting preferences and settings
- Selecting inputs, outputs, and busses
- Understanding signal paths and gain stages
- Defining input and output settings
- Importing audio
- Recording and editing audio and MIDI
- Composing with virtual instruments
- Adjusting time, tempo, meter, key, and chords in arrangements
- Using delay compensation
- Mixing and mastering
- Exporting to MP3
- Setting up an effects loop (sends and returns)
- Importing and working with video
- Working to picture with music, Foley, ADR, and FX
- Archiving a session
- Using cloud collaboration in Pro Tools 12.5