Skip to main content

Music Secrets: Writing a Click Track

In the Digital Age, a composer is just as likely to write a work for the local university as he or she is commissioned by an ensemble in Australia.  From using notation software programs like Sibelius and Finale to using crowdsourcing and virtual Skype rehearsals, the classical composer today has dozens of tricks up their sleeves.

The shrinking of our world has forced many composers to develop tech skills that were not necessary 20 years ago. 

Many composers are familiar with the concept of a click track. Most commonly associated with live acoustic recording of soundtracks or recording studio sessions, the classical composer today may have to use a click track to help musicians thousands of miles away to stay in sync for a project. Complex multimedia projects involving live musicians, film scores, and cross-internet recordings. 
music score
The Logic Score is Helpful But Not Always Accurate

For my current project, Libertaria: The Virtual Opera, I have a cast of a dozen singers that are spread throughout the United States. They have never met for rehearsal, and most have never met at all. Libertaria is a modern animated opera, and the cast members are voice actors for machinima avatars. Because of this, each cast member needs to record their voice from their location and send the vocal stems to me via the Internet. Most cast members play one prominent major/minor role and play a part in the chorus. A few have given voice talents for speaking roles.

As a composer I have to create a click track for each member of the cast. I use Bandcamp to upload the click tracks and scores, which the singers use to record their parts. 

Download the cast rehearsal album: 

There are a few steps to effective click tracks and scores. In my creative process, I use Finale and Logic together for creating scores, click tracks, and the final mix. I usually compose a rough sketch and transfer it to Logic. After creating the song, I export the all tracks as MIDI and import into Finale to clean up the score. 

I check the music score against the Logic file. Listen if what you wrote matches up to what actually plays. The Logic score window is faulty while the MIDI is accurate. Many times the MIDI imported into Finale is slightly off, especially with triplets, pick-up notes, and smaller rhythmic divisions and syncopations. 
logic score window
Checking the Finale Score against the Logic Score

After I am satisfied that the score and Logic file match up, I create a separate click track in Logic. There are a few ways to do this, and I usually create a simple track using the Ultrabeat drumset. I play in a single measure and then repeat it. For more complex pieces, this allows me to add in special sounds for Rehearsal Letters and big parts of the piece. 

For click tracks for live performer and tape, I set up the click in one ear (for the conductor) and the other ear has a mono mix that may go to the house. Many halls have worked fine with mono, but I have also sent the click as a separate stem and the final concert had a stereo mix to the house and click in the conductor and/or performer's ear.
8ths in an Overly Complex-Looking Rhythm that Needs Cleaning Up

In Libertaria: The Virtual Opera performers record their voice with no instrumentation for later mixing. I include a separate piano track playing back the singer's cues. Be sure to check the piano part against the score. 

Adding Time Code in Finale
The score will include timecode and sometimes other useful information like descriptions of video imagery or extra music cues.  

The more you can give your performer without ending up with a cluttered score, the better. 

I find that many of my long distance projects require a click track because I work primarily with live performers and multimedia/electroacoustic scores. I hope you found these tips helpful. Thanks for checking in and be sure to subscribe for more great Music Secrets. 

Enhanced by Zemanta



Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 1

Feel like writing an opera is only for big name composers with big budgets? Or are you willing to take the plunge and create a work in one of the most compelling and cutting edge musical opera? Almost two years ago I embarked on the largest musical production I have created to date -  Libertaria: The Virtual Opera. After writing the award-winning Creation Oratorio and dozens of multimedia works, I wanted to combine my love of the audio and the visual into a single large scale work.  Find a Great Dramatic Story You need a strong story to write a compelling opera. Fortunately you can easily borrow from thousands of public domain works and modernize them. Think of West Side Story (just a contemporary version of Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet) .   Many great operas use Shakespeare, the Brothers Grimm , and Biblical stories, all of which include interesting characters, strong themes, and action.   Libertaria borrows heavily from messianic stories, but is se

Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 2

Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 2 After the incredibly positive feedback that I had from Music Secrets: How to Write an Opera, Part 1 , I thought I would talk a little bit about the composition angle of writing, at least how I do it in regards to vocal music . Here's a quick primer for anyone learning some of the basics of writing vocal music for opera, musicals, classical music , etc.  1. The Sketch I have had several great teachers in my life - Dr. Clare Shore , Hilton Jones, Dr. Kristine Burns, Paul Reller , Dr. Frederick Kaufman, Dr. Orlando Garcia, Chuck Owen, etc. My composition prof (and USF SYCOM guru) Paul Reller helped me develop the composition technique that I have had for years.  Download the Libertaria: The Virtual Opera Soundtrack at iTunes When I have the time to go through the entire composition process (because sometimes I have to skip a step or two for deadlines), I will start out with pencil, paper, and a piano (or keyboard, in my case).

Free Classical Sheet Music and Free Opera Downloads @ Scribd

Sheet Music (Photo credit: jayneandd ) Awhile ago I decided that I would upload the bulk of my music scores and sheet music to sites like Scribd, the Petrucci Music Library , and for free sheet music downloads. Some musicians told me that it was ridiculous to give away my music. The truth is that I don't depend on music publishing sales of my scores, and I would rather inspire a young piano student, percussion ensemble, opera singer, grandma, bored music student, or music teacher to play and study my music than hold on tight to my copyrights and let my music scores collect virtual dust on my hard drive.  The Petrucci Library, Scribd, and all have dozens of free music scores available for choir, vocal solos, piano, percussion, orchestra, opera, multimedia works, and more. You can see a short list of available free sheet music by checking out the Scores page. You might want to check out scores to my modern opera Libertaria: The Virtual Opera , an ex

Free Sheet Music Download: Classical Music Flute Solo Airborn Sand by Composer Sabrina Pena Young

Free Sheet Music Download: Classical Music Flute Solo Airborn Sand by Composer Sabrina Pena Young FREE MUSIC DOWNLOAD:,_Sabrina_Pena) Originally composed during a hurricane in South Florida . Inspired by a news reporter 's comments about "Airborne sand " whipping through her hair, the composer decided to write a work for flute that imitated the movements of sand whirling on a beach during a hurricane. It was subsequently performed at the University of South Florida in Tampa . Flute Solo Related articles Friday Freebie: Old Rugged Cross The Landing - Science fiction Robot music - Sabrina Pena Young Music Marketing Secrets: How to Use Twitter, Youtube, Social Media - S P... Quiz: Which Classical Music Era Are You? Latest iTunes 12.5 Beta Should Please Classical Music Fans After Dark - Romanian Rhapsody concert at the Limerick City Gallery of Art Russian inspiration for Clandeboye Festival The Tran

How to Write Film Music in 5 Easy Steps

How to Write Film Music in 5 Easy Steps How to write film music in five simple steps for any composer. Thanks for checking out this video! Subscribe for more great content! Like this? Then check out AMAZON BESTSELLER Composer Boot Camp 101, a comprehensive guide to songwriting, composition, and film music with 50 exercises for students, educators, and music professionals! DOWNLOAD TODAY

The Phantom of the Opera - Prague Cello Quartet

The Phantom of the Opera - Prague Cello Quartet

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Songwriter?

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Songwriter?  Becoming a successful songwriter is the dream of many musicians. But knowing how to write a song , learn an instrument, and make a successful musical career can seem impossible. Well, it does take a lot of work. Not everyone that wants to be a professional musician will succeed, and many just enjoy writing songs as a fun hobby for their enjoyment.  Do I need to Sing or Play a Musical Instrument? This might seem like a simple question, but it actually has a complicated answer. Why? Some songwriters never learned a single instrument yet can come up with great lyrics and catchy melodies. Others have played piano or guitar for years or are trained singers. So what is the answer?  As a songwriter, you need to understand different aspects of the songwriting process. That doesn't mean you have to have an incredible voice or be the best guitar player on the block. What it does  mean is that you need to know music. There is no better

What is Blue? and other Post Postmodernist Thoughts

1000 Pennies for Your Thoughts - NARA - 534149 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) One of my many hats is online university instructor. I teach courses in Media and Music History. In my Media in American Society class, we discuss many aspects of media, including truth in media, media conglomeration, marketing, advertising, and the like.  Today my students had an intriguing discussion/debate online about news and partisan politics. The debate was a healthy one, with some students claiming that they see all sides, others describing their favorite political pundits, and others lamenting the lack of authenticity in the media today. In the end, the fact that there would be no answer to today's questions, largely due to the lack of authenticity and the inability to trust anything in print, online, on a TV, spoken by a political leader, etc. etc., I brought up a short discussion on postmodernism, postpostmodernism , and its effects on American culture.  Here is a small snippet that I though