You might get a kick out of this.

Tad, one of my subscribers, has a problem a lot of us deal with:

I love your posts and emails. Thank you.

Recently I recorded an artist playing acoustic guitar, and he wanted to use a click track. I had two large diaphragm condensers in an XY pattern at the twelfth fret.

My problem was that even though the player had over-the-ear closed-back headphones on and the click level was minimal, the mics picked up the click and you could hear it when the guitar would ring out and hold a chord.

Have you ever encountered this problem?

Yes. Yes I have.

In fact, click bleed was the bane of my existence when I first got into recording seriously.

I would record this beautiful, life-changing acoustic guitar track. Then while mixing and listening to the final chord of the song, I would hear it.

“Tick…tick…tick…”

As the guitar would hold out the final chord, the sound of the click track in the headphones would get picked up by the mic(s).

I would try everything to fix it, like using the pencil tool to actually remove the ticks from the audio file. Nothing worked.

Finally I had a revelation.

Rather than trying to remove the click bleed from the recording, I needed a way to prevent the click bleed entirely.

My solution?

Automation.

Since I was recording by myself in my studio, I couldn’t reach over and turn down the click track in the middle of a take. Automation, on the other hand, COULD do it.

So, before hitting record, I write in some automation on the click track. This automation turns the volume of the click track DOWN just before that final chord of the song.

Or sometimes I’ll use mute automation to have the click track mute just before the final chord.

This allows me to play along to the click for then entire song. Then, when it’s time to let that final chord ring out, the click disappears from my headphones — automagically — and I can let that chord ring out for as long as I want.

No more click bleed.

By the way, this works no matter what instrument you’re recording — vocals, accordion, nose flute — take your pick. πŸ™‚

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  • Kapitano

    What follows is the sum total of what I’ve learned the hard way about click tracks:

    * Don’t use the default clicks if you can avoid it. Make your own click sounds. In fact, make a little suite of them, because different musicians will work better with different clicks.

    * Use sine waves. They’re at least as clearly audible as metronome samples or noise bursts, but they bleed less and they’re much easier to EQ out.

    * Make them as short as possible. 5ms is ample.

    * High clicks are clearer, but low clicks bleed less.

    * Try visual clicks. They work fine for some people, and not at all for others.

    * I’ve tried phase-inverting one side in the hope that it’ll cancel, but the mic placement was too critical.

    * And finally, if you’re recording your own vocals, never use a headset mic. The click vibrates out of the phones, along the headstrap and into the mic – guarrunteed bleed.

  • I’m a big fan of using in-ear monitors during tracking. In a commercial setting, you wouldn’t be able to supply these for every client, of course. But when I’m tracking myself, they work great; they serve the dual purpose of killing ambient sound from the drums (IEMs give over 20dB of attenuation) so I can hear the guide tracks and click at a reasonable volume, AND prevent click bleed into the overhead mics. Win-win.

  • Letzter Geist

    one thing i’ve done a few times, is to record a scratch guitar part to the click and then record the actual guitar part over the scratch. that way if there is any bleed, it will just blend in very minimally with the signal you are trying to capture. this could work with people who are asking how to eliminate click bleed while tracking.

  • Xan

    Some great ideas here for keeping the click out to begin with. But I am curious to hear more about how to be rid ov it once it’s already there…

    • Greg

      Yep! thats what I want to know Xan

  • I was just going to say “use a low frequency sound instead of a click”, but I see other people have already said that. πŸ™‚

  • Jay

    I just use a kick drum track from Fl Studio rewired to my recording daw. No bleed at all and perhaps a little more musical to play along with.

  • Jay

    If just use a kick drum track rewired from Fl Studio, into my recording daw. No click track bleed at all, works great and perhaps a little more musical to play along with.

    • I love using a kick as a click. Great point, Jay!

      • Jay

        As most of us, in the past I have a couple songs that I loved the performance I recorded, only to be ruined by a click track bleeding through. I never used automation but seems to help in most cases, however, I am already used to the “kick as a click”. Good phrase Joe, I like it.

  • In the past I have thrown drumagog on the click track with a sample of a shaker I tracked in with all the top rolled off. Had no problems after that. The shaker I sample I used was actually a large salt container turned sideways. Hope this helps.

  • Have the listener suck it up and use ear buds for his monitor feed, and then put a pair of closed back headphones OVER his ears (earbuds still in his ear).

    I usually only run into click bleed problems when the player wants his monitor feed quite loud, and this is the quick solution that solves my problem every time. Ghetto-fabulous, right? Just be glad I didn’t included duct tape.

    • Great idea, IF you have earbuds.

      • if you can’t get earbuds, you probably can’t turn the lights on to record.

        • Eh…earbuds aren’t on the top of my list. Regular headphones aren’t much of a problem for me, and most people are more comfortable with them, ESPECIALLY singers.

          • Xan

            You can get a pair ov earbuds for a s little as $2. Although they would proly sound a little crap, they would get you through the take.

            If you wanted even more extreme isolation you could use a pair ov actual industrial ear-muffs over the buds instead ov ‘phones.

            Beltane’s bassist (old bassist, Kvathairein) once had to do this at a recording we did, but it wasn’t due a bleed issue. It was simply we didn’t have enough ‘phones..! hehehe πŸ™‚ But it worked..!

  • Frank Nitsch

    Hi Joe,

    this is generally a good idea, but it only works for final chords and such. You may as well have a part in the middle of the song, where there’s no rhythm instrument playing, but you need to stay on the click, or you need some count-in at some point in time. How would you handle this?

    Thanx

    Frank

  • Bobby

    Great idea Joe. Being the engineer most of the time, I have always made it a habit to reach for the mouse at the end of a song and mute the click for that last chord. Any suggestions for sustained chords in the middle of the song though? I’ve heard tips about recording a click and moving it 180 degrees out of phase with the original take, but I haven’t had much success with this working!

  • Dave

    Would using sound isolating ear buds be effective? I was going to experiment with some Koss, the Plug with our acoustic tracks when recording. I even thought of using hearing protection earmuffs over top of isolating ear buds (if they can keep sound out of the ear cup, they can probably contain sound in the ear cup). It’s a $30 solution I’m willing to try.

  • Greg

    Defeating Click Bleed….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSXnj1BqKtI

    Let me know your thoughts

    • Andre

      With a click noise leaking during the instrument is playing, I would try to record a click alone track, and play it (phase inverted) at the same time than the instrument track …

      Sometimes, I used to turn down the click a little bit, and put on the screen “giant bar display” so I can “see” the beat at the same time I listen to it .

      • Inverting the phase is certainly an option, but it’s a LOT of work, when you could just automate the click and NOT record any bleed at all.

  • Another way I found (if you’re not 100% on how many bars you’ll be recording for so can’t use automation) is to use a low kick sample instead of a standard click.

    Anything that’s lower frequency won’t bleed nearly as much (if at all).