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I'm looking to get my drummer ready for recording in a studio with a click track, we've usually sworn against it, but I feel it's time for it leading up to a bigger release.

Our songs have some tempo changes, I was wondering what the accepted way of recording drums to a click track would be for this, do you record each section separately, our use your DAW to automate the tempo after the appropriate amount of bars? Or is it simply a lot less time consuming to just lock it to one tempo?

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If you wrote the song to have tempo changes then you had an artistic reason to make that decision which should overule all - so I certainly would not advocate locking it to one tempo.

The best option for recording with a click and capturing the best performance is to go through and automate your click. This can be a lot of work but it's definitely worth it, in my experience. If you're trying to step up your game, this is the best option. You could also make a recording of the click track, like an MP3, and everyone can have a copy to practice with, not just the drummer.

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  • Note that a tempo change will often actually happen one beat BEFORE the barline.
    – Laurence
    Oct 25, 2018 at 11:34
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Some pieces of music have very precise tempo changes, and I would suggest that click tracks for those should be prepared using simple MIDI composition tools. Since most of the click track would just be a very simple pattern copied and pasted a bunch of times, such preparation shouldn't take very long.

Some other pieces of music, however, may have a section which is at a rigid tempo, followed by a bit of drum improvisation which flows out into another section that's at a rigid tempo. This could be accomplished either by having a metronome synchronize to the drummer while coming out of the improv section, and having the drummer then stay in sync with the metronome after that, or by splicing a recording of a regular beat onto the end of the improv section (whose ending should be designed to flow into it).

Workign with a piece of music where all of the beats can be mathematically computed in advance may be nicer than having the beat phase after the improv section be a result of whatever the drummer felt at the time, but it shouldn't affect things too much if all of the other tracks are silent at some point in the drum improv. Even if one masters everything using one take of the improv section, and then decides one prefers a different take which is 241.37ms shorter or longer, modern tools should make it easy to split all of the other tracks there and trim 241.37ms from them or add 241.37ms of silence.

If there is some periodic ambient noise (e.g. a faint 4Hz undulation in the sound of the air conditioning) in some of the other tracks, it might not be possible to make such edits seamless. Unless one will be stuck with such unavoidable ambient noises (e.g. one is recording a pipe organ in a space with noisy air conditioning over which one has no control), it will generally be more useful to work on keeping such noises out of one's recordings than to try to work around their presence afterward.

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