The amateur orchestra I am in, the Cambridge Concert Orchestra, are involved in the Somme100 FILM project which means we'll be performing Laura Rossi's score alongside the silent film footage. To keep things synchronised our conductor is given a click track so that she can conduct us perfectly in sync with the film.

One challenge we are facing is what to use so that the click track is audible over the sound of a full orchestra, especially for the bits where we are all going for it. We tried a simple in-ear bud style headphone on the audio-out of an Android tablet and that was too quiet.

What should we use to keep the click-track audible for our conductor?

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    You could probably have a visual version of a click track displayed on the tablet.
    – user28
    Mar 24, 2016 at 22:21
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    I like the idea of a visual click - like a dancing dot conducting a 4/4 pattern or whatever. But if that's not possible, does the audible click have to be on the strong beat? I've heard of drummers asking for a syncopated click - so they mentally have to construct the strong beats but because the click occurs in the gaps between strong notes it's easier to hear. Also can you change the sound of the click? A percussive sound might cut through better then an electronic beep. And is the conductor the only one who can hear the click? Or the whole orchestra? Mar 24, 2016 at 23:50

2 Answers 2


A proper set of live-monitoring buds like InEar StageDiver or Shure SE215 should do the trick allright. These are, unlike HiFi buds, closed, thus attenuate the ambient sound; often quite strongly (so even the murderous volume at a metal concert doesn't prevent the drummer from hearing the click) but in the better models the sound remains reasonably clear, which is obviously important for a conductor. Custom-molded earpieces can be made with a wide range of attenuations, obviously not quite cheap. Still, the attenuation may be too much for the conductor to feel comfortable; you could add microphones to make up for this, but it's probably not worth it.

The alternative are closed studio headphones, which generally sound a bit more transparent. I think it's actually somewhat preferred in the classical sector to make it visually obvious if there's some monitoring track, so that shouldn't be an argument against. The reduced freedom of motion should be considered though.
Semi-open studio headphones are also possible, but that risks leaking the click signal to be audible from the outside.


I agree that a visual click is a good thing to try. But if you do an audio click, notice that turning it up louder is not the only option. You can also use a different click sound that has a different set of frequencies that aren’t being obliterated by the sound of the orchestra. For example, a very high-pitched wood block might work better at medium volume than a typical pop-click at a higher volume. Ideally, you would experiment with different sounds until you find one that works for that particular conductor in that particular situation.

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