A click track is a series of audio cues used to synchronize sound recordings, sometimes for syncronization to a moving image. The click track originated in early sound movies, where marks were made on the film itself to indicate exact timings for musicians to accompany the film. It can be thought of as a recording of a metronome in that it serves a similar purpose.
The invention of the click track is sometimes credited to Carl Stalling, although other sources have given it to Max Steiner and Scott Bradley.
The click track was sufficiently useful as a synchronisation tool that it became part of standard recording technology, whether for films, radio or other sound recording and the click track took one of the tracks on a multi-track tape recorder.
By the late 20th century, particularly in the realm of synthesizers and digital recording, the click track became computerised and synchronising different instruments became more complex, at which point the click track was supported or replaced by SMPTE time code.
The click track may also be used as a form of metronome directly by musicians in the studio or on stage, particularly by drummers, who would listen via headphones to maintain a consistent beat. This allows for easier editing on a digital audio workstation or sequencer, since quantized parts can be easily moved around and spliced together without worrying about minute differences in timing. This approach to recording is sometimes criticized for making the music sound "dead" and artificial, but in the right circumstances it can be useful.
It is not uncommon for musicians or engineers to subdivide click tracks at slow tempos (for instance below 70 BPM) into smaller parts, with (for example) a click on the start of a bar and a beep on every individual 1/4 (or 1/8, or 1/16, etc.) note.
Some musicians also use pre-recorded backing tracks with additional parts such as synthesizers, strings or layered background vocals to recreate parts that would be impractical to play live, in which case a click track synchronized with the backing track is played through headphones or in-ear monitors to keep the musicians in sync with the backing track.
Full article ▸