How to Set Up a Click Track for under $60

Airplane Mode plays to a click. It ensures that the entire band is in time and it allows us to use triggered events to fill out our sound for live performances. For us, the click is about polish. If you’ve ever considered using a click track for your band, you've probably run into two problems:

  1. There’s no good software to drive the metronome
  2. The hardware to make it all work is confusing and expensive

We’ve solved the first problem with Clickarus, our set list/metronome app for iOS. (Joe has an excellent writeup that you should definitely read.) For the hardware, I went through a ton of options and solicited the help of a professional sound engineer, and here’s what my research has yielded: 

Required:

Optional:

Simply put: plug your iPhone or iPad into the input of the headphone amp, then run cables to everyone.

At the heart of it, you're just trying to split the headphone cable from your iOS device to multiple people. You can get away with playing the click over a PA or stereo system in your practice space, but that obviously won't fly at a show.

We're a little on the fancy side, so we have everyone on wireless. It's a more expensive option, but it offers the most mobility and, frankly, is the easiest for setup and teardown. We usually get about five to ten minutes on either side of our set to get things in order, so every second counts.

If you want to go wireless, you have two options. You can run to a single wireless system and have everyone's receivers connected to that, or each person can have their own wireless system.

I use my in-ears primarily for my vocals, with the click turned down in my mix (since I mostly cue off of our drummer anyway). In a single-system setup, everyone in the band gets two feeds: my vocals, and the click. They can choose how much of each they want (including turning my vocals off entirely), but they can't add a third. Depending on the venue size and surliness of the sound person, sometimes I'll have them run a monitor feed into the wireless system instead, with my vocals cranked up.

If everyone has their own wireless system, each person can run their instrument through, or get a house mix tailored for them. This seems like the platonic ideal but truth told, most small bands are playing shows where the sound people simply don't want to deal with this much complexity.

My solution? I keep one earphone in, but leave the other out so I can hear the stage mix. This works pretty well.

Playing to a click track feels a little like cheating, but it's dialed our game way up, and I strongly recommend it for anyone looking to add polish to their stage show.