My No-Headache Scratch Tracks

scratch tracks metranomeCreating scratch tracks in the middle of a recording session can really suck. Literally. Any life or energy that was there (key word “was”) is now gone. Scratch tracks are the basic guide tracks like the band leader playing the song on his acoustic guitar before you lay down the drum tracks. But it’s not always that easy, and there’s lots of pressure to get it right.

Your band is fed up because the clock is ticking and they are feeling like they suck at playing their instrument because now their worth as a musician is how well they can play to a click. Maybe there is some confusion about how long a pre-chorus is or how many times the bridge repeats. I’ve been there, and done that.

I’d like to share my experience and give you a few steps you can make along the way that will really help the process along so that you don’t spend too much time on getting your recording session up and running.

The Native State of Music

The “Native State of Music” is a phrase I like to use to describe a situation where musicians can both play together and record together.

If you put them in separate rooms, it’s not exactly “native” but a unique process to recording. Musicians don’t typically say, “I’ll play my guitar from the stage, while you will set up in the bathrooms”. Nah. They will most likely want to be a few feet apart so they can jam better.

They also would want to play at the same time. They won’t say to the audience, “We will now play the drum tracks for you, followed by solo bass playing quarter notes for 5 minutes”. Nah, they wouldn’t do that either. Musicians play their best when they play in a situation where they can both play and record together.

Scratch Tracks Check List

  • Right Tempo. Check that you are playing at the right speed!
  • Right Form. How many times do you play that bridge again? Now is the time to decide.
  • Pitches and Chords. Make sure you’re in tune and that your playing the right chords.
  • Click. Either play comfortably with or ditch it. Don’t let it bring down your recording session.


Hello, my name is Ryan Earnhardt. I am a personal mentor to audio engineers, and a debt free studio owner, Lumen Audio, located in the mountains around Asheville NC.

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