Handclap breakdown

April 24, 2009 8:59 PM

Tips for recording handclaps

I'd like to record some handclaps on this new song I'm working on, but the last time I tried, they ended up not sounding good at all.

Does anyone have any tips for doing the actual handclaps? Are there certain ways of clapping that work better recorded? Any hints regarding mic choice and placement are also welcome.
posted by umbú (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Hey, umbú this gearslutz thread may be of some use. One thing someone there suggested sounds interesting, and I think I'll try it sometime: wear latex gloves while you clap.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:19 PM on April 24, 2009

Multitrack. It's always best if you can get a group. We did it once when a bunch of people were over for dinner and then everyone drank and clapped and drank more and clapped more.
Failing that, I'll multitrack myself clapping close, far, fingerclapping, heel(?)clapping, in front of mic, side of mic, behind, etc. etc.
posted by chococat at 9:44 PM on April 24, 2009

Chococat's comment reminds me now of something I did on this track, and I think the claps came out sounding pretty good. At any rate, they sound quite "real"... I recorded the claps once through for the whole tune, then copied that track, chopped it in half length-wise, and "cut the deck", so the 1st half became the 2nd, the 2nd half the 1st. So it's doubled, basically. You get that flam effect, if that's what you want. And sure, I could've recorded another whole pass again, but... time was short, and the effect is the same in the end.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:53 PM on April 24, 2009

Tangentially related to this is the simple trick of how to imitate the sound of a clave with your hands. Here is illustrated by the maestros from Vocal Sampling (it comes in around 0:17, and its the guy in the far right who does it). Sorry about the horrible quality of the video, but it was either that or linking to them "playing" Hotel California. I think we can agree that this was better.

Basically you have to cup one of your hands and hit the part around the index/thumb with the other. It takes a little practice to get the right sound, but once you get it it's really cool.

As for the actual hand claps, I think the suggestions above are great, so I don't have much to add.
posted by micayetoca at 5:34 AM on April 25, 2009

Thanks all. I'll experiment. The gearslutz thread was really useful.
posted by umbú at 10:47 AM on April 25, 2009

I've basically done something like what chococat describes on the few occasions where I've included clapping. It works but isn't great; excited to try other ideas.
posted by cortex at 12:07 PM on April 25, 2009

I disagree a little with the gearslutz advice. Distance from the mic is a good idea but I think you need to compress the hell out of the claps with a fast limiter. This is especially true when dealing with digital encoding since it is so fast compared to magnetic.

Omni mic for sure if you have one and lots of hands. I don't know what kind of compressors you have but VCA style would work best. Turn the attack control to its fastest setting and work from there. This will help you hear the entire clap sound instead of the initial DCish burst.

Dynamic mics through good preamps would be my choice if you are multi-tracking. They are slower and you will have to do less compression. A stereo pair of sm57s will take care of pretty much any aux percussion in a pinch.
posted by dagosto at 1:18 PM on April 25, 2009

I hope this doesn't count as self-promotion, but the handclaps done in this song were done with two people present. In the latter half of the song I multitracked the same loop over itself and put it slightly out of sync with the previous track.
posted by jhighmore at 4:07 AM on April 26, 2009

PS. We stood quite near to the mic, which was suspended from above by a mic stand. We experimented a lot and found this position to be the best.
posted by jhighmore at 4:08 AM on April 26, 2009

You use Logic, don't you? The Enveloper plugin is really useful for taming the attack and room tone (my old bedroom studio was super pingy). The claps in my cover of the Jeffersons theme aren't super hi-fi, but if you had enough layers, you could make them sound pretty good. I think it was just straight-up clapping maybe 2-3 feet from a large diaphragm condenser.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:57 PM on April 26, 2009

We needed to do three tracks of two people before they started to claps like you hear on albums.
posted by magikker at 11:44 PM on April 29, 2009

Thigh slapping works quite well to make the clapping seem more varied.
posted by Paid In Full at 11:27 AM on April 30, 2009

agh, claps, sometimes it is so hard to get them to sound good i find.

I think its generally better if you can get 3 people together to do it and do a bunch of takes and mix them all together.

I"ve used large diaghram Condenser mics but often find they can give too much detail to sit well in a mix. and be a bit 'brittle'

I'm currently prefering a Shure sm57 for Claps and Tamborines, as the sound is less vibrant.

I usually do it all myself and record about 5-6 tracks of clap each time trying to clap slightly differently. palm, tips, deep, cupped etc.. (until it starts to hurt basically)

I've also tried adding a track in slapping two large chunks of wood together (2x4s) which did give a fuller lower end 'blap' to the clap that was quite effective.

I then pan takes differnetly bus all the tracks to a stereo subgroup add extra reverb oon an insert if necessary and run through a tape emulator to try and mush them all together into one single sound.
posted by mary8nne at 3:00 AM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

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