Everybody Clap Your Hands!

Taking on Steve Reich's Clapping Music (sort of)

This is a piece by composer Steve Reich called Clapping Music.

The piece is made up of one bar of music (see picture below), and performed by two (or more) performers, both clapping the same part.

So far, so really quite dull.

The interesting part comes after 8 repetitions of the bar. While one performer carries on clapping in the same way, the other performer delays the pattern by one quaver.

Suddenly a bit more interesting, isn’t it!

Throughout the piece, every 8 repetitions the second performer delays the pattern by another quaver. Eventually (hopefully), the two performers meet up again, clapping the pattern together until the end. At this point the audience do some clapping of their own.

The Rock knows an important entry into the

minimalist canon when The Rock hears it.

While the material for this piece is incredibly simple, just consisting of one bar, the sound that it produces is incredibly detailed and interesting, and it is very difficult to perform.

So, we’re going to have a go at a slightly simpler version of this piece, called...

Sort of, nearly, Clapping-ish Music (not quite)

Here it is:

Pattern 1:

Firstly, let's try clapping this pattern with the backing track. We wont worry about moving it around for now, just repeating the same pattern. Here's the track:

Now that we've got the hang of that pattern, we're going to start moving the pattern backwards by one crotchet at a time. Here is each subsequent pattern, with the original rhythm on the top and the new rhythm on the bottom. When clapping along with the track, we're going to be repeating each pattern 4 times. It's worth practicing each pattern individually.

Pattern 2:

Pattern 3:

Pattern 4:

Remember that the last 4 times, the two patterns line up again. Here is the full score:

Clappingish Crotchet
Download PDF • 163KB

Now for the tricky part, let's try clapping part 2, the moving patterns, along with the track. If you get lost, part 2 will be in your right ear, so see if you can jump back in.

If you've mastered that, why not try clapping part 2 along with just part 1 (further up the page.)

Moving the pattern by crotchets a piece of cake?

Lets try moving it by quavers! Here is each different pattern for you to practice (make sure you clap each pattern 4 times:

Pattern 2:

Pattern 3:

Pattern 4:

Pattern 5:

Pattern 6:

Pattern 7:

Pattern 8:

And as before, the last 4 times, the patterns line up again. Here is the full score.

Clappingish Quaver
Download PDF • 169KB

Let's try that with both parts. As before, if you get lost, the moving part is in your right ear.

And once you've mastered that, try clapping part 2 along with just part 1.

Performing these pieces with someone else is more fun but also harder. In this case, one person needs to clap the same pattern the whole way through, while the other person performs the moving part. You will find that clapping the same pattern all the way through is much more difficult than you might expect! See how fast you can clap the piece (without it sounding like a complete mess!)

"We are perfectly in time!"

Hopefully now that you are a master clapper your hands aren't too sore!

Clappy happing!

Written by Joe Hamlen


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