How to Record Hand Claps
By Anderton |
How to Record Hand Claps
It should be simple, but it isn't - so follow these six tips
by Craig Anderton
Granted, it's easy just to load up a handclap sample, or one of those drum machine handclap sounds. But real handclaps recorded by real human beings can sound a whole lot better, and enhance the beat in ways that other instruments can't. Handclaps can also help reinforce snare beats, or add percussive accents with a human touch in just the right places.
But all too many times, recorded handclaps don't sound...well..."right." So, here are some tips designed to help you get better handclap sounds.
FOUR HANDS BEATS TWO HANDS
Pretty much everyone can clap hands—so grab a spouse, kid, or even the neighbor next door who will be thrilled to be part of an actual recording session, to thicken up the sound. Even if the claps are off, hey, you have a DAW—split the claps, and adjust the timing as desired.
ACOUSTICS CAN BE A PROBLEM…OR NOT
A sharp impulse noise like a clap is going to bounce off walls and give a lot of ambience. This may be a good thing, but if it’s a problem, using something like Primacoustic’s VoxGuard (an acoustic treatment that wraps around a mic to help block room reflections from getting into the mic) really helps.
SET LEVELS CONSERVATIVELY
Even if you think you’re clapping with a consistent level, you’re not. If you’ve enlisted another person in your clapological endeavors, the levels will be even more inconsistent, depending on whether the claps hit at exactly the same time. Set levels so that what you think are the loudest claps hit at -12 dB or so, and you’ll probably be okay.
Claps often end up sounding thin on playback, but transposing down a few semitones can give a more corpulent sound, as well as tame the transient a bit. I’ve transposed down as much as -5 semitones, but even a semitone or two can help. Also, if you need to overdub several passes of claps to make it sound like you’re really a big group of people instead of just someone sitting a studio, doing different transpositions for the different overdubs can improve the illusion of the claps coming from different people.
Boosting in the lower mids can add “meat” to the sound of a clap so it doesn’t sound as thin.
INCREASE REVERB DIFFUSION
Because handclaps are so percussive, you need a lot of diffusion to create a smooth reverb sound (assuming that’s what you want). Lesser amounts of diffusion can give the “marbles bouncing on a steel plate” effect.
So now that I’ve handed over these six tips (handed—get it?), go forth and practice better clapology.
Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.