The Clapping App: How Good Are You?

Years ago when I was teaching drums, a middle-aged mother of four decided to sign up for lessons. She was super-game but had less rhythm than this.

No matter hard she tried, she just couldn’t grasp the concept of 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4. Her drumming sounded like a V8 with two misfiring cylinders.  It took weeks and weeks to smooth her out. But to her credit, she was eventually able to lay down a respectable four-on-the-floor beat.

While some people are just rhythmically challenged, that doesn’t mean they can’t be taught. The easiest form of rhythm-making is clapping. This brings me to Steve Reich’s Clapping Music. It’s a free iOS app that gamefies rhythm by having players perform Clapping Music, a 1972 piece of some renown in avant garde circles.  (Rhythm nerd explanation: it involves two people clapping their hands to a simple rhythm for 12 quavers. After each pass, one player moves the pattern one quaver ahead until twelve passes later everything syncs up again. The more accurate your clapping, the higher your score. It’s way tougher than it sounds.)

Here are some screen shots from the clapping app.

Clapping Game

Clapping Game 2


Sounds like fun, actually. Just be aware that you won’t want to do this in public too much less someone clap their hands forcefully on either side of your head.  Read more about the game at The Guardian.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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2 thoughts on “The Clapping App: How Good Are You?

  • I played drums in high school band. I was no super star, but I was OK. My gf at the time wanted me to teach her. She played in the band too.
    I sat her at the kit and wanted her to do a basic beat – hi hat, and snare. That was all. She could not comprehend the rhythm. I was curious that some one who could play an instrument and could read and understand music, could not comprehend moving 2 body parts at the same time, but in a different rhythm or pattern.
    So as an experiment, I got more people from the band to try. The success rate was terrible. It always made me feel (a little bit) better as a percussionist. It REALLY isn’t as easy as everyone thinks.

    • Your anecdotal findings sound about right, Rob… it does seem to take a certain type to be a percussionist (insert drummer joke here), but you do seem to have to be wired the right way… despite playing several instruments myself, I could never get a handle on drumming.

      Just holding a steady pattern without trying to follow other things like the melody is really challenging for me. Even say on games like Rock Band, I could play guitar or bass and sing at the same time, as I do in reality – and do pretty damn good, but put me in front of the drums, and it’s a disaster. I put my wife there, who besides being not musical, is fairly uncoordinated for the most part – and she does quite well.

      Maybe someone should do a study on why drummers can seem to move to other instruments but not typically vice-versa?


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