Clap Battles is a book of clapping duets for musicians of any age, and although I use the word “duets” you could equally well have an entire school class working together, half on one part, half on the other. It's excellent for developing rhythm skills – and it's a lot of fun to use.
The first section of the book contains 120 “Micro Duets” that start very simply and gradually get more difficult. There’s lots of scope for inventiveness here. For example, by mixing and matching duets, you could create a great many more than 120. You could even put three different parts together and create a trio.
The second section of the book contains 18 substantial “Performance Pieces”, most of which have piano accompaniment. These too can be used with a larger number of performers. On occasions I've even had a whole concert audience taking part! They were surprisingly good…
See below for demo pages, videos, and a link to “clapalong” audiotracks.
Click on this cover image to see some demo pages. I’ve included five pages taken from various points in the Micro Duets section, and six Performance Pieces: 1, 2, 7, 13, 15 and 18.
1, 2, 13 and 15 are accompanied and I’ve used the accompaniment pages here.
7 is the first of a group of four unaccompanied pieces that take a different approach to performance – as explained on the page.
18 also has piano accompaniment, but as it involves movement and interaction between the clappers it needs to be memorised. The full instructions are on the clappers-only pages, so those are the ones I’ve included here.
A crucial part of learning how to read music well is feeling how the rhythm of the notes fits the pulse. But even when you think you’ve mastered it, whether you’re clapping, singing or playing an instrument, as soon as someone else joins in with a different part it can all go wrong again. It’s like balancing on a floating log: you’ve just about got it, then someone else climbs on and you fall into the water.
It’s all to do with how your brain is processing information: as soon as you hear another, conflicting, sound, your brain automatically diverts some of its processing power away from the task it was fully concentrating on, in order to understand this other sound. So one of the reasons why Clap Battles is so useful is that it opens up pathways in the brain and develops your ability to multi-task: to focus on your own part while simultaneously being aware of the other clapper’s part and interacting with it without being distracted and falling off the log.
Below is an introductory video explaining and demonstrating in greater depth, with examples of the Micro Duets and Performance Pieces in action. Scroll down further to see full videos of six of the Performance Pieces.