Clapping Lessons

A competent sticker should be playing the basic stick rhythm at all times during the clapping lesson.

Clapping, walking and singing at the same time is very difficult. The reason for doing it in the clapping lessons is that it gives the body a deep understanding of rhythms. If you can clap, walk, and sing a rhythm at the same time, you can improvise with it and move to it effortlessly.

In order to express your soul with a rhythm you must know it really well. You’ll know you've reached that point when your body is completely relaxed and happy as you clap the rhythm. As we work through rhythms, from simple to difficult, do each one until you come to one which you find difficult.  Your body will tense up as you clap it, and you’ll have to concentrate to make the rhythm happen.  Continue the rest of the practice only practicing that rhythm. For example: if the second rhythm we practice makes your body tense up as you clap it, just keep doing that rhythm, as the rest of the group moves on through more difficult rhythms. Then the next practice your body will be ready to learn the more difficult rhythms.

Here's how I teach people to clap:

Get everyone into a circle.

People who are learning to clap for the first time tend to go a little wild, especially if they have just watched a demonstration video, so the first thing is to get every one into a learning mode. If people try to start Shouting during the clapping lesson it really confuses the new people who are trying to learn about clapping. So I start with the following introduction:

'We are going to do a 'Clapping Circle'.  It will make you better clappers.  We are not going to Ringshout yet. We'll do that in a few minutes. Learning clapping skills can make Shouting a lot more fun, but you have to focus on learning clapping. It's one of those things where a little discipline now can make it a lot easier to express your free spirit later. If you already feel really good about your clapping, or you're not interested in working on clapping right now, just step back from the circle and in 20 minutes we'll all Ringshout together.  It's better if you don't clap when you're not in the Clapping Circle because it confuses people trying to learn new rhythms. This is really an amazing and cool thing we are doing, and it's worth spending a little time learning to do it.  '

Then I get the sticker started.  They should be playing (not too loudly) the whole time during the Clapping Circle.  Then get everyone standing in a circle with a couple of feet of space between each person.  We then do the following exerises

1. Sing the basic stick rhythm: bum de dum bum, bum de dum bum.


2. March/walk in counter-clockwise circle to the basic stick rhythm
and keep singing. Keep the steps very small or people will get
exhausted before the Clap Circle is done. Keep walking until everyone
looks relaxed.

3. Have everyone notice when their feet are hitting the ground. Define that moment as the 'down' beat or the 'on' beat.

4. Now have everyone clap when their feet hit the ground. Try to keep singing. Let that go on for a minute or two. Encourage everyone to try and clap, march, and sing at the same time. As they accomplish this you should see their bodies start to sway to the rhythm.


When they look comfortable marching, singing, and clapping at the same time ask them to stop singing but keep marching and clapping. Tell them:
  • You don't need to clap loudly; the sound of a clap is very penetrating. Even a soft clap will be heard.
  • Listen very carefully for that exact instant you want your clap to be heard. This is the key to expressing your soul when you clap.
  • It's harder to catch that exact instant when you move your hands far apart. You can actually make a very loud clap with your hands close together if you cup your hands just right.

5. Have everyone notice when the feet are lifted. Define as the 'up' beat or the 'off' beat.

6. Clap to the up beat. (Continue marching in counter-clockwise circle and singing if possible.)


7. Divide group in half (how?). Half clap (and hopefully sing) to the up beat, half to the down beat. Switch halves. (Continue marching in counter-clockwise circle and singing if possible.)

8. Clap to the basic rhythm. (see step one) (Keep on marching.)


9. Clap the up beat but do double claps instead of single ones.


10. Difficult: Clap in-between the up and down beats.


  1. Clap the rhythm you feel.
  2. Mix rhythms.
  3. Vary the loudness of your claps.
  4. Don’t clap all the time. Clap for certain parts of the beat and not for others. Even one clap every eight or 16 beats can be very expressive if you clap it at just the right moment.
  5. Keep listening for that special instant when you want your clap to happen.