138 clapping duets including Performance Pieces with piano accompaniment to turn your rhythm practice into a Performance Art.
Clap Battles is a book of clapping duets for music students of any age, starting very simply and gradually getting more complex and tricky as more note values, time signatures and syncopations are introduced. And although I used the word “duets” you could equally well have an entire school class working together, half on one part, half on the other. In fact I’ve even had an entire audience of parents joining in with one of the longer pieces in a particularly memorable concert.
The book starts with 120 graded “Micro Duets”. This term isn’t minimalist pretentiousness, it’s just a way of avoiding the word “exercises”. After all, clapping isn’t just plodding through a load of tedious exercises to please a teacher – it can be a delight, an art form in its own right, like playing a percussion instrument. But yes, all right, if you want to think of them as “training exercises”, that’s fine. However, I’ve also included eighteen substantial“Performance Pieces”, most of them with piano accompaniment, which are by no means mere exercises.
The majority of my pupils find reading music difficult at first, and 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.
In a way, the term “Clap Battles” is a bit of a misnomer, because when you’re performing any kind of duet, you’re not actively fighting the other person – you’re actually trying to stay in perfect time with them, cooperating to create a unified piece of rhythm music. But there is still struggle as you do battle with the conflicting forces inside yourself, fighting to keep hold of the rhythms you’re supposed to be clapping, and resisting the lure of the other rhythms you’re hearing that can so easily lead you astray. And anyway, let’s face it, I could hardly call the book “Clap Cooperation” could I?
120 Micro Duets of increasing difficulty
All thirty pages of these Micro Duets follow the same format. First there are two 1-line pieces, with a repeat which allows the students either to reinforce what they’ve just clapped or to switch parts. These are followed by a 2-line piece with a different time signature. Both parts in all three pieces are of equal difficulty, doubling the amount of reading practice open to every student. In one-to-one lessons the teacher would obviously take one of the parts, but with group or class teaching the pupils could do everything.
At the bottom of each page there’s another 2-line piece, but this time the upper part is for a student and the lower one for a “Pro”. The purpose of these pieces is to challenge the student’s concentration even more, as the complex and often off-beat rhythms in the “Pro” part will be much more likely to topple the student off the floating log.
18 Performance Pieces
These are much more substantial than the Micro Duets in the first part of the book. They also increase in difficulty as you go through them, though not so obviously. You’ll see, too, that I’ve included dynamics and other performance instructions in nearly all of them. But, as with many pieces of music, they’re open to your own interpretation, so feel free to change the dynamics and the recommended speeds – the metronome marks are only there to give you a rough idea of what to aim for, so just do what feels comfortable for you.
I said on the “Read Me” page at the start of the book (which of course you read) that clapping can be an art form in its own right. Here’s your chance to make that happen. Clapping isn’t just thwacking your hands together to a particular rhythm: it can be varied and subtle, soft and delicate then suddenly loud; it can be like a marching band or a gentle waltz depending on how you use your hands and move your arms. So make real music out of these pieces.
All of them have a piano accompaniment, except for the four pieces under the collective title Wombat Rules! (pages 40-43) which take a slightly different approach to performing the rhythms, as you’ll see.
The other piece that takes a different approach is the final one – Clap ’n’ Roll (page 58). In this one, you may be delighted to hear, both clappers have exactly the same rhythm throughout. However, this has a whole new set of challenges, as it requires specific movements and actions so that the two performers really do interact with each other fully. You’ll be too busy interacting to be able to read the music, so this one will have to be memorised – but don’t be too alarmed, because the rhythms and actions are in patterns that repeat and are fairly easy to remember. Everything is explained in detail on page 60, but since written instructions often make people feel more puzzled than they were before, I’m going to make a YouTube video that shows you what you have to do, and with any luck that’ll be ready by the time you get that far...
1. Toucan Cancan 2. Skating Down The Frozen Stream 3. Homemade Fudge 4. Dance Of The Dryads 5. Filthy Lucre 6. Whirligig
7. I Am A Wombat And Not A Silly Emu * 8. What About Wallabies? Eh? Or Bandicoots? 9. Koala? Echidna? Kangaroo and Platypus? 10. Wombat! The Ruler Of Animal Kind! Oh Yeah!
11. Tootles 12. Flibbertyjibberty 13. Gaudy 14. That Would Be Telling 15. Awake In The Night 16. Esperita 17. Fixing It 18. Clap ’n’ Roll