When there's a group of musicians playing, it's often not practical for several of them to stop what they're doing so they can clap instead, so is there an acoustic percussion instrument that can be played by one person, that sounds like ensemble handclaps, i.e a group of people clapping together?

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    Acoustic Palmas or Slap-pads. 45 secs to find via Google...
    – Tim
    Jul 31, 2017 at 13:34
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    If you know you need to google "Acoustic Palmas" than it's a 45 second search. If, like me, you don't know what to search for, you post a question here on Music SE. Jul 31, 2017 at 14:34
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    The words used on Google were acoustic, handclap, percussion, instrument.
    – Tim
    Jul 31, 2017 at 17:26
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    Whether or not something is easy to google is immaterial to the goodness of a question. The SE network aims to be a canonical reference of questions/answers. SE doesn't aim to replace google, but it does aim to be one of the links that google gives you when you do ask a question. Jul 31, 2017 at 20:56
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    To quote what people always say on StackOverflow: This website intends to be the top result when simple questions are googled. If something is easy to google, it does not mean that it should not be asked on here.
    – Lee White
    Oct 31, 2017 at 14:31

6 Answers 6


Uncannily, youtube suggested this video for me to watch.

The instrument here is a an Istanbul Clap Stack. Thank you youtube!


There was an acoustic clapping device that was a metal rod and it had plastic or hard rubber discs that you slid down to create the clap sound. Haven't seen it in years......

  • Fascinating! Do you have a picture? Apr 12, 2019 at 18:41

I don't think I've encountered an acoustic instrument as a percussionist that perfectly emulates a hand clap sound. Typically you could use something like a small whip (two boards hinged together), or large castanets to provide a similar effect.

SONOR apparently makes a 'hand clap box' that is supposed to sound like hand clapping and would be playable by a single musician (Although personally I think it sounds too close to a woodblock):


  • Thanks for the suggestions. I agree that the 'hand clap box' sounds like a woodblock. And castanets don't really sound like handclaps. But I suppose the small whip sounds a bit like one person clapping. Is there a sort of multiple ganged version that duplicates the 'flam' effect you get from ensemble clapping? Aug 2, 2017 at 12:22
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    I haven't ever seen a multi-whip before, although I'm sure that one could be engineered if you feel like having some woodshop fun. I could see maybe a dowel with three or four small whips affixed to the top such that you roll the dowel between your hands vertically and the whips go off in succession giving a flam effect?
    – John Stark
    Aug 4, 2017 at 19:29

Not sure what you mean by "ensemble" hand claps, though there are a few ways drummers have tried to emulate electronic clap sounds. Basically, they boil down to various rim-flam techniques. You can experiment and adapt whatever sorts of drums you have available.

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    Ensemble hand claps is the sound of a group of people clapping together. I'm pretty certain that the required sound can't be achieved using conventional drum-kit drums, no matter what techniques you use or how or where you hit them. You do get a flam effect when two or more people clap together, so I can see the sense in your answer. But it doesn't answer the original question - is there a distinct instrument playable by one person which sounds like a group of people clapping? Nov 1, 2017 at 10:07

I wanted such an instrument to cover some pop songs tomorrow, e.g. Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" at 00:30:

I also couldn't find anything I could easily buy at a music store, so I experimented with household items. I imagined maybe a folding paper or plastic fan might work, but I didn't have one.

But I found you can get pretty close with half a deck of cards. Hold the half-deck in one hand and use the other hand's thumb to do a controlled snap on the short side, like a flip book but really fast.

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It's easy to improve technique by playing around with it. I've found that if you hold the deck in a shape like, um... remember those old-school rubber erasers?

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If you make your deck look like that, you add on more choral "voices" (separation between claps), and sounds even more like an ensemble clap.

Of course, not loud enough by itself but I plan to hold it near a microphone.


Though you do specifically ask for acoustic percussion instruments, I'll answer off topic that, in terms of faithfully simulating a sound, an electronic sample would be very effective and there are hardware form factors that would work nicely in a live, acoustic group setting: pad or button to trigger, built-in speaker, etc.

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