Sordas, Claras, and the Art of the Clap

Palmas (image from TravelFlamenco)
Palmas (clapping) is an art form in Spain.

Did you know that the hand clap is something of an “art form” in Spain?  Indeed, palmas (hand clapping) is an essential ingredient to the musical accompaniment used for dances like the flamenco and sevillana.  If you want to know just how important, try a Google search for “palmas clapping” and you will be amazed at the amount of tutorials, instructional videos, and examples that will come up (like the following instructional video from YouTube).

While this Christmas Revels will not have any flamenco dance in it, we will be dancing the sevillana, and, there will be palmas!  In fact, you will hear palmas used in many of our musical numbers.

To explain the two distinct ways of hand-clapping, here is an excerpt from “Flamenco Compas for Alegrias Analysis of the 12-pulse palmas (clapping) rhythm and its relationship to the standard African bell pattern,” by Jerry Leake:

Palmas refers to the specific accompanying clapping pattern that is built within the compas structure. There are two types of palmas techniques: sordas and claras. Soft claps (sordas) are produced when the open palms strike together in a low, muted tone. Louder, higher-pitched claps (claras) are produced when the fingers of the strong hand land into the open palm of the weak hand.

Go ahead and try this at home!

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