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How To Use Clapping Sound Effects To Elevate Your Storytelling

By Ezra Sandzer-Bell

The tone of a person’s voice can change the meaning of what they’re saying. The word “okay” conveys different feelings, depending on a person’s tone of voice and context of the situation.

Clapping sounds are ambiguous in a similar way. They change meaning with their volume, pace, rhythm, and the situations where they occur.

At a live concert, the audience applauses after each song as a show of joy and respect. Similar behavior could get a player kicked off the golf course, where soft golf claps are the rule.

Social cues play an important role in how clapping sound effects are selected and placed with video. As a sound designer, you’ve got to consider the subtle implications of the sfx you choose.

In this article, we’ll highlight several ways that a clap can be used for storytelling purposes.

To get you started, our team rounded up twenty royalty-free clapping sound effects from the Audio Design Desk library. Have a listen to them the embedded audio player below. Hit the download button to grab all the wav files for free. You can safely use them in any of your projects.

Check out the full ADD sound collection and access over 70,000 sounds when you sign up today!

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Clapping Sound Effects


Released 05/19/2024 · 20 Tracks ·

#Track NameGenreKeywordsDuration
1Outdoors- Small Golf ClapFoleyApplause...
2Indoors- Large ApplauseFoleyApplause...
3Outdoors- Medium ApplauseFoleyApplause...
4Indoors- Small ApplauseFoleyApplause...
5Indoors- Small CheersFoleyCheers...
6Outdoors- Large Cheers & WhistlingFoleyCheers...
7Indoors- Small Cheers & WhistlingFoleyCheers...
8Outdoors- Medium CheersFoleyCheers...
9Indoors- Large Cheers & WhistlingFoleyCheers...
10Indoors- Medium CheersFoleyCheers...
11Clap Sample 2FoleyMusic Production...
12Clap Sample 1FoleyMusic Production...
13Clap Sample 4FoleyMusic Production...
14Clap Sample 3FoleyMusic Production...
15Slow ClapsFoleyIndividual...
16Single ClapFoleyIndividual...
17Gentle ClapsFoleyIndividual...
18Rapid ClapsFoleyIndividual...
19Outdoors- Large Rhythmic ApplauseFoleyRhythmic...
20Indoors- Large Rhythmic ApplauseFoleyRhythmic...

Rudy: The ambience of a crowd cheering

Few sounds are more powerful than a massive crowd cheering after their favorite team wins an event. These kinds of sfx are commonly used in scenes with stadiums full of people, like that moment below from the 1993 football film Rudy.

During a climactic moment of a football game, members of the crowd can be heard booing after an interception. Rudy is subbed in and the audience can be heard roaring with applause, growing louder as the camera cuts from the players on the field to fans in the stadium bleachers.

Wolf of Wallstreet, Citizen Kane: Audience applause

It’s generally a good sign to see your audience applauding, but subtleties about the sound of the crowd clapping could tell another story. There’s a big difference the between polite hand claps and the sound of an audience cheering or whistling in support.

This scene from The Wolf of Wall Street (2014) depicts a genuine roar of excitement from the audience as DiCaprio’s character finishes his inspiring monologue. Notice how the sound design includes a layer of continuous crowd applause, while individual and recognizable characters shout over that background foley with excitement.

Compare the obvious mood of celebration in the The Wolf of Wall Street scene to a more complex and nuanced moment from the classic film Citizen Kane.

The main character, Kane, can be seen applauding aggressively and alone in a large opera house. After a lackluster performance by his wife, an aspiring opera singer, Kane claps with a standing ovation. Each slap of his hand fights against the mild, light applause of the audience.

Rick & Morty, Friends: The dramatic slow clap

The sound of a single person clapping slowly is often used with a sense of irony, sarcasm or even submission. For example, when a hero character finally solves the hardest puzzle in a story it’s common for the lead antagonist to step forward with a slow clap. This is often followed by a monologue where they tell the hero how foolish they are (before eventually being defeated).

During the scene above from the TV show Friends, Joey goes to Ross and Chandler for advise on how to repel women. Ross takes offensive and defensively explains that he’s been married three times, to which Chandler sarcastically slow claps to tease Ross for his “big accomplishment”.

A third type of slow clap is one that’s meant to start a small crowd cheering. But this scene from Not Another Teen Movie is a reminder that you need to time the clip right. Otherwise, prepare to be humiliated by the deafening silence as people stare at you.

Puss In Boots, Smack the Pony: Claps with music

This next category may not be as obvious, but once you start thinking about it you’ll begin to see it in other movies and shows. Foley can be used to depict a character clapping to non-diegetic background music tracks. This is particularly true for scenes with flamenco music and dance, since clapping is a central part of the genre and culture.

In one scene from Puss In Boots (2011) we can see the cats gathering around a campfire and clapping along to the strum of a Flamenco guitar. This technique makes it feel like the characters are really a part of making the music.

Characters might also be clapping along with prerecorded songs, like in this opening scene from the movie All Together Now (2020). A small group gathers around the stereo to dance and sing along with vocals from The Clapping Song by Shirley Ellis.

As a rule of thumb, the clapping sound effects should be louder in the mix than the background. This helps differentiate the character actions from the music.

The Conjuring: People clapping in scary movies

We’ve covered common scenarios like audience applause, slow claps, and music. Scary movies are another place where clapping has been used. But where prior examples conveyed support, irony, sarcasm, and joy, these next examples focus on fear and horror.

This scene from The Conjuring involves a game of “hide and clap” where the main character wanders through dark hallways in fear of her life. Notice how the snappy impact sound begins to feel closer to a gunshot or metal trap.

The long, drawn out silences between each clap contribute to its terrifying quality. Visual elements like the dimly lit space creates an eerie air of mystery, and a startling effect each time the silence is broken by a hand clap.

An award winning 2023 short film, Clap Clap, tells the story of a haunted lamp that turns on and off when someone claps twice. But in a strange twist, when the lights go off, one of the people in the room disappears. In this way, the sound of the clap takes on an almost metaphysical power.

Seinfeld: Applause sounds in canned laugh tracks

It was common to hear audience applause and laughter in sitcoms from the 1990s. Laugh tracks were added to signal the funniest moments in a show and help the audience get in the mood. Productions needed large sound effects library to make these audience clapping layers sound natural. Have a listen to the example below from Seinfeld:

How to transform a clapping sound with your DAW

Disclaimer: Audio Design Desk doesn’t sell link placements or place affiliate links in any article. We’ve added callouts with links in this next section, in order to help you find the right tools for the job. We are not partnered with any of these companies. 

Clap sounds can be used as high-frequency layering elements in fight scenes, adding top-end impact to melee hits. They can also be used to create simple gunshot sounds with a little EQ and reverb. One clap can become an audience when you duplicate it many times, and adjust pitch, volume, and pan position to create separation. Here’s a detailed guide on how to achieve these effects.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

1. Using Claps for High-Frequency Layering in Fight Scenes

  • Layering Technique:
    • Import a clean clap sound into your DAW.
    • Place the clap sound on top of the melee hit sound, at a low volume, aligning it with the transient to add high-frequency impact.
  • EQ:
    • Plugin Recommendations: FabFilter Pro-Q 3, Waves Q10.
    • Insert an EQ plugin and boost the high frequencies around 5-10 kHz to emphasize the sharpness and clarity of the clap.
    • Optionally, cut some of the low-mid frequencies (around 200-500 Hz) to prevent muddiness and ensure the clap doesn’t interfere with the main hit sound.
  • Reverb:
    • Plugin Recommendations: Valhalla Room, Waves H-Reverb.
    • Apply a short, tight reverb to give the clap a sense of space and depth without overwhelming the melee hit sound.

2. Creating Gunshot Sounds with Claps

  • EQ and Distortion:
    • Plugin Recommendations: Soundtoys Decapitator.
    • Insert an EQ plugin and shape the clap sound. Boost the mid and high frequencies (around 2-5 kHz) to add sharpness, and cut some low frequencies (below 200 Hz) to keep it crisp.
    • Add a distortion plugin to give the clap sound more aggression and edge, simulating the explosive character of a gunshot.
  • Reverb:
    • Plugin Recommendations: Altiverb, Waves IR1.
    • Apply an appropriately sized, dense reverb to simulate the environment where the gunshot occurs. Use a hall or room impulse response to create a realistic spatial effect.
    • Adjust the wet/dry mix to balance the direct sound of the clap with the reverberant tail, creating the illusion of a powerful gunshot.

3. Turning One Clap into an Audience

  • Duplicating and Layering:
    • Duplicate the clap sound multiple times in your DAW. Create enough duplicates to simulate a crowd clap (e.g., 20-50 copies).
    • Use slight variations in timing (nudge some claps forward or backward) to create a more natural, less synchronized sound.
  • Pitch and Volume Adjustment:
    • Randomly adjust the pitch of each duplicated clap slightly up or down to add variation and prevent the sound from becoming too uniform.
    • Vary the volume levels of each clap to mimic the natural dynamics of a crowd.
  • Panning:
    • Pan each clap sound to different positions across the stereo field to create a wide, immersive effect. This will help in creating the illusion of an audience spread out in a space.
  • Reverb:
    • Apply a reverb with a large hall or stadium impulse response to give the claps a sense of being in a large space. This will enhance the realism of the crowd effect.
    • Adjust the wet/dry balance to blend the claps with the reverb, ensuring they sound cohesive and natural.

By following these steps, you can effectively use clap sounds to enhance fight scenes, create convincing gunshot sounds, and simulate an audience. The combination of duplication, pitch shifting, volume adjustment, panning, EQ, and reverb allows you to transform simple clap recordings into versatile and impactful sound design elements.

Get 70,000+ studio grade, royalty-free sfx

The clapping sound effects we’ve covered in this article only graze the surface of foley and sound design. When it comes to the sound of a hand clap, we hope it’s clear now that there are almost as many ways to use it as there are feelings to convey.

We shared 20 royalty-free sound effects at the top of this article, in case you just need a quick and simple sound. You can also sign up to Audio Design Desk for free to access a broader range of high fidelity sfx. Our full collection includes over 70,000 royalty-free music, foley, and sound design with unlimited downloads.

The latest version of Audio Design Desk 2.0 was released early 2024, featuring powerful new features like video templates and an AI-powered music generation tool called SoundGen.