First, a disclaimer: "hand games" probably isn't the best phrase to describe what I've got here. A reasonable definition of that term would include competitive games (like "Rock, Paper, Scissors", thumb-wrestling, and that game where you try to slap someone's hands before they pull them away), which I'm not interested in here. A more accurate phrase would perhaps be "hand/body rhythm sequences", but that's a mouthful. So I just call them "hand games" and hope people understand.
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I learned three of these four games from Frank Metcalf (Vancouver, BC), who plays harmonica and bones for Tempus Fugit. The other I learned (once removed) from Daniel Steinberg (Mountain View, CA), who plays keyboards, flute, and percussion for the Hillbillies from Mars.
All the notation is by me. The only abbreviations I use are "L" and "R" for "left" and "right". Four dashes denotes a 1-beat rest; two dashes denotes a half-beat rest. Normal speed for these games is about 2 beats per second.
Please send email to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if:
Enlightenment is welcome!
Author: Daniel Steinberg Beats: 8 People: Any even number from 4 up, divided equally into A's and B's, alternating around a circle. (See below for two-person and one-person variants.) In the general case (6 or more people), you make contact with four other people each time through the game. I denote these as L-1, L-2, R-1, and R-2: L-1: The person to your immediate L. R-1: The person to your immediate R. L-2: The person two to your L. R-2: The person two to your R. In the 4-person case, L-2 and R-2 are the same person, the one across from you. Canon: B's start at #1 when A's do #5. beat action ---- -------------------------------------------------------- 1 Clap your own hands. 1.5 Slap R hand to chest. 2 Slap L hand to chest. 2.5 Slap R hand to front of R thigh. 3 Slap L hand to front of L thigh. 4 Slap L hand to chest AND clap R hand with L hand of person L-1 (who is doing #8). 5 Clap your own hands. 6 Clap L hand with R hand of person L-2, AND R hand with L hand of person R-2 (both of whom are also doing #6). 7 Clap your own hands. 8 Slap R hand to chest AND clap L hand with R hand of person R-1 (who is doing #4). 2-person variant: There is no canon -- both people do the same actions at the same time. The "self" actions are all the same, but the "other" interaction is slightly different. Here are the differences: 4) Slap L hand to chest AND clap R hand with R hand of Other. 6) Clap L hand with R hand of Other AND R hand with L hand of Other. 8) Slap R hand to chest AND clap L hand with L hand of Other. 1-person variant: Like the 2-person variant, but use a wall as the Other.
Notes: Daniel says:
The 4-person group is the easiest to learn.
There is room for three extra claps which allow individual expression and funky rhythm changes within the strict stereotyping needed for the group's groove.
They're all "self" claps, which he inserts at 3.5, 5.5, and 7.5.
History: I learned this from my wife, who learned it from Daniel at Raincoast Ruckus 1997. He says (in January 2001):
About ten years ago, my wife and I took a workshop with Keith Terry, an extraordinary Bay Area percussionist/performance artist. The workshop was a combination Body Music / Balinese Kejak course, with Keith Terry and I Wayan Dibya, a Balinese musician. The idea was to combine elements of rhythm and music and movement from different cultures. One piece (almost certainly composed by Keith Terry for the workshop) had three different, interlocking parts and movements. I adapted this clapping game from one of those parts, though sometimes in workshops I will teach the piece in its original 3-part form before teaching the clapping game.
Frank Metcalf also teaches it. (He calls it "Dippy-dippy dah dah", after the sound of the first riff.)
Beats: 13 People: Two facing. ("You" and "Other".) Start: Your own hands palm-to-palm, off to the R, at about chest height. beat action ---- ------------------------------------------------------ 1 Move hands to L, back-slap your L hand against Other's. 2 Similarly from L to R. 3 Similarly from R to L, but stop on contact. (Leave back of L hands in contact for 4 - 7 ) 4 Move R hand out and back to L hand. 5 Move R hand out, up, and clap Other's R hand above. 6 Move R hand out, down, and back to own L hand. 7 Move R hand out, down, and clap Other's R hand below. 8 Move R hands up; move L hand out, down, and clap Other's L hand below. (Leave L hands together and low for 9 - 12 ) 9 Slap R hip with R hand. 10 Snap fingers with R hand (high). 11 Move R hand to L, slap Other's R hand. 12 Move R hand to R, back-slap Other's R hand. 13 Clap your hands together (off to the R).
Notes. Frank says:
The game should be learned both right and left-handed, and then performed alternating sides. An exaggerated positioning of the palm-together hands at the start indicates the direction of the next sequence: cocked up to right shoulder for a "normal," right-handed game, or cocked up to the left shoulder for a left game. Surprises in the apparently alternating sequencing make it more fun. So do dramatic changes in the volume of the playing gestures. The game goes very well to dance music, and can be enjoyed as a hand-dance while sitting out a leg-dance.
You can also do this game while singing a song. (Daniel suggests Shortnin' Bread.) Because the game takes 13 beats, whereas most Western music is phrased in powers of two (e.g., 4, 8, 16, 32), the song and the game will quickly get out of phase, and probably never get back (unless you have the patience to sing through a song 13 times). For example, some people like to do the game to the Smarties jingle (from the early 70's, I think). The jingle is 64 beats long (including rests), so you can do the game 5 times through (5 x 13 = 65), with one action left over. Here's how the actions correspond to the lyrics: (Bold syllables show down-beats.)
Or equivalently, here's how the lyrics cycle through the actions:
There's a variant to go with this jingle. You do the hand sequence while singing the song 3 times, but on the final "last", poke the other person in the belly (instead of doing action 7 of the 15th repetition of the hand sequence) and ignore the last three rests. It seems to me that it would work equally well to stop after twice through the song (belly-poke replaces action 8 of the 10th rep of the sequence), or after just once through (belly-poke replaces action 9 of the 5th rep).
History: I learned the game from Frank Metcalf at Chehalis 1994. He learned it from his wife Mary, who learned it at an earlier Chehalis dance camp, from a female staff member whose name they don't recall. (I remember seeing him do it in April 1992.)
I learned the Smarties variant from Nelson Beavington in December 2000, who learned it from his niece.
Beats: 16 People: two or more. Props: one (unbreakable!) cup per person. (Hard plastic tumblers are probably best.) The people sit around a table, with a cup (rightside-up) between each adjacent pair. Each time through the game (as notated), every cup moves one person to the L. To pass to the R, just swap "R" and "L" throughout. beat lyric action ---- ------ -------- 1 clap Clap your hands. 2 clap Clap your hands. 3 tap- Tap the table with your R hand. 3.5 py Tap the table with your L hand. 4 tap Tap the table with your R hand. 5 up With your L hand (thumb down), grab the cup that's on your R. 6 side Take it in an arc from R to L. 7 down Put the cup (upside-down) on your L. 8 ---- pause 9 clap Clap your hands. 10 grab With your L hand (thumb down), grab the same cup (on your L). 11 slap Turn the cup and slap its base to your R palm. 12 down Knock its base on the table in front of you. 13 change Pass the cup from your L hand to your R hand. 14 tap Tap the table with your L hand. 15 down Put the cup (rightside-up) on the table (on your L). 16 ---- pause
Notes: Frank says:
It can and should be played both right and left: even more hilarious chaos than usual occurs when you get one direction going for a while, and then call out the other. To change direction, the main thing to remember is to perform the tappy-tap as *left-right-left*. Thus your left hand is kind of reminding you that you're going to reach over with your right hand to grab the cup on the left, nearest the main (left) tapping hand (in this case). Clearly recalling which cup to grab, amidst stress and chaos, is half the battle!
History: I learned the game from Frank Metcalf at Chehalis 1994. He thinks he learned it at Fiddle Tunes.
Daniel also teaches the game. He thinks he learned it "sometime in the mid-80's".
Beats: 32, in 4 sets of 8. People: Two stand facing each other. Instructions are the same for each. Start: R hand high, palm down, over Other's L hand. L hand low, palm up, under Other's R hand. beat lyric action ---- ------ ------ 1-1 bo Move each hand up or down to slap Other's opposite hand. 1-2 bo Move each hand forward to clap Other's opposite hand. 1-3 ---- Clap your hands (somewhat to the R) and keep them together. 1-4 ski Move your joined hands so that the back of the L hands collide. For the next 4 beats, keep the L hands where they are, in contact. 1-5 wot Clap R hands above the L hands. 1-6 ten Clap your R hand to your L. (Ends same as 1-4.) 1-7 tot Clap R hands below the L hands. 1-8 ten Clap your R hand to your L. (Ends same as 1-4.) 2-1 eh Same as 1-1. 2-2 eh Same as 1-2. 2-3 ---- Same as 1-3. 2-4 eh Same as 1-4. 2-5 eh Same as 1-5. 2-6 boom Same as 1-6. 2-7 boom Same as 1-6!! 2-8 boom Same as 1-6!! 3-1 itty Same as 1-1. 3-2 bitty Same as 1-2. 3-3 wotten Same as 1-3. 3-4 totten Same as 1-4. 3-5 bobo Same as 1-5. 3-6 -- ski Same as 1-6. 3-7 wotten Same as 1-7. 3-8 totten Same as 1-8. 4-1 bobo Same as 1-1. 4-2 -- ski Same as 1-2. 4-3 wotten Same as 1-3. 4-4 totten Same as 1-4. 4-5 boom! Same as 1-5, but with gusto. 4-6 ---- Wait. 4-7 ---- Wait. 4-8 ---- Wait. Optional embellishment: For 4-6 through 4-8, spin around.
History: I learned the game from Frank Metcalf at Chehalis 1994. Frank learned it from a 13-year-old girl from Indiana who was a client on a Chilcotin River raft trip for which Frank was the trip naturalist.
This page: http://www.JuneHarman.com/jmdyck/hand_games/