The way you would know how to EQ claps depends on several factors, which we will discuss further. Some of these include: the music genre you’re composing in, whether you plan to add vocals, which clap samples you use, and what other instruments you plan to add. Layering and getting rid of nasty transients will also help you to achieve the best sound possible.
How to EQ Claps
Most of the time, claps have already been processed, so we don’t have to EQ them that much. But otherwise, you generally want to EQ claps for more presence, and so that they don’t interfere with your snare.
To make your clap sounds more pronounced, bright, and maybe a bit aggressive, you should apply a low-cut filter somewhere around 150 Hz. Try not to overdo it because for the clap to sound natural, you do want to have a bit of low-end.
You might want, depending on the clap sound that you are using, to apply a boost around 200-300 Hz to thicken up a bit and add more body and meat to the clap.
Mid-range is the area where claps may conflict with the sound of the snares, so when applying EQ, you have to make sure that claps don’t overlap with the snare sound.
If your clap sounds way too boxy, then you might want to get rid of that by applying a cut somewhere around 400-600 Hz. If the clap sounds too thin in the range of 200-300 Hz, then you can boost around 600-700 Hz to add more beef. To get the clap sound more natural, you might want to boost with a wider Q around 850-900 Hz. Note that if you boost with a more narrow area, then you might get frequencies in that sound range a bit too harsh and resonating.
What EQ decisions you will be applying in the hi-range entirely depends on your musical idea, meaning whether you need vocals in your track or you don’t. If you don’t plan to add any vocals to your mix, then you can apply a gentle boost around 1-2 kHz. But if you find yourself in the opposite situation, then at the same range, you should apply a gentle cut. You can add more energy and sort of punchiness to your clap by adding a high-shelf boost with a wider Q around 2-5 kHz.
Sometimes, claps samples can include some extra high-end percussion, so there is no need to boost it around 2-5 kHz because some rather unpleasant ringing may appear, instead, you might think about taming it down around the same range. There is nothing useful for us in the clap sound that lives higher than 13 kHz, so it would be a good idea to apply a cut there. Another reason to cut claps within the same range is if those aren’t eliminated, there might be a conflict with hi-hats, or adding sparkle in the vocals would be rather impossible.
Additional Ways to Improve Your Clap Sound
Layering, transients, and choosing the samples wisely are among the extra things that will help you to make your clap sound more pronounced, thick, and generally sit better in the mix.
Layering helps with adding some extra swing, making the sound bolder, and adding that particular ‘snap’ sound.
In order to achieve extra swing, you need to place the clap a few milliseconds behind the snare sound. To achieve the ‘snap’ sound, you should place clap a few milliseconds forward then the snare drum. Also, you may want to play a bit with velocity, so that clap or snare will have more movement and liveliness.
A good way to deal with transients would be setting a high ratio with a fast attack and release time after that, reducing the threshold, and aiming at no more than 6 dB of gain reduction. That will allow the compressor to catch every transient and lower the amount of attack, making the body of the clap louder.
Paying attention and spending as much time as needed when choosing clap samples from libraries will save you a lot of effort during the mixing stage. Also, another good idea would be to listen to more of the music from the genre you’re working on so that you would know which samples would benefit the mix and which would rather spoil the listening experience.
Trap, hip hop, and dance music have a few things in common, those being using claps as a way to emphasize on drive and groove. You can create a sense that your track moves quicker than the chosen tempo by arranging claps to play a bit behind snares.
After selecting a clap and snare that would sit really well together in the mix, you should put your snare so that it would stay firmly on the beat, for example, 2nd and 4th beat in the loop, but you can choose others based on the initial idea and chosen genre of the track.
After you put the snare on the right spot, you should put the clap in the mix, but place it a bit off the beat behind the snare for a few milliseconds. Doing that will make the snare sound bolder and add more sways to your mix.
By moving the clap for a few milliseconds forward then the snare drum will help you to achieve that popular ‘snap’ sound that can be easily found in the majority of tracks that make people rock the floors. Depending on what you want to achieve, you can experiment with velocity so that either the snap of the snare or the clap will have more attack.
It is a quite common situation that claps can sound a bit harsher than desirable and really stand out from the mix, completely ruining the listening experience.
To deal with this issue effectively, you should consider using a compressor or a limiter. You might find extra ways to deal with the said issue, but applying a limiter or compressor would do the job as quickly as possible.
To use a compressor or a limiter with a fast attack setting, we should set a high ratio alongside fast attack and release time. The next thing would be reducing a threshold to precisely a smudge over the average level of the signal of the clap and hoping to achieve a maximum of 6 dB of gain reduction.
The amount of gain reduction can vary from track to track and from the overall feeling that you have while listening to the track. By using those settings, the compressor is able to capture each and every transient and reduce their level so that the transients won’t have that much of an attack and the body of the clap would be louder.
Choose Your Samples Wisely
As we already mentioned, claps might give you a bit of a hard time when you are on the mixing stage of the music production, as they can quite noticeably pop out from the track, or be flat and thin, have no groove, or have other rather unwelcomed issues. There is actually one easy way to deal with all of the said problems altogether. The answer is to choose the best samples possible. Because if you, for some reason, decide to skip that part, you will end up with a very gruesome and almost endless process of working with those samples in the processing stage.
So spending as much time as possible on carefully and thoroughly choosing samples from your vast library would reward you in the end. It would also be helpful to listen to as many tracks from the genre that you’re producing in so that you will know the type of clap that would be beneficial to add to different tracks. Also, the said practice will help you with filtrating the sounds that clearly stand out from the mix. Additionally, it’s not a very good idea to use samples that have the same low-end as your kick drum or can mask the hi-hats.