How does body percussion work?

Body percussion is, in a sentence, the use of different parts of the body to create music. But of course, you only need to think for a moment about the wealth of possibilities for making sound with your body, to realize this is an exceedingly broad and in-depth discipline – as well as one likely to date as far back as the emergence of humanity itself. 

After all, just picture all of the things you can do with your body right now to make sounds – clapping, tapping, snapping, stomping, clicking and so on. It really is simply about using the human body as an instrument – but it is also because of this that the scope for creativity is practically infinite.

A short history of body percussion 

Given that remains of the first musical instruments have been found at archaeological sites in the likes of Spain and Germany, it seems logical to surmise that early man was probably accompanying the creation of his own music with the clapping of his palms and the beating of his feet. Body percussion, then, is likely to have a history going back to prehistoric times. 

We can say with greater certainty that a strong link exists between modern body percussion and the mines of South Africa, the gumboot dance originating in diamond mines where miners not being allowed to talk led them to instead stomp their gumboots to communicate and enjoy themselves.

What makes body percussion so appealing? 

Anyone who has ever deliberately – or less-than-deliberately – made a compelling sound with their own body will know something about what has caused this art form to endure. 

It is one of the most accessible and inexpensive ways of making music, as you don’t need any instrument other than your body, and anyone – of any age, culture, language or fitness level – can do it. Body percussion is also a wonderfully versatile mode of expression, able to be done ‘solo’ or as part of a group – and as it is not a practice that creates divides or competition between participants, no one will be left feeling excluded or humiliated. 

This is without touching on how personally fulfilling body percussion is. Making music with the body is a great way to release natural endorphins, relax and have fun – yet, you’ll also be burning calories and getting fit. That’s ideal if you love music but struggle to stay committed to working out the traditional way.

So, why not start creating sounds with your body today? 

From stamping your feet on the floor and patting your thighs with your palms, to knocking your chest and even slapping your cheeks with your mouth open, there are so many ways to build up a repertoire of tones, sounds and effects through body percussion. In the process, you will also learn to internalize such fundamental musical concepts as rhythm, beat and tempo. 

Or you could go further than simply practicing on your own, by attending a body percussion class or even becoming a certified Soul Clap Fitness instructor. Whatever route you take, there’s nothing quite like body percussion for truly becoming the music! 

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