How You Can Record and Mix Body Percussion

How You Can Record and Mix Body Percussion

Body percussion is great because it can add a little extra something to your mixes. I’m talking about anything from hand clap, to beat boxing, to finger snaps, and the list goes on.

Here’s a breakdown of how you can make them shine on your records.

Beatboxing Like a Drummer

This is the art form of using your mouth to make drum sounds. To me, I feel there are a couple of ways to approach this.

One way is more traditional which is to capture the vocal beatboxing. This is similar to how someone like Justin Timberlake would do it.

Another way to do this would be to bring out the percussive strength in the voice. You can do this by adding a dynamic mic as well as kick drum mic to add a bit more weight and then place them both close to the vocalist. From here you can use extreme EQ technique to bring out certain parts of the voice. It’s not uncommon for me to do something like a 12 dB boost in the top end. Compression can also be useful, but I’m just trying to get it to sound like a real drum kit.

Let’s Clap Our Way to the Top

I like to approach hand claps in a couple of different ways. You can go for a more ambient “in the room” type of sound as well as a dryer “in your face” hip hop kind of sound.

In a room, I would usually like to approach this with a pair of cardioids five feet away from the actual clap. For group claps, I will just have everyone in the room, and I will do a few takes.

For a direct clap sound, I prefer to use a figure of eight mics which I am very carefully aiming and positioning. So without the room sound, the clap doesn’t have any sustain, but the same room sound is what helps to place the clap into the stereo field.

For processing a natural clap, it’s pretty simple. You can use a little bit of compression or EQ to even out the tone and maybe a bit more low end or high end if the mix calls for it. Also, panning the layers around can sound cool.

Lo-Fi Your Way to Gritty Claps

One little secret that not many people utilize is to lofi their claps.  This is especially true in Hip Hop.  Remember that Hip Hop came from a very Low Fidelity era with 8 bit and 12 bit samplers and nothing gets those claps sounding gritty then a lo-fi sound.

So how do you go about getting that sound?  You can try using an EQ and filtering out some of the top end but that just turns down the hi-end.  To really get something to sound lo-fi you have to completely remove it as if it never existed before.  To do this, you need to use a sample reducer like the stock lo-fi plugin that comes in protools.   The second option is to just grab a high quality lo fi sample pack which already comes with all that gritty goodness.


Body percussive sounds are usually overlooked when it comes to adding interest to a record. There’re lots of good options to choose whether you are just using subtle amounts of noise or whether they are meant to be the feature. The best part is these are free, and you don’t need any particular instrument to make it happen.