You know how when you are at a concert (maybe not at the indie rock/bang-your-head/musical-accompaniment-for-drinking-beer type of concert, but more along the lines of the recital-y, “hey, let's all enjoy the music” type) and a semi-catchy or well known song starts and the rhythm is kind of bouncy and infectious so the audience starts clapping along? Yeah...I hate that. (And, it’s always on the down beat. People only clap rhythmically on the down beat, what’s up with that?)
There is very little need in life for rhythmic clapping. I mean, I guess the idea is to convey to the performer that you like the song and you want to show that you are with them, that you are enjoying what they are doing, so much so that you just had to find a way to participate with them, but then what? I’ll tell you what happens…people realize that songs are long. They think, “well, now that I’m clapping along, I guess I have to keep this up.” And they realize that they have like another 3 or 4 minutes or handclapping in front of them, which doesn’t seem that long until they realize that the clapping along got old after like 15 seconds. And, they can’t really enjoy the song, what with having to think about counting the beat and coordinating their motor skills and trying to figure out if they can stop clapping now that they started and whatnot. And, they can’t really even hear the music or lyrics over all the damn clapping, it’s all just a vague impression of the beat.
So people gradually get fed up and stop clapping along, only some of the die-hards keep it up for a while, so the clapping just peters out and makes it seem like everyone really liked the song at first, but now not so much. And god help everyone if the song has a tempo change, because most of the clappers don’t have musical skill or natural rhythm, so the clapping just goes all crazy and out of synch and it’s a train wreck.
Rhythmic clapping is something children do. It’s useful when you are just learning about music and coordination and such, and it goes along nicely with short, simple little ditties like This Land is Your Land or whatever (we sang that a lot in my pre-school for some reason.) But grown-ups, I implore you…save your clapping until the end of the song. Toss in a few “whoos”, throw up some devil horns, and let the band move along to the next number.