Video: Harry Connick Jr. Heroically Tricks a Crowd Into Clapping on the 2 & 4

We’ve all been there.

You’re out seeing one of your favorite bands perform live. The mood is jovial and everyone is having a great time. You think nothing could possibly bring you down when—suddenly—the audience begins clapping on the 1 and 3.

It’s easy to feel helpless in this sort of situation. It’s easy to feel trapped. It’s easy to abandon your faith in humanity and curse the gods for having ever afflicted the world with music in the first place.

Fear not.

Fortunately for all of us, there are people like Harry Connick Jr. The renowned New Orleans jazz singer and pianist is not the kind of person who will let himself become a victim when the crowd begins clapping off beat.

No, Harry Connick Jr. does not throw up his hands and surrender to a lack of rhythm. Harry Connick Jr. rolls up his sleeves and gets to work solving the problem.

Case in point: this video of his performance for a rhythmically-challenged French audience.

While knocking out a rendition of his 1999 tune “Come By Me,” Connick puts his crowd on the right track by heroically adding an extra beat to one of the song’s measures. The clueless onlookers have no idea what hit them, but at least one member of his band is enthused by the move (you can see him raise his arms triumphantly in the background).

The whole thing goes down around the 0:38 mark. Check it out.

  • Janine Silsby

    I just read the article. Umm… Is the author really a music person writing for Offbeat.com?: “Fortunately for all of us, there are people like Harry Connick Jr. The renowned New Orleans jazz singer and pianist is not the kind of person who will let himself become a victim when the crowd begins clapping off beat.”

    OFF beat??? NO, dear, Sam D’Arcangelo. OFF-beat is what dear Harry is TEACHING them. That is why the signature NOLA music mag that you are writing for is called OFF-BEAT. Now while I will give you that Harry is getting them onto the correct beat, that correct beat IS the OFF beat. Consider yourself schooled, Sam.

    PS: Sam, I do agree with your upset about audiences who clap ON the beat. It drives me nuts!

    • Hey Janine. Thanks for your insights. To clarify, I meant that the audience is clapping off beat, as in they are not clapping on the proper beats (the 2 and 4, in order to stress the backbeat as intended). This is different from saying that they are clapping on the off beats, which in this instance would mean the 2 and 4, but could also mean eighth notes in other instances. By getting the audience to clap on the off beats (the backbeat), Connick got them clapping on the proper beats. I apologize for any confusion.

    • Matt Williamson

      Your level of aggression is a little off beat, Janine. Beats 1, 2, 3, and 4 are all beats. So clapping on any of those beats would technically be considered “on the beat(s).”

      Consider yourself “schooled” on behalf of the poor writer under attack for no reason.

      • Evan Y.

        I enjoy clapping on the off beats. I’m a horn player. That’s our job in Sousa marches. But if you really wanna get technical, Jazz plays in cut time mostly, because why would they make their lives easier by counting every beat? I know of a great artist that once told people, “If you try to count every beat, YOU’RE GON’ DIE.” Which means your beats 1 and 3 are actually beats 1 and 2. So you just got schooled yourself by someone who’s got 2 music degrees.

      • Janine Silsby

        “a little off beat”… good one, Matt. But Sam was paid for this article, I assume. And a good article it is, with the exception I noted… and stand by (see below). I think professional writers are fair game… unlike a poor commenter.

    • Scott1M

      Did you wake up with a need to feel superior to someone else yesterday?

      • Janine Silsby

        Perhaps… I do like to be right. 😉 But when did relevant criticism of a professionally written piece necessitate charges of seeking superiority? I think Sam can take it. I do love the article otherwise… and he (or someone) did edit it well. Another pet peeve: badly or unedited professional (including news) articles.

    • Shep

      Clapping should occur on the downbeat, Janine. 1 and 3 would be the upbeats, and it both sounds ridiculous and drives every competent musician crazy. Where did you receive your music education?

      • Evan Y.

        Actually, clapping should happen on 2 and 4 when consuming jazz. Or just clap every beat now will you?

        • Shep

          Not only was I not addressing you, but you actually just repeated back to me what I explained to Janine. Harry Connick, Jr. is a jazz musician. One claps on the two and four, which are the downbeats in the music in question.

      • Janine Silsby

        Shep, I don’t know if you are being sarcastic given the hits I took above, but I’m glad you asked. I have no real formal training, as in a music degree. But I am old enough I have a long history of choirs and music classes in public school that included music theory back when they actually did that. I even remember music lessons in elementary school. It saddens me that such instruction has all but disappeared from our public school curriculums.

  • Sean Ryan

    I didn’t hear a difference at :38. It still sounds like the crowd is clapping on 2 and 4 the whole time. Although more importantly and for clarification, Off beats are defined by the beats’ subdivided counterparts. In other words typically there are two parts to everybeat. 1 and +. So a subdivided measure in 4/4 time would be counted 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +. It would be quite a feat if the audience could simultaneously clap on the off beats. What the audience is actually doing is clapping on the back beat. Although in blues/jazz typically beats 2 and 4 are strong anyway so this isn’t something historical.

    • Janine Silsby

      I agree it is so smooth at :38, I can’t “hear” it either. But they are definitely on 1 and 3 to start, and after that on 2 and 4. Took me a few times clapping along to “get” it. Connick IS brilliant!

    • oatjay

      Coming across this article late, but listen to the lower pitch notes and watch Harry’s left hand. He intentionally holds his hand off right around :38. There’s definitely ambiguity, but that’s what makes the transition so clean. It’s beautiful-perfect place to pull it off.

  • Janine Silsby

    I am enjoying the conversation, though the defensiveness for the author surprised me a bit. I still stand by my initial post. Here is the applicable information from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_(music): On-Beat and Off-Beat – In music that progresses regularly in 4/4 time, counted as “1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4…”, the first beat of the bar (downbeat) is usually the strongest accent in the melody and the likeliest place for a chord change, the third is the next strongest: these are “on” beats. The second and fourth are weaker—the “off-beats”. Subdivisions (like eighth notes) that fall between the pulse beats are even weaker and these, if used frequently in a rhythm, can also make it “off-beat”.[7]… So “off-beat” is a musical term, commonly applied to syncopation that emphasizes the weak even beats of a bar, as opposed to the usual on-beat. This is a fundamental technique of African polyrhythm that transferred to popular western music. According to Grove Music, the “Offbeat is [often] where the downbeat is replaced by a rest or is tied over from the preceding bar”.[7] The downbeat can never be the off-beat because it is the strongest beat in 4/4 time.[8] Certain genres tend to emphasize the off-beat, where this is a defining characteristic of rock’n’roll and Ska music.

    • Jerry Almabatter

      It’s strange to me that people are so needlessly pedantic and aggressive over the internet. Your comment isn’t even an apology for being rude. You’re essentially saying “Well, I was a rude little cunt but the author is wrong and he deserves to be belittled for his mistakes! He writes for a website called Offbeat.com for crying out loud! He should be crucified!”

      Like, fuck off with that negativity and self-important bullshit, man. So completely uncalled for.

      • Diane Barth Swartz

        Jerry, in case you don’t know — women find the word “cunt” to be the highest pinnacle of rude, and I thought Janine was being fairly diplomatic. And there’s something to be said for maintaining high standards in writing about a subject. Being sloppy is a slippery slope to becoming Foxnews.

        • Janine Silsby

          Thank you, Diane. I was hoping someone would speak up. Didn’t need to be another woman. But, hey, sisterhood is powerful!

    • Matt Williamson

      Yeah, I would have probably at least been able to appreciate the point you were trying to make if you hadn’t made it with the stick of superiority shoved up your ass. You’re still wrong, practically speaking. They are all “beats.” Offbeats lie between the beats. So yes, there’s a hierarchy, but if you say that 2 and 4 are off the beat, then so is 3 because that’s lower on the totem pole than 1. So now we’re left with 1 beat in a measure of 4/4, so the math isn’t in your favor. I’ve been teaching this shit for going on 20 years now, so my qualifications are stronger than your quick check on Wikipedia.

  • Ray Pena

    I call it White Boy Disease! It’s an Affliction that needs to be addressed and it can be cured by teaching people to stomp their feet instead of clapping. I have found that people seem to understand 1 and 3 as downbeats if you tie their hands.