General Question

PrancingUrchin's avatar

What makes the snapping sound when you snap your fingers?

Asked by PrancingUrchin (1939 points ) February 1st, 2008 from iPhone
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

13 Answers

Redfishvanish's avatar

The sound is made from the percussive strike of your fingertip against the base of your thumb.

sndfreQ's avatar

yes, plus a chamber is created in the palm of your hand which acts as an acoustic resonater/amplifier.

gailcalled's avatar

So why can I make a loud snap w. my left (non-dominant) hand and only a pathetic “sshhhh” w. my right hand?

Redfishvanish's avatar

The problem is energy. You can generate more potential energy in your dominant hand because the muscles are more powerful. You do this by firmly pressing your finger against your thumb and allowing it to slip off when you have pressed the maximum amount that you are capable of. By allowing your digit to slip, you transform the potential energy into kinetic energy. That energy is again transformed when it hits the base of your thumb.

gailcalled's avatar

Great theory, Redfish, but I do much better with non-dominant hand (left one), thereby belying your logical theory.

jz1220's avatar

I just observed myself snapping my fingers for a few minutes. The snapping sound actually doesn’t occur at the instance of the strike; it happens when the middle finger lands on your palm.

That being said, I don’t think strength has as much to do with the quality of the snap than other factors like where your other fingers are resting and the shape of your palm—things that would affect the resonance.

Charlie's avatar

Friction!! That’s all it is without getting tec.

gailcalled's avatar

That still doesn’t answer my question of why I can make a loud snap w. my weaker hand and no noise w. stronger one.

sndfreQ's avatar

@gailcalled: poss. arthritis in your dominant hand? Also different strength in the musculature in your writing hand may cause a variance in the tone of the muscle tissue and ligaments.

Redfishvanish's avatar

It might be that the fingers are at a different angle. I find that I cannot snap with my index or middle finger, but only my ring finger. my ring finger is the only one that doesn’t make that same pathetic shussing noise

gr71cj5's avatar

Stick your thumb in a coke bottle and “pop” it out.
Clap you hands when flat and then when cupped (much louder).
The majority of the sound is from the rapid change in air compression.
In the case of the fingers, the air pocket made by the lower 2 fingers.
Others can “snap” their fingers by actually using the thumb with other fingers in a fist (like the coke bottle above)
Another example is the “pop” made by rapidly pulling your tongue from the roof of your mouth.

mee's avatar

The snap is simply made by your finger hitting your hand. Some people say it is your fingers rubbing together to make this sound, but for that to happen, you would need air compression. Try snapping your fingers together by moving them backwards or sliding your hands together. you do not hear a snapping sound.

sndfreQ's avatar

It’s the sound of your middle finger hitting the opening of the “cone” shape your closed hand makes.

You can also put your hand in the same shape for snapping, then try and hold your thumb and index finger outwards, and with your left hand, grab your middle finger and pull it back (away from your palm) and then release the middle finger so it flings inward; it also creates the same snap, minus the friction with the thumb and contact with the index finger after the release.

Hope that makes sense.

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