Also:       clappers      tablettes      bones      

Contextual Associations

Cliquettes is a pair of concussion plaque idiophones (clappers) associated with Medieval Europe. They could be made from wood, bone, or ivory, and their use was not restricted to musical performance. They were also used in Medieval times to scare off birds, by night watchmen, and as a warning instrument sounded by lepers. Traditional music associated with butchers in England and Scotland incorporated bone clappers as a rhythmic instrument, and the instrument was also associated with burlesque music in Medieval times. Most of the above uses of clappers likely made it an effective iconic source in theatrical music of the time, its very sound indexing facets of daily life. Present-day performers of early music might choose to arrange a part for cliquettes, but the exact nature of their use in Medieval and Renaissance musical practice is not known.


The two pairs of cliquettes pictured here are flat, oblong plaques made of sonorous wood.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

Cliquettes can be sounded in one of two ways: by holding one clapper in each hand and with a clapping motion colliding them together to produce single articulations; or by holding both clappers in one hand, one end of each pinched between consecutive fingers, and with a rapid shaking motion colliding them together or against a part of the body, such as a thigh, to produce a rapid series of articulations.


Clappers as a type of concussion idiophone date back to pre-historic times and are known to have existed in many parts of the world. In Europe, cliquettes like the ones pictured here are dated to around the 9th century CE. It is not a well-documented instrument because even when used in notated musical traditions it was not given a notated part, and outside of such musical circles it was simply a sound-producing or signal instrument.

Bibliographic Citations

Blades, James. 1970. Percussion Instruments and their History. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers.

________, and Robert Anderson. 1984. “Clappers.” NGDMI v.1: 387-389.


Instrument Information


Continent: Europe

Formation: European

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.11 idiophone--concussion sticks or stick clappers: two or more are struck against each other

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: clapping

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: block - oblong bar

Sound objects per instrument: two sounded collectively

Resonator design: no resonator

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: concussing - direct

Sound exciting agent: colliding sonorous objects

Energy input motion by performer: clapping

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


7.5 in. length

Primary Materials




Entry Author

Roger Vetter