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What is the duration of a snap (of the fingers)?

When someone says, "it's ridiculously fast, it's like [snap]" - where [snap] is them snapping their fingers - they would normally mean it is instantaneous, or near instantaneous. But what is the actual duration of the snap sound? That is from the start of the first snap-sound component to the end of the last?

Disclaimer: obviously there will be variabilities here, but a general range of time would be gladly accepted. High speed video samples would be phenomenal.

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I think you could just use any recorder to measure the time. – jinawee Jun 9 '14 at 20:05
@jinawee: possibly, but I don't have the tools. As for my comment about high speed video - it appears 1200 fps is still far too slow: – Oskar Austegard Jun 9 '14 at 20:11
@OskarAustegard Yes you do, you're using a computer. Install Audacity to look more closely at the waveform. If you don't have a microphone, get a clip of a snap from youtube. – Alan Rominger Jun 9 '14 at 20:12
Purely FTR .. I recommend TwistedWave for audio on the Mac – Joe Blow Jun 10 '14 at 8:10

2 Answers 2

I took @AlanSE's advice and downloaded Audacity and did a number of measurements.

There are some challenges - what is the snap in the snap? Does it start with the sound of your finger gliding over your thumb, and where does it end? I recorded my snap under definite sub-optimal conditions, using the built in microphone of an iMac inside a 14x10 office with plaster walls - it was hard to tell where the snap ended and the echo began.

And even so, as with @Lelesquiz's snaps above, there is a definite, very short primary sound that is much louder than the secondary reverberations which go on for quite some time. See below:

Screen Capture from Audacity

So I decided to go empirical - if I listened to an ever shorter section of the snap, at what point did it cease to sound like a snap? I was surprised to hear that even at 1/1000 second it is recognizable as a snap: One millisecond!

Here is the monster MP3 exported from the 1 ms selection above (1579 bytes including useless tagging info):

So to answer my own question: "A snap" is roughly 1 ms.

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For future reference, there's no need to CW an answer to your own question on this site. – Chris White Jun 10 '14 at 5:47
@ChrisWhite Maybe not, but it seemed self-serving not to. – Oskar Austegard Jun 10 '14 at 12:44

Measure yourself: this an audio recording of my fingers snapping.

Recorded with audacity: amplitude vs time (in seconds).

enter image description here

A closer look suggests that in my case, the volume spike from the snap lasts 0.01-0.02 seconds:

enter image description here

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... units? labels? – Emilio Pisanty Jun 9 '14 at 21:46

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