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.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think you could just use any recorder to measure the time. $\endgroup$
    – jinawee
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ @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: youtube.com/watch?v=7Rma_EAqZg0 $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 20:11
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @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. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ Purely FTR .. I recommend TwistedWave for audio on the Mac $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 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) (Edit: removed broken link to the audio file, but imagine it: it sounds like - you guessed it - a snap! Reproduction is left as an exercise for the reader.)

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

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For future reference, there's no need to CW an answer to your own question on this site. $\endgroup$
    – user10851
    Commented Jun 10, 2014 at 5:47
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisWhite Maybe not, but it seemed self-serving not to. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 10, 2014 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

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ ... units? labels? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 21:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.