Rock Drumming System

What is the Clave

For those drummers out there that are eager to dive in to the world of Latin music, the term Clave, is a rhythmic pattern that relates to latin drumming. Pronounced (Klah-Vay), this term has more than one meaning, which; unfortunately to most, is a mystery. The clave is so popular in Latin and Afro Cuban music, that most beats are based around it. Somba, Salsa, Bossa Nova, Samba, and more all are based around the clave.  So let me uncover this latin drumming mystery and explain the different types and definitions of the clave.

The term Clave literally means “Key” in Spanish. So in other words, the clave is the key to Latin music. Now I mentioned above that there are two meanings to this word. First off, The Claves is also an instrument. These are two wooden blocks that are hit together to produce a rhythmic Latin sound. The second definition of the clave is a two bar rhythmic pattern. This is the most common use of the word, and is the “key” to spicing up drum beats.

The clave is a two bar pattern that can be played in two different directions. The pattern consists of 5 notes, and can be played 2-3 or 3-2. This would mean that 2 beats are played in the first bar and 3 beats played in the second bar. (or visa versa for 3-2). It is good to practice both directions, as each one offers a totally different feel. There are different varieties of the clave, each one is very similar (3-2 or 2-3) but are played just a little different. Make no mistake, each version of the clave has its place in different types of music! The different types of clave rhythms are:

It is very important to understand these patterns and the differences between them all before you start exploring the Latin music. Like I said before the clave is the key to Latin and Afro Cuban music; even the salsa, Bossa Nova, and Samba use the clave pattern. Gaining the skills and independence to perform this pattern will improve your skills on the drum set drastically. Learning this will give you skills in independence with your sticks as well as your feet. In fact, learning how to perform the clave with your left foot is very beneficial. It allows you play other voices on the drum while maintaining the fundamental rhythm. Read my article on the left foot clave to learn this!

By: Dave Atkinson

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