Rock Drumming System

Learn how to Develop the Left Foot Clave

Learning how to perform the Clave pattern is a must for any latin, salsa or other similar grooves. Being able to throw in the clave rhythm, while playing a pattern with your right hand can be very tricky. What about using your feet though? A lot of Latin music is played around the clave groove, meaning sometimes as a drummer it is good to have it constantly played in the background. The best way to achieve this is by mastering the clave pattern with your left foot. Learning this allows you to maintain the clave groove while soloing and playing other beats over top with your hands and bass drum. So how do you develop this technique?

For starters, make sure you know what the clave groove is, and which one you want to learn. There are two types of clave, the Son clave, and the Rhumba clave, each has their own place in music. For this lesson, I will be using the Son clave which is the more popular pattern. Now that you know what the clave is all about, start warming up your left foot by doing some basic rudiments. Learning how to use your left foot with more independence is key in doing this technique. Practice both heel up and heel down, doing the basic single stroke, double stroke, and paradiddle. Once you have warmed up, its time to move on to the clave.

**The left foot clave is usually played on a cowbell or wood block to get that Latin sound; however, you do not need to go out and buy a foot pedal just for this. You may use your hi hat to get the same feel, this will save you some money.

To get started, simply play the clave pattern with your right foot (this is the easy part). Start slow, and make sure you use a metronome to make sure you are performing a true clave groove, and not a broken up triplet beat. Notice how the clave is a 2/3 pattern spread over two bars. This looks like this:

When you are comfortable with this clave pattern, and ONLY when you are comfortable , move on the next clave pattern. This clave pattern is very basic, but very complicated. It is a little easier to start with your right foot doing constant quarter notes on the bass drum. This exercise will work on your feet independence.

Now try to add your hands over top of the left foot. Try doing this without the bass drum at first, and then add the bass drum later. Make sure you use both your right and left hands with this clave exercise. Also, remember to start slow!

These following practice exercises will help greatly in developing your left foot clave. Remember that this technique takes time, and will not be learned over night. Go over each pattern until you can do it at slow and fast tempos. If you are able to play all these with no problems, maybe try playing the Rhumba clave over each of these instead of the Son clave. 

By: Dave Atkinson

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