by Rich Redmond

Clave comprises the root rhythms used as the basis for most Afro-Caribbean music. These rhythms are two measures long (written in cut time), with three notes in one measure and two notes in the other. If you play the three-note measure first, it’s called 3-2 clave. If you play the two-note measure first, it’s called 2-3 clave. There are two types of clave: son and rumba. The difference between them is the phrasing of the three-note measure. If the notes are evenly spaced, it’s son. If the third note is delayed, it’s rumba.

These clave rhythms have been seeping into popular music for many years, in songs such as Johnny Otis’s “Willie and the Hand Jive” and Toto’s “Rosanna.” You’ll hear these rhythms in classical music and jazz as well; they’re everywhere. In this article I’ve written some rocking and funky grooves that utilize the universal clave patterns. Play them with a click track or metronome at all tempos and dynamic levels.

For transcriptions of the beats in this lesson, check out the complete article in the September 2014 issue of Modern Drummer.