Rumba Clave

<kvetcher2 at>

1) What most people in the USA call "rumba clave" (Cuban master Lazaro Pedroso calls it "Black Clave") can be portrayed like this. with the x indicating a strike and the O a rest (silence). The pattern is shown as two bars of 4/4 rhythm:

x o o x o o o x o o x o x o o o

It is the correct pattern for guaguancó, the most commonly heard rumba variant. It is what it is; there is no 2/3 or 3/2 variation.

  2) Another clave rhythm is called son clave, salsa clave, and ballorom clave. Lazaro calls it Clave Blanca. It is used for son and salsa, and often for the slower rumba variant called yambu. It differs from the "rumba clave" only in that the third eighth note come one eighth note earlier.

x o o x o o x o o o x o x o o o

Some people insist that there are two different son claves: 3/2 (shown above) and 2/3 (ooxoxooxoxoxoo). Others, myself included, believe that these two clave rhythms are the same thing, and that 2/3 clave is just 3/2 starting in the middle of the pattern.

I have come to the the conclusion that for percussionists, 2/3 and 3/2 are indeed one and the same thing, because the clave pattern fits with the other percussion instruments in exactly the same fashion no matter where it starts.

For piano, horns, etc, and especially for arrangers, the terms 3/2 and 2/3 ARE relevant and helpful because the terminology helps them describe the feel and fit of the whole arrangement.

Remember that 2/3 and 3/2 apply only to son clave, NOT rumba clave.

3) Rumba columbia sometimes uses clave, or the clave is included within the bell or cascara parts. It is shown as two bars of 6/8, but many people hear it was the same thing as rumba clave, just in a 6/8

x o x o o x o x o x o o

4) Finally, and just to muddy the waters, there are special claves for flamenco rumba. An addemdum in Spanish follows at the end of this message. I also include a blurb for "Dr. Clave" and I can suggest you search for the website of Rebecca Mauleon (accent on the o) who has a nice scholarly article on clave.

Best wishes to you and all our Italian brothers and sisters.

Phil "Felipe" Pasmanick, el rumbero menor.

"Arrivederchi Roma, en Italia un Guaguanco"


Visit the Bembe website for the latest informative discussion of clave in the "Ask Dr. Clave" column. A very complete approach to writing out clave, notating clave, incorporating quinto and much more. It's long but worth the effort for anyone interested in clave and Afro-Cuban music. (


Bien, desde el punto de vista cubano. Los gitanos catalanes invierten los nombres y a la clave de son
(xooxooxo|ooxoxooo) la llaman clave de rumba, mientras que a la clave de rumba (xooxooox|ooxoxooo) la llaman clave cubana.

Existen otras variantes de clave, pero todas ellas, junto a las anteriores,
siguen el mismo esquema:

El simbolo Z indica golpe o silencio (optativo) El simbolo O indica silencio requerido El simbolo X indica golpe requerido


Como verás, el esquema esencial está basado en tres golpes ("tierra" en el tiempo 1 del primer compás, "bombo" en el tiempo 2 1/2 del primer compàs y finalmente en el tiempo 2 del segundo compàs, lo que significa una serie de golpes inamovibles en la primera mitad de ambos compases (negrita en el esquema). De este esquema resultan una multitud de variaciones, aunque las más usuales utilizan un solo golpe optativo en la segunda mitad de cada compás, de los tres posibles en el primer compás (generalmente 4 o 4 1/2) y de los dos posibles en el segundo compás.

Finalmente, en algunos temas se añade un compàs de tiempo 2/4 o 3/4 al final de cada clave, por ejemplo:



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