Clave - The Rhythmic Key: Lesson One: Son Clave

Clave (CLAH-vay, Spanish for key), means the sticks used to play a set rhythm. Clave also means the rhythm that is played, a syncopated 2-bar phrase. There are several different claves for different types of songs. Here is how to play the son clave:

Slowly count out loud 2 measures (or bars, same thing) of 4 beats each. Keep counting over and over, with a steady beat and without pausing.

one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four.

Now, clap along wtih the capital letters,

one, two, three, four, one, TWO, THREE, four.

Start slowly, then pick up speed while maintaining accuracy. When you can do that with speed and accuracy, add another clap:

ONE, two, three, four, one TWO, THREE, four.

Master that, then add another:

ONE, two, three, FOUR, one TWO, THREE four.

One clap remains. It's the syncopation, coming off of the main beats. Count and clap like this (repeat over and over:


Now add that syncopation to what you have already learned and your playing son clave: