Percussion instrument
Classification Hand percussion
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 111.1
(Concussion idiophone)
Playing range
Single note

Claves (Anglicized pronunciation: clah-vays, IPA:[ˈklαves]) are a percussion instrument (idiophone), consisting of a pair of short (about 20–30 cm (7.9–11.8 in), thick dowels. Traditionally they were made of wood, typically rosewood, ebony or grenadilla. Nowadays they are also made of fibreglass or plastics due to the greater durability of these materials. When struck they produce a bright clicking noise. Claves are sometimes hollow and carved in the middle to amplify the sound.

Claves are very important in Afro-Cuban music, such as the son and guaguancó, and in certain types of German minimal techno[1]. They are often used to play a repeating rhythmic figure throughout a piece, known as clave, a key pattern (or guide-pattern, timeline patter, phrasing referent, bell pattern) that is also found in African music and Brazilian music.[2] One of the better known recordings featuring claves is the Beatles' recording "And I Love Her," in addition to "Magic Bus (song) by The Who.

Steve Reich's Music for Pieces of Wood is written for five pairs of claves.[3]



Playing a pair of claves

The basic principle when playing claves is to allow at least one of them to resonate. The usual technique is to hold one lightly with the thumb and fingertips of the non-dominant hand, with the palm up. This forms the hand into a resonating chamber for the clave. Holding the clave on top of finger nails makes the sound more clear. The other is held by the dominant hand at one end with a firmer grip, much like how one normally holds a drumstick. With the end of this clave, the player strikes the resting clave in the center.


  • F. Ortiz, La Clave, Editorial Letras Cubanas, La Habana, Cuba, 1995.
  • D. Peñalosa, The Clave Matrix – Afro-Cuban Rhythm: Its Principles and African Origins, Bembe Books, Redway California, U.S.A., 2009.
  • O. A. Rodríguez, From Afro-Cuban Music to Salsa, Piranha, Berlin, 1998.
  • E. Uribe, The Essence of Afro-Cuban Persussion and Drum Set, Warner Brothers Publications, Miami, Florida, 1996.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Godfried T. Toussaint, “A mathematical analysis of African, Brazilian, and Cuban clave rhythms,” Proceedings of BRIDGES: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music and Science, Townson University, Towson, MD, July 27–29, 2002, pp. 157–168.
  3. ^ Steve Reich, Writings about Music, New York University Press, 1974.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Claves —   [spanisch, klɑːvəs, Aussprache oft englisch kleɪvz], auch Klanghölzer, Rumbastäbchen, zwei bis zu 20 cm lange, 1,5 bis 3 cm starke Harthölzer, die, gegeneinander geschlagen, einen hellen, durchdringenden Klang ergeben. Voraussetzung dafür ist,… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • CLAVES (S.) — CLAVES S. Petri, quibusscil. illius confessio seu sepulchrum, claudebatur, memorantur Eginhardo in Annalibus, A. C. 796. Sed et super claves B. Petri Apostoli praestitissent corporale iuramentum. Item Poetae Saxonico, de Gestis Caroli M. l. 3.… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Claves — Claves, Mehrzahl von Clavis, s.d.; so Claves St. Petri, Schlüssel des St. Petrus, s. Schlüsselgewalt …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • claves — (izg. klȃves) m DEFINICIJA glazb. udaraljka od dva drvena štapića promjera 2,5 cm, kubanskog podrijetla ETIMOLOGIJA šp …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Claves — Ein Paar Claves Ausgehöhlte afrikanische Holzclaves Claves …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Claves — Paire de claves Les claves sont des instruments de musique de percussion idiophone très ancien joué dans la musique aborigène d Australie, sous d autres noms. Les claves proprement dites, apparaissent à Cuba vers le XVIe siècle, sur les… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Claves — Clavis Cla vis, n.; pl. L. {Claves}, E. {Clavises}. [L.] A key; a glossary. [1913 Webster] || …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • claves — ▪ musical instrument       percussion instrument, a pair of cylindrical hardwood sticks about 8 inches (20 centimetres) long and one inch (2 1/2 centimetres) in diameter, one of which is held in the player s fingertips over the cupped hand (a… …   Universalium

  • claves — noun Claves are a percussion instrument, consisting of two sticks or blocks, in which one is struck against the other in order to produce a sound …   Wiktionary

  • Claves — 1Cla|ves [...vəs] die (Plur.) <zu gleichbed. span. clave, eigtl. »Schlüssel«, dies aus lat. clavis »Schlüssel, Riegel« od. zu span. clavo »Nagel« (da die Stäbchen urspr. aus Schiffsnägeln aus Hartholz entstanden)> Hartholzstäbchen als… …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

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