playing claves

Claves (pronounced CLAH-vays) are a pair of round wooden sticks, each about an inch and a half thick and 7 to 8 inches long, that are tapped together to produce a hollow, high-pitched sound. The player holds one over the upturned finger-nails of their left fist and beats it with the other held lightly in the right hand. Claves are used in certain Latin-based styles.


Claves beat is a rhythm pattern played by the claves in a rumba. The rhythm is made up of a 2-bar phrase played as 2:3 clave (1-2, 1-2-3) or 3:2 clave (1-2-3, 1-2). Once a song starts, the clave doesn't change. In Latin American countries, people often clap their hands to clave during the music.


See also wooden instruments.