Salsa > The Best Damn Clave Explanation. Period.

Discussion in 'Salsa' started by salsarhythms, Jul 14, 2003.

  1. salsarhythms

    salsarhythms New Member

    Ok so I've been watching too much HBO...

    But here goes...

    The 2/3 clave is the beat that I will be demonstrating.

    Although many feel that the 3/2 is more popular, if you
    really listen to most of the classic mambo songs, (at
    last count I've got 2,638 songs in my collection) you will
    notice that the 2/3 clave is probably a bit more popular.

    However, that's up for debate. And this is not what this
    post is about.

    Well, without further delay, below is the link you will need
    to listen to the audio file I have put together for you.

    You can find it by going here:

    But don't go there yet!

    After you listen to it, email me at
    and give me your feedback. That's all I ask...=)

    Well go ahead click on:

    and check it out...
  2. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    Excellent salsa rhythms, salsa-rhythms!

    From a dancing perspective, what do people do to reflect the clave beat that falls on 6½? Also, in general, how would someone with a knowledge of the clave dance differently than someone who is counting 1, 2, 3 ,4?

    BTW, this is an open question for all.

    Also, all you dance teachers should be aware that salsa-rhythms sells timing instructional tapes, and they are great for your classes.
  3. salsarhythms

    salsarhythms New Member

    Basically, understanding the clave enables you to do
    one thing...

    Find the beat!

    A lot of people can simply listen to a song and be able
    to find the beat simply because they've been around
    the music all of their life. However, when first learning
    to dance salsa, it's a bit confusing.

    Finding the clave means you can find the 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8
    beats of a salsa song.

    So when dancing to the 2/3 clave, once you find where
    the clave beats are, then you can simply keep count and
    know where the rest of the beats fall, and therefore be
    able to maintain your timing.

    Of course, there are many other beats in a salsa song, so
    it's also important that you understand the other percussion
    instruments, like the conga, cowbell, guiro and etc...

    Something else that is of great value is the understanding of
    the Piano.

    Finally you will need to bring all those sounds and beats
    together into a song and from there you can usually find
    the beat.

    Personally, the conga beat is easiest for me to recognize,
    and once I recognize the conga beat, the clave just comes.

    Of course this is done by learning to listen to the music. After
    all, what good is all the fancy footwork in the world if you
    can't understand the music that is being played...

    One more thing I wanted to add...when attempting to find
    the beat, an important tip to remember is that the lead singer
    and the chorus will usually begin to sing on beat if
    you can find the clave, and conga beat, and listen to the
    singers singing their will notice a very much improved
    salsa dance on your part.
  4. salsa-surfer

    salsa-surfer New Member


    Thanks for your contribution to my knowlege of rhythms.

    But how to find out if a song is played on the 2/3 or 3/2 clave?

    Thanks a lot in advance for any answers
  5. joaoluissantos

    joaoluissantos New Member

    Hi, Salsa Surfer!

    For that I think there isn't a mathematical solution, you have to feel the beginning of the musical phrase (the beat 1). When I learned about the claves, the question that you posed was one of the first that struck my mind, but at that time I wasn't very good hearing the one beat (it was usual to confuse the 1 and the 5).

    Curiosly, it was only in my pursuit to aswer your question that I developed a deeper understanding of the salsa timing and I started hearing clearly the one beat (without confusing it with the 5).

    If you know where is the one beat and if you hear the clave, you will know if it is 2/3 or 3/2 ( accentuation on 1,2 1/2,4, 6,7 beats).

    So, if you can hear the clave I advise you to ear the music and clap the clave with your hands or with one hand in the leg or table. At the same time, try to feel the beginning of the musical phrase (pay attention to everything: all the instruments are important). Do this a lot of times. With time you will start knowing instintively wich clave it is. With me it worked but it took some months...:)

    An Idea: Maybe this topic could have a list of well known music with the information about if it's clave 2/3 or 3/2, this way people that are beginning to learn about the clave could pratice.


    João Santos
  6. salsa-surfer

    salsa-surfer New Member


    Thanks for your answer!

    Normally i'm pretty sure where the "1" beat is in a salsa song and i do not think i confuse it with the "5".

    But even if you know that, it can still be a 3/2 or 2/3 clave. Clave is not a thing played by any instrument, at least it does not have to be played or struck in any way to be present.

    So are there any hints to determine if a song is played on the 3/2 or 2/3 clave?

    Who can name some well-known salsa songs played on 2/3 and 3/2 clave?

    Thanks a lot in advance!
  7. salsaForfun

    salsaForfun New Member

    A good start is the ebook from Salsa Rhythms.
    I personally use for instance the piano (begining of the sequence) and check whether after the 1st beat I hear the toc toc --> 2/3 or the first clave sound is on the 1st beat (3/2). Sometimes the lead singer help also find the one. But this is not always true. There exist an interesting document that points out some important things about the clave. I did appreciate it. Check it out the file clave info.doc at

    Sometimes the clave changes in one song.

    Here a list a list taken from

    2. 2-3 clave.
    Played: Que mala corriente by Son 14.
    Not played: Pegaso by The Latin Brothers.

    3. 3-2 clave.
    Played: Plaza Herrera by Rubén Blades.
    Not played: Amor mío by Orquesta Pasión Juvenil.

    4. Changing clave.
    Cali Pachanguero by Grupo Niche.
    Aïcha (Wolof version) by Africando.

    Hope it helps

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