La Clave

A common denominator of most “Latin (-American)”, “Afro-Cuban”, and “Caribbean” (dance) music is “la clave”. The “clave” is a 5-beat syncopated pattern played over 2 measures of music (3-2 or 2-3).

3-2: 1, and, 4, 6, 7
2-3: 2, 3, 5, and, 8

People don’t dance to trumpets or trombones; they dance to the beat of drums – and “la clave”. The clave (rhythm) is usually played on drums, two sticks, a cow bell, bass guitar, or by clapping (by hand).

While some people think one should always dance “on 2”, what is most important is to listen to the clave and stay on beat!