Definition of claves in English:


plural noun

  • 1A pair of hardwood sticks used to make a hollow sound when struck together.

    • ‘The mic was also nice on wooden percussion - claves, castanets, etc. - and hand claps and finger snaps.’
    • ‘It's basically like a big compilation of West and Central African rhythms and claves; the book has different types of groups or families of rhythms, and then you get into polyrhythmic stuff, drumbeats.’
    • ‘Musicians will demonstrate bomba and plena, and give a group lesson on the claves - wooden sticks that are the backbone of Latin rhythms.’
    • ‘These three main patterns are amplified by turtle shells, claves, timbales, bongos, congas, maracas and tambourines.’
    • ‘With the volume cranked to 4 on a minimalist bass and claves section, it could be easy to forget which band you're listening to.’
    1. 1.1[mass noun]A syncopated rhythm typical of some Latin American music.
      • ‘The title track exemplifies his method - a killer clave set against a sneaking bass and impassioned melodies for brass and strings, like music from a tradition that's never been heard before.’
      • ‘It opens with Henry Mancini's ‘Theme From Hatari,’ which Byron has remade in clave.’
      • ‘The clave is the timekeeper of Latin music and dance, rooted in African syncopation.’
      • ‘Considered the key, the identity and the soul of the music, the clave is the main organizing principle to which every element of arrangement and improvisation in the music is connected.’
      • ‘I was astonished to hear a couple of side-musicians criticize the great pianist for turning the clave around.’


1920s: from Latin American Spanish, from Spanish clave keystone, from Latin clavis key.