Definition of claves in English:


plural noun

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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Musicians will demonstrate bomba and plena, and give a group lesson on the claves - wooden sticks that are the backbone of Latin rhythms.’
    • ‘The mic was also nice on wooden percussion - claves, castanets, etc. - and hand claps and finger snaps.’
    1. 1.1mass noun A syncopated rhythm typical of some Latin American music.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I was astonished to hear a couple of side-musicians criticize the great pianist for turning the clave around.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’


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