Sunday, May 5, 2013
DJ Ceiba AKA Brotha Sean on West African CLAVE Rhythmic Pattern
As a professional traditional drummer and Ableton Live user, I incorporate notes from a West African and Afro-Caribbean rhythm called clave into my drums and bass whenever possible. More than just a high-pitched wood instrument, clave is the time keeper and rhythmic inspiration for well over a hundred styles of music.
There are MANY types of clave (each perfectly suited to a different music) and it can be a one or 2 measure figure. The most basic 1-measure figure (assuming we’re in 4/4 time and we begin on 1) is as follows: in Ableton MIDI grid 1, 1.1.4, 1.2.3, 1.3.3, 1.4. For 2 measures, it’s 1, 1.2.3, 1.4, 2.2, 2.3.
In the context of traditional music from Africa and the diaspora, rhythms and improvised solos are often created with the clave in the musician’s mind. We play with this basic phrase by shifting it around, accenting some notes and depreciating others, adding notes and flourishes, AND leaving it entirely and coming back to ideas that you’ve already established.
In the context of electronic music, there are thousands of established examples of clave (or parts of it) being used consciously and unconsciously.
Here are three examples:
1) shaker: lower the velocity of straight 16th note hi-hat/tamborine/shakers & raise the velocity on (or near) clave. this works for the one AND 2 measure claves.
2) rap music: put the kick on 1 measure clave & keep the snares on the 2 & the 4. experiment with starting the whole kick/clave figure on different beats adjusting as needed (for instance, the “funky drummer” uses the first 3 notes & begins on beat 2.3.3).
3) dance hall: (depending on your tempo) the basic dancehall kick & snare uses the first 3 notes of the 2 measure clave beginning on 1 (kick-kick-snare or kick-snare-snare). try using parts of the 1 measure version for moombahton!!
It’s always good to set your groove engine on swing (somewhere between 25 & 40) when you use this method!
Above all, once you get the hang of how to make clave in its 1 & 2 measure versions, treat it like my description of the traditional drum approaches, experiment with where and when the notes occur and spread the rhythm across different instruments.
Enjoy bringing the soul out of your music!