Clave Conundrum: Which View To Choose?

By Jeff Salisbury

After being fortunate enough to have seen a number of the most influential Latin percussionists of our time play simply astounding music, I encountered a sort of musical puzzle.  The polyrhythmic prevalence of 3 over 2 and 3 over 4 has intrigued me and prompted me to document a combination I had yet to see on paper.  By superimposing 3-2 Rumba Clave over 6/8 clave where 8th note= 8th note, a cycle of either 6 bars of 4/4 time or 8 bars of 6/8 is derived.  When I wrote it both ways I wondered which look is more “user friendly”.  No instruments are specified and I did not use any x’s or alternative noteheads, which might be preferred.

The logical extension of the clave combination for me was fleshing it out to be Bembe/Cascara.  Then the possibilities of notation increased.  Is it easier to read in ¾ time?  What about 6/8 or 4/4?  Is the top line easier when corresponding to the time signature, or does that matter?  How about a rudimental look? Regardless of the view,  they all amount to the same interaction of the rhythms and are not inherently more or less difficult to play.

This led me to wonder how our brains work when presented with different perspectives of the same musical situation. Based on my experience, I found it easier to play certain versions sooner than others. Try them out and have fun.   I’d love to hear what other drummers experience when reading through these and which views are preferable.

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