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CLAVE CONCEPTS: Tito Puente's Para Los Rumberos
This article focuses on the importance of the clave in writing melodies, arrangements and in the direction of the rhythms employed by all instruments, for it is the clave pattern the one that provides the foundation in styles based on Afro-Cuban music.

This article features a brief analysis of the main theme from Para Los Rumberos written by Tito Puente (please refer to cd Cuban Carnival by Tito Puente and his Orchestra - RCA 2349-2-RL) and its relationship with the clave concept. Tito Puente believes that the arranger is the most important person in the orchestra, for it is the arranger's role to fit the composition, give it the correct timing and the correct clave direction, "very important those insignificant little sticks" he says.

As explained in my article on CLAVE CONCEPTS Afro-Cuban Rhythms, there are two major clave styles in Afro-Cuban music; the son clave (generally associated with dance styles) and the rumba clave (associated with folkloric rhythms). They are both two bar rhythms, consisting of a bar containing three notes and another containing two. These rhythms can be approached two ways. In the 3-2 often refer to as the 'forward clave' and in the 2-3 refer to as 'reverse clave'. The choice of the direction of the clave is guided by the melody, which in turn directs all other instruments and arrangements.

The following examples show the son clave in both the 3-2 and 2-3 versions. For an example of the rhythm section parts please refer to the article CLAVE CONCEPTS Afro-Cuban Rhythms.


3-2 Son Clave

3-2 son clave



2-3 Son Clave
2-3 son clave


In this brief analysis of the main theme of Para Los Rumberos you will find that the melody line definitely works in 3-2 clave. I have heard recorded versions of this tune by other artists who for some reason — no knowledge of clave concepts, or understanding of Afro-Cuban rhythms, or simply as Tito Puente put it to me "their own interpretation" — have not taken into account the clave concept. What results from that is a melody 'fighting' the clave rhythm. The following illustrates the melody in its proper clave setting:


Excerpt from Para Los Rumberos by Tito Puente:




Next time you listen to music based on Afro-Cuban music (Latin-jazz, salsa, etc) try and analyse the clave direction, the rhythms played, the melody, the arrangement, missing or added bars (change of clave direction), etc. You will be pleasantly surprised at the amount of serious work that these styles command in terms of composition, rhythms, arrangements and interpretation.


© Alex Pertout. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior written permission from the author. This article was first published in Drumscene magazine.


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