Claves and their role in Spanish music

Claves is an instrument that belongs to the percussion category. It is an instrument that is an integral part of Latin American music of all genres. The sounds of the percussion instrument resonates in all salsa music as well as in dance music like Mambo and Rumba. The instrument exists in different varieties which are used throughout in Cuba, Latin America as well as in US. You will also find the instrument’s sound incorporated in many modern music forms these days. this percussion instrument is also a teaching tool. Children can be easily taught the use of this instrument as there are no notes involved and kids become aware of rhythms as well as differentrhythmic patterns by learning to use the music instrument.

About the instrument

When we talk of a set of claves it is usually a wooden instrument as per its original form. Nowadays even plastic or fiberglass variants are available. The instrument comprises of two sticks. One stick needs to be held in the palm of one hand while the other is held in the other hand. Sound is created when the stick on the palm is struck. This is the male clave while the striking stick is the female clave. The sticks might vary in size but in general the claves are usually eight inches in length and are about an inch in thickness. Claves are usually dowel shaped with rounded and ends that are evenly cut. Many say that the Cubans invented this percussion instrument though there are influences of aboriginal tribes of American, Spanish and African origins as well.

Similarities with other instruments

There are similar instruments that resemble claves and are used in different parts of the world. For instance, Asian music genres have many percussion instruments similar to claves. This is one of the most basic percussion instrument that is used in Spanish music though there are other variants found as well.

Mastering the instrument

It should not be assumed that playing the instrument is simple, only about banging two sticks together to create a rhythm. Indeed, playing the clave takes mastery and skill. Players create certain rhythmic patterns with the instrument that need to be rhythmic and consistent. Those who master the instrument learn how to modulate the sound as well. this depends on how and where one strikes the male clave. The skill in playing the instrument depends on the force, area as well as speed at which the clave is struck. This is a skill that develops with practice and with the right teaching by master instrumentalists.

One can explore this instrument as it is an inexpensive one to procure. Children as well as learners of music can easily procure the instrument. There are different varieties of the instrument available though rosewood variety is considered the best. Depending on the material, the instrument’s sound also changes. For instance, the fiberglass material also produces a unique sound. Many claves are hollow for gaining certain resonance and tone.

Musical instruments in Spain

There are a lot of vibrant cultures associated with the history of Spain. These cultures have over the years influenced the culture of Spain. The traditional music of Spain can be traced to Moorish music, Christian music, Jewish music and the Visigoths as well as the ancient Romans who were responsible for bringing Greek music to the country. The music of the Visigoths consisted of religious chants that are melodic. Over time, distinct sounds have been developed in Spain by the various areas. The sounds are created with the aid of some instruments that help to make the music interesting. Here are 5 of the most common musical instruments used in Spain.

Bongo Drums

This type of drum is made up of 2 drums. The smaller drum is known as the hembra while the bigger is drum known as the macho. A bridge is used to join the 2 drums together in the center. The history of the bongos could be traced to Cuba where it first existed in the 1800s. Drumsticks are not needed to play the drums, as only the hands are used to play it. The bongo could be played when it is sitting on a stand, so that it is easy for the player to move. It could also be placed between the legs of the musician. The traditional bongo drums beat is called marillo in Spanish language, which translates as hammer.


Accordion is also a very important musical instrument that is used in the Basque area of Spain. The 19th century saw Italy influencing the Basque area to using accordion. Trikitixa or hard sound is the name of the music produced when Basque music is accompanied with accordion. The according playing style in Basque music entails staccato triplets and rapid melodies. In modern times, Basque music is a combination of voice, tambourine and trikitixa.


Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey are some of the Mediterranean countries where castanets have become a major part of their music. The small instruments that are held in the hand have been used to make music for several decades. It has also become a very popular Spanish instrument. Castana wood is traditionally used to make Castanets. Metallic versions of the instrument are also available. They comprise 2 cups, which have a one-sided dip that is slightly curved. A distinct sound is produced due to the drilling of the 2 cups. It is drilled in such a way that one of the cups produces a higher pitch than the other.

Flamenco guitar

It will be impossible to talk about musical instruments in France without talking about the toque or flamenco guitar, which originated from a small Southern Spain region – Andalusia. Melodies and charismatic rhythms are weaved together when the guitar is used. The playing style of the guitar was developed for accompanying music.

Musical instruments are a very important part of music, as only vocals cannot produce interesting music. Different areas have different instruments that are peculiar to them, which characterize their music. There are several musical instrument types in Spain. The most popular include the bongo drums, accordion, castanets and flamenco guitar.