The basic clave pattern is usually played in either one of two forms - the 2-3 clave or the 3-2 clave. In the 2-3 clave the first bar of music consists of two notes and the second bar of three (hence the 2-3 name), and vice versa for the 3-2 clave. In our timing CD you can follow the 2-3 clave and the 3-2 clave respectively, at slow pace with the voice-over count. From now on we will use only the 2-3 clave, but the following explanations also apply to the 3-2 clave (just reverse the order of the bars in the music.)
In a basic 2-3 clave, the first two notes mark beats 2 and 3, the third note marks beat 5, the fourth falls in between beats 6 and 7 (therefore the challenge in keeping the time) and the last note marks beat 8.
We will summarize this visually with the help of our clock in the Figure.
To dance in time with the clave you need to coordinate the 5 clave notes with the 8 musical beats. This may be easy for a musician, but perhaps more difficult for someone with no musical background. Listen carefully to the vocal explanations in track 12. Try to hear the first two notes and remember that they mark beats 2 and 3. The third note marking beat 5 is also helpful. Then try NOT to follow the fourth and fifth notes with your feet (if you dance on 1) since they will not match your steps. Your steps will actually fall in between them. Make use of Figure 2 to understand this concept and of the rhythmic tracks to get used to this.