Hey Everyone! Welcome to week 3 of the improv tip series. We’re continuing the rhythm series and this week I’m going to talk about how we can use a clave to help with our rhythmic interest in swing. Some of you may be saying, “Wait a second, Jason. Clave is a pattern used in Latin music. How can I incorporate that into swing?”
Good question! Clave (and it’s various patterns, i.e. the 2 + 3 and 3 + 2 son clave and rhumba clave) is a HUGE part of latin rhythms. However, we can utilize those same patterns in swing. There are countless YouTube videos up of drummers showing how they work on their swing by playing their kit alongside a clave pattern. As improvisers, we can utilize the same concept. It’s great to have connected and flowing eighth note lines in our improvisations, but we need to create rhythmic interest as well. Last week I quoted Dizzy and how he mentioned he “fills his head with rhythm.” So in this week’s tip, we’re going to “fill our head” with clave rhythms. There are a number of clave patterns that you can use. I’m going to give just a few brief examples of some clave patterns (there are more and you can utilize them as well).
As an exercise, practice improvising using just those rhythms over a song you’re working on. Obviously, this is just an exercise and not something you would play on the bandstand over and over as that would be too predictable and boring. However, when you have the feel of the clave going in your mind, you can create rhythmic interest in your improvisation. Some lines can have the clave pattern or you might find yourself articulating eighth note lines with the clave pattern. Below are just a few quick musical examples of how an improvised line can be influenced by the clave. The first one is pretty obvious the pattern. The second is a predominately eighth note pattern, but the articulation is reflective of the clave pattern.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip! I talk about how I connected my melodic lines in the examples above in my book, “Targeting: Improvisation with Purpose.” You can check it out by going to THE STORE.