Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type

Doctoral Essay

Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Studio Music and Jazz (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Martin Bejerano

Second Committee Member

Stephen Rucker

Third Committee Member

Charles Bergeron

Fourth Committee Member

Daniel Strange

Fifth Committee Member

Melvin Butler


While a substantial amount of jazz educational material emphasizing note choices, orchestration, harmonic options, and stylistic analysis is available, there is surprisingly very little research on the piano’s immense rhythmic capabilities. This paper addresses the challenge of developing the pianist’s rhythmic independence and awareness through the study, practice, and adaptation of drumming techniques relating to Afro-Cuban rhythmic patterns. Because clave is an integral part of Afro-Cuban music, it will be the focal point of the paper and foundation on top of which all the rhythmic exercises will be practiced. The reason for exploring Afro-Cuban drumset approaches and rhythmic vocabulary is to reveal to the pianist the creative possibilities and benefits which result from approaching the piano as a percussion instrument and using rhythm, rather than notes, as the impetus for improvisational vocabulary. Practicing and developing rhythmic awareness and independence will allow the pianist to function in rhythmically demanding musical scenarios, which in turn will increase his/her versatility and employability.


Afro-Cuban; Jazz Piano; Rhythmic Independence; Clave; Jazz Pianist; Improvisation