Sydney Recording Studio: Castanets

With the rise of world music over the past decades, it is not unsusal to see instruments such as Castanets in our Sydney Recording Studio
The castanets are a wonderfully unique instrument. Although they are most often associated with Spanish music, no one knows for certain where they originated. There are historical accounts of castanets in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy and in cultures and empires that flourished in the region such as the ancient Romans, Ottomans and Sephartic people.

Sydney Recording Studio: What Do Castanets Look Like?

Many people think that castanets are shaped liked a shell and the two sides are joined together by a piece of string or decorative ribbon. Originally they were made of hard wood which created a beautiful, loud sound when “clacked” together. Modern versions of castanets can be made from plastic and fiberglass as well. In fact, the Spanish name for castanets is castañuelas – which means “little chestnuts”. It makes you wonder if the first castanets were two chestnuts halves clicked together or if the shape of a dried chestnut inspired the design.

Sydney Recording Studio: How Do You Play The Castanets?

If you slip the string from a castanet onto your thumb or your middle finger, you’ll find that you can open and close the fingers of that hand and get the instrument to click. You can do that slowly or quickly. Then do the same with the other hand and you have two instruments that click together or back and forth, like they are talking to each other. In castanets crafted for the serious dancer or player, one pair will sound slightly different then the other. One is called the “male” (macho) and the other “female” (hembra), meaning that they have a slightly different pitch. Just like maracas, each one has a different tone so the rhythms can be more complex as the two sounds are blended.
Check out this video demonstration of some of the amazing sounds that advanced played can get from castanets: