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Castanets – Opinions, Analysis and Buying Guide in 2021

 

The castanets are an incredible and iconic instrument of flamenco music, so, in order to stand out and keep the rhythm, it is necessary to have pairs that allow you to emit the correct sound and are comfortable for you. Choosing a good instrument can be difficult, but models like the Castanets of the South Amateur , which stand out for their included accessories and resistant resin, may be ideal for you. The LP Professional LP432 castanets are also a good alternative. Noted for their contrasting design and long cords, they will allow you to become the next great star of bulerías, concerts and will accompany you for quite some time due to their quality.

 

How to choose the best castanets

 

Castanets are one of the best known and most loved instruments in Spain, however, as they are not such an internationally famous product, it may be a bit difficult to know what to take into account when comparing castanets, since information about them is somewhat scarce. Here you can find some features that are worth taking into account when making the purchase.

Shopping guide

 

materials

If you like flamenco and traditional Spanish folk music, then you should know that the materials are one of the first things that you should take into account when buying a good musical instrument for yourself, otherwise, You could end up getting a pair of castanets with distorted sounds that are not suitable for professional use.

Some of the easiest materials to find in modern castanets are ivory, aluminum, marble, and even glass, however, despite being famous, none of these elements should be your first choice if you are looking for the classic sound. castanets, regardless of how much it costs or if it is the cheapest instrument in the area. The resonance and tone they give is not the same as that of classic wooden castanets. Also, certain materials are more prone to breakage due to the rhythmic pounding the instrument is subjected to.

For that reason, always keep in mind to buy some wooden castanets, specifically rosewood, oak, ebony, granadillo, etc., as they are hard woods and quite resistant. However, if you want something modern and especially if you are learning, then resin or fiberglass castanets, for example, may be good alternatives for you.

No matter what material you decided to buy, you will notice that there are different designs and colors and, fortunately, the decorations do not influence the sound or quality. Therefore, you can choose the ones that you like the most. Acquiring colorful castanets could be the best option for children, as these will attract more the attention of the little ones and they will be more motivated to learn.

 

Types

In your guide to buying the best castanets, you should bear in mind that there are different types and that, depending on which one you choose, the way to use them will be different. To avoid confusion, you should pay attention when making your purchase, because if you make a mistake, you will be finding a completely different instrument. The most common castanets and the ones that you have surely seen people use are the hand ones. These are characterized by being two small pieces with a rope joining them at the top.

Otros tipos de castañuelas que puedes encontrarte son las de base y las de mango. Las primeras son las más diferentes, pues son dos pares de castañuelas unidos a una base, usualmente de madera, que activa su sonido con un muelle para simular el movimiento que se les da en las manos. La segunda opción consiste en un par de castañuelas unidas a un mango, también hecho la mayoría de las veces de algún tipo de madera. Al mover el mango, las castañuelas chocan entre sí provocando el característico sonido.

Con las castañuelas con base y mango no se necesita prestar demasiada atención a los tamaños, sin embargo, si comprarás unas castañuelas de mano clásicas, entonces del tamaño dependerá tu comodidad al tocarlas.

 

Tallas

In order to make good use of castanets, it is necessary that they adapt well to the hands and that they allow you to tap them with your fingers, without having to stretch or shrink them a lot. Good sound depends on the right touch, so it is necessary to choose a correct size for the size of your hands. There are two types of range, the professional and the semi-professional. The first family of castanets generally comes in 3 sizes: 3, 5 and 7.

Size 3 is for hands with a palm larger than 8.5 cm, size 5 for those between 7 and 8.5 cm, while 7 is for those that measure less than 7 cm.

The semi-professional range, which is usually a good and inexpensive alternative for beginners, uses sizes 4 and 6. The first is for hands larger than 7 centimeters and 6 for hands smaller than that measurement.

accessories

In addition to buying a pair of castanets, you are acquiring an instrument that will last you for quite some time. Therefore, if you want to keep them in good condition and, in addition, save money in the long term, it is recommended that you buy an instrument that comes with extra accessories in the purchase.

For example, a cover to protect the castanets when you are not using them and also a small scarf to keep them clean will help you keep the castanets looking like new despite the time of use.

 

 

 

Frequently asked questions

 

Q1: How to make castanets?

If you do not want to spend money and, in addition, you will only use the castanets for fun, there are many ways to make a pair to have at home and create music. One of them, especially for children, is the sheet metal castanets.

On a thin piece of cardboard with a crease, place a sheet at each end so that when you fold the cardboard, the two collide with each other. Adhere them with silicone so that they are well fixed and can be used.

However, if you want castanets more suitable for music, you will only need to find 4 wooden spoons to make 2 pairs. Cut off the top, ditching the handle, and carefully drill two holes just below the cut you made.

Place the hollow parts of the spoons facing each other and with a cord join the castanets until you finish tying the end of the rope, giving space for your fingers.

 

Q2: How to make a case for castanets?

To have both pairs always together, it is ideal to make a case-like case so that there is room for the instrument. Find a quilted fabric and measure both castanets.

From one end, leaving a gap of one centimeter between the end of the cloth with the castanets and also leaving one centimeter or more between them, mark three points along the length. Measure the castanets, mark and lower. Measure the castanets again with the same space and lower, until you make the third measurement.

Bring point 3 to the mark for point 1 and sew the edges. This will be the main case. It is preferable to use a machine. When you’re done, place the castanets in and toward the edge to sew the space between them, so each one can have its own space.

In the front part add velcro, as in the inner part of the upper part that should have been free. Close and go.

 

Q3: What are castanets made of?

Castanets, like many instruments, are made of various materials and you can find many different models on the market.

The traditional castanets and, to this day, the most famous, are made of wood. Oak, rosewood, rosewood and granadillo are the types of wood most used in the manufacture of castanets . However, you can find castanets made of glass, pressed fabric, resin, plastic, etc.

 

Q4: How to play castanets for sevillanas?

Placing your thumbs through the cord, tap rhythmic with the rest of your fingers in a sequence of tones. The rhythms used are “PAN”, “CHIN”, “TA”, “RRI” and “PI”, and to perform them you must vary the speed and the fingers used.

With practice you will be able to perform faster and more complex touches, as well as produce long pieces of music.

 

Q5: How to tie the castanets?

You just need to thread a string through the holes until both loose ends are to the same side, similar to a “U” shape. Make a simple knot that can be released and stretch both ends calculating an optimal space for your thumb between the string and the end of the castanet.

When you have it, make the mark and reinforce the knot. When finished, you will only need to cut the rest.

 

Q6: Who invented castanets?

It is not yet known exactly who were the inventors of castanets , however, the dispute is between the Egyptians and Phoenicians. The castanets are an ancient instrument from approximately 1000 BC that, despite not having been created in Spain, managed to consolidate in the country due to the influence of these ancient cultures in the territory.

 

Q7: How to clean the castanets?

The castanets are not made of materials that get dirty easily, however, sweat from hands and fingers can leave marks and marks. Therefore, a soft cloth can help you get rid of all this without problem.

If the marks don’t come off, then using a little water can help, but remember that if the castanets are made of wood, pouring water on them can deteriorate the material.

 

Q8: How to play the castanets for jacks?

The castanets for the jotas are different in size, however, they are played the same as the common castanets for flamenco, also known as castanets for sevillanas.

The reason why the sound is usually different is because the structure of those used for jacks is smaller, lighter and thinner, however, it has a larger resonance box and, usually, resin is used as the main material. This produces a bass sound that is louder than that of the other castanets.

 

 

 

How to use castanets

 

The castanets are a very practical and beautiful instrument, however, few people master the art of playing it. To learn, you only need the desire and small steps to follow that will allow you to improve until you become a professional, because, despite not being something that happens overnight, you will surely be playing flamenco in no time. If you don’t know how to use castanets, here you can read some recommendations that will help you get started and become familiar with one of the most representative things about Spain and its music.

 

 

 

Get familiar with them

Playing castanets does not just mean placing them in your hands and starting to produce sound by making the material collide with each other, because castanets do not sound the same. One pair will sound higher than the other. The low castanet, also called a male, must go in the left hand, while the acute castanet, known as a female, must go in the right hand. Usually the highest ones have a mark, so if in doubt, look it up so you know where they go.

 

Put them on

Putting on the castanets can be done in two ways, depending on what type of castanets you have purchased. If you have flamenco castanets, or traditional ones, then these go on your thumb.

Place the bead on your thumb, one end should be over your knuckle and the other just above the beginning of your nail to get a good grip. Remember that, to create a good sound, you must wear both, however, before doing so it is necessary that you adjust the first pair.

To adjust the castanets you only need to tighten the cord until it is attached but does not hurt or irritate the skin.

However, if you have acquired a jota castanets, then the process is different, since these, unlike flamenco ones, most of the time, are not used on the thumb, but on the middle finger. You should place one end under the knuckle and the other over it for a better grip.

 

 

 

Do the touches

There are five sounds that you can make with your castanets and all of them are rhythms that are used in music, so it is necessary to learn each of them.

The first, called “TA,” is produced by tapping the left hand quickly with the ring finger and the middle finger following.

The second, called, “RRI”, depends on the right hand. The castanet is quickly tapped with a succession of fingers, starting with the small, the ring finger and ending with the index finger.

The third, called, “PI”, is produced in the same way as the “TA” but using the right hand.

The fourth, called “CHIN”, does not need your fingers but a tapping between the two castanets.

The fifth, called “PAN”, is, most of the time, the final sound of the music. It is produced by striking both castanets simultaneously using the middle and ring fingers at the same time.

 

Save them

With a soft cloth, clean the castanets and store them in a case so that they are protected and impeccable when finished.

 

 

Learn to play the castanets

 

 

Because this minor percussion instrument is used in various cultural manifestations in Spain, when playing it you will have to perform chimes that accompany the flamenco guitar and folk dances. Each musical genre has a specific rhythm, which must be respected by the interpreter, so that the music sounds properly.

 

Body posture

After making a comparison of castanets  and choosing your favorites, the next thing is to learn to play them. To start you must place your back straight and your hands relaxed. In other words, you always have to position your fingers, hands and wrists in the most natural way possible.

In addition to this, the way to catch the castanets is simple. You just have to insert your thumbs between the cord of each one of them. That will be the way to hold the castanets to make the chimes comfortably.

Likewise, it is important to know that the female castanet has a higher sound, while the male is more serious. The first is held with the right hand and the second with the left.

On the other hand, the cords must have the correct tension, since this way the thumbs will hold the instrument with precision and the shells of the castanets will be a little separated from each other to be able to play them.

In addition, an important aspect to know is that, if you are going to play the castanets and dance at the same time, the technique of the hands and fingers must also be the same, that is, respecting the natural state of the body and maintaining an optimal posture of the back. This is because the unnatural postures of the body limit the performance level of the user and at the same time could have negative consequences for the human body. 

For example, something that comes as a result of the incorrect use of castanets is pain in the hands, arms or back. This is because in many musical genres of Spanish folklore you must move your fingers hundreds of times and at high speeds. There are even songs that demand abundant chimes and flamenco dance concerts that last long minutes.

 

Rhythms

There are different rhythms to play castanets or sticks, so it is good to know some of these and learn to play them on the instrument. If you are a beginner, pay attention to each step and you will learn quickly. However, it is best to consult a teacher specialized in castanets, so that you can enjoy personalized learning.

It should be noted that to start playing the instrument you must hold both castanets, the female and male, using their strings. The chopsticks should be in the palm of the hand, ready for the tapping of each finger.

 

 

 

Exercises

Like when you play any other musical instrument, the exercises on the castanets are essential to develop the necessary skills and abilities. An exercise that we recommend is to play a stroke with each finger, index, ring, middle and little finger in quarter time. You can do this slowly and gradually increase the speed. The goal is to perform this exercise correctly in both hands, so that you improve the quality of the sound and the fluidity of your fingers to play the castanets.

 

The flamenco

First of all we mention a simple flamenco rhythm that is played with the little, ring, middle and index fingers of the right hand. In addition to this, you will need the middle finger of the left hand, which is known to many as the middle finger.

The touch of this flamenco rhythm begins with 2 strokes on the right hand and 1 on the left. The first two with the little finger and faster. The third stroke is played with the middle finger. Then make 2 strokes with the ring finger of the left hand and 1 with the middle finger.

Next, perform 2 strokes with the middle finger of the left hand and 1 with the middle finger of the right. Finally, use the left index finger for 2 strokes and the middle of the left hand for the last.

In this rhythm the sounds of the left hand should always sound faster than those of the right. However, let yourself be guided by your ear, since when it comes to music this is an essential factor. Put a flamenco song on a sound system, for example, Entre Dos Aguas by Paco de Lucía or any other that you like, so that the ear adjusts to the rhythm. That is, you must play the rhythm along with the song.

Of course, at first practice the rhythm slowly and without music, so that you master it with precision before doing it at the speed of a flamenco song.

 

 

 

Sevillanas

The toque of the sevillanas is divided into different parts, among which the RIÁ, RIÁ, TI, TA stand out, as it is the most important part in the rhythm of this musical genre.

To learn it, you must first put on your castanets properly. These should not touch your hands, as that would be reducing the volume of the sound. On the contrary, each castanet must be free, so that it vibrates better and the sound propagates without difficulties. Of course, this does not prevent you from holding the castanets with your thumbs.

Subsequently, start the rhythm with the little, ring, middle and index fingers of the right hand and continue with the middle finger of the left. In this way you will learn the RIÁ, which is a sound that will come out when you play the rhythm quickly, at the speed of the sevillanas.

Then do the TI and TA. To do this, the TI is touched with the right middle finger and then the TA with the middle finger of the left hand. To play correctly, start by practicing the slow rhythm and increase the speed as you feel more freedom and independence in the movements of the fingers. At the end, play some sevillanas that you like and practice the rhythm, letting yourself be guided by the music. RIÁ, RIÁ, TI, TA should sound very good.

 

 

Castañuelas del Sur, a company that has made this instrument known to the world

 

 

The artisan work that Castañuelas del Sur has done in the elaboration of this musical instrument of Roman origin has served as an impetus for many people to know it worldwide. That is, their castanets have reached Japan, Russia and Germany, being used not only in flamenco, but also in different types of dances.

 

Manufacture of castanets

The Spanish company Castañuelas del Sur has been manufacturing this minor percussion instrument since 1928. It is one of the best known factories in the world for the excellent elaboration of artisan castanets. 

One of the most used materials in the creation of castanets is wood, since it is resistant and emits a good sound. Also, wood is easy to use to shape this instrument.

On the other hand, we mention that the castanets are made by hand, that is, in a traditional way, thus achieving an authentic shape for each one. In addition, they are made in pairs, a right castanet and a left one. This means that the user in each hand will have a certain castanet and both will sound different.

Also, it should be noted that this company makes professional castanets, which are made of artificial fibers. The latter are not very cheap , but their sound and durability is better.

 

History of Castañuelas del Sur

In Spain Víctor Galiano was one of the first master craftsmen who made castanets. This Madrileño was the one who taught Manuel Vela the task of making this typical instrument. Later, Galiano handed over his manufacturing business to Manuel. The current manager of the company says that it only cost his father a bottle of wine and fried fish to stay with the company.

Manuel Vela was a man who loved the company and dedicated 50 years of his life to it, inspiring his future generations to continue the work. These years of work revolutionized castanets in Spain, even today Manuel’s family is in charge of the factory and distributes these percussion instruments not only within Spanish territory, but also in other parts of the world.

The third generation of the Vela family is running the company today. Only 5 people work in the factory, but due to its fame and large number of sales, Castañuelas del Sur has a turnover of 450,000 euros a year.

In addition to this, it should be noted that 50% of the business’s turnover comes from exports, as the company sends castanets to all continents. For example, some of the countries that receive these products are Germany and Russia. There is even a Japanese guitarist in Japan who lived in Granada and buys castanets from the company.

 

 

 

Diversity of castanets

Thanks to the long experience of the Vela family manufacturing this type of musical instrument, the company offers 3 types of castanets. In the first place, the initiation ones, which are quite simple and have a price of only 40 euros. Also, there are the semi-professional ones, useful for use in music conservatories; these castanets cost around 70 euros.

On the other hand, there are the professionals, that is, castanets (Here you can find some options to buy) to use in concerts; They are made of fiber and their price varies between 150 and 170 euros. In addition, the company manufactures to order, so customers can order specific quantities of castanets. There are even concert performers who visit the company to order castanets with a specific design and sound. In other words, the Vela family is made up of experienced artisans, so that you can demand the percussion instrument according to your requirements and preferences.

In addition to this, it is important to mention that the castanets used in recording studios are not the same as those used to play live. Therefore, professional musicians or dancers usually have several models of castanets, some for playing live and others for recording studios. 

 

Importance of manufacturing

It is through the optimal manufacture of castanets that we can see this musical instrument deeply rooted in Spanish culture. In addition, it should be noted that the Castañuelas del Sur company contributes its help in professional dance and flamenco music. This is because the conservatories of Spain buy large orders of castanets from this company and, as if that were not enough, the main dancers of the National Ballet of Spain use them.

In this way, following the tradition and making more and more castanets is an indispensable task for international culture. If there is no one to make authentic and quality castanets, perhaps future generations will not be able to enjoy them.

 

 

 

Transcendence of castanets

In various regions of Spain castanets are known, thanks to traditional dances that use them. For example, the Bayadiers of Cádiz, as they use the Andalusian castanets. Likewise, the Sevillanas use this instrument, being a song and dance typical of Seville, Huelva and other provinces of Andalusia.

In addition, as part of the folklore of Aragon we mention the Aragonese jota, as it is also a dance in which castanets are used. In addition to this, this small percussion musical instrument is used in the famous Spanish dance known as the bolera school.

On the other hand, in the Region of Murcia this instrument is used, specifically for the cultural manifestation called La Parranda. However, one of the best known dances in which castanets are used is flamenco, which is accompanied by singing and the nylon-string acoustic guitar.

Also, in classical music castanets are used. For example, the baroque guitarist Santiago de Murcia composed songs for castanets. Furthermore, in 1798 Luigi Boccherini, a cellist from Italy, did not skimp on the sound of this instrument, creating a work in which castanets are played.

Even Wagner in 1845 included castanets in his opera Tannhauser. As if that were not enough, Joaquín Rodrigo wrote two songs for castanets, which Lucero Tena performed very well in 1966.

In short, the importance of castanets is wide internationally, so they may continue to be known more and more in many nations.

 

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